More connection problems plagued this event for me, so the show was fragmented into several streams with annoying continuity gaps between them. Rather than posting the raw mess, I’ve trimmed it down to the coherent bits and omitted the stuff I don’t care about.
As before, the text version is below for the non-video folks.
The presenter is blathering about “unprecedented creativity” after showing us a teaser about a space marine that shoots aliens. Come on, Microsoft. I’m fine with derivative titles. There’s no sin in sticking to a formula that works. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adhered to a formula and the world loved him for it. But don’t serve me a Big Mac and claim you’ve invented a new type of sandwich.
Ori and the Will of the Whisps
I’ve said before that 2D platformers just don’t do anything for me. On the other hand, I’m a sucker for really good art. And 2D platformers are where you go for the really brilliant art. Which means I’ve got dozens of games in my Steam library that I bought solely on their art and then never played.
I’ll do my best not to buy this one, but damn. That art is amazing.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
The Dark Souls team is making a Samurai game? Not my thing, but I know a lot of people are going to go nuts for this.
I’m not sure about this one. I played the original Crackdown on the Xbox 360 and wasn’t impressed at all. I remember it feeling stiff, repetitive, and looking visually bland. On the other hand, I really like Terry Crews and this game looks pretty vibrant. And there’s a pretty big gap in the market now that Saints Row is basically over and Grand Theft Auto became so mean and sullen. I wouldn’t mind an open-world city game that knows how to have fun. On the gripping hand, there’s no way to know if this game will actually be fun or if it’s just Terry Crews shouting over an open-world grind.
I remain ambivalent.
Sold. This series just keeps getting better. Sure, this is still a game about a silent protagonist wandering a linear wasteland, shootin’ dudes. But you can totally make a good game from that. You just need to use the right spices. Metro does for shooters what Witcher 3 does for fantasy: It makes the world feel fresh and new by injecting a bunch of Eastern European stuff. The art, politics, and even the cultural sensibilities of the game feel novel and even a bit alien. I feel like I’m going somewhere new, and not making yet another trek through the rubble of New York.
It looks amazing, too.
Sea of Thieves: Cursed Sails and Sea of Thieves: Forsaken Shores
So apparently this game is light on content but is popular with streamers? This is one of those games that seems to be paradoxically popular yet rarely talked about. I don’t have a lot of interest in it, but I do appreciate that the trailer made me laugh.
Forza Horizon 4
A running theme this year seems to be “Developers have a completely delusional image of how players will behave in a multiplayer context.”
This is an open world driving game. I’ve played open world driving games before. They are always awful. Glitches, rubber banding, and compromised vehicle handling in an attempt to mitigate lag by making everything “drifty”. On top of this, what are the other players for? What do they offer to my experience? Sure, add a mode where the player can invite their friends and everyone can race / cruise together. That’s nice. But what’s the point of randos? We’re driving different classes of cars, interested in different types of gameplay, and at different points of progression within the game. Maybe once in a blue moon I’ll happen to meet a rando, and maybe we can negotiate an activity together. But finding that one person means chatting up tons of people who aren’t into whatever it is I want to do. I don’t need these idiots stuttering or rubber-banding by me while I’m driving around. Their presence is all downside.
The demo was very careful not to show what happens when cars collide. If they crash, then it’s an open world griefing engine. If they don’t, then it just underscores how pointless the other players are to my experience.
I guess the industry needs to re-learn this lesson every few years: Not every game benefits from multiplayer. Here’s to them figuring it out as soon as possible, before they ruin too many games.
On top of this is the hilariously improbable way that randos are depicted in the trailer. Have you developers ever TRIED to play online? Haven’t you heard the stories? Are you new to this planet? Randos are rude, mean, scamming, incoherent lunatics. Why would I want them populating the world around me?
We Happy Few
I know I’m usually critical of titles that use the gameplay / cutscene / gameplay style of storytelling. But if there was ever a game that could be improved by linearity and a greater story focus, it’s this one. This game has a stellar art style and a completely bonkers premise. It’s distilled madness. There’s nothing else like it.
And yet all of that brilliance is walled of behind a completely mundane and repetitive open-world craft-a-thon / bludgeoning simulator, with a goofy-ass roguelite attitude towards player progress. It’s a chore to play, and that’s assuming you can figure out what the game expects of you.
This game has been in Early Access for a long time, but none of the updates seem to address the central problems with it: It just isn’t any fun.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
Wow. They really nailed the look & feel of Anime in the 90s. I don’t know anything about this series, but I’m kinda curious based on the art.
The Division 2
Ugh. I see this game is as tone deaf as ever. And I see nobody at Ubisoft has ever played an online game. Their scripted quasi-roleplay “demos” are some of the most intense moments of cringe at E3. Like Forza, none of this will look anything like what the developers imagine.
They seem to imagine everyone is a polite helpful articulate roleplaying friend, which is profoundly delusional. Or perhaps they’re well aware of how their game is actually played and they’re just being incredibly dishonest. Either way, it’s not a good look.
