This is it. The last of the E3 streams for me. This one ran long in terms of commentary, so I’m going to make it a two-parter. As before, I streamed this show along with Ross, who worked on Good Robot with me. He works at Ubisoft now, and was streaming this event from inside the Ubi offices.
We start off the pre-show with some talk about Uplay and the Ubi offices that I can’t easily summarize here. As before, I’ve got a brief text-based reaction below the video:
I’m not going to comment on that ridiculous intro dance number. That’s just how Ubisoft does things, and I’d never be able to do it justice in text. Let’s skip all the madness and go right to the first game…
Beyond Good & Evil
I know this is a bit contentious with fans of the original BG&E. This newer game doesn’t look or feel anything like the 2003 cult classic. It doesn’t even seem to be in the same genre. At some point you cross this threshold where the two works are so vastly different that you wonder why they’re bothering to re-use the name at all. I mean, BG&E wasn’t a smash hit. According to Wikipedia:
Beyond Good & Evil was not a commercial success. The game saw poor sales upon its release in the 2003 Christmas and holiday season. Retailers quickly decreased the price by up to 80 percent. Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine staff attributed the poor sales of the game—among many other 2003 releases—to an over-saturated market, and labeled Beyond Good & Evil as a commercial “disappointment”.
The name only means something to the small number of people who bought the game. But this sequel is not really trying to appeal to those fans as a nostalgia property. But if you’re not doing that, then why use the name?
For the record, I played BG&E several years after the release. I played the PC port, which was generally awful and frustrating for a bunch of reasons I won’t get into here. I like the game, but I didn’t fall in love with it and I barely remember anything about it.
Since I don’t have a strong attachment to the original, I’m fine with this table-flipping sequel. Still, I get why fans are mad. I can imagine how frustrated I’d be if they remade System Shock to be an anime-style point-and-click adventure.
This new thing looks like The Fifth Element. It’s like someone took a cyberpunk world and added sugar. The world is not a shiny happy Trektopia. There’s rich and poor, prejudice and injustice, but the inhabitants of the world seem to be having fun anyway. It’s bold and colorful and strange.
This thing is crazy ambitious. It’s a huge urban world where you can seamlessly jump between different characters and different types of play. You get to craft your own character from among all the various species that inhabit the gameworld. The backstory is big and complex and filled with wild ideas about how this particular civilization of sapient monkeys, pigs, pandas, sharks, and humans came to be.
And then things get really nuts when they invite the community to submit their own music and artwork to fill out the gameworld. I realize that some people will see this as a giant corporation asking their customers to “work for exposure”, and then turning around and selling them the finished work. And yeah, that’s kinda true. But I (and I assume a lot of other people) would be delighted to have my work woven into a rich gameworld like this. I wouldn’t even need “exposure”. Just turning on the in-game Pirate Radio and hearing one of my own tracksAnd knowing that this was part of an experience millions of other people are having. would be payment enough.
Given the sheer scale and ambition of this design, this might be the only way anyone could make something like this without going broke in the process. Games are terrifyingly large and expensive at this point, and I’m fine with pitching in to see it happen. Or I would be, if I thought my work was good enough to make the cut. I don’t actually have the knowledge or skill to hit the genre-bending pan-ethnic vibe they’re going for. Ah well.
Rainbow 6 Siege
Everything I know about this game I learned from SuperBunnyHop. This is another one of those games I keep meaning to spectate but then never get around to.
I’m not into this game, but it’s always one of the best bits of the Ubisoft presentation. As much exposure as this game gets, I never hear anyone talk about it outside of E3.
During this segment Ross and I have a discussion on release dates. This year I saw at least six major titles with a release date in the January – March 2019 range. I think I only saw one that was aiming for the “Christmas Zone” of October – December 2018.
Did the calculus of release dates change recently? I understand why everyone fought over the Christmas season, but why would everyone fight over the post-Christmas slump? There’s usually a dip in disposable income after the holidays. And if you’re looking to release a title with little opposition, then summer is a better bet. Or did all of the publishers attempt to concede Christmas at the same time and cause a February traffic jam?
The Division 2
I have always hated the faux-roleplay fake multiplayer demos that Ubisoft puts out. I know I already ranted about this during the Microsoft event, but it really rubs me the wrong way.
On top of that, I hate the lame-ass nonversation this game has with regard to its subject matter. The setting has government agents (who report to only the president) going through the streets, summarily executing “rioters” (civilians) after a pandemic. This would be fine if this game was set in some cyberpunk future, or on another planet, or in some crazy alternate reality. Heck, just putting it in a fictional American city would help. But this is a game that takes place in modern-day Washington DC and is loosely based on real ideas about how the government might operate in a crisis. It portrays the player as an unambiguous good against a cartoon evil, despite the fact that you’re a government agent executing your fellow citizens without due process. It’s basically “Human Rights Violations Online”. (Yes, the game sometimes portrays the “rioters” as doing bad things. But not always. And that’s the problem if you’re always killing them.)
This game sets itself at the political center of the USA and furiously pokes at some very sensitive topics. Then it refuses to say anything. And then the developer shrugs his shoulders as if to say What? This game isn’t political. I have no idea what you’re talking about!Not a literal quote. Read the linked article.
I don’t think every game needs to be a web of complex moral puzzles and political commentary. I’m fine if the designer takes the attitude of “It’s just a game. Have fun. We don’t need to overthink it!” On the other hand, I’m also open to having a game say political things. (Even things I disagree with!) Games are an art form and you can use it to express whatever kinds of ideas you want, or even no ideas at all!
But this game wants to throw a red-white-and-blue brick through the window and then claim it’s just trying to play catch. This game is like a white guy showing up to a Black Lives Matter rally in a shirt that says “******* black people”, and when you ask him what the asterisks stand for he shrugs, “What? It’s just a shirt. I’m not saying anything. Why would you think I’m saying something?” It’s a game screaming for attention and then refusing to say anything. It’s completely obnoxious.
And I would be fine with this being the gaming equivalent of a trollface if it seemed like SOMEONE at Ubi was having a laugh, but everyone takes this thing SO SERIOUSLY.
On top of everything else, this is a stop-and-pop cover shooter with bullet sponge enemies. This is a game almost perfectly engineered to irritate me on every level.
Skull & Bones
Here we have an open world (open ocean, really) PVP game about piracy. It seems really reasonable to assume someone at Ubisoft looked at how much players loved the ship-to-ship combat in Assassins Creed: Black Flag and decided to make that into a game of its own. It looks really pretty.
Even better, this PvP battle is simply narrated in a faux-documentary style voice instead of Ubisoft doing the Ubi thing where they hire actors to read cringe-y “player chat”.
Not my thing, but kinda fun to watch.
 And knowing that this was part of an experience millions of other people are having.
 Not a literal quote. Read the linked article.
Video Compression Gone Wrong
How does image compression work, and why does it create those ugly spots all over some videos and not others?
Internet News is All Wrong
Why is internet news so bad, why do people prefer celebrity fluff, and how could it be made better?
Deus Ex and The Treachery of Labels
Deus Ex Mankind Divided was a clumsy, tone-deaf allegory that thought it was clever, and it managed to annoy people of all political stripes.
A look back at Star Trek, from the Original Series to the Abrams Reboot.
The Best of 2015
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2015.