Tuesday, June 05, 2012

E3, Day 1. Or, How I learned to stop giving a shit about E3.

It's that time of year, loves. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. The annual orgy of self indulgence that our "industry" hypes us towards for the other 51 weeks of the year, which amounts to a hype train the likes of which no other "industry" gets anywhere near. For the next few days, news will not trickle onto your favourite website the way it normally does. Instead, you can expect a deluge of the damn stuff, as the entire output of an entire year is squeezed into 4 days. Vidyagames, eh? Gotta love them.

Not to mention all the blogs, which will all do their bit to tell you what they thought of the press conferences. I'm no different in that respect. That's what this will be. Do read on, and I will educate you as to what I think of I what I saw yesterday.

The day started really well with the Microsoft conference. Immediately, they hit us smack in the centre of the face with some Halo 4 footage. And it was good. VERY good. All looked in place for a good show, and then ... oh dear, it all went a bit sour after that.

Where to start with the MS problems? How about DO YOU LIKE SPORTS? If you have a body, you are an athlete. A new approach to fitness. Dance Central, and Usher. ALL of that. Know how much of that anybody watching on the streams liked?

None of it.

Then there was the focus on entertainment partners. ESPN, UFC, and others that I don't remember because people mocking the show were much more interesting. XBox Music, which looks like attempt #2537625362 to copy iTunes, was another reason to not care. Internet Explorer on XBox might have been something to be excited about 5 years ago.

Smart glass. WHAT IN THE HELL ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT? As far as I can tell, it is as if I am watching TV with my netbook on my lap. Um ... that is something I can, and frequently DO, already do. I've been doing it for the last few years. I am not going to spend anything extra to do it in a Microsoft branded walled garden, so this is a dead concept unless it gives me something gamey to do. The evidence suggests that it won't.

And then we had the most mind-numbing end imaginable, where we sat through 11 minutes worth of Black Ops 2 footage. Ironically, at one point they skipped forwards "IN THE INTEREST OF TIME", and yet, even amongst the audience that should care about it, we all wanted it to end at least 3 minutes ago.

EA were up against the last episode of Game of Thrones. Sorry, EA, that was a no contest. I didn't watch, but apparently didn't miss too much anyway.

Ubisoft, on the other hand ... well played! The first act was Flo Rida on stage, and by this point I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't accidentally tuned in to the wrong E3. But things got onto the right track shortly after, with some footage of Rayman Legends on ... YES, a Wii U gamepad! And then the Assassin's Creed gameplay, which did the almost impossible and made an AC game look remotely interesting. Shootmania was entirely laughable, and people seemed to like Far Cry 3, but the conference ended on the absolute and undeniable star of the show to date; Watch Dogs. A new cyberpunk looking .... thingy ... which set everyone chattering. It seems that the rest of the industry have forgotten that announcing new things is what gets us excited. So good did it look, that everybody just assumed that it was running on next gen technology, and the subsequent revelation that it will be out on the consoles we currently have made everyone suddenly think it would be less good than it looked to be. (Such is the thoroughness of the hype we face these days, we are seemingly unable to appreciate a single thing we have access to today.)

And finally, at the horrendous time of 2am, came the Sony show. First on stage was David Cage, showing off his latest tedious non-game Beyond. Having made a big deal about the actrees playing the robot being Ellen Page, we were then treated to a 5 minute demo where she didn't speak, and no discernable gameplay of any kind happened at all. Next up, Chop Chop Matser Onion and friends showed off the utterly dull looking All Stars Battle Royale, which was a phenomenal trailer for Smash Bros. Melee or even Power Stone 2. There followed a Black Ops game for Vita, a version of Assassin's Creed 3 for Vita, and a co-op mode for Far Cry 3 that may or may not be PS3, or even Vita, exclusive. And then, the world went crazy and SONY showed us their big innovation; books.

BOOKS. Or, to be more accurate, WONDERBOOK. Utilising AR to make reading even more interactive. That sentence right there is what SONY failed to convey for the next 20 minutes, during which time they managed to make playing a Harry Potter spellbook look as exciting as handwashing cabbages. This was followed by another list of entertainment partners, which I nearly slept through because, and I do not want to understate this, I DON'T CARE ABOUT IT. I have a TV set sepcifically to watch TV on, computers for internet access, and music players and CDs for music. I do not want or need more things that are not games on my GAMES CONSOLES.

They ended up with The Last of Us, which some whooped and hollered about but looked for all the world to me like an Uncharted mod. Oldcharted: Drake's Violence. It was quite brutal stuff, it has to be said, but ultimately left me a bit cold.

One overpowering thought came out of yesterday, for me. The desire to actually push  any boundaries with games is clearly missing from the big publishers and at least two of the platform holders. Things are looking mighty pretty, but they are so dreadfully dull and predicatable. HERE'S GOD OF WAR 4. HERE'S GEARS OF WAR 4. HERE'S FOUR CRY. HERE'S A COPY OF SOMETHING YOU BOUGHT 8 YEARS AGO. Where is the innovation? E3 is meant to get everyone pumped, and all it is doing at the moment is giving the big boys avenues in which to embarass themselves. Sequels, sequels, violence, and sequels. A rush to be a set-top box, and all-in-one entertainment system. The idea is laudable, but the reason that the whole world bought a PLAYStation in the first place was for something to PLAY on. There is simply no need to ever use Youtube on your XBox, especially as doing that means you can't use it to play a game on.

I hope Nintendo kicks some cars over tonight, I really do. So far, it has been a very non-thrilling "Biggest week of the year" for our hobby. It is actually getting harder to give a shit about the big budget and hardcore AAA consoles by the year, and the thought of new hardware being announced is not one I welcome very much at all. If all I have to look forwards to are yearly updates to franchises I stopped caring about a few years ago, why should I sit and watch this crap at all?

My hope is that I'm not alone. I am frequently ahead of the curve on these things, and am used to being laughed at one year and then paraphrased two years later. But, at least according to the people I was interacting with while watching these conferences, in the delighfully old-fashioned way that didn't require my games console at all no less, the attitude seemed to be shared. This can, of course, mean that I am just getting old. But, it could also mean that E3 is.

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