I still have more to say about the DSGA’s first year, but I wanted to offer some thoughts on the recent E3 show before it became old news.
For starters, either consoles are far from being dead, as many believe, or the hardware guys are exceptionally good at pretending to be alive, kicking and relevant. I’m not sure which is true.
Content-wise, I went to the show expecting non-stop sequels. To some extent, I was right. You had to work hard to avoid all the games with a 4, 5, 6 or 14 after their names. I will never understand why people put up with what basically amounts to the same old same old gameplay. But put up with it they do – the crowds lined up for some sequels were ridiculous.
It was also hard not to notice all the great graphics. (I mean Forza 6… the new Tomb Raider game… holy cow.) Having said that, there were times when I literally couldn’t tell what gorgeous game I was looking at if I didn’t look at the signage. That was kind of sad.
Couple of mysteries:
With the exception of Oculus Rift, which attracted the usual enthusiastic crowds, I really didn’t see much interest in VR or AR. (I didn’t see Microsoft’s Hololens, but everything I heard says it’s pretty special so take everything I say here with a grain of salt.) The other VR/AR stuff seemed like a big ho-hum to me. Maybe that’s just my prejudice – I think VR’s going to be a fad (again) and at best a minor part of gaming’s future, not unlike stereoscopic 3D, which I also called out as a fad. (I still think I’m right about 3D. Check back with me in five years and you can tell me what a boob I was about VR.)
And where was all the mobile stuff? I saw a smattering of mobile games here and there, but I expected a lot more.
In terms of content, there were lots of multiplayer shooters… lots of multiplayer battle games… lots of old classics making a return with modern graphics. Yawn.
But hidden among all the old hat were some gems of originality. Bear in mind that it’s impossible to see everything at E3, so I’m sure I missed a ton of interesting stuff. Also, bear in mind that I was unwilling to stand in line for six hours (or pull in favors) to see The Last Guardian. And I couldn’t find any evidence that No Man’s Sky was being shown. Those caveats out of the way, here’s what stood out for me at E3 2015:
First, the console guys are clearly serious about indie games and showed a lot of them – a LOT. That was great to see.
In terms of specific games, let’s start with Cuphead. Simply put, Cuphead rocked. I’m not usually a graphics-first guy, but I’ll make an exception here. Cuphead looked unique… absolutely phenomenal. Maybe it’s just that I’m a geek for classic animation, but I cannot wait to play it, even though the gameplay will likely be too hard for me as a twitch-skill challenged gamer.
Over at the Nintendo booth, it was nice to see a Zelda Tri-Force Heroes. It’s ALWAYS nice to see a new Zelda game. And Mario Maker is totally cool if for no other reason than the possibility that normal humans will find out how hard it is to make games…
In the realm of traditional mainstream publishers, two other things stood out:
For Honor, from Ubisoft, is a sword-fighting game that looks like it’ll offer something new in the fighting game genre. Looking forward to that one.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how cool Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looked over at Square Enix. Nice to see DX in such good hands.
And then we come to Indicade. Ah, Indicade… If you want originality, that’s the place to go. There was plenty to see there, but three games stood out, all for different reasons. (Differentness is part of what makes indie games cool.)
Wattam from Funomena and Katamari Damacy designer, Keita Takahashi, is just crazy unlike any other game I’ve ever seen. (Frankly, I worry that it’s so different, it might run into some commercial difficulties, but let’s hope for the best.) Wattam is a wonder. Soulful in a medium that’s often soulless… a work of childlike wonder… a real sense of discovery… and often laugh-out-loud funny. I just hope people get it. I’m not even going to describe the graphics or gameplay. I don’t have the words. Just trust me on this one…
Chambara is kind of a stealth fighter. (Like Wattam, it’s hard to describe, which I love about it.) One player character is flat white; the other is flat black. And the world is all flat white and flat black, too, so your character blends completely into the background. Before you can deal with your enemy, you have to find him (or her, gender being kind of a non-issue here). I’ve never seen a game that uses color as mechanic and graphics as gameplay. Very impressive (even if I sucked at playing it).
In Tribal & Error you have to help out a bunch of stone age people who speak a language you can’t understand. When they speak, they display a variety of symbols above their heads. You have to figure out what those symbols mean, string them together to construct sentences and get the stone agers to perform various actions to get themselves out of trouble, (Man, this game is ALSO hard to describe.) A game that’s about language learning that involves no real world languages is something I’ve never seen before. Here’s the paradox: I found Tribal & Error incredibly frustrating to play, but, despite that, I wanted to keep on playing. Language learning as mechanic. I wish I’d thought of that.
So. E3. Mixed bag. A handful of interesting mainstream games. Several interesting indie games (apologies to the games I didn’t mention here…).
I’m left thinking the games medium is in pretty okay shape, but it’s likely to be a very different medium before too long.
Okay, next time, it’s back to the DSGA first year.