In years past, Bethesda and Microsoft had separate shows. But this year Microsoft acquired Bethesda for 7.5 billion. So the two presentations were merged. Great. I already get Pete Hines and Phil Spencer mixed up all the time, and now they’re in the same presentation. Like, I think it took me one or two years of E3 before I realized these were two different guys.
(It’s not that they look all that much alike. They’re just two nondescript dudes of medium build in corporate casual dress that come out and recite boilerplate corporate copy before a series of trailers. They don’t literally look like each other, but they’re sort of generic and forgettable. So when I see the second one, I can’t remember if he matches the face I saw earlier.)
It’s really interesting that they lead off the show with Todd Howard from Bethesda instead of having an Xbox personality show us the latest Halo. Microsoft is evidently very proud of their acquisition.
Anyway, I’m just going to go through the entire show and comment on everything in order…
I should be excited for this. I’ve been waiting since 2007 for someone to give me another dose of Trek-like space adventure.No, outer worlds wasn’t really what I’m looking for. OW is charming as hell, but I’m more interested in big idea space-mysteries than corporate shenanigans. Maybe this is it and maybe it isn’t, but we get so few space RPGsCompared to (say) medieval fantasy and modern-day shootmans. these days. I ought to be crazy with excitement.
Then again, I know Bethesda. I know their strengths and I know their weaknesses, and their strengths are not in building worlds and narratives, which is what I’m looking for in my space games. I can’t escape the notion that this will be another trash-picker game like Skyrim or Fallout 4, with a senseless story and a world that can’t withstand the slightest inspection.
I’m sure I’ll play 100 hours of Starfield. And I’m sure that – just like the other two games I mentioned – I’ll spend the whole time wishing they’d made something smarter. The trash-picker gameplay loop is nice and all, but that’s not why I want to go to space.
Date: Sometime in 2022
I had a lousy time with the original STALKER. I loved the atmosphere, but the game had a lot of jank and general weirdness. My computer was egregiously underpowered at the time. At low framerates, the fancy-pants bullet simulation mechanics would break down and allow bullets to pass through walls. The AI could also see through walls. So I’d duck into a metal shed to hide from attackers and get shot through the walls from ten different angles by clairvoyant AI. Then I complained about how hard the game was and people told me I was bad at videogames. Also, people kept claiming it was “like a roleplaying game” because it had an inventory screen and it reminded people of Fallout 3. Those claims created this expectation that I was going to be leveling up, min-maxing, and making dialog choices. Then the game turned out to be an open-world shooter rather than an RPG, and I felt disappointed.
I’d sort of meant to go back to the game after I upgraded, but then the rise of the Steam Summer Sale and indie revolution happened and I found I had a lot less time for janky old games.
In the end, I was left with the impression that I could have enjoyed STALKER a lot more if I’d had a better machine and more appropriate expectations going in.
So I wasn’t crazy about the original. And the new game looks very similar. But I’m excited for it anyway? I dunno. I like the spooky bits where you play peek-a-boo with mutant horrors in abandoned science labs, and I’m not really here to gun down waves for dudes in an open world. I’m not sure which way the designers are going to go. I guess we’ll see.
Date: April 2022
Back 4 Blood
This looks really polished. This looks like a slick, well-balanced, well-designed game with solid execution. The different infected look interesting, and I like that the different survivors have different strengths.
I’m just not excited about it. Mechanically everything is fine, but I didn’t get a sense of personality. I’m looking for someone lovable like world-weary Bill, dorky Louis, sarcastic Francis, or earnest Zoey.
This is in contrast to Anacrusis, which is the inverse of everything I just said. It looks like it has lots of personality, and everything else is jank and weirdness.
If I had to choose, I’d pick Back 4 Blood. But I’m going to miss the heyday of Left 4 Dead, when we had both gameplay and personality.
Date: This October
Oh, you’re too cool to tell us what your game is, what it’s about, or who is in it? You just have an “All style, no substance” cinematic with licensed music?
Piss off. If you don’t have anything to show me, then don’t waste my time. Come back when you want to announce a videogame. These things are long enough already and there’s already too much to sort through. I don’t have time to speculate on your coy nonsense.
Date: Who cares?
Sea of Thieves
Wow. A proper licensed appearance of Captain Jack Sparrow, complete with a bang-on impression of Johnny Depp’s performance? That would have been fantastic back in 2003 when we loved the character. But the last four PotC movies have flanderized him into oblivion. He’s just a mumbling plot device these days, and the “Pirates Cinematic Universe” has become a soup of lazy tropes and gags.
Not that I cared about this game to begin with. Not my thing, really.
Date: Out now.
This is just an ad announcing, “Hey, are you subscribed to the Game Pass? If so, you can play all of the Yakuza games for free”.
I’ve never played them, but this trailer has a really strong slapstick comedy vibe, and I never got the impression the games were all that focused on comedy. Have the games been misrepresented in the past, or are they being misrepresented now?
