Sunday, June 16, 2013

E3: The Grades

It's kind of a hack thing to do, or at least reeks of self-importance, to actually give 'grades' for E3 showings and the like, which makes me not want to do it.  But at the same time, I'm not being super-duper serious about it, so you can basically take whatever I say, run it through the Whose Line Is It Anyway? points system, and you basically have exactly what my grades are worth.  (Hint:  The worth is zero)  I mean, it's not like I'm going to be -super- silly about it, but definitely not going to sit here and pore over everything to get a completely and totally 'informed' opinion and also try and be objective about it.  Because, obviously, I -can't- be objective about it.  So having fun with it is the next best choice.


Microsoft went into E3 with a -lot- of things being expected of them.  Expectations of explanations regarding their still-confusing and Draconian-sounding DRM schemes that are hard-built into the console itself.  Expectations of explanations regarding their equally-confusing -not- Draconian-sounding "Family Sharing" ideas that are apparently a thing but have yet to be explained in a way that allows you to see the catch, leaving them simply as things that seem to defeat the entire purpose of the Draconian DRM.  Expectations of a clear, concise message about any one thing.  Expectations of a lot of games to be shown.

And, well....we got games, at least.

Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as just saying "They had a bunch of games and they were all awesome and it was great!" because, well, that's just lying.  There -were- a lot of games and while some of them were technically impressive, most of them...well, weren't.  Killer Instinct's revival was quickly mired with the double-tap of news that it's free-to-play with just one fighter where others are purchased and it's being developed by Double Helix Games who have...a less-than-impressive catalog of projects.  Dead Rising 3 eschews the campy B-movie quality of the previous games in lieu of a....*sigh*  'gritty', heavier experience that will be published by Microsoft Game Studios, meaning a multi-platform port is at least a year off of release.  Ryse:  Son of Rome has QTEs for the sake of having QTEs, I suppose, because they complete themselves with incorrect inputs, leading some to think they're just for bonuses or something.  And Project Spark, pretty much the -only- game I really care about, is pretty much LittleBigPlanet, only done with what appears to be the Fable engine.  (Seriously, does that not look like Fable?)  (Seriously the second, "Build, Play, Share?  Really?)

Titanfall is something that I am told is awesome but I haven't quite checked it out for myself yet.  However, I will err on the side of calling it awesome.

Grade:  D+.  Microsoft brought the focus on games in a big way, which is appreciated, but that's pretty much all they did.  Showing MGSV on stage gets you points regardless of anything, and I am all for cribbing ideas and running with them as Project Spark is doing, but I'm not too optimistic on the execution - especially since I will never, ever play it.  Their continued insistence against explaining anything coherently was pre-cemented by cancelling all their E3 meetings beforehand, meaning the only things we -did- get were along the lines of the rather unfortunate PR disasters that Microsoft employees seem to be tripping over themselves to perform lately.  In the end, even though they brought the games, nobody really walked away happy except for the diehards, and those people would be happy if the XBone kicked you in the nuts every hour on the hour.


Where moods were dire for Microsoft's entrance into E3 because of what we knew, outlooks were similarly bleak for Sony's conference for the most part, with only a few spots of hope here and there.  "Well if Microsoft is being super restrictive with their console, it's obvious that Sony is going to go the same route!," was the cry from the rooftops.  There was an abject refusal to believe that Sony's device would be any less restrictive from the consumer stand-point than Microsoft's on a widespread basis, because nobody could see a reason why it would be on Microsoft's device and not Sony's.  Well, mostly nobody.  Yet even those of us that chose to believe there was some sense left alive in the industry were hard-pressed to assume that Sony would come out and absolutely kick in Microsoft's teeth from a PR stand-point.

So, really, all of us were wrong about something where it concerned Sony.

