Spoils of War: Our Highlights From E3

What a week, eh? As the sun sets on the Los Angeles Convention Center and we reach the tail end of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, I think it’s fair to say that it defied everyone’s expectations. Every press conference held something new and exciting, and it felt good to see real competition return to the show. Colin and I have spent the last few days absorbing every last morsel of news, and we’re ready to share our favorite moments.

Ben:

Octodad

From their used games commitment to the footage of Destiny, Sony’s press conference was a maelstrom of surprise and excitement. After a day filled with corporate doublespeak, vague promises and retreading familiar ground, it was refreshing to find someone willing to address us as humans and lay everything bare. I went into E3 filled with cynicism and disgust, but left with a happy heart; I remembered why I even played games in the first place, and knew that beyond the dark forests of the DRM monsters and free-to-play bear traps, a bright green field awaited.

This bold reclamation of gaming’s potential stemmed not from the dystopian shooters or picture-perfect driving simulators; instead, the charge was led by the men and women of the independent scene. Sony’s new self-publishing practices theoretically provide a stage for the underdogs of the industry, where they can present their ambitious ideas to a crowd of millions. Instead of demonstrating this through a dull speech peppered by PowerPoint, Sony stepped up and gave the floor to Supergiant Games, Ragtag Studio and other indie stalwarts. Several screens lit up with game after game, and as each developer showcased their hard work before the hordes of journalists and streamers, you could sense their excitement.

In this brief chunk of time, the unspoken conventions of an E3 press event were defied. Instead of a made-to-order family watching sports or fighting alien hordes, the stage was devoted to oddities like an octopus pretending to be a human father, or a paper-like scientist surviving in a cruel forest. Their creators, who poured endless hours of passion into these strange games, were given the rockstar treatment they rightly deserved. If such brazen dismissals of the status quo could be placed alongside your typical slew of AAA titles, it would benefit players and developers alike. If Sony manages to replicate this moment of brilliance on their upcoming PS4, be prepared for a true console gaming renaissance.

Colin:

PS4

Unlike Ben, I went into this E3 with a relative amount of enthusiasm- sure, Microsoft was gonna be a shitshow, but I wasn’t convinced that Sony would just follow suit. To me, it seemed like it would be far more profitable to be the “good guys” in the discussion. And hey, I was right! And that was really really exciting. I’ve never bought a console at launch before (I got a launch PS Vita as a gift from some concerned friends when I was in a bad way, once), but damn if I don’t have the PS4 preordered. Just… don’t bring it out too soon. Four hundred bucks is VERY reasonable, but that doesn’t mean I have it ready just yet.

What was surprising to me was the games that I’d already written off that proved interesting. Both Battlefield 4 and Destiny had showings here that really impressed me, even though I wasn’t looking out for them at all. For my part, I’ve felt that the Halo games handle… well, let’s not say like crap, that’s not cool, but in a way I find deeply deeply unsatisfying. To me, the guns don’t feel good to shoot, the walking and jumping feels off, it just feels bleech. I won’t know for certain how Destiny feels until I get my hands on it, but the gunfire and visual effects seemed quite a bit more satisfying, and the central conceit of the game looked really fun. I always wanted to like Borderlands- mixing loot mechanics with a shooter sounds wonderful to me. The fact that Borderlands was written terribly, was mega repetitive, and wasn’t actually all that fun was the kicker, and I think Bungie has the talent to nail those aspects of the game.

Battlefield 4, on the other hand, looked cool to me simply because of two words: Commander Mode. Being the Commander in Battlefield 2 made that game incredible, and tactical in a way no multiplayer shooter before or since has been. A good Commander was your backup, your eye in the sky, and your navigator all in one. I was always bad at playing the Commander myself, but having one backing you up was invaluable. When BF3 pushed the Commander stuff out the window, my interest went with it. I’ll be glad to get back into the series that first showed me how amazing online play could be with Battlefield 1942.

Beyond all that, it was just good to see the industry happy again. The last few weeks of constant fear and doubt ever since Microsoft announced that they don’t give a shit what you want have been unpleasant, and made us all worry about what was to come. Set your fears aside, friends. It may be a complex time for games, but it’s not as dark as all that.