E3 2015 is in the books now, so it’s time to look back at what has gone on. Well, and continue to get pieces out about it in things we haven’t covered yet, or putting up what we got from the floor (do check out our coverage hub!). This though is an opinion piece looking at The Good, The Bad, and The Funny of E3 2015 with a focus on the pressers—both the events and the products on display. I wasn’t in L.A., so my perspective is through the conferences mostly, though I have made a point of reading some fact sheets and viewing trailers for news stuff. This will be focused on the big events but on occasion I might take a little dip into the additional coverage.
All right then, let’s go!
There was a lot of good at this year’s E3; well, as much as E3 can be “good.” E3’s flaws in many ways as what is an advertising event for the industry (it’s ran by the Electronic Software Association – aka the game publisher association and the people who are against the archiving of games) are a whole other article. So operating within the confines of E3, what were some of the good trends and displays there?
A Focus on Core Games
While some past E3’s have focused on things outside of gaming, this year focused on the games. There was only a short mention of TV (by Sony of course) and relatively few mobile games, as developers instead focused on games people actually might care about for the most part.
It helped to get back to what the conference supposedly is largely about. There was one major exception to that, and that was the plastics thing from Nintendo and to a lesser extent Sony. Nintendo pushed more on the amiibo’s, including showing the entire collection of yarn Yoshi amiibo’s. They also announced a partnership on a couple special skylanders/amiibo that change between the two set ups with twisting the bottom. Sony’s was their focus of console exclusive content and timed early releases.
Super Mario Maker
Nintendo was weird when it comes to E3, as in many ways it started on Sunday morning with a Smash Direct that confirmed stuff that had mostly been leaked, and then ran over into the Nintendo World Championship later on. While that event had problems at times (and we’ll get to that), I think we can all admit that Nintendo designed some absolutely awesome levels for the Super Mario Maker.
A lot of games at E3 show off cinematic trailers or carefully edited game bits. We didn’t get to see the editing screen for Super Mario Maker, but instead we got to see the final results and craziness the game allows people to create. This is a game that will live or die based on its support from fans, and given Nintendo’s record of dealing with online things, there was some apprehension about how well they could give fans the tools to make a Mario game.
After seeing the results from a couple of game dev pros in level design, I think it’s safe to say that Super Mario Maker won’t be lacking in the ability to combine weird things or freedom in mix and match. Now whether you’ll be able to share what you make without Nintendo putting ad claims on it …
Big Publishers Taking Some Risks
There were a few here, but I’m going to focus on three main cases that came to mind.
This is a big risk and a gamble on Internet infrastructure (what I’m assuming Bethesda.net is being built to support) as well as that despite some comments made about only a small percentage of users using mods that there is a wide appeal to it. I think some of it is based on the open appeal of things like free to play games with modding and Minecraft, but Bethesda is definitely taking a leap, assuming that the consoles can manage to handle things like full level and game editors, that mods from PC can make the move and that games won’t be broken in 50 million pieces. In fact, the latter is a bit worrisome with Fallout 4 in particular; because Bethesda games often having load orders for mods and conflicts, it might mean that modding for Fallout 4 gets streamlined in the interests of making it work better. Doom Snap Map at least appears to be relatively safe there as its modding stuff is less ambitious.
Or it could be that they’ll curate it a lot and put something like tags on it so if a game impacts one area, another can’t. Of course that has its own issues, two of which being Bethesda has said they don’t want to curate mods in the past (even if it makes money directly for them), and that a lot of Elder Scrolls or Fallout 3/New Vegas mods overlap but go with bits from separate ones. And we’re not even getting into script extenders yet and the potential issues there!
Check out our article on it, and you can see that Activision has given Treyarch the rights to innovate some. A co-op campaign, different specialties in the multiplayer, open maps … The declining sales of Call of Duty did apparently get to someone inside Activision and they realized that no, just adding a double jump wasn’t enough variety. The very idea of Call of Duty trying to innovate is still surprising.
Ubisoft is another company known to play it safe—they make often the same types of games and have pushed serialization of titles a lot. Honestly, going into their press conference, it was expected to just be pretty standard show their yearly iterations of several franchises and other projects announced along with maybe some add-ons but For Honor was a surprise. A new IP from Ubisoft, and one that doesn’t appear to be in their normal open world game that has become so prevalent in their games that it’s nearly a subgenre of open world itself. Instead, we got something that looks a bit like Chivalry but more siegey and also going to consoles. Ubisoft and Activision not just repeating the same process on titles?
