The E3 2012 press conference PC gamers deserve
Microsoft are more concerned with glass than games. Sony think augmented reality books are the future. Nintendo's conference happens later today, but it's expected they'll offer more familiar franchises than new ideas.
The first parties were more concerned with propping up their platforms with lifestyle buzzwords than making great games. Even the big publishers, EA and Ubisoft, seemed lost in the tall grass, offering almost nothing other than the expected sequels.
I can't help but think we could do it better. If the PC was to have its own platform press conference, what would that look like? Who would be there? I'm thinking there'd be more games and fewer mobile apps.
So welcome to PC Gamer's first purely hypothetical PC press conference.
Gabe Newell walks out on stage to rapturous applause. When the noise finally dies down, he starts to talk. He explains that we don't have a platform holder to represent us, and that means we need to represent ourselves. He talks about how Steam is big, but PC gaming is bigger. Gabe makes clear that Valve aren't the platform holder, but instead we're all the platform holders.
To prove his point, he introduces the first game, and it's one that's not coming to Steam. It's Planetside 2. Gabe clips a Valve-branded heart rate monitor to his finger, climbs aboard a Segway, and shoots off stage. We never see him again.
Matt Higby, Planetside 2's creative director starts to talk us through a live demo of the game. It's a beautiful, first-person MMO that Higby told us last year would be impossible to make on any of the current consoles. It looks like this.
He works for Sony Online Entertainment, but his game puts the Sony conference to shame. Jack Tretton starts to cry, drops his Move controller to the floor, and runs from the room.
Matt hesitates for a moment, but then passes us off to the best game of the real conferences so far, Watch Dog. It looked so good at the Ubisoft event that people were speculating it might be next-gen. It's not next-gen. It was just running on a PC.
We see this in-game demo, with a mind-bending multiplayer/multi-protagonist twist at the end that's for some reason excluded from the released trailer.
As the trailer ends, Harvey Smith and Raf Colantonino walk out on stage. They speak briefly about the politics of game design, wave to Chris, and then introduce the latest video of Dishonored in-game footage. It looks amazing. A game that aims to out-Deus Ex Deus Ex, from the developer of Deus Ex.
When the trailer ends, Harvey and Raf are gone, replaced on stage by Tim Schaefer. Tim explains that he doesn't have anything ready to show off Double Fine Adventure yet, but that he wanted to come say thank you for the generosity of gamers everywhere. He walks quickly off stage when the audience start throwing wallets and clumps of money at him.
The next game is the best of the EA conference. Lucy Bradshaw steps out to introduce SimCity.
It's the first time we've seen actual screenshots or in-game footage of SimCity, and it looks great. Cute, stylish, and as deep as the old SimCity games we loved. Before Bradshaw leaves, she takes a moment to explain that the always-online DRM was just a misunderstanding. In reality, it requires an internet connection at launch, but you can disconnect afterwards and won't be kicked from the game if your internet drops accidentally.
But since this is our imaginary conference, Bradshaw explains that this isn't happening either. The game is completely DRM-free in our hypothetical dream universe.
She hands us off to the next game by reading the exact script from EA's Crysis 3 presentation. We're told how the next developers aim to make "the most beautiful game", and "the world's most immersive, open world shooter".
Only here it's actually true.
Nobody in the audience cares about the slight clunkiness of the new ArmA. People cheer for Bohemia's ambition, and for the obvious potential visible in such a vast, moddable game. Its developers take a bow and walk off stage as another video begins on stage.
It's a strategy classic being reborn, not as a slightly iffy-looking first-person shooter, but as a turn-based strategy game every bit as brutal and deep and challenging as the original. It's XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
To prove his dedication to permadeath for soldiers in XCOM, lead designer Jake Solomon brings out his favourite childhood toy, Binky the bear, on stage. He sets Binky on fire, drops him to the floor and runs off stage in tears as another video begins.
This last video isn't for any single game. Instead, it's a montage of the dozens of other games that are coming to PC in the next 12 months. Included are clips of almost every big game people are excited about on consoles, like Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution, Assassin's Creed 3, FIFA 13, Borderlands 2. But alongside those, we get footage of PC exclusive games like Firefall, Hawken, MechWarrior Online, Guild Wars 2, and The Elder Scrolls Online. It becomes clear that the PC is the only platform with exclusive games worth caring about this year.
As the video ends, the house lights dim. The cheers quickly die down. What's happening? It's completely dark, but those sitting closest can see a figure walk out in to the middle of the stage. A spotlight turns on.
He thanks everyone for coming, and all the previous presenters for showing their games. He remarks that there's clearly a bright future for PC gaming.
But then he pauses. Notch explains that there's more to PC games than constantly looking towards the next release from one of the top publishers. The power of the PC is that it's an open platform where anyone can make a game, where developers can constantly update and improve their games years after release, and where mods continue to keep our favourites filled with new, free content for years.
Being excited about the next set of games is great. But having dozens of fresh games available to play right now is even better.
At this point, the house lights come back on. Notch has been joined on stage by a cast of hundreds. Fredrick Wester is there from Paradox. Dean "Rocket" Hall, the creator of ArmA 2 mod DayZ is there. Chris Delay is down one end in a prison uniform. Todd Howard is riding a puppet dragon. Rod Humble is just standing there, being ridiculously smart.
The crowd starts to recognise all the different people. Isn't that Day9 talking with Edmund McMillen? Isn't that Riot Games' Nikasaur bantering with Valve's IceFrog? People are pretty sure that's CCP's Hilmar looking dashing in a monocle. Each one is a name attached to an excellent game being continually developed, that you can go play right now.
The song "One" from the musical A Chrous Line starts to play. The crowd of developers form a giant line and lock arms. Keeping perfect time with the music, the biggest stars of PC gaming perform high kicks that would make a showgirl proud. Except for Robin Walker, who is strangely out of step.
As the song reaches its end, Notch steps forward to address the crowd. You don't need E3, he yells over the music. Everything you've ever wanted has been on your hard drive all along.
Three World of Tanks tanks smash through the back of the stage behind him. Gabe Newell rolls through the hole in his Segway (I lied, we do see him again), and fireworks start to shoot from each tank's turret. The theatre fills with a beautiful spectacle of sound and light, and the audience of thousands rise to their feet, cheering and clapping and hugging and crying. Twitter falls silent, as nobody has anything snarky or cynical to say. There is only joy.