If I was to let my pessimistic streak show, I might say that E3 is increasingly a PC-irrelevant show. Sure, big multi-platform titles get announced there – but they also get leaked in the months ahead, and they’re normally genre-bound sequels. Sure new hardware’s always shown off – but since Microsoft decided it didn’t want to support PC games any more, the hardware is mostly new consoles. The things that PC does well – amazing indie experiments that throw up new genres, like MOBA or Endless Runner – aren’t predictable and certainly don’t start at E3.
Here’s my huge list of games that are probably going to be shown off for PC over the next few days; Resident Evil 6, Assassin’s Creed 3, Starcraft: Heart of the Swarm, Batman: Arkham City 2, Rainbow Six Patriots, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Dead Space 3, Dragon Age 3, Star Trek: The Game, Medal of Honor, Ghost Recon: Warfighter,Need for Speed, Crysis 3, Hawken, Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution, Far Cry 3, Metro: Last Light, Company of Heroes 2, Xcom: Enemy Unknown, Planetside 2, Borderlands 2, Rayman Legends, Beyond Good & Evil 2, Star Wars 1313, Lego: Lord of the Rings, Sim City, Shootmania, Bungie’s Project Destiny for Activision, Dishonoured, and Lego Batman 2. (I’ve definitely missed a few out, I know.)
These are good titles, for sure, but we knew about most of them before E3 – and we normally learn very little about them at the conference, beyond the usual drippings of the PR machine. Some of themarenew – as new as sequels or genre games can be – but we tended to know about those before the conference and couldn’t talk about it, because of the machinations of the PR system. They’re mostly being shown off so they can tie in with Thanksgiving launches or console press conferences. Some of them we’ll miss, because the conference is so busy and snowed under with nonsense about the Nintendo Desperation.
The games that really excite us are original, indie or from Valve. But indie games get lost in the morass of E3 and you can’t predict an original game, like War Dogs – especially as most large publishers have one original title for every ten franchise extensions. Valve aren’t announcing any new games, beyond showing off DOTA 2 – which we already know everythingabout. They might have new tech on display, including a possible show of Source Engine 2, which would imply a forthcoming announcement of HL3 or Team Fortress 3. Yet they won’t do that E3, but in their own sweet time.
The way we like finding out about games is the Minecraft way; watching a great developer detailing every stage of the process, adding and removing features according to his aesthetic judgements and his community’s demands, nothing hidden and everything open to discussion. It means we know exactly what we’re getting at the end and can contribute our feelings to the project.The gaming experiences that I’ve been most excited about recently, are the ones I’ve encountered through the indie system. DOTA 2 has been developed and revealed almost without any PR, just direct-to-community love. Skyrim’s mod scene has extended the length of that game way beyond any official DLC. The Binding of Isaac is a game that no publisher would have touched with a barge pole – before it sold and sold and sold.
The E3 model – of tiny reveals, or partial announcements, of dissembling about what the game really is, when it’s out, what features it has – only leads to later heartbreak and disappointment. Where the indie system values openness, so problems can be solved, the E3 system values a shaped, deceptive message, because big publishers can’t afford to have a failure or to change a product once it’s well underway – and when you have only a little bit of information about a game you’re looking forward to, you do get annoyed when it’s changed. Think Fable’s growing trees, for example. That shaped mainstream message is almost always developed to exclude PC gamer’s sensibilities. We like slow, pensive reveals with innovative design andfull information. Look at the Hitman trailer and then tell me that was aimed at PC gamers.
So what PC gamers wanthas nothing to do with what will happen in LA this week. The best experiences will never be shown here. They’ll be played – elsewhere.