That was a big surprise of E3 I think.
Resurrection of the Dead
Another surprising trend was the amount of raise dead’s cast by various major publishers. The Last Guardian? Resurrected after yet another trademark expiry and some new footage shown along with a promise release date of 2016 (uh huh … sure). Rare? They got to actually talk about games rather than Kinect stuff … which was oddly absent from Microsoft’s performance. NieR? It’s got a sequel in development, even if it doesn’t have a name yet.
Of course the true resurrection was cast on Shenmue, a cult classic. There’s a lot to talk about Shenmue 3 and what its impact as a kickstarter could mean—the funding and such but those are separate issues. As someone who’s seen a lot of franchises he loves get abandoned, or worse, pummeled into unrecognizable form (Shenmue fans, you think not having 3 was bad? At least you weren’t stuck with the Shining Force junk!), I am excited for them to get the game they’ve been dreaming of for years. While I have questions of my own hinted at, that doesn’t make it any less of a great thing to see for fans of the series in many ways.
It was a showing in the first party stuff at E3 this year, and proof of the rise of the indies on consoles as well as PC, that indie developers were noteworthy this year. While the Indiecade’s line up was … problematic in ways, at least the pressers and consoles managed to show some stuff interesting wise.
Nintendo had the [email protected] preview of 9 games they were letting people try out for the week. Sony invited Devolver Digital on stage to show off some of their upcoming titles as well as announce them. Microsoft gave the biggest stage of the three to them, showing off some games in their press conference with a whole section for [email protected] Cuphead was the game that notably got the most attention there—and I won’t disagree, it looks like a fast-paced wonderfully styled bit of fun. However, the title that caught my eye more as something interesting and a chance to utilize the medium to express something different was Beyond Eyes. A game attempting to show what it is like to be blind, with a beautiful art style, completely captured my attention there as something that I want to see more of and see where the developer is going with it.
Also, the PC Gaming conference’s arguable best moments were when it was actually allowing indies to show off stuff because in those cases at least it wasn’t things we had already seen on several occasions, and it highlighted something that the PC does have as a strength – a wealth of indie games that no other platform can match thanks to the design tools and ease of distribution on the platform. While that’s not as catchy as AAA titles, an indie gaming presser would have been nice actually and would still have beat out the PC Gaming Show!
Oh God E3. You know, while I’m a bit snarky at times on even the good moments, there are moments that make me wonder what is anyone thinking. Still, this segment is going to be focused on the bad, bad moments, not the funny bad moments that come up. If it was awkwardly bad, it’s more likely in the final section.
That does mean this section might be a bit shorter than you might expect, but it’s also helped by the fact that this year’s E3 was less obnoxious than most.
Okay, let me start by saying I’m not a soccer fan – I’m Canadian and thus I played soccer (or if you are outside of my continent, Football) while I was growing up, but I don’t watch it. I realize that means that when a living legend comes on to talk for 15 minutes … Okay it was actually just over 6 minutes when I actually went and checked, but it felt like it went on forever during the event. It was slow, ponderous and dropped in the middle of the event, and they kept bringing it up in the half hour that followed probably making his influence on time feel that much longer.
So to be fair, I stopped and thought about it, what would I, a football fan (the North American version – and just as a side note, it was designed in Canada and the CFL is older, even if the NFL is more popular) think if Joe Montana were to go up on stage and talk about football for 6 minutes? Of the NFL teams, I’m a 49ers fan, so it would be having a living legend go on stage to talk, from a team I care about and arguably the best at his position of all time.
I just keep thinking about it and honestly, I think if Joe Montana went on there for 6 minutes, while I might be interested as a football fan (maybe), it would still be a negative on the whole press event. Now, that’s without getting into how slow the speaking was, which is likely more to do with English not being Pele’s first language. On the other hand, we were here to watch game advertis- I mean game news, not soccer stuff, and it was still a showstopper.
The PC Gaming Show
Of course, some shows should have been stopped entirely. The PC Gaming show for instance was 2 and a half hours of long, tedious, boring, uselessness that I feel I really should charge AMD, Bohemia Interactive and PC Gamer for. I have a lot of thoughts on how that thing went wrong, but of all the cynical marketing ploys on display, the PC Gaming Show was the most and the least apologetic.
The show was long, had no informational value, and it seemed in part that they only went between segments of chatter to bring up the sponsors of the event again and let them show off their stuff. AMD got to come up a couple separate times, and their technology was mentioned anytime proprietary graphic technology came up – even by the interviewee’s, making me wonder if that was set up beforehand. No, you cannot talk about Hairworks mister, you have to mention TressFX!
