Games industry people have gathered in incredibly large yet incredibly hot rooms in LA to say things about their new games – some of which we know, some of which we don’t. Some may even be PC games.
We’re going to try and take in a holistic view of what’s going on: writing down some of the words as they are said, taking pictures at the scene, recording our own observations, and doing other stuff we haven’t even decided on yet. We’re so live right now.
00:54 – Jeremy: Not so long ago it seemed like Ubisoft were stuck behind a bottleneck. They wouldn’t trust anybody but Ubi Montreal, the flagship studio behind Sam Fisher, Sands of Time, Assassin’s, Far Cry and Watch Dogs, to make new things.
The last couple of years were encouraging – they’d outsourced two of their big open-world hopes, The Crew and The Division, to studios who’d never made the like for Ubisoft before. But The Crew’s roar failed to inspire, and The Division has suffered a protracted development.
Somehow, we’ve ended up back in the same place, with Ubi Montreal offering the publisher’s one genuinely fresh idea this year. For Honor is zeitgeisty, with the weight of Dark Souls and the trappings of Dota, but I’m not certain it’ll be good. Montreal’s genre-merging has seen them misstep before, with the poorly-stitched management-RPG Mighty Quest for Epic Loot.
Elsewhere, the machine turns. Blue Byte are making Anno, as they have done a few times before. Ubisoft Paris are making Ghost Recon, as they have done for a decade. Ubisoft Quebec bring new blood to Assassin’s Creed, but they’re building on Montreal’s foundations. They’ll be good games, and I’ll play some of them to death – I’m a Ubisoft apologist. But they won’t convince those alienated by annualisation.
00:45 – Rob: I can’t get a handle on Ubisoft. On the one hand, yeah, they mass-produce a lot of very similar videogames. On the other, a lot of those games are very good. Set aside Assassin’s Creed for a moment. Far Cry has had a pretty good run of late. I think The Division looks really great, and I don’t think it looks troubled so much as it looks like it’s being well-polished. It’s a big, ambitious game. It looks like a post-apocalyptic Destiny with real-world guns. That’s going to take time. But the Dark Zone mode looked really neat.
Meanwhile, what other major publisher would put out a game like Anno? Or Trackmania? Or South Park?
Ubisoft are nowhere near as boring, predictable, or soulleslly corporate as they appear. And I enjoy that about them.
00:30 – Tim:There’s a rhythm to Ubisoft. They’re a very E3 centric company: with their announcements and events purposely held back to land in Los Angeles. And it works.
There’s a rhythm to their events. There will be always be a bit with Just Dance. A new Assassin’s Creed. There’s usually a ridiculous new toy/rabbids/lunatic slot. And there’s always, always, always a brand new IP or reinvention. Ubi stuck to their script. But there are wrinkles in there.
Rainbow Six: Siege looks confident, muscular and fundamentally strong. It is a game about pointing a cursor over a man’s face and watching them fall down and I think it knows exactly how to make that feel right.
The new Anno gave my heart a little flutter. Hard-sci-fi city builder? I’ll take that.
The Division is clearly troubled: there’s no way that game shouldn’t be in our hands right now. I wonder if a lot of progress on that was sacrificed to get bankers like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry out the door. Its ideas and ambition feel eclipsed.
I’m struggling to raise a smile for a new Assassin’s Creed. I adored Black Flag, but Unity has killed my enthusiasm.
And I’ll hold fire on any judgement on Ghost Recon until I’ve played it.
Handily, that’s happening tomorrow afternoon. Which is nice.
23:45 – Fraser:Angela Bassett is in Rainbow Six Siege? What a world we live in.
23:03 – Jeremy:
Seriously, the dictatorial bad guy of Mirror’s Edge 2 is the boss of EA pic.twitter.com/YaXDjb0YGd
— Mark Brown (@britishgaming) June 15, 2015
22:56 – Jeremy:Like Tim says, EA’s garden always looks messy. Because unlike Activision, who have pruned and pruned their portfolio until left with only million-sellers, EA try to do everything and never succeed in all of it. But I’d like to celebrate one corner of their patch.
Bioware. Nearly seven years after their acquisition, after restructuring and leadership changes that prompted stormcrowing at the time, they’re still the thing EA’s most proud of. Mass Effect: Andromeda is welcome, and The Old Republic, take it or leave it, is healthy and really quite good if you subscribe. They’ve avoided the fate of dear old Origin Systems (closed down, and their name given to a digital store).
Also: did you notice that the technological innovation DICE were flaunting for Battlefront was photogrammetry? The technique used to import exquisitely mossy rocks and worn chairs intoThe Vanishing of Ethan Carter and now underpinning the dungeons of The Bard’s Tale IV? AAA’s graphical showcases are now sourced from indies. Amazing.