And anyway, isn’t it a bit early for a sequel? If you come out with sequels too fast you’ll balkanize your playerbase.
Microsoft Game Pass
Huh. It’s the exact same pitch that EA gave the day before: “Over 100” games for a flat monthly fee.
The spokesperson went on to talk about how they’re going to make the network super fast and efficient using cloud networks and machine learning and my jaw hit the floor. Microsoft is SO BAD at this shit. GFWL was, in concept, a pretty simple piece of software. And yet Microsoft never got it working properly. It was seven years of disgrace, incompetence, failure, and shame. It was a service so bad it literally ruined titles.
And not that I’m still sore or anything, but Microsoft never acknowledged this egregious failures, much less apologize for them.
And now the plan at Microsoft is to build a system ten times more complicated than GFWL? Cloud computing? Machine learning? Shit guys, you couldn’t manage to sell me Age of Empires for a dime without wasting hours of my time. Even if we had the slightest reason to suspect you’ve acquired the expertise to build something like this (and there’s NOTHING to suggest you have) you still don’t deserve the trust of the buying public.
I know I’m negative about EA, but I’ll take Origin Access any day over more malfunctioning Microsoft malware.
Jackasses. How dare you.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Ugh. After such a promising start, this series has completely lost its way. The bad guys are too cartoonish to be taken seriously, but too dull to be any fun. Sometimes Lara is a mewling kitten and sometimes she’s Marcus Fenix and the writer doesn’t seem to notice the discrepancy. Sometimes the gameplay has her fighting to keep warm in the snow and then later it has her casually swimming under the ice with no ill effects and the designer doesn’t seem to notice the discrepancy. The plots are obvious, the shooting is rote, the characters are flat, and the portentous world-saving stuff never succeeds in raising the stakes.
About the only thing the game has going for it is the Tomb Puzzles. Those are nice, but not enough to carry the whole game.
Can we just reboot this Lara and try again?
Black Desert Online
I’m serious western developers: This is your chance. Give us combat like TERA or BDO, but without the grind, the hassle, the bad translations, and the PVP. Make a western-style game with Korean-style combat. Stop trying to copy WoW. Hotbar combat is dead.
I don’t have anything to say about this game,but there’s an aside during this segment where Ross and I talk about 3D modeling.
Dragonball, Naruto, One Piece and Death Note all get together for a brawl, in the style of Super Smash Bros. They did a fantastic job of capturing these characters and preserving their differing art styles, and they ruined the whole thing by having them fight in a photorealistic-ish city that doesn’t match ANY of the art styles on display. Visually, I really hate this.
Dying Light 2
So Chris Avellone is the narrative director of this Zombie Apocalypse game? The guy who wrote Planescape Torment, Fallout New Vegas, and KOTOR 2? And now he’s making the most bog-standard version of the most worn-out cliche in modern gaming? Thirteen years before Last Jedi showed up to stomp all over Jedi mysticism and idealism, Avellone was asking all of these pointed questions about the nature of the force. And now he’s making a copy of Last of Us, but with all the best characters torn out? What’s going on here?
Like I said in the stream, I can’t really dunk on Avellone. I might not like all of his work, but he’s not short on talent or accomplishments. Why is he on this project? Is this really his vision? Or did they hire him to liven up their worn-out cliches?
I have no interest in this game, but I AM interested in how Avellone came to be on this project in particular and what he’s trying to do with it.
How long have we been waiting for this? According to Wikipedia, the first teaser trailer hit in January of 2013. So I guess it’s been five years, and we still don’t have a release date.
At first I assumed that the narrator was just a “guy on the street”, or one of the side characters. This game is from CD Projekt RED and so I kind of assumed we’d get another gravel-voiced protagonist. But as people in the chat pointed out, I think this angry young man is our POV character. That’s… not great. If there’s any genre where you need an older, world-weary protagonist, it’s this one. (And I was actually HOPING we’d be able to gender our character in the style of Commander Shepard, although there was never any reason to suspect that was possible or planned.)
So the protagonist is kinda grating. Maybe it’s just his voiceover in this intro. I don’t know.
Aside from that, I love everything about what we saw. Everything. It’s all good. The world looks amazing. The mood is right. I love the music, the technology, and the culture. This isn’t just “Los Angeles, but with flying cars”, this is an alien society and I really want to explore it.
The body tech has this wonderful creepy / alienating feel that feels a bit like the stuff in Ghost in the Shell. This is what the new Deus Ex games should have been aiming for, rather than plastic perfection. These people look dangerous and disturbing, and it’s a lot easier to imagine them being singled out for persecution.
Ross and I actually talked gamedev and development tools at the end, but it’s too much to transcribe here. If you just want that part of the video, jump to somewhere around the one hour, nine minute mark when the Minecraft footage comes up.
Overused Words in Game Titles
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Diablo III Retrospective
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The Opportunity Crunch
No, brutal, soul-sucking, marriage-destroying crunch mode in game development isn't a privilege or an opportunity. It's idiocy.
Denuvo and the "Death" of Piracy
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The Truth About Piracy
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