Bohemia was arguably worse, coming a few separate times to reveal their Early Access products that we all knew about. Take on Mars has been on Early Access for 2 years and is supposedly going into beta soon. They’ve been delaying it several times and it’s supposed to be going in July but we’ll see. THAT was the closest to news Bohemia came to delivering throughout their performances. Given the way they treat Early Access as well, beta for them might just mean there’s only another year left! DayZ got some face time of course for them, but the only news thing there was announced in Microsoft’s presser that it’s going to Early Access on Xbox One and it’s at least a good while out from release.
There was a lot more wrong with this conference that is too long to discuss here … But there will be some stuff popping up later.
The Car in the Room
Speaking of overly large spectacles though, neither Pele nor even the PC Gaming Show really claimed that throne. No, that award goes to Microsoft for having the sheer ambition to drop a car onto the E3 stage. And of course with this being Microsoft that could only be for Fordza… I mean Forza 6. This Forza would be better renamed Fordza with the amount of advertising Ford has done with the game, and they definitely went way over the top with the E3 stage. The moment in fact was so absurd it nearly got put into the bottom section because it was so over the top and blatant but … In the end it was annoying, frustrating and it was a complete reminder of the silliness that E3 is to anyone who had managed to forget. Only for a few minutes you weren’t watching just a Microsoft ad, but a Ford one too.
I didn’t watch all of Twitch’s stuff, because what I saw on Friday during the Nintendo World Championship was enough to make sure I only wanted to watch parts during the press conferences. There were some really painful bits, but the worst one brought to mind a quote attributed to W.C. Fields “Never Work With Children Or Animals.” Yes, I’m talking about Miniwheat.
Let’s be frank here, it’s not really the kids fault. He’s young and it’s tough to act and keep going on improvisation like that. There’s a reason why that show business statement is regarded as a truism though, and that’s because those are two of the most difficult groups to predict and to keep going. With Miniwheat, I found him personally to be annoying and forced upon us by the hosts on numerous occasions with nothing to add to the show. If he had been limited to a small showing maybe on Splatoon or something, it would have been one thing. Instead, they kept him on stage, commenting on the games and cutting away to him at other times.
As I said, it’s not the kid’s fault, and I feel bad listing him here, but that’s why it’s labelled Twitch’s E3 because well … they were the ones who made the decision, along with his father. In the end it’s them I point the finger at for the mess up.
Nintendo … and Not Understanding Coverage
Let’s keep the train rolling here and lets go to the major reasons why the World Championship didn’t make it into the good beyond the Mario Maker discussion. The biggest part is that it was frustrating to watch at many times because the games failed to let you see what was actually going on. In many of the events you were left with player 1, 2, 3, 4, or they randomly would increase focus on one screen without any reason. These, along with bad cutaways at times—oh god the Mario Maker cut aways to the contestant faces—really hurt the quality of the product.
Also, you should know the name of your players and how to pronounce it. There were only 16 players at this event.
These are some of the best moments of E3 in their way because they are unintentional for the most part. In fact, almost all of this goes between facepalming, to just so bad it’s funny with a minor exception. Actually let’s get that out of the way first.
The Nintendo Muppets
Winning the prize for intentionally funny and fun is the Nintendo muppets, their performers and staff that they used. Of this category this is the only area that isn’t unintentionally funny caused by something not working, irony or just crossing too many lines at once. So kudos to Nintendo here for making some fun, funny and neat transition stuff unlike, say, Sony.
However, it wouldn’t be fair to let Nintendo go without discussing some non-event funny moment they caused. Jim Sterling hasn’t gone to E3 in a while, but he did some video recaps of the press conferences on his channel, including video that was available in different places because it was streamed live by Nintendo and seen by everyone.
He ran afoul with YouTube’s greatest stalker though – the Nintendo Creator’s Program. We’ve ran into it before on coverage, but Sterling’s video getting claimed is funny as it’s just plain weird given the ubiquity of the various bits during E3, the fact that Sterling praised Nintendo’s conference repeatedly (calling it his favorite) and the sheer inanity of claiming anything, even from what you were willing to pay millions to advertise.
Most of the other shows managed at least one moment, and you probably have heard of them by now, but let’s go through!
One of the funny moments brought about by accent, Luke Skywater came in Sony’s press conference when showing off Star Wars Battlefront. Yes, Auron loses to Luke Skywater when it comes to people messing up names during big shows.