Date: Out now.
Not my thing, obviously. But still, that’s an impressive showcase of technology, production values, and massive scope. What an absolute monster of a game.
I don’t care for it, but I can understand why something massive like this serves as a tentpole title, and why people lavish such attention on it.
Date: This October.
This is pretty high-concept. The game is a time loop of the same twelve minutes, over and over again, and you try to solve… whatever the game is about. Also, it has Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy, and Willem Dafoe? That’s a ton of star power in those twelve minutes!
Date: This August.
I know this is a beloved classic, but the first one didn’t really click for me. I loved the world and characters, but to me it was a jank-ass platformer, and I’m not even a fan of platformers when they’re polished.
Still, fans have been waiting for this one for a long time. Here’s hoping they get what they want.
Date: This August
In this next segment, Phil HinesOr is it Pete Spencer? comes out and does a little brand management for Doom Eternal, Skyrim, Fallout 76, and Elder Scrolls Online. The old stuff is getting ported to new hardware and the new stuff is getting a fresh round of content patches.
Also, Skyrim is 10 this year? They grow up so fast, don’t they?
This is what happens when a big publisher looks over the indie darlings on Steam, shopping for ideas. This is basically Gang Beasts with a dash of Fall Guys and some AAA polish.
“Hey, what if we copied these successful indie games and stole their audience with our superior marketing muscle and production values?”
At least the big publishers are trying new things. It would be better if they came up with ideas on their own, but at least they’re doing something new.
Wow. This looks so much like INSIDE. INSIDE was made by developer Playdead, which was founded by Dino Patti. Somerville is being produced by developer Jumpship, which was founded by Dino Patti.
I don’t know why Patti founded two different studios to produce two different games with incredibly similar gameplay, tone, and art style. I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere, but I haven’t heard it.
I hate the gameplay. INSIDE felt very DIAS to me. On the other hand, it was a joy to watch other people play it. This trial-and-error gameplay isn’t for me, but I’m a huge fan of this tone and art style.
I’m sure I’ll watch someone play through Somerville when the time comes, just to see the art.
Hm. Master Chief gets stuck in the middle of the show instead of appearing at a place of honor at the beginning (to kick off the show with a bang) or the end (to keep people watching all the way through) of the show. Microsoft is evidently REALLY excited about their Bethesda acquisition. (Insert distracted boyfriend meme here.)
Wait, this is Halo INFINITE? I guess this is another example of how Microsoft can’t count. On Windows their counting goes 3, 95, 98, 2000, XP, 7, 8, 10. They actually did much better with Halo numbering: Halo, 2, 3, 4, 5, Infinity. I guess the sequel is going to be either Halo Infinite+1, or Halo XP. Or maybe Halo Vista? That’s a terrifying thought.
Obviously this isn’t my series, although it is interesting that this will launch on the PC at the same time as the Xbox version.
It looks like part of the game will feature a search for Cortana, who is supposedly dead/erased. That’s probably a big deal for Halo fans who know her as Master chief’s AI buddy, but I’m a Windows user so I know Cortana as part of the useless garbage screen clutter that needs to be cleaned off of Windows 10 before you can begin using it.
Having said that: That music is still absolutely amazing.
Date: Holiday 2021
Diablo II Remastered
It’s kind of funny to see this at an Xbox presentation. Blizzard has their own convention and so they don’t show up for E3. They normally save stuff like this for their own show.
How is Blizzcon doing these days? I notice that the last few years have been rough in the press as the developer has pivoted to mobiles and remakes. I wonder if this has impacted attendance? Then again, last year the only show people attended was COVIDCON, so I guess it’s a bad time to measure attendance numbers.
Anyway, I’ll get this. Of course I’ll get it. After the massive disappointment of Diablo III, I’ve been itching for another trip through the second one.
Date: September 23
C’mon guys. Release it one day sooner and your game comes out on Bilbo’s birthday. How can you pass up an opportunity like that?
This Xbox show is huge. I guess that makes sense, since it’s the union of two mega-publishers. I’ll cover the other half of this show tomorrow.
 No, outer worlds wasn’t really what I’m looking for. OW is charming as hell, but I’m more interested in big idea space-mysteries than corporate shenanigans.
 Compared to (say) medieval fantasy and modern-day shootmans.
 Or is it Pete Spencer?
A wild game filled with wild ideas that features fun puzzles and mind-blowing environments. It has a great atmosphere, and one REALLY annoying flaw with its gameplay.
Quakecon 2012 Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.
What was the problem with the Playstation 3 hardware and why did Sony build it that way?
The Game That Ruined Me
Be careful what you learn with your muscle-memory, because it will be very hard to un-learn it.
Why Batman Can't Kill
His problem isn't that he's dumb, the problem is that he bends the world he inhabits.