The 8 Ball 6.18.13: Top E3 News/Announcements
Welcome to The 8 Ball, where the topic of the week is E3 announcements and news. Aside from the actual console news, I found a lot of the new games disappointing, or else known quantities. The biggest mess of a game being “Ryse: Son of Rome”, which looked like a blending of one long QTE mixed with the aesthetic of 300. The fact that Microsoft was actually proud of that game, giving it ample time during their conference, speaks volumes about what they assume people care about. Still, here are my highlights, for good and for bad, of E3 this year:
8. Forza 5 with “Drivatar” Support
I’ve been a die-hard fan of the Forza series since its inception in 2005, Turn 10 Studios has created a franchise that has not only filled the Gran Turismo shaped hole on the Xbox platform but far exceeded it, when it comes to making simulation games actually fun to play. With that said, I literally burst out laughing when they were showing the Forza 5 trailer. Why? Because half way in the talk, the bald dude mentioned “Drivatar” like it was a new and exciting thing. “IT WAS IN THE FIRST GAME!“, I was yelling to people on Twitter during the conference. It’s astounding that people can’t remember a fairly popular game from 8 years ago. The idea is the same, creating a virtual AI profile to let you race, but they heralded this idea as a new and revolutionary feature, when it’s an idea from two console generations ago. It’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but definitely one I noticed the most.
7. Nintendo? Same ol’e, same ol’e
Compared to Microsoft’s conference, Nintendo’s “conference” (for lack of a better term) wasn’t a disaster, but honestly, who cares at all about it? The only note-worthy unannounced game (at least to me) was The Wonderful 101, which looks kind of neat. Aside from that, what else was there? Zelda Wind Waker HD and Zelda 3DS videos, a Mario game where you turn into a cat, a new Mario/Sonic Olympics game, a new Donkey Kong game (made by a studio deserving of more quality projects), new Pokemon, new Mario Kart, new Smash Bros. etc, etc. etc. Nintendo really needs to stop resting on its laurels when it comes to actually making games for their systems. A new Smash Bros game is fine and welcome, but come on, where are the new franchises for the Wii U? The system desperately needs ideas, characters and games that make it unique. Instead the consumers get the 8th Mario Kart game. When all Nintendo has left is nostalgia (and they might already be there), then they are doomed as a company.
6. Killer Instinct sure is Rape-y…in all forms
“Just let it happen…it’ll all be over soon” cast a dark cloud on the Xbox One conference. The second that line was uttered, I asked on Twitter if anyone else found it as creepy as I did. Apparently, people did. Aside from the rape language of the trash talk is the financial rape of the consumers and fans of the series…which inexplicably has some. The game is going to be a F2P (free to play) game where the only free character is Jago. All the other characters both old and (theoretically) new will be bought at your discretion. Jago, though? Really? That’s the character you single out to try to entice people into the game? As opposed to the actual, interesting, recognizable ones the game has? Jago was always the blandest character of the original game, and he’s the one you give away to get people interested? Good job on that front. To be fair though, NO ONE cares about Jago, or would pay to unlock him, so maybe they have a point. Also, who really cares about Killer Instinct? It’s an internet meme at this point, where (prior to the announcement) people were constantly asking for it. Killer Instinct was kind of a garbage game, made semi-passable for its good graphics, and awesome music. The core fighting system was trash though, and people are going to get a rude awakening when the game does come out.
5. Getting rid of Microsoft points
Finally, the scourge of Microsoft points is coming to a close. Originally, it was a passable idea in 2005, when everything has a set value of 80, 160, 400, 800, 1200 values. Since the past 8 years though, the system has devolved into a mess, with differently priced items going up, left over point values, and a general ambivalence from Microsoft’s part to fix the problem. People have been complaining for years and it’s fallen on deaf ears. The two big problems with the point system were, let’s say you wanted a game that was 800 points, but you only had 680 points in your account. You would have to buy 400 points, in order to get the game, thus leaving you 280 points to be worthless due to the pricing structure. The other problem is, what happens when you’re left with an odd number? I actually have a few friends with points totals ending in random numbers, like a 6 or 8. So if they bought a points card, their points total would be 1208. How is that even allowed to happen? Honestly though, the idea of points still has a place, like for gifts and such, but the rigidity of the system has it broken beyond repair, at least for the time being.
4. Sony’s Indie Love
There was an impressive display of Independent designers and games during the Sony conference and for the show at large. Transistor, Octodad, Day Z, Galak-Z, Oddworld, Secret Ponchos and more, Sony made the “Playstation Loves Devs” tag mean business. Meanwhile, Microsoft had….Below, and that’s kind of about it, as far as indie games goes. It’s been long-rumored that Microsoft’s increasing apathy towards Indie devs was real, but this E3 really solidified it. None of the games I mentioned are really huge games, or even system sellers. But each game adds to the notion that the PS4 has unique games on it, that the Xbox One doesn’t. Most of the games will be on other platforms sure (PC, iOS devices, etc.), but as far as console specific exclusivity, the PS4 appears to be winning this battle already.
