June 19, 2016

E3 2016 High’s and Low’s….

Each year that E3 rolls around, there is always and I mean always a level of hype that happens leading into the show, that no other gaming show on earth can equal. Part of it is because we want to be surprised, the rest usually comes from ‘leaks’ before, which tempt us even more. For E3 2016, I sat at home after attending two back to back shows in person, so with the Australian winter behind me, I sat down to enjoy E3, the good and the bad. First off, let’s start with a low point.

Press Conferences

Yeah, you might think I am crazy already, how can press conferences, media briefings, showcases, whatever name you use, be a bad thing. The event themselves are not bad, not in the least, sitting there, watching and waiting for whatever image is going to appear on screen is perhaps one of the parts that people love the most, what made this year wonderfully bad, was how they were presented online.

Sitting in the halls of these events, you are limited to the view you can see the screen from, but at home, in the comfort of your house, you can watch a foot from your PC monitor, or across from your 65inch flat screen, except when people running the shows, start attempting to mimic the Oscars or other such award show. Electronic Arts kicked off the E3 madness with their EA Play event, but before we even saw the first game, we were bounced from the Los Angeles venue to the one in London, both with establishing shots that people were actually watching them live. Bethesda had kept their crowd shots to a minimum, thankfully, but it was Xbox that did the worst possible moment of the events, during the world debut of Dead Rising 4, while people were attempting to watch the trailer, they cut to a wide shot of the arena, letting people at home witness that crap was falling from the roof, giving people in attendance the effect of snow.

Now I don’t know about you, but I for one could give one giant flying shit about the people watching in person, I mean, if I am up at 2am to watch your event, I want to see the games, I want to enjoy the trailer and gameplay footage, I don’t care that fake snow is falling to the ground. Xbox were not the only ones, Ubisoft kept on constantly showing the audience, almost every time Aisha Tyler made a joke, to prove she was funny. Even times when trailers ended, they would cut to a shot of the audience, as if to showcase the reactions of how wowed people were. Sony ended the traditional events with, what most believe to be one of the best shows of all time, for me the content was a little off, but there was no denying that their presentation they had was on point.

While they did little to draw out the events, with only three people walking onto the stage, they still had a big issue with the games they were showing, the two live demo’s God of War and Days Gone, both looked amazing, but suffered from being show like glorified Let’s Plays. The main action was shrunk down and we got, not only a shot of the person playing, but a shot of what they were seeing and wide shot, showing the orchestra playing as well. I don’t mean to undermine the presence of the orchestra, because it was amazing, Nintendo had one years ago and it kicked ass, but whomever decided that turning live stage demos into glorified lets plays was the way to go, needs to be fired. Of course, Xbox and Ubisoft did the same thing, cutting away from the action of the demo, to show the people playing, but their styles have always been that way.

What I am saying at the end of all of this, is for the love of all that is holy, just keep the action on the games, at no point does anyone watching from somewhere outside of the location, care one bit about people playing games on a stage, or reactions from the crowd. Oh and for the love of god, please no more on stage interviews, no more celebrities on stage, in the wings or in any other fashion associated with the events, unless hosting like the awesome Aisha Tyler, no matter what their gamer cred might be, they simply stop all momentum your show has and as such have no need to be there.

Live Steams

Now onto a good part, IGN and Gamespot have been doing live shows from the show floor for quite a few years now, with Gamespot changing things up this year with their co-op stage, letting smaller groups like Kinda Funny, Screwattack and more get a chance to live stream without the need for their own stage at the show. But three E3’s back now, Nintendo changed the landscape of E3 with their Treehouse Live segment, which had members of Nintendo’s Treehouse division streaming from the show floor, each day, with developers on hand to talk about the games, other publishers like Square Enix had done smaller events, but this was the first time that one of the big players covered E3 in such a way and of course as it usually the way, other companies soon followed.

Last year, Xbox started doing Xbox Daily, live from the show and they brought it back again this year, Sony held live streams as well, as did Ubisoft and more, in fact this year was one of the most open and connected E3’s I have ever seen. Not only did players get information about their games direct from the developers themselves, they could actively switch up their streams to essentially build up their own E3 Live Stream. When watching from home, I generally stick with IGN, they are my site of choice and I find most of the people they have hosting the streams to be engaging and fun, but whenever a game was on their stage that I had no interest in, I would mute that stream then check out one of the others that was going on. Being able to do this meant I was not suffering through tons of dead air, so to speak and I mean even with IGN being good, as 30 minutes of every hour were repeats of trailers and gameplays that were constantly being cut off and such, being able to move from stream to stream was great.

