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RPS Verdict: E3 2014 Day Zero, Winners And Losers

JUDGEMENT DAY

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The triple A team of Alice, Alec and Adam have spent the last 24 hours absorbing every trailer and piece of footage that has emerged from E3. Now they gather together with Graham ‘G-Man’ Smith to discuss their findings. Does the imminent arrival of a GTA V port please them? Are any of them still wearing socks or has No Man’s Sky blown them clean off? Is Cuphead really the game of the show? And will Valiant Hearts’ dog-in-a-war bring tears to their eyes? Read on for answers to all of those questions, and remarkable insights into the Oculus Rift and much more besides.

Alec: So, can someone get me up to speed with what happened at the last two Es? I must have missed them.

{pause}

Alec: Well, I think we’ve covered everything.

Alice: Someone won, I remember hearing. Scooped the Video Games Cup. Held it aloft while the crowd roared their name and a former lover burst forth from the crowd to embrace them.

Alec: No, this is the Hunger Games. All these companies are trying to do is die last.

Alice: And leave a next-gen corpse.

Adam: Which one died first? Is it true that Konami failed to show up this year? At least at the time they were supposed to? It sounds unbelievable but I want to believe it because it would be strange and interesting.

Alec: In which case, they definitely won

Alice: Their E3 subsite has little more than a picture of some nice green grass and a big blue sky, so I assume they’ve nicked off to the park.

Alec: Let’s all by earnest, just for a moment. We’ll all pretend it didn’t happen afterwards. What game(s) have people liked best? I say “games” but I mean “trailers,” naturally.

Adam: No Man’s Sky is the obvious choice, right? We all like that, surely. I worry that it’s first-person Spore, with all the disappointment that entails, but right now it’s good to dream. It reminds me of flicking through sci-fi art books in second-hand shops near Shudehill when I was a kid.

Alec: I think it means to be Minecraft more than Spore. That’s what it’s needs to pull off, anyway – just dicking around indefinitely.

Graham: There’s still worryingly few known verbs for that game. The trailer is visually stunning, and he fires his guns a little, but mostly his wingpersons did the work. Can I ride those dino-creatures? Can I cut down the trees? Should I be mining things?

It’s beautiful but I want to know what I do in it.

Alec: Spore’s problem – and I liked Spore a lot – was that it couldn’t steer clear of being an RTS in the end.

Adam: Addressing Graham’s point, what might No Man’s Sky not be able to avoid being in the end?

Alec: Open world games generally have the “what to do?” problem. See Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed, GTA even – you go to a place and you either get a pop-up fact or incremental achievement progress, or a hollow minigame

Adam: I guess I don’t know what it is either. Not really. But I definitely want to touch it.

Alec: Can No Man’s Sky make enough activity out of scanning things and landing and shooting and what not?

Graham: I hope it doesn’t become about merely clicking on trees to harvest wood.

Alec: Again, Minecraft – its strength is the core thing is building or destroying and that’s almost indefinitely engrossing. I don’t know what NMS’ core thing is. Flight, perhaps.

Adam: The scanning in the trailer reminded me of Metroid Prime, and how I hoped for a game about taxonomy or some such based in those worlds and from that perspective. Exciting times.

Graham: I’m as surprised as anyone, but I really liked The Crew trailer. I loved FUEL, the Codemasters game that created a shrunken greatest-hits version of America, and The Crew does the same. The trailer they showed was a two minute timelapse of driving from one coast to another, and much like NMS, I just want to explore that world. Without necessarily caring to do what it’s intended for, which is multiplayer driving.

Adam: YES. Fuel is a beautiful thing and The Crew pleases me greatly.

Alec: One of The Crew devs tweeted at me last year, when I was worrying it’d be race race race, that pure sightseeing is very much supported. I loved Test Drive Unlimited for that, just being a horrible idle rich person careening around a beautiful island.

Adam: Interesting that the statement has to be confirmed – that sightseeing is supported. The very notion of open world games SHOULD support sightseeing but we’ve become wary of expecting it.

Alec: In fairiness, GTA, Asscreed etc has it, but you can’t help but stumble into chaos as you see the sights. I always spend a little while stopping at traffic lights or standing on the beach before I get down to the nitty gritty of being a blood-soaked maniac.

Adam S. Yeah – GTA and Asscreed are wonderful sightseeing games. I haven’t played Underscore[watch]Dogs yet but I get the impression it is less so? Looks more claustrophobic somehow.