The absurdity of the night has started to sink in for all of us in the passing days, of Sony getting deafening cheers and applause for simply saying "Yeah, the PS4 is going to work like the PS3 today in terms of used gaming and game lending and internet requirements", but the onus is on Microsoft for calling all of that into question in the first place.  Despite the absurdity of it, Sony's stance on gaming is nonetheless a victory for us all, even with the proponents of a "Digital Future" and the few Microsoft supporters stating that the XBone is simply a generation too soon.  In no uncertain terms, we are not on the precipice of this digital future nor are we a generation away from it, because global infrastructure is simply not there.  Nor is it close.  We are not to the point as a -people- on a worldwide scale where the internet is a provision or a right.  To suggest otherwise is foolish, and to acknowledge that the games industry, like most industries, is a worldwide on makes it that much more obvious.

That's more of a topic for another night, however.

As for Sony's games showing, well, it's something of a hard thing to pin down.  It's easy to overlook in a sense, but Sony bringing up a score of Indie Developers to show off an impressive list of Indie games that will be playable on the PS4 (continuing the absurdly strong relationship that's been heavily emergent in the last few months) easily adds enough games to the list to suggest that maybe they did, in fact, show off the most games at E3.  Perhaps it's because these Indie Games are known quantities at this point, it's easy to overlook them, or perhaps it's something else, but no less than eight Indie Games were featured on-stage on top of the other games shown, while I'm willing to bet a number of them are going to go PC/Playstation-only as well.

If your call for games actually means "New games that we haven't seen before" then Sony's list comprises only four titles:  The Order:  1886 which is a new IP, Mad Max which is a single-player multi-platform offering from Avalanche Games set in the universe of Mad Max with little to no relation to the movies, Final Fantasy XV (Which is actually Final Fantasy Versus XIII rebranded) and Kingdom Hearts 3.  However, I don't think you can be disappointed with the content of that list, even if you're disappointed with the length of it.  Because it's perfectly valid to be disappointed with the length of the list - I am.  I'm disappointed specifically because there's nothing Vita-related on the list.  The Walking Dead Season One with 400 Days DLC doesn't count, to me, even though I'm going to buy the ever-loving shit out of it.  I expected, I wanted something, even if it was just a new Uncharted, or, dare I even speak of it, another portable iteration of God of War (beyond the ports of the first two games in HD) and we didn't even get that much.

It's...disappointing.  I would imagine TGS is the place for the Vita by and large anyway, but now all my expectations fall squarely on that event.  Yet from that, I don't expect Uncharted or God of War of course (though Uncharted -was- shown off during the initial Japanese reveal of the Vita ways ways back) but rather Gravity Rush 2, the inevitable port of Monster Hunter 4, Dragon's Dogma Quest, Phantasy Star Online 2 and dare I dream of Final Fantasy Type-0 Vita.  Japanese games for a Japanese event, of course, which leaves me wondering where Western games -can- be announced aside from...simply announcing them.  Which is a viable enough option, of course, and if an inFamous title for the Vita were announced tomorrow from official channels only, I wouldn't give a shit about that fact, but the fact that finally, an inFamous game on Vita.  Still, in comparison to the huge relief for the PS4, my mis-givings really aren't that big, and ensured I walked away from Sony's E3 with an entirely positive mindset, as did most.

Grade:  A-.  The combination of a $100 system undercut preceded by a merciless beatdown of Microsoft's over-the-line XBone policies ensures that this E3 will be the latest E3 that we always, always talk about.  They didn't slouch in showing off games, certainly, though they didn't have many reveals which is, of course a bit unfortunate, but in the grand scheme it's not really a mark against them.  I'm personally bummed by the lack of presence of the Vita in the presser, but I can understand it in a sense.  At the end of the day, though, Sony gave us not only a presser that was memorable on its own merits and because it had a clear, concise message to it, but also a presser that was memorable because it needs to be.  Standing against ludicrous digital policies while not eschewing the digital marketplace wholesale is important for growth as is continued acceptance of the physical marketplace with the knowledge that we simply are not ready to not have that option.


