The highs and lows of E3 2017

The lows

Tom Marks: Comms chatter

Ubisoft showed me a cinematic trailer for Beyond Good and Evil 2 and it got me excited to see more. Nintendo showed me a word and a number and I am inexplicably pumped for Metroid Prime 4. But those are hype pieces—I know they're not representative of the actual games. Bioware showed me a scripted vertical slice demo of Anthem and it bored me so much I frankly don’t care whether or not it lives up to the promises made within it. Maybe I’m in the minority here, because clearly developers think these things work, but this sort of on-rails action with hokey voice actors pretending to be buddies online makes me roll my eyes so hard I can barely see the screen anymore. What’s worse, it makes the gameplay they do show feel disingenuous. I don’t trust what they are showing to be representative of the game I’ll eventually play because parts of it are so clearly fake. So I don’t know what to expect from Anthem, and it seems like our team doesn’t either, but gameplay reveals like this make it difficult for me to even begin to care. 

Tyler Wilde: Waahnthem

We’ve only seen a scripted ‘gameplay’ trailer of Anthem, so of course it’s too early to judge with any certainty what it is or isn’t. But what I didn’t see during the reveal of BioWare’s new open world shooter was any sort of narrative hook, a fictional reason to want to inhabit this world. The jungle is beautiful, and there are big robot monsters, but the fear in my gut is that ancient alien ruins which store immense power—the same things that bored me in Mass Effect: Andromeda—will once again be our plodding plot driver. I hope I’m proven wrong, and there really is a strange world out there, something that curiosity alone demands we explore. Until we see more, though, we’re all a bit skeptical about what Anthem can offer.

Joe Donnelly: (Nothing) Beyond Good and Evil 2

Contrary to Tom M’s point of view (sorry Tom), I really wasn't taken by Beyond Good and Evil 2's E3 outing at all. This is a game that's been in development for a million years, and yet all we got was a cinematic. A very pretty cinematic, yes, but no in-game footage nevertheless. I understand Michel Ancel was busy showing off the engine he and his team have been working on for the past three years behind closed doors following the Ubisoft conference on Monday, but I found its stage showing disappointing and, quite honestly, verging on arrogant. Ancel et al understand the hype surrounding BG&E all too well, so while I acknowledge its CGI display was a hat tilt towards the game's following, the current fanfare for me feels forced—particularly when Ancel has since said Beyond Good and Evil 2 is at 'day zero of development', and that it's difficult to pin down exactly what the game is/will be. 

I dunno, I think prospective players and/or fans of the original deserve more in exchange for such loyal support—which is also something Ancel and his team expect players to double down on.

Shaun Prescott: Bethesdon’t

Arguably more fun than E3 itself is speculating about what could happen at E3. And the most fun speculation to emerge was one that suggested Bethesda would announce Starfield—an RPG in the vein of Fallout, set in space, with planetary exploration. Better still, the rumour suggested Bethesda were merging the game worlds of Fallout, The Elder Scrolls and Starfield—with the Elder Scrolls taking place further in the future than the other two series. That didn’t happen, and Bethesda didn’t really surprise us at all, but y’know, maybe next year? Overall, E3 2017 lacked these big, jaw-dropping moments, but in a console-driven industry that is wading through a mid-cycle lull, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I wasn’t surprised.

James Davenport: Nothing from From

What else can I say, really? FromSoftware is juggling around three new games back at their development studio and with Dark Souls 3 fading in the rearview, it made sense that they’d tease a new project at the very least. A lot of people expected a Bloodborne 2 announcement, others figured they’d show off their new Armored Core game, but all we got was radio silence. I’ll be knocked on my ass if they don’t say anything at Gamescom or TGS, but I’ll recover from this dizzy spell. I made up for it by staring at a big pointless statue of hunters at the Sony store, longingly. 

Chris Livingston: Two-thousand wait-teen

I like when games are announced close to the end of their development cycle, as opposed to when the only thing that exists is a logo or cinematic trailer that has jack shit to do with the finished game. Many of the games announced this year won't be out until 2018, which means the next time we'll see or hear of them won't be until next year's E3, especially as 'Spring 2018' release windows slip into 'Fall 2018' (or Spring 2019) realities. Watching the shows this year, I feel like I frequently muttered "Didn't we see this last year?" as trailers and gameplay videos promising all-too-distant adventures scrolled past.

I'm not suggesting developers rush to finish their games just to suit me, I just wish more of E3 was about games releasing the same year as the show instead of teaser footage being trotted out for something we won't get our eager hands on for another year or more. Six months from announcement to release feels about right: I wish more companies would stick to that.

Tim Clark: Platform exclusives remain a pox

Prior to my interview with Phil Spencer at E3 this week, we were chatting about how frustrating platform exclusives are. Now, given that Microsoft’s Xbox One currently trails Sony’s PlayStation 4, it certainly makes sense for the Redmond company to take that stance, which Spencer echoed in other interviews. And I’m pretty sure Microsoft did exactly these sorts of deals, notably on Call of Duty, during the previous console generation. 

But what sucks from our own very specific perspective is when the PC version gets caught in the crossfire, as is the case with Destiny 2’s PS4-locked content, which we won’t be getting until (likely late) 2018, given that the previous deals have lasted a year. Which sucks, as an extra PVP map, Strike mission and exotic weapon are not to be sniffed out in a game which has struggled to supply enough content to keep its players from rioting. I’ll have more on how Bungie hopes to address potential content droughts next week, but this was the only sour note from a game that was otherwise looking super strong at E3.