3. Xbox Live Free Games
Considering how much Sony has “borrowed” from the 360 this generation cycle (Achievements, Netflix, a tiered online service), it’s nice to see Microsoft take a page from Sony and use one of their ideas: namely free games for Gold members. The PS+ membership has been well-regarded for offering at least 6 games (for various systems) every month for people to enjoy. Microsoft is replicating this in a good and bad way. It’s good in that, unlike with the PS+ thing, you own the games, period. With PS+, if you stop the membership, you lose the license to play those games. Not so with the free 360 games, they’re simply on your account. The bad thing though, is that the program is only lasting until December. So from now (where you can get Fable 3 for free) till December, you’ll get 13 free games, but that’s it. Having an end already announced to the program feels a bit “too little, too late”. Still, I do appreciate it, and will grab every one of those games, regardless if I actually like them or not.
2. Kingdom Hearts 3
And with that, a million Otaku squealed in their Sora-induced anticipation. It’s been over 7 years since the last proper Kingdom Hearts game on actual consoles. Since then, Square has seen its position as a giant in the game industry drop, and drop, fueled by “bad” sales (in their eyes) of good games, Tomb Raider & Sleeping Dogs, or else failures on such epic scales that they should best be forgotten, Final Fantasy 14. Still, people have a fondness for the Kingdom Hearts franchise and it’s mostly well-earned. My two big hopes with this game is that it’s, A. Not embarrassing, and B. Doesn’t have a super convoluted story in it. I doubt either of my hopes are going to come to pass, given Square’s recent history, but I can dream. If Square does bungle this game then there might not be any way to really recover. People have been burned on Final Fantasy too much, and if they ruin one of the few positive franchises they have left, it might be game over for them as a developer.
1. $400 > $500
The prior Sony announcements were big, used games being allowed, the look of the system, no internet checks for games, but their announcement of “The PS4 is $400” is what sealed the deal for me, and a lot of other people. The funny thing is that Sony did this once already, with the release of the original Playstation vs. the Sega Saturn. The Saturn launched at $399 while the Playstation (in response) launched at $299. And we all know who won on that argument. History already seems to be slowly repeating itself with the interest in the PS4 eclipsing the Xbox One, almost hands down. People like cheap systems that are powerful, let you play used games on them (if you want), and don’t need to be tethered to an internet network and a creepy motion camera detecting everything going on in your house.
Console launch years are always highly competitive at E3, making those years ideal times to sit back and watch the sparks fly while not expecting much in the way of content. It was, by those standards, an especially entertaining year, with a solid mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s eight notable moments!
8: Nintendo Abstains
Sometimes the biggest news is what doesn’t happen, and Nintendo just wasn’t there this year. Sure, they had a booth, but mentally, they were elsewhere. Not only did they not do a press conference, their software offerings felt like voting “present” instead of stating an opinion. What exactly is the company that Miyamoto built waiting for? More and more, it seems like they’re expecting some sort of miracle.
7: Aisha Tyler makes Ubisoft developers look like hobbits.
Apparently all those references to “girlwood” were Aisha trying to tip us all off that she’s secretly an Ent, one of those giant tree people from Lord of the Rings. There was something seriously hot about how much taller she was than everyone else on the stage.
She’s clearly not self-conscious about being six feet tall, because she wore giant frikkin’ heels, and this makes her awesome! While Ubi’s offerings didn’t quite dazzle like last year’s, their hostess with the mostsess made the proceedings far less boring than most of the other press conferences. But there’s more! By being in control, relaxed, funny, knowledgeable, and six feet of smokin’ hot sass, her participation sent the message that Ubisoft doesn’t have those typical game company hang ups about women.
6. EA Ignites numerous very strange things
Every E3, EA has the challenge of making sports games seem to be a worthwhile purchase year after year after year, changing up gameplay with seeming randomness and improving graphics – but not improving them as much as they claim — to justify brand new $60 games instead of just DLC team roster updates. Sports licenses, after all, are exceedingly expensive. But this year leaped to new heights of absurdity with the promotion of EA’s new Ignite engine. NBA Live hilariously promised to “remove the ball from players’ hands”. Drake promoted FIFA to prove Americans still can’t recognize any soccer player other than David Beckham. But the meme that seems to be making the rounds is video game LeBron James, an odd mix of the Miami Heat’s small forward and, apparently, Grumpy Cat.
Other images made video game LeBron seem like a mix between a Harry Potter Dementor and a sex doll.
While Ignite may be legit cool tech, it’s extremely hard to show that in ten minutes at a press conference. So instead, EA made its Sports presentation very very weird. At least I can’t say it was boring!