If companies keep this up, over the next few years, bringing more streams online will only let gamers from around the world expand E3 to match their own desires. The ability to ignore one genre you don’t like while also enjoying the ones you do is a reality that shall be here sooner rather than later.

Weird Teasers

Sadly, a common trend, thanks to Electronic Arts, has companies showing off behind the scenes content, masked as a game trailer. It is funny, when this current generation of consoles was starting up, Electronic Arts held their E3 press event and its basically just showed a whole lot of footage of people working on things and very little gameplay. This year, they did it again with Star Wars, we got to hear from a few people working on games at the various studios, but we saw nothing of those games, outside of some wire frames and a quick few seconds of the Visceral game. If Electronic Arts had only done that with Star Wars, because of the number of projects, you might see it in yourself to give them a pass, but they did the same thing with Mass Effect earlier on, a game which we got a trailer for last year. How we can go from trailer of a game, even a brief one, back to a mix of wire frames, behind the scenes and gameplay shots is just not acceptable. Electronic Arts were not the only ones, Warner Bros Games did it for Batman Arkham VR during the PlayStation event, a trailer with the Joker asking questions, while the camera panned around the Batman cowl, giving no single instance of what the game was and then adding insult to injury, the game was actually playable at the show.

Game companies, talking about a game, showing off behind the scenes or teasers that have no correlation to the gameplay we might see, is the same as a writer giving you the descriptions of the characters for their book, no actual connection to them, but by doing so they feel like they are doing something. We have had to put up with these bullshot trailers, a term coined by Penny Arcade, where we get looks of a game and it turns out to be nothing like we thought and sadly VR is going to suffer from that a lot. I know showing VR games in video form is not going to be an easy thing, but we were able to watch a live demo of VR from Ubisoft, without issue, we got some idea of how it will work within Final Fantasy XV and even with MineCraft thanks to John Carmack, randomly popping up, so the idea that we are going to be subjected back to the wonderful days of trailers that show nothing and do nothing are not welcome.

Companies Changing things up

Say what you want about Electronic Arts, but this year they took a massive risk with ditching E3, even if they did not leave the area and hosting their own EA Play event. Last year Xbox invited heaps of fans to the closest Microsoft Store near E3 to play some games and maybe even get a ticket into their media briefing. E3 for years, was this mecca of gaming goodness, where if you were somehow chosen to enter, you were treated to a barrage of sensations that would overwhelm you, but as the internet has evolved, so has gaming and that started with Gamescom, Tokyo Games Show and recently the various PAX shows around the USA and Australia.

E3 jumping on that band wagon makes sense, this is the one week a year that all gamers are looking at games, Gamescom is wonderful, but people in Tokyo or Rio are not too worried, Paris Games Week is super important for the people of France and just so PAX Australia is amazing for all of us here in Australia, but E3 transcends the global lines, so now having them last year open the door to fans and now this year hosting E3 Live right near the main show, proves that things are changing. EA Play might not have been the biggest thing of the show, but seeing Electronic Arts try to include their fans, not only in Los Angeles but also in London was a big deal, if it returns next year, it would be great to see it extended to other countries and regions.

Nintendo have for the last few years, changed the course of E3 by dropping their standard live media/press event in favour of pre-recorded messages and even then, this year they changed things again. It is great to see the other companies, Ubisoft, Xbox, Bethesda, Square Enix and more embrace streaming, letting people ask questions to developers while they are chatting away, perhaps what makes it cooler, there is almost no restriction on things, as long as you have a desire to watch and interact you can. A few years back, during the Xbox 360 console life, Xbox did something that was truly unheard of and has not been done since, one E3, they let you download the demo’s that were being played on the show floor, so you could experience E3 from your own home.

Not every single game was done for this, but I recall about half a dozen and no matter what, being able to sit at home and download a demo of the game that people in Los Angeles were playing, was simply staggering. Over the past few years Nintendo partnered up with Best Buy in the USA to allow gamers to check out builds of selected games, which was nice if you happened to live near one of those stores and even this year, they let 500 people experience the all new Zelda game at the Nintendo Store in New York City. PlayStation are also getting amongst things, opening up cinemas to let fans come and watch their E3 briefing with like-minded gamers, which would be something to behold and last year video giant YouTube got in on the action with live shows for the show.

No matter your opinion on E3 or any one console, game maker or person, you can’t deny that E3 has seen the largest pivotal shift in gaming over the past few years and I for one, hope that it can only get better.

So those were a few things that were really great about the show this year and some not so good moments, with luck, fan feedback will get back to the show makers and things can be improved, but right now, things look up for gamers everywhere.

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