Here is a video of Josh and I talking over the EA press conference. Obviously this is going to be snarky and negative. If you’re looking for some sort of aloof, just-the-facts journalistic attachment, then… gosh. Why are you even reading my site? But this will be even more not-detached than normal. As I’ve tried to stress in the past, I’m not mad at EA because they’re an “Evil Corporation”. There are lots of companies that are way worse, and I can barely remember to be annoyed at most of them.
The reason EA drives me crazy is the wasted potential. Imagine the general manager of an American football team. Imagine he is so wealthy that he’s able to draft the greatest players in the history of the game, in the prime of their careersI guess he also has a time machine?. Then he gathers up some of the most amazingly talented coaches, all with amazing track records. Between them they have enough Superbowl rings to make some half-decent Liberace cosplay. They get the best equipment, the most lavish home stadium, and the the best doctors.
But this manager is in it to win it. So he forces his coaches to run the same play, all game, every game. Ten years ago that play made the team into superstars, and now he’s just waiting for the lightning to strike again. He keeps putting the same players in the game, regardless of age or injury, because this particular arrangement of players was part of that winning team ten years ago, and so he figures they’re ideally qualified to make it happen again.
You don’t have to know anything about footballHand Egg. to realize this team will never reach its potential. Maybe the sheer talent of the players will help them to overcome the overwhelming ineptitude of their leadership and get through the season with a modest number of wins.
To me, this team is a lot more frustrating than just a garden-variety team that sucks. They’re way worse than the worst team in the league. It’s a team run by someone who doesn’t understand the game, and doesn’t trust his coaches or players to know their jobs. It’s run by a simpleton that can’t learn from his mistakes, refuses to learn the nuances of the business, and shifts all the blame downward.
And every year people defend this guy because, “Hey, the team is making money, right? And they won a few games, right?”
Makes me so mad.
So let’s see what EA has in their playbook this year:
Mass Effect: Andromeda: Was our snark fair? No. Of course the trailer is going to be action schlock. It’s entirely possible that the move to a new galaxy is an effort to escape the corner they painted themselves into at the end of Mass Effect 3. But I’m looking for something, anything to hint at “big idea” sci-fi. Non-upright, non-bipedal aliens. Strange cultures. Fantastic worlds. Mysteries in space. We don’t get many games like that. If space opera was as common as faux-European medieval fantasy, then the fall of Mass Effect wouldn’t sting so bad. But it was basically the only game in a very niche genre, and they turned it into Gears of War with a dialog wheel, because Bob EA remembers that was a winning play at one point.
Need for Speed: Like I said in the stream, I get why they’re aping the ultra-macho tone of the Fast and the Furious. I don’t really fault them for that. I have this strange relationship with car games. I love beautiful, well-engineered, powerful machines like sports cars. And I enjoy the sensation of driving really fast. But your typical driving game leaves me completely cold. I dislike racing in a circuit. Actually I’m not crazy about races at all. I just want a really fun car to drive in a huge world. I guess that’s why I enjoyed FUEL. I doubt there are enough people like me to constitute a “market”.
The Old Republic: The poster child for EA-style management. Let’s take a bunch of popular stuff: The gameplay of WoW, the world of Star Wars, and the storytelling of BioWare, and combine them in such a way that none of them really work. The pacing of an MMO ruins the BioWare story, the flat visuals ruin the Star Wars aesthetic, and the Star Wars / WoW gameplay mashup lacks the visceral appeal of Star Wars and the skinner box appeal of WoW. Then when it fails we’ll claim it was a success, fire most of the people who built it, and stagger away without learning anything.
Unraveled: Okay, it’s charming. I’m a little worried that the indie aesthetic is a little too forced and the design is a little too twee. And yes I’m aware that makes me sound like the worst sort of elitist indie hipster. Honestly I think I’m just cynical because the game is being shown so close to Need For Fast and Furious. If I saw this trailer outside of an EA press event it would probably melt my heart.
Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare: I’m reminded of what Al Lowe said when he found out they were making more Leisure Suit Larry games: “It’s like getting a picture of your loved ones from the kidnappers. It’s nice to know he’s still alive, but look what they’ve done to him!” This game tries so hard to capture just a tiny mote of the charm that Popcap originally created so effortlessly. It’s almost as if artistic work isn’t fungible and artists aren’t interchangeable.
I can’t believe how long this goes on.
NHL 16: No comment.
Madden: No comment.
NBA Live: No comment.
NBA Live: No comment.
Minions: All of my thoughts on Plants vs. Zombies applies here: It’s a charming original property that they turned into a rote and derivative game, while losing the soul of the original work but keeping the most superficial elements.
FIFA: No comment. Note that my comments about Pele are based entirely on what I was told about the guy as a child. Apparently he’s a somewhat controversial figure? I wouldn’t know. I do know his interview was really awkward.
Mirror’s Edge: I’ve already heard that they plan to “fix” the problems of the original by “improving” the gunplay. I sort of lost interest at that point.
Battlefront: And the stream broke before we could see it. Oh well.
 I guess he also has a time machine?
 Hand Egg.
Internet News is All Wrong
Why is internet news so bad, why do people prefer celebrity fluff, and how could it be made better?
Resident Evil 4
Who is this imbecile and why is he wandering around Europe unsupervised?
The Best of 2017
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2017.
The Brilliance of Mass Effect
What is "Domino Worldbuilding" and how did it help to make Mass Effect one of the most interesting settings in modern RPGs?
Final Fantasy X
A game about the ghost of an underwater football player who travels through time to save the world from a tick that controls kaiju satan. Really.