22:50 – Fraser:It’s just so bizarre. Here’s a conference that started with Mass Effect 4, now known as Mass Effect: Andromeda, and then showed off a big slice of Star Wars: Battlefront footage and a nice helping of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and I still thought it was a bit crap.
“Here’s another Plants vs Zombies spin-off, here’s a shitty mobile game designed to swallow up parents’ money, and here’s a fuck-ton of sports. We even got a Pelé!”
It jumped all over the place, getting us pumped with big announcements before throwing water all over us with guff. It ended up taking half an hour longer than expected, and most of that was because a man sat down and had a long chat with a very old footballer.
I am excited about a lot of the games they showed off, but the conference itself left me wishing it had ended sooner.
22:49 – Tim: I feel slightly sorry for EA at E3. They have their fingers in so many different pies, so many segments to consider, that their conferences always sag a little. There’s no way to say “here is a Despicable Me mobile game,” or “we have a CCG, too”, or “have you heard about our sports? They’re better this year,” without social media and gamers rolling their eyes.
That feels unfair. Their AAA games have a rare sense of ambition. Battlefront looked stunning, a real labour of love and passion. Mirror’s Edge is an open world free-roaming parkour game set in a satirical, corporate future. And there’s a new Mass Effect!
EA make games for everyone. And no game in their portfolio signifies that better than the criminally ignored and under-rated Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. I know it’s not cool. I know that the majority of our readers are going to choose Battlefield over a silly throwaway cartoon thingy. But PvZ, for me, is a game I can play and love with my kids, and not feel nervous about them learning about the damage rockets do to humans. So, “yay, Battlefront!” But also, “yay, stupid zombie plant thing that only I seem to like.”
22:30 – Fraser: Mirror’s Edge, Faith’s second story, is actually her first, and as Rob noted, it looked a little like there was a talking pigeon in that trailer. There wasn’t, but imagine if there had been. Imagine the possibilities.
22:00 – Fraser:I understand all of this. I’m deeply aware of FIFA and how it’s a game about football.
21:55 – Fraser:Well, that was Pele. Yep. A nice wee chat with Pele.
21:05 – Fraser:God. Mass Effect. Yes. One of the few things that can still make me emit a shrill screetch of delight.
21:00 – Fraser:Time for EA.
20:50 – Fraser: Tim, Rob and Jeremy have already said plenty about the Microsoft conference, so there’s not much more for me to say other than admit that I was ever so slightly more engaged this year, than I was last year. Mostly, I just sat back, when I wasn’t writing, and enjoyed the deluge of trailers for games that, despite Microsoft’s insistence that they’re Xbox One exclusives, are all coming out on PC.
Oh! There was that controller as well. I still use my stalwart Xbox 360 controller with my PC, despite not actually having a 360 anymore, but I’d be willing to upgrade to an Xbox One version, wireless, specifically, when that’s possible. And the new Elite controller, despite having a silly name, does look quite flash. I’m not sure I’d really need the customisation, or the giant bill that comes with such a purchase, but it is tempting.
20:32 – Jeremy: It’s not exactly what you’d call newfound respect, but there’s definitely a sense that the PC is no longer an unwanted relative Microsoft feels the need to send to its room during E3. A couple of years ago, the conference mantra was Don’t Mention the PC. Now, they’re stealing its best anecdotes and hesitantly introducing it to people at parties.
Yeah, Microsoft will still insist on saying “Xbox exclusive” – but are content to let trailers clarify what that so often means: “Not on PlayStation, launching on PC”. And there are still those cases, in Tomb Raider and Elite: Dangerous, of offering developers cash to hold games and updates back on other platforms – but fewer of them. Mutually beneficial ideas like Fallout 4’s mod crossover win out instead.
The appearance of Halo at the very beginning of the show felt more like a gentle ooh-rah to tradition than a reflection of Microsoft’s priorities. I don’t think anybody at Xbox believes that Master Chief is the most exciting thing on their current slate. Rather, it’s the ideas they’re gleaning from Steam and the hardware oddities that’ll almost certainly come to PC that last in the memory once the footage fades out.
20:05 – Rob:But this entire presser from Microsoft was a reaction to the trouble they’re already in. They don’t need to bring out someone from Activision to say, “Call of Duty on Xbox One!” I don’t think Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, and other multiplatform blockbusters still have the ability to move people to specific consoles in large numbers.
So their pitch was, “Xbox One: It’s the things you like about the PC without the scary stuff!” So here, we’ll give you mods (likely curated). We’ll let you have early access, but nobody can yank the rug out from under you. And I think that IS a powerful selling point, especially for a console that hasn’t had as much luck making a case for itself using the typical console talking points of platform exclusivity and hardware.