Alice: Are we all caught up in dreams of sightseeing at the moment? Perhaps that’s a reasonable response to floods of trailers–treating them simply as things to look at. Abzu has my eye for sightseeing too.

Alec: Yes, I think trailer-culture necessitates focusing on what we want the pictures on our screens to look like, the fantasy places they suggest. Because you look at the reality – e.g. the in-game footage of The Division – and the response is either “yeah, I know exactly how that works already” or, if you’re a teen “yeah yeah guns kill hahaha”.

Graham: Abzu looks absolutely lovely. I’ve dabbled with diving games before and they’re always disappointingly limited, and I can’t at all tell from Abzu’s trailer from what perspective the game will even be played, but I sure hope the game is whatever I’m imagining it to be. I want to swim with the fishes.

Alec: There aren’t enough great underwater games, that’s why I want XCOM 2 to be Terror From The Deep.

Adam: We try to talk about some original games but Alec just wants to talk about sequels. I kinda want XCOM 1.5 to be Terror From The Deep and for XCOM 2 to go full Apocalypse but that had ambitions beyond its reach even the first time around.

Alec: I am the problem.

Graham: FINE. I also liked the look of Mirror’s Edge 2. Even if it was disappointing that, a year after the announcement, all they had to show was “concept footage”. I was happy about what they showed mostly because it seemed like they weren’t changing too much from the original, as well. Except that perhaps combat will be quicker, and less of a halt to your momentum.

Adam: I’m not the biggest fan of the original but I love the way it looks.

Alec M: Yeah, it was hard to say what was new other than graphics and the original stands up just fine on that front. I thought the combat did look like it could be part of the rhythm of play now, though. Like Dance Dance Zeno Clash.

Alice: EA used a lot of concept footage, which was interesting. Again, going for the dream of a game rather than its actual reality. At this stage of development, for these games, they either fake or it or say “Yeah, well, we kind of hope it’ll be like this.”

I think I prefer the vague dreams. If we’re going to have another year of marketing for these games, I’d much rather they be dreams I can enjoy rather than fakes which make me sneer “Yeah but it clearly won’t be like this.”

Alec: Heh, yeah, we can live in a dream world where even the biggest publishers are making Walking Simulators

Adam: Did E3 seem a bit more honest in general this year? Criterion’s thing had prototype footage, right up there in a big flashy trailer. I liked that. Looked like Just Cause 2 colliding with Burnout at high speed. Microsoft forget to mention the Kinect, which is a their way of admitting a mistake, I guess.

Alice: I’d really like for Kinect 2 to become An Thing for certain types of indie games, though. Running live events, I’m extremely drawn to that sort of spectacle and lack of intimidating buttons. These are games you would never play at home, nor want to.

Alec: It’s interesting to see everyone backing down from the whole WE ARE YOUR LIVING ROOM WE CONTROL THE HORIZONTAL AND THE VERTICAL and returning to “look just please buy these games”.

Graham: It was sort of a split, between the honesty of showing works in progress, and all the multiplayer footage which was played by actors talking like no human being has ever talked. Those videos seem like the biggest lies. Rainbow Six Siege, for example, is right up my SWAT 4 street, but it won’t ever play like it did in that video. Neither will Battlefield Hardlight. Hardline. Whatevs.

Alec: Battlelines: Hardfield.

Alice: Yes, all of Ubisoft’s co-op and team-based games have presented amazing dreams of online play at E3. They are very excited and coordinated and thoughtful and none of that will ever happen in any game I ever play of Ass U, Siege, or The Division. The Far Cry 4 co-op footage sees a chap pop up then fly around boomf-kersplode-shlunk-pop a grenade launcher at some men, though. That’s certainly viable. That’ll do.

Alec: Aye, my curmudgeonly response was “show me the singleplayer” to all of those. But it is great to see co-operation – friendship! – being a focus, rather than kill everyone all the time and swear at them too

Alice: Oh really? With those shooty-shoot games, the promise of co-op and teamplay was what made them interesting to me.

Alec: Hopefully it’ll all suit quickie drop-in play, because I don’t know that I can find people to join me for the sort of five-hour binge play sessions I tend towards in open world games.

Alice: Ubi’s stuff has tended towards looking drop-in-y. It’d be amazing and horrible if they went really open. Far Cry 4 with Dark Souls-y co-op. Men drop in and aggro a herd of rampaging elephants.