I have to say however, I see a game with Luke Skywater as a character—either as the “protagonist” or the antagonist. Welcome to Tattooine, and it is your job as Luke Skywater to build the water business as large as you can. However, you are not alone in the water business on the desert planet and must be prepared to battle with The Empire and the corporations they support. Get ready for the Star Wars sim game you’ve all been waiting for, with water rights, trading, pricing, and government influencing as Luke Skywater battles to keep Tattooine’s water business in planet!
That wasn’t the only issue at the Sony that brought about unintended laughter. This time wasn’t anyone’s speaking off but instead more of a technical failure when the Uncharted 4 demo came up as well … someone forgot to plug in the controllers.
Beyond creating that awkward scene, there is the upside that at least we know now that the Uncharted 4 stuff was actual gameplay footage. Now, whether you’re interested in it I think depends entirely on your care level about the Uncharted series, as the footage shown wasn’t anything new to the series really (outside of vehicles, which is nice but not a game changer).
Electronic Arts showed a bit of a lack of getting people with one of the sillier over the top moments of the show. As they went to talk about Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2, out came the Zombie mascot trying to get people hyped up about it. Doing one of, if not the, silliest dance attempts of the event, the mascot managed to be just so bad it was funny.
The PC Gaming Show
I’m going to just keep this section to four points under this heading, because if I went on about all of it, I’d be writing that article about the issues of that show I already think I’ll write separately. Still it would be remiss not to bring up this here because the show was so awkward and badly done that some moments of unintended hilarity came up. I had to argue over some of the points, and in the end these were the ones I was able to talk myself down to.
The host, Day 9, had one funny moment when talking with AMD’s first presenter, Richard Huddy, as they were talking about 4k gaming, and when he was asked about gaming with a 4k monitor, he said, and I quote, “Of course, I have 6 core, 4k monitor, 144hertz.” At the PC Gaming Show.
Of course, the second AMD person prompted a moment almost as awkward and funny—or more depending. CEO Dr. Lisa Su came up to talk about and reveal AMD’s new Fury line with HBM. Her talk was fine for the most part— Day 9 managed to avoid any major slips of the tongue this time—but as she was off stage someone forgot to turn off her mic and it can be clearly heard “Thank god it’s done.” It might be for you, but the rest of us had to suffer through another hour of the show you helped unleash upon the unsuspecting world Lisa!
The most obvious joke was one where Day 9 went with the crowd—actually, the crowd on the whole was small but spoke up on a few occasions. The Half Life 3 situation was pretty obvious, and Sean took it in stride and ran with it some, being an actual genuine moment of funny there rather than something cringe worthy or ironic that came up.
The last one was the cringeworthy bit I found, but in such a way it was almost impossible not to laugh. They kept showing the computer they were using to show off the stuff in their “Win The Rig” contest throughout, making it seem much more like a paid for TV advertising talk show than a conference discussing PC Gaming. Of course that’s much more what it resembled in effect, but that they kept going throughout it was something I found funny as they would light up and focus there—the same type of thing you might see said TV advertising talk show do before cutting to commercial.
Aisha Tyler and Assassin’s Creed
We couldn’t finish this off without a couple Ubisoft moments, so let’s start with Aisha Taylor’s performance there, largely around the Assassin’s Creed Syndicate cosplayer of Jacob Frye. The poor man wasn’t much of an improviser, and when she started hitting on him saying he probably has rickets, it is something of a cringeworthy funny moment.
Arguably though what followed that was worse and even more awkward as she tried to force create a meme. That … is not how meme’s work at all. Again the studio guy was a bit off and not able to do anything with it, making what could have potentially been decent with some banter not work at all. Given that he was there on Ubisoft’s behest, it’s likely Aisha was told to talk to him or something, but that doesn’t make these any less awkwardly funny.
Of course, Aisha got protected from the worst moment by what was to follow. I weep at what my generation and the next have unleashed, and what have become acceptable singing standards without autotuner. Jason Derulo came on stage and demonstrated that, no, without computers he can’t sing. He also wasn’t much of a dancer, and the period went on far too long for Just Dance 2016. Which, for some reason in 2015 is still coming to the Wii of all devices?
Well, that’s some of the best, worst and silliest moments of E3 2015. There’s more to talk about as hinted throughout, and we have more interviews, previews and other things to come in the next bit ahead.
What did you think were the best moments of E3? Did anything make you laugh or cringe? Share in the comments below!