Nintendo's strange idea to completely eschew a normal presser event at E3 in favor of little Nintendo Direct-like events certainly raised a few eyebrows, and everyone had their own reason for believing why Nintendo did it.  Some simply saw it as a way to cut the 'fat', so to speak - keep the press stuff to press events and give the gamers the games so to speak.  Others expected a little something....more.  Something as a more tangible reason for doing so.  Needless to say, the latter camp was in for a bit of disappointment, since all Nintendo really brought were games, which isn't bad in of itself, but the games were ones that....were not surprising in the least.  I admit, perhaps it's a bit silly to say that Sony had four reveals but that's not a problem, versus Nintendo's three that -are- a problem, and it may have a smidgen of bias inherently, but I'll try to explain what the difference is from my point of view.

Who saw Sony announcing/revealing a Victorian-era steampunk game about hunting werewolves in London?  Anyone?  Nobody?  Okay.  Who saw Nintendo announcing/revealing a new Mario game, a new Yoshi game and a new Donkey Kong game?  Everybody?  Okay, the guy in the back honestly didn't expect another Donkey Kong and that whole row didn't expect a new Yoshi game, but the level of surprise is much, much lower.  It's something of a strange position to be in because nobody dislikes Zelda, Mario, Pokemon or any of the other first-party games, and there's not necessarily a 'fatigue' setting in (as some people say for, like, yearly franchises or what-have-you), but there's a whole combination of reasons that set people to be disappointed when Nintendo makes games using the same stable of characters again and again.

The easiest way I can explain it is basically this:  What Nintendo is doing is like if Naughty Dog were still making Crash Bandicoot games today.  Would today's Crash Bandicoot games be awesome?  Probably!  Am I suggesting that Nintendo's series should have been left back at the NES or SNES days?  Of course not.  There's just....a middle-ground approach.  You can't build a console specifically around old characters with new ideas, despite Nintendo's success at doing just that (though, it's not doing a whole lot for the Wii U at the moment).  You have to introduce actual, physical new things through your first-parties and have the intention of running with them.  To my knowledge, Xenoblade Chronicles and Pushmo are the only -real- examples of this at the moment (both first-party, both with sequels out or on the way) but Xenoblade Chronicles is -just barely- because of that stupidly tiny printing Nintendo made.

Leverage this against Sony's PS3 First-Party efforts which have brought us inFamous, Uncharted, The Last of Us, LittleBigPlanet (started as second-party, is now first), MAG and Starhawk (among others) as new to compliment the returning God of War, Sly Cooper, Killzone, MotorStorm and Gran Turismo games.  The old and the new work off of one another and add a little bit of spice to everything, so to speak.  If Nintendo would just have a couple of their studios -not- make a Zelda game, -not- make a Donkey Kong game, but instead make a new series that they could, you know, -then- make between the others, we'd all be much, much happier with them.  So it's pretty much for that reason why we have a Nintendo offering that has a -lot- of first-party games....yet reactions are so mixed.

Still, from Nintendo's presentations, we got a name for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 2 as it's now formally called The Legend of Zelda:  A Link Between Worlds, announcements of New Yoshi's Island, Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country:  Tropical Freeze alongside footage of  Pikmin 3, Mario & Luigi:  Dream Team, Super Smash Bros. (the new one), New Super Luigi U, Xenoblade's Sequel, Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda:  Wind Waker HD, Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101.  Which is, of course, not -bad- by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm personally hoping Xenoblade Chronicles getting a sequel means the rest of us will be able to play Xenoblade Chronicles for less than $100 Used in the future, but I admit that may be a bit optimistic.  And we got all that without the blather and without the filler of a presser (I think, at least), so, hey, bonus points right there.

Grade:  B-.  I want to be harsher on Nintendo, but I cannot, nor will I fault them for showing games, even if the games aren't exactly the ones I (or others) want.  Except Bayonetta 2.  I want that.  I haven't even played Bayonetta 1 yet (Yes, Chance, I know) but I want to be all over that.  And Xenoblade sequel, but I want to friggin' be able to play the original first in -some- fashion.  I can only hope that Nintendo has something of an epiphany with the Wii U's potential in the near future and springs up a few new series that fans can complain about having too many iterations of twenty years from now.  Or even just goes weird with something like the rumored StarTropics revival that was apparently false  Just do -something- to shake things up a little.

Squeenix gets an F-- for failing to show Drakengard 3 and Type-0 Vita

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