Adam: GTA V though, eh? Eh? PHWOAR

Graham: That IS good news. I played about as much of its missions as I could stand on 360, but I’m keen to revisit the place and spend some proper time there. And even more keen to see how modders can chop it to bits, Rockstar be damned.

Alec: I just hope there’s immediately a mod which removes all plot and dialogue. Then we’re talking dream game.

Alice: I think that’s called Grand Theft Auto Online, Alec. Eh? Eh?

Alec: Eh indeed. I just want to see what Dead End Thrills does with it, basically.

Alice: Are we again saying “I love the world you’ve built but am so bored of what you expect me to do in it?” E3 2015: all walking simulators.

Graham: Yeah. Maybe none of us like games, and we should make RPS into a website about going for nice walks. There’s some brillo hills around Bath.

Adam: Rambling societies instead of clans.

Alec: Aye, let’s hold the next staff meet on the South Downs.

Graham: I’m currently reading a book about the Cairngorms that Ed Keys recommended on Twitter. It’s 10/10 maximum replayability.

Alec: Secretly I’m very excited about Dragon Age Inquisition, but I refuse to watch the trailers because trailers have never done an RPG justice, but I think they won’t cock this one up, and I think I will happily spend dozens of hours worrying about belts and shields in a way that no trailer could ever convey the passion of.

Alice: Having watched the trailers, I’ll tell you the Dragon Age-y bits look pretty lovely. I’m not keen on the grand ‘save the world’ story though. I never really enjoy them in BioWare. Living in a city, though, cor, that was up my street. I like the idea of Dragon Age 2 a lot.

Alec: I’m also excited about Grim Fandango remastering, which *clearly* will come to PC, mostly because i want to take a hundred million screenshots.

Graham: Does Double Fine partnering with Disney to remaster Grim Fandango mean that Ron Gilbert will finally get to make his Monkey Island 3? I think the only responsible answer to that question has to be “Definitely confirmed.”

Alec: My answer is “are we quite sure we want him to?”

Graham: Having recently tried to play Grim Fandango however, I’d be keen for a remastered version of it to come to PC. It’s barely playable without a mod at this stage.

Alec: Have they put out any new Civ: Beyond Earth stuff yet? Clearly that’s the timesink for me.

Adam: A couple of screens maybe?

Alec: They did just announce Oculus Rift support for Alien: Not So Isolated.

Alice: Oculus Rift. We haven’t seen much of that at E3 yet, have we? Though I suppose technically E3 doesn’t start for another 44 minutes.

Alec: I suspect they’re still forming their new battleplan.

Alec: Jason Rubin just joined as “head of worldwide studios” so it looks like they might be more directly in the business of making their own games to some degree, which is fascinating. Is Facebook going to be a full-blooded games publisher? Also, given Alien Isolation is primarily a console thing, this to me seems like an implication that Rift will be coming to some manner of console. Presumbly Xbox as Sony has their Laurence Fishburne headset.

Alice: I still struggle with the idea of Oculus Rift being “the future.” If it is, it’ll be the tech appearing in an entirely different form.

Graham: Oculus were already co-publishing EVE Valkyrie, so I think they were moving in that direction even before the Facebook merger.

Alice: I can’t see hordes of people wearing them.

Adam: I’ve encountered them several times at press events and always enjoyed using them and been very impressed. But I’m not sure that I actually want one.

Alec: I’ve got one but never use it because setting it up is usually a massive pain. I don’t know, maybe the tech will somehow end up built in tellies, but it’s hard to see how.

Alice: PhysX cards reappeared on GPUs. I don’t see what Rift turns into when it becomes clear most people don’t want to buy and wear expensive goggles.

Graham: When I had one at home it stopped me from playing games because I’d think, “Ah, I really should play it with the Rift,” but then I didn’t want a sweaty box on my face.

Adam: I feel like I’ve had my head in a sauna after half an hour. But maybe I have a particularly sweat-prone head. It’s more like a helmet than goggles.

Alec: Graham, please review your last phrase. Then go away and think about what you’ve done.

Graham: But I do still want a consumer version when it’s available, and finished, and good. I like walking around in games, and walking around in Grand Theft Auto 4 modded to work with the Rift is a compelling case for the headset.

Oh. *shame*

Alice: Frankly, my hair is too good to muss up with a game helmet.