The thing I wonder about is HoloLens. That was a damned impressive demo and the possibilities are enticing. X-Wing Miniatures on your Xbox HoloLens in a few years? Or, hell, any strategy game where you have a god’s eye view, now playing out on your coffee table?
But then I think, “That was too good to be true. That was a carefully guided tour that had to be using some crazy smoke and mirrors.” I just don’t know.
19:55 – Tim:I think they did well at looking enthusiastic and interesting. They showed good games we understand that are coming very soon, but also glimpses of “THE FUTURE”. Every Minecraft player in the world will want a HoloLens once they see that demonstration.
It was sort of fascinating watching them take some of what’s working on PC and applying it to consoles. For years, the truism has been that mods won’t work on console. Well, MS will give them a go in Fallout. For years, the truism was also: console players want a finished, polished product. Early Access on consoles won’t work. Well, it might.
On Early Access, Microsoft may even have improved the model: Early Access games on console are free. Developers can’t use Early Access to fund development, and console players won’t be asked to slap down cash to play a prototype. I think that’s a smart move.
However. I think there’s a big hole for Microsoft in console land. Call of Duty didn’t show up. Battlefront was barely mentioned. Assassin’s Creed and FIFA didn’t get a look in. Even if I loved the breadth and optimism of Microsoft’s games, I think they’ll be dominated by the AAA sequels that are bound to be announced later on tonight.
19:47 – Fraser:Speaking of Dark Souls, Namco Bandai have more than hinted that this will be the last one. Sad times!
19:21 – Jeremy: In this game, crumbling castles sit in perma-twilight. Hunched monsters march. What does it remind us of? Oh – Dark Souls. It’s Dark Souls 3.
19:09 – Fraser:Enough of this Tomb Raider, Rainbow Six nonsense. Microsoft was plugging some gorgeous indie fare, coming to PC and Xbox, and they are a striking bunch.
18:57 – Jeremy:The new Gears of War seems to share art direction with Alton Towers’ Nemesis.
18:45 – Jeremy:Here comes a sequence from Rise of the Tomb Raider. Lara’s after a lost Siberian city, but won’t find her way to PC until after Xbox’s Christmas release date.
18:39 – Jeremy: Dean ‘DayZ’ Hall has a new game! It’s called Ion, is a spacefaring survival MMO, and has apparently involved an unorthodox prototyping period. Hmm!
18:24 – Jeremy: TheXbox Elite Wireless Controller is a customisable gamepad for Windows 10 and Xbox One. Time for an upgrade?
18:15 – Jeremy:Rainbow Six: Siege gets a new trailer. Its biggest draw is still making holes in the scenery, either with big bullets or plastic explosives. Ubi are really pushing the VOIP aspect; it looks like it’ll be right at home on the PC.
18:09 – Jeremy:The Division is looking prettier than ever, if a little po-faced. The fall of society will do that to you. Its first beta will arrive this December, but be Xbox-exclusive.
18:00 – Jeremy: The forever-fresh-facedTodd Howard pops up for his second E3 appearance alongsideFallout 4. He’splaying as the sole survivor of Vault 111 – this time named Phil Spencer. The player character is seen speaking – actually speaking, with a professionally-recorded voice – to a pre-war family robot, Cogsworth. And soon enough, he picks up a dog companion (what’s that, two shots already?).
During the following first-person combat sequence, Spencer cranks up a ‘laser musket’ that evokes BioShock Infinite. And a little later,he clambers into a power suit to blow raiders into chunks via VATS, before facing off against a deathclaw.
Howard says Fallout 4’s Boston is the “most ambitious game world that [Bethesda] have ever created”. And for the first time, Fallout mods created on PC can be transferred to and shared on the Xbox – even more incentive for talented fans to create.
17:47 – Jeremy:With the traditional Halo opening out of the way, Microsoft have shown their first new thing -Recore, an apparent shooter from Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s studio, Comcept, and Metroid Prime’s Armature.
Its trailer plays hard on gamers’ emotional weakness for (robot) dogs – watch a canine companion blow itself to bits to take out a group of enemies, but seemingly live on in a glowing, blue orb.
Recore is currently unconfirmed for PC, but coming to Xbox One in early 2016.
17:30 – Jeremy: Microsoft are up first, so we’re going to start by pouncing on anybody who accidentally mentions the PC. Listen out for mentions of Windows 10, fancy and unfamiliar augmented reality device the Hololens, and anything Ubisoft couldn’t fit in their own show – maybe we’ll get a snippet of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.
The best place to watch the Xbox conference seems to be the official site -though you could use a Windows phone, Xbox One or tune into Spike TV in North America.