Andy Kelly: Playing it safe

God, this was a boring E3. I mean, there were some exciting games, but the conferences were so… well, unembarrassing. Part of the fun of E3 for me is people making an arse of themselves, and this year’s show was notably lacking any sort of meme-worthy awkwardness. Nothing to rival Sony’s disastrous 2006 conference or Konami’s incredible showing in 2010. Maybe they were playing it safe to avoid bad press, but you’re game’s gonna get way more attention if something unplanned or cringeworthy happens during the demo.

So I’m calling out to all the big games companies for E3 2018: make fools of yourselves. Go to great lengths to make your conferences as wince-worthy as possible. Because that’s part of the whole E3 experience, and without it, it just feels like a boring procession of (admittedly very good) game demos. Props to Ubisoft for having a dancing panda, though. Even if I was hoping it would remove the head to reveal Mr. Caffeine going “doodly doodly doo.” God I hope he comes back. Aisha Tyler’s cool, but Caffeine is the true face of Ubisoft if you ask me.

Phil Savage: Into dust

I'm not going to write off the whole of E3: a new Wolfenstein and standalone Dishonored expansion were announced, and that pretty much justifies the whole thing for me. My biggest disappointment was instead a single game, and that's because of how quickly I went from being very, very interested in it, to having no interest at all. The Skull and Bones reveal gave me whiplash thanks to my initial assumption that it was going to be a Black Flag spin-off with all of the silly Assassin's Creed-y stuff removed. A leaner, more focused singleplayer adventure? That'll be great!

When it was revealed to be a multiplayer-only PvP ship-'em-up, I immediately lost interest. I ostensibly like multiplayer games, but there's so many fighting for my time and attention. As a result, most of them feel exhausting—each with persistent levelling, unlocks and loot crates. I miss the drop-in-drop-out fun of server browsers, when ad-hoc communities would gather together to muck about with no consequences and no (read: fewer) teens angry about my bad K/D ratio. That's what Skull and Bones has reduced me to: having a 'back in my day moment' on an major website. That single moment of Ubisoft's conference has turned me into an old man. I don't think the reveal of BG&E2 is going to make up for that.

Tom Senior: Lost in the crowd

Every year I wonder if E3 is good for the industry. The glitz and the colour and the stream of announcements mean that E3 feels good at the time, but I wonder if it’s wise to cram months’ worth of news and announcements into a few days. Headlines hit the front page and vanish after an hour or so, swallowed up by the next conference or hands-on. Vital development time goes into lavish E3 trailers and demo builds that are glossed over and mostly forgotten. So many games fight for space, and most are lost in the tide. 

Post-E3, the industry falls dormant again until it’s time to wind up for the Autumn release barrage. This suits large publishers who can afford to elbow through the crowd, but for games with more niche appeal, like the Metro series or Middle Earth: Shadow of War, it can be tough to gain traction. E3 was open to the public this year, at least. That tends to make things a nightmare for people like us, but at least it gives the show an extra dimension, another reason to exist.

Wes Fenlon: The perfect Mario PC game will never come to PC

I know Nintendo games will never come to PC outside emulation. That's just the way it is. Nintendo wants to sell its own consoles, and it also keeps close guard of its beloved series like Mario and Zelda. But god, if there ever was going to be a new game on PC starring Nintendo characters, Ubisoft's Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle would be the perfect fit. It's essentially Mario XCOM, a turn-based strategy game in smaller arenas with faster-paced matches. The mobility of characters is an especially novel twist on XCOM's very deliberate pace: you can use one character to jump-boost another, bouncing all the way across the map to get the drop on a baddie. Everyone thought Mario with a gun was going to be a terrible idea, but damn if this quirky spin-off wasn't one of the highlights of E3.

And there's even precedent for Nintendo spin-offs to arrive on PC! Mario was in plenty of educational software back in the day. Come on, Nintendo. Just think of Kingdom Battle as educational software. It's teaching kids about, uh, the importance of XCOM in our society! Tactics! The art of war!

Please, just... just let me play the damn Rabbids game.

Evan Lahti: Lax in LA

This was another E3 transition year, as the expo invited 15,000 fans ('consumers,' as the ESA and some would prefer to call them, as if that's what they're defined by) to the event. Yes, all those eager gamer bodies made it harder for me and everyone else on the PCG team to get to our appointments and deliver timely stories, but I'm a believer in it not being an exclusive event: coming to E3 for the first time as non-press in 2003 is what inspired me to start writing. And frankly, developers spend way too much time and money sending themselves and their games to E3 just to share it with us, business partners, and a few YouTubers.

As E3 scaled this year, though, it failed to scale any aspect of security inside the LA Convention Center, as Vlambeer's Rami Ismail wrote yesterday. No bags were checked, and there was no additional security on the show floor. E3 should, at minimum, have the standard of a big rock concert to make sure everything goes smoothly. If this sounds like oversensitive complaining, you only have to look as far as yesterday's panicked search for a missing streamer @TheLauralania, who hours later reappeared OK, to imagine the impact that a single incident like this could have on the gaming industry and the future of an event like E3. Events like PAX East have run bag checks for a similar amount of people over their three-day period, and it's been fine—why can't E3 step up?