Consider the first-ever PC gaming E3 press conference a beta product. Hosted by Sean “Day9” Plott, sponsored by PC Gamer and AMD, it featured every cliche you’ve heard about PC gamers. The early access release included awkward public speaking, technical glitches, a clumsy late-night show interview format, and droning hardware talk. The venue appeared to be a spruced-up cafeteria or perhaps a mid-sized business lobby. Developers may be working on a patch to fix these issues.
Tripwire Interactive talked about Killing Floor 2, and announced Rising Storm 2: Vietnam. Chris Roberts sent in a video to gloat about Star Citizen crowd-funding more money than many small countries’ gross domestic product. AMD reminded everyone what PC gaming is about by showing off expensive graphics cards and challenging the audience to stay awake during a tech discussion. Twice. The developers of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided then showed AMD what boring really meant by talking about their game engine. Creative Assembly and SCS Software couldn’t be assed to show up, so they sent in videos. Xbox head Phil Spencer appeared to reassure everyone that Microsoft was really super-serious about PC gaming. This time.
In probably the most engaging segment, Dean Hall, creator of DayZ, tried to talk about the new game he’s working on, but Sean Plott insisted on asking him questions about his departure from DayZ. Awkward!
CCP gave the VR fans a glimpse of Eve Valkyrie. Pixel Titans had a live demo of their retro shooter Strafe, which ended up looking more interesting than the Doom reboot by id Software and Bethesda. David Braben of Frontier Development, announced Planet Coaster, a decidedly theme park tycoon style departure from spaceships. ArenaNet premiered player-owned guild halls in the Heart of Thorns expansion for Guild Wars 2. Bohemia Interactive unveiled their Pacific Island terrain expansion for Arma 3 called Tanoa. Indie studio tiger & squid previewed Beyond Eyes. Splash Damage thanked everyone for making the Dirty Bomb launch a success. The Fullbright Company called their upcoming Tacoma a “walking simulator” despite it taking place in a zero-gravity space station. Frictional Games continued the alone-in-an-isolated-station theme but in a horror setting with Soma. Cliff Bleszinski talked about his free-to-play shooter BlueStreak. Enter the Gungeon by Dodge Roll got some live play on stage and made Binding of Isaac feel bad.
900-pound gorilla Blizzard sauntered in and promoted their Diablo-themed update for Heroes of the Storm, The Eternal Conflict which will launch on June 30th. They also discussed the possibility of StarCraft 2’s storyline finally ending with Legacy of the Void. Finally, Hello Games confirmed that No Man’s Sky will be coming to PC at the same time as the PlayStation 4 version launches.
Twitch chat remained a singular treat throughout the show.
I guarantee you won’t see anything out of E3 as adorable as Nintendo’s presentation for Yoshi’s Wooly World, in which the developer Emi Watanabe sits in front of a table of goddamn adorable plushy yarn Yoshis, cheerfully explaining the inspiration for the game, intercut with gameplay footage. Unless someone is developing Puppies Snuggling Kittens 2015, that’s it for the cute factor at E3. Yoshi’s Wooly World will be out on October 16th.
A new Starfox, co-developed with Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 2 director, relies on a gimmick in which the TV shows you the cinematic view and the gamepad shows you the cockpit view. Along with Splatoon, Nintendo is counting on us to aim with our gamepads. The universal gesture for this control scheme is to clutch both hands in front of you and pivot your torso around at awkward angles as if you were a malfunctioning robot. But to be fair, those of us who’ve played Splatoon can attest that it kinda sorta works.
Skylanders and amiibos have formed an unholy toy alliance by offering Skylanders for the WiiU version of the upcoming Skylanders that will work as Skylanders and as amiibos. This holiday season might be remembered as toymaggedon among the parents of Wii-aged children.
The rest of the presentation was a lot of trailers without comment, and sometimes even without coherence. I still have no idea what that Atlus game was. It looked very Japanese. It might have been called Mirage, or Mirage Master, or even just FE. I’m not sure. All I know is that it’s a tale of youth and heroes guided by destiny. That’s a direct quote, by the way. Never mind that it applies to, like, every single JRPG ever. Also shown were trailers for a co-op Zelda game about standing on top of your friends for the 3DS, a Hyrule Warriors for the 3DS, a Metroid co-op game for the 3DS, a Fire Emblem game for the 3DS, something from Level 5 called Yo-Kai Watch about gesture gimmicks on the 3DS, and a Mario and Luigi Paper Jam thing for the 3DS. Hey, Sony, why can’t you support your Vita the way Nintendo supports their 3DS?
Finally, Xenoblade Chronicles X will be out on December 4th. Boom.
Sony gleefully thumbed their nose at Microsoft’s floundering Xbox One for much of the press conference, with a number of exclusives, including timed exclusives snatched directly from Microsoft. The latest Call of Duty beta and map packs will be on the Playstation first, ending their long cozy relationship with Microsoft. That’s not much of a surprise given Sony’s hardware lead. Disney Infinity’s Star Wars releases this holiday season will have a timed exclusive on the Playstation. Sony’s streaming TV boasts a la carte availability for viewers with selective taste.
As for actual permanent exclusives, Sony ran down a list of stuff, showing substantial gameplay in each case: The Last Guardian made an appearance after being AWOL last year, Guerilla Games’ robot dinosaur hunting game Horizon, Street Fighter V, Spore-a-like No Man’s Sky, whatever the heck Media Molecules’ Dreams sandbox is, and Uncharted. The Uncharted demo belched and called a do over, at which point it trundled frantically along an uninterrupted look at a canned car chase that you’ll have to restart from myriad checkpoints when you actually play it. There’s also some Final Fantasy hoo-ha that I’m sure some people care about. Sony also provided glimpses of indies alongside the usual multiplatform franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Hitman, and Star Wars: Battlefront 3.