Alec: Frankly, my hair is too big to fit a game helmet onto. And anyway, as my eyes refuse to work with Rift and other fake 3D (they’re too clever to fall for trickery, I say), if it’s the future please don’t leave me behind ever.

Adam: The future is not a medium or a means of viewing a medium, it’s content. Always has been. Until Sony unveil fucking holograms tomorrow. And I look like a right wanker.

Alice: Anyway! We’ve had the huge big fancy E3 publisher press circus shows, what are we hoping for from the other folks who don’t hire stages?

Adam: There have already been other games. The most important game! I speak of Cuphead. Just say the name out loud. Cuphead. It’s clearly the winner of E3 before E3 begins.

Alec: Cuphead, yes.

Alice: Cuphead!

Graham: CUPHEAD.

Alec: That’s what I want from the people who don’t hire stages. More “hey, I’ve got this idea…” that it’s now possible to actually realise for two-to-four people.

Adam: Here’s a bizarre comparison but Cuphead is up there with what I’ve seen of Alien: Isolation as a thrilling recreation of a very particular aesthetic.

Alec M. Did you see that He-Man Streets of Ragey thing the other month? Clearly violating all the copyrights, but it was another case of someone just nailing the look of something. Then there’s all the UibArt stuff too. There are wonderful things going in animation-aping 2D now.

Adam: Yeah, lovely stuff. It’s easy to forget how utterly gorgeous the last two Rayman games are. Preposterous. I just realised, we haven’t posted about Valiant Hearts yet. It’s because we don’t want to make our readers cry, isn’t it? Because of the dog.

Alec: You know as well as I do that every single one of our readers has personally killed a dog. They are hardened to all pet-related tragedy.

Adam: Regret and shame produce many tears. Just look at Graham.

Graham: I never stop crying.

Alec: I try very hard not to look at Graham

Graham: Is Valiant Hearts basically War Horse but with a dog? Or is it a turn-based RPG? I’ve watched two trailers now and still can’t tell.

Adam: It’s a puzzle adventure, whatever that means. It’s probably a fucking hidden object game and I’ve been too busy cooing at the graphics to notice.

Alice: I believe it’s a puzzle/adventure game in that you walk for several screens then spend two seconds either rotating some blocks or fetching an item before walking on.

Adam: Honestly, if it was using the Frostbite engine or something and the graphics made me this happy without knowing about the game, I’d laugh at myself. But it’s ok, because it’s a cartoon. I’m a hypocrite.

Graham: Still though, a cute dog. And I like that Ubisoft are varied in tone during these big presentations, while every EA and Microsoft game seems to target the same demographic. “Demographic.” Sorry, more shame.

Alec: Anyway, let’s wrap up and go see if any new delights have emerged in the meantime. Those people without stages must have left something lovely somewhere.

Adam: Alice, be sure to collect Graham’s tears. They’re the nectar that fuels me.

Alice: Sorry, I’ve just been rewatching that Rainbow Six Siege trailer and realised that the perps brought razor wire and pop-up walls to take one person hostage in suburbia. This and Battlefield Hardline seem to be getting aware from Serious Reasons For Serious Things and becoming more make-believe.

Graham: Shall we declare a winner of the conferences?

It’s us, right? We’re the winners?

Adam: Ha ha ah ahaa. No.

Alec: CUPHEAD

Adam: CUPHEAD (MUGMUSH?)

Alice: Peer pressure isn’t cool, you guys.

Graham: I’m going for NO MAN’S SKY, as it’s more likely to be a game I’d enjoy playing.

Alec M. Yeah, agreed really. Or at least enjoy finding out what playing it involves. Cuphead I can basically tell already.

Adam: I’m sticking with Cuphead

Alice: Good bumper sticker.

Graham: Your cuphead runneth over.

Adam: It’s been a blast, guys. Same time same place tomorrow? It’s time for us to go our separate ways..which all lead to a trailer for a remastered remastered version of Pikmin. HD to the max. (Turns out it was actually an open world Zelda and now Adam looks like a right silly sod, eh readers? – Ed)

Alice: Everyone’s going to say we hate video games.

Adam: I’m playing videogames right now! Distant Worlds. Gets me through the days. But you have like 10% of my attention.

Graham: I love videogames! I am excited to blow up walls in Rainbow Six Siege and to perform vehicle-takedowns in Far Cry 4. Legits, bro.

E3 continues. Can it ever be stopped?

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