5. Game announcements
New console cycles don’t ten to produce immediate mega-hits – third parties don’t want to create something that’s not supported by an established market, so there was no super exciting completely new IP that made everyone pee their pants like Watch_Dogs did last year. But we did get some trailers heralding the return of fan favorite franchises like Kingdom Hearts and Battlefront. Also, we got our first look at what Dragon Age Inquisition is going to look like with the Frostbite 3 engine, and it looked amazing! There was also a Plants vs Zombies third-person action shooter that looks surprisingly good, and some gameplay for Assassin’s Creed IV that made me want to force myself to finish III, because otherwise I’ll feel stupid continuing to buy a series I never complete just because it’s pretty. On a personal note, I was happy to see the Mirror’s Edge franchise get another chance.
Regarding new games, The Order:1886 looked the coolest.
Quantum Break, on the other hand, is of interest because it’s being made by Remedy, so people are actually attempting to find out more details not effectively presented by the trailers we’ve seen. I’m concerned, though, that it will suffer from being an Xbone exclusive, and Microsoft better appreciate that they’re taking one for the team and finally let them make Alan Wake 2
4. The Killer Instinct Rapefail
“Just let it happen, it’ll be over soon” was the trash talk line that launched a thousand tweets, and I’ve spent the last week explaining rape culture to people who are either confused, annoyed, or horrified. Needless to say, this isn’t my idea of a good time. I didn’t even want to include this disaster on this list because it was a pathetic reassertion of stereotypes, and any reference to rape collects trolls like rednecks collect Duck Dynasty t-shirts. But I have to acknowledge that it was a moment that mattered and will continue to matter, until Xbox wakes up and realizes that it has to stop playing in to all the bad stuff the rest of the world thinks about “Amurica”. Whatever you think about the whole issue, it mattered. I’d just rather go back to talking about games.
3. The Ouya vs ESA fight
Some ugly stuff has happened at past E3, but I don’t remember the cops getting called before. The makers of the crowd funded android-powered console were a little too brazen in their rejection of E3’s sky high booth fees… according to the Entertainment Software Association, anyway. Instead of buying a booth inside the convention center, Ouya rented out space in the parking lot across the street, and a pissing match involving tractor trailers went three rounds before the ESA called the cops. Apparently Ouya had all its permits in order, however, and they were allowed to stay.
2. EA head says online passes were “flat out dumb” idea
Frank Gibeau took a huge step toward redeeming EA with his frank comments on the company’s past used games strategy. It shouldn’t have been an epiphany that people who legally purchase used games shouldn’t be penalized for doing so… hell, people who bought legal copies of new games were penalized under the online pass system, because entering codes on a console is tedious. By unequivocally stating that online passes are gone for good because they were a bad idea, EA has begun to take responsibility for its past mistakes.
1. Sony pwns its press conference
Going into the Sony media briefing, I said that all they’d have to do was run a clean program to win the night. Instead, they came out swinging and walloped the competition. Forty-five minutes into the presentation, Sony had already shown more new non-sports games than any of the other press conferences, and that was before they’d even touched the PS4. They staged an effective fake-out, lulling me into thinking that their plan was to have the PS4 start slow as the PS3 had done. But I was so very wrong.
Sony came out swinging with the PS4 in a way that was refreshingly uncharacteristic. There were some subtle shots at Microsoft early on, but the second half of the presentation was a full-out curb stomping the likes of which, in my eight years covering E3, I have never seen. The deafening roar of approval that erupted when Tretton announced that the PS4 would support used games carried with it the exhilaration of a roller coaster, and it was definitely the shot heard round the world of E3 2013. But then the price announcement came, and no one expected the PS4 to be $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. It was that moment that turned things from a victory into a fatality. For these reasons, the Playstation press conference was easily the greatest moment of E3 2013.
I’d actually say a lot of stuff from E3 wasn’t on my big list because most of it has been known. Destiny/Titanfall were a bit known. Fantasia: Music Evolved looks neat, but I don’t have the room, or the physicality to really play it. Unless each copy of the game comes with a clone of John T. Drake, then I’d be in. But some other note-worth topics were: PS+ needed for online PS4 play, Metal Gear Solid 5, Dead Rising 3, Mirror’s Edge 2, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Defense, and more. The most hilarious thing (aside from Forza 5) was the “reveal” of Final Fantasy XV (15). That game has been in development as “Final Fantasy Versus XIII” since 2006. Like with Forza, I guess with Square re-using an old concept they are trying to fool people into thinking they have a new game.
There weren’t a lot of comments last week, likely due to all the news about E3. Still, I’ll address a few comments. I never liked the Fable series, except for 3. I do own Fable 1 for PC, and I owned Fable 2, but I sold it. I didn’t like the time jumps in either games, and felt the social systems were too clunky and goofy to deal with. Believe me, Fable 3 isn’t a perfect game, or even a great one, but I found it enjoyable enough in a “This game is super easy to breeze through” kind of way. I haven’t played Judgment, or even Gears 3, I’ve only touched Gears 1 and 2. And Halo: ODST is dreadful. Just remember: If you like Halo: ODST, you are objectively wrong. I can prove it with graphs.