Sony even let Shenmue 3 unveil its $2 million Kickstarter campaign, which seemed to be a nice way of saying, “Well, we’re not going to publish your niche forklift and toy collecting revenge drama, but since it’s a Playstation game, we will help you publicize it.” Before the presentation was over, the sequel had accumulated a half a million dollars in pledges.
What do you get when you put Aisha Tyler, Jason Derulo, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and Angela Bassett in a show? You get the Ubisoft 2015 E3 presentation. Once again, the house of Assassin’s Creed went with star power to wow their audience. The South Park creators announced a new RPG using their license, South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Subtle. Jason Derulo danced for Just Dance 2016 which will feature a streaming service to add new tracks. Angela Bassett sternly introduced Rainbow Six Siege’s new “Terrohunt” (yes, it’s an awful name) mode which pits co-op teams against AI opponents.
The games without any celebrity introductions included Anno 2205, Trackmania Turbo, and a DLC for Trials Fusion called Awesome Level Max. The Crew is getting a cross-country expansion that includes a “complete graphical overhaul.” For Honor pits four knights or samurai against another team of four warriors. Think Chivalry: Medieval Warfare but without the Deadliest Warrior license. Tom Clancy’s The Division got a release date in March of 2016. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands has military teams against drug cartels in an open-world setting. There was also an Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate movie, but it was a overshadowed by some guy in the audience that chose to cosplay as the main character in the game.
Electronic Arts screened a bunch of cinematic trailers today, giving us glimpses of how various games won’t play. Mass Effect: Ascension proves it’s not over until EA pulls the plug on the servers. You might be surprised to learn Star Wars: The Old Republic hasn’t been shut down. You’ll be even more surprised to learn it’s getting an add-on called Knights of the Fallen Empire, a title ripped from the Star Wars random game name generator. Unravel is a platformer in which a creepy little yarn demon poops out yarn. Need for Speed: Need for Speed feels the need for speed in “police-infested urban districts”. Way to pander, EA.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 showed gameplay because it consists of the rest of the stuff that should have been in Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 1. Namely, bot support for split-screen games and the option to play cooperative games with the zombies.
Then sports sports sports with a brief “let’s talk about mobile” interruption. The highlight of the sports sports sports section was when Pele, one of the actors from the Sylvester Stallone sports movie Victory, came out to promote the FIFA International Corruption Simulator 2016. Finally, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst will be open-world. Think Assassin’s Creed, but with a female protagonist, but in first-person so you can’t really tell. Star Wars: Battlefront 3 will be carefully staged, with the X-wings and TIE Fighters flying super low to make sure they’re in the shot and Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader recreating their iconic battle in front of the AT-AT on Hoth.
Microsoft’s E3 2015 show started with their trusty headliner Halo 5 Guardians, then dropped a bomb on the audience. Microsoft is enabling backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. According to Microsoft, over 100 titles from the last-gen library will be playable on the Xbox One by the holidays with more to come. Retail discs and digital download titles will work with this feature. No work is required from game developers. They only need to approve the compatibility and Microsoft does the wrapper work on their end. Microsoft couldn’t resist sniping at Sony’s PlayStation streaming service by pointing out that their backwards compatibility service was free for gamers to use.
A spiffy new Xbox One Elite Controller is coming this Fall. It has paddles, a rocker directional pad, and removable widgets. They must help with the shooting somehow.
On the software side, Microsoft kept to exclusives for the most part, with a few mutiplatform titles. Forza 6, now with inclement weather and night racing was previewed with Ford’s help. Rise of the Tomb Raider was QTE heaven. There were videos of Ion from Dean Hall, (of DayZ fame) Dark Souls 3, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Fable Legends, and Gigantic. Tacoma, the newest title from Gone Home makers The Fullbright Company got a quick spot in the indie segment along with Cuphead, a gorgeous side-scroller done in the style of a 1930’s cartoon. Rare has apparently been busy with a Rare Replay collection that bundles up 30 of their games in a discount package, as well as working on Sea of Thieves, a new title featuring multiplayer pirating. Gears of War returned to Microsoft’s show with the Gears of War Ultimate Edition that remasters the original Gears of War for the newer console, and Gears 4 which is apparently all about walking through pitch-black areas very slowly.
For being the first ever event, Bethesda’s pre-E3 briefing was smoothly executed. (You can watch a recording here, if you were busy with the Game of Thrones season finale.) Bethesda showed off some Doom, Dishonored 2, and Fallout 4 as their big announcements. Doom includes monster loot pinatas, the return of the super shotgun, and Snapmap, a map editing system that will come to “all platforms” that Doom releases on. As a console controller editor it appeared to be rather deep, with the ability to cobble together pre-made map sections, place enemies, map details, and scripting links. For Fallout 4, Bethesda revealed that a major feature would be the ability to dynamically build settlements in the wasteland with pre-fab chunks, move in inhabitants, and defend them against enemies with traps and turrets. That dynamic construction will extend to weapon and armor creation as well. In Dishonored 2 the player can take on the role of Emily Kaldwin, or step into Corvo Attano’s spring-heeled shoes once again. This time, the stealthy assassinations take place in Karnaca, a steampunk version of Morocco. Bethesda dropped a surprise in the form of Fallout Shelter, a free-to-play iOS Fallout game available immediately.
Less enthusiastically received by the audience was the news that Bethesda is launching their own game client. Bethesda.net will be the portal for their games beginning shortly. The Doom Snapmap creations, for example, will use Bethesda.net for community sharing. Whether or not Bethesda will break off on their own and leave Steam on the PC remains to be seen.