At this time of year it's customary for the videogame press to put together their predictions for the looming Electronic Entertainment Expo. What new games might be announced? What franchises might extend into new platforms? Who might "win"? And what of any of this can we say without breaching the NDAs for the things we already know?
Rock, Paper, Shotgun is videogame press, so we took some time today to make our own predictions. At least two of the entries count as fan fiction and one of them is a Twine game, but we think there's a very real chance that all of what we said will come true with the fullness of time. Enjoy.
I rarely confound expectations, and as such I'm sure you'll experience no surprise to hear me say that my fondest E3 wish is for an announcement of an XCOM sequel. I've not been privy to any exciting graphs or numbers, but it does seem to me that the game did rather well, and hopefully that's going to increase publisher/developer confidence about what's commercially viable.
By which I mean, I'd be extremely surprised if a follow-up isn't in the works, and I desperately hope they feel they can push it further than the excellent but somewhat over-streamlined XCOM. I hope they're looking at The Long War mod and thinking 'oh yeah, we could do stuff like that without actually ripping away what we want our game to be.' I hope they're looking at the grand, if somewhat foiled, ambition of X-COM Apocalypse and taking cues from the living city concept as a way to flesh out the base and funding aspect of XCOM.
I also secretly (well, not any more) hope that they're doing Terror From The Deep. Under the sea is a such a fabulously strange and sinister setting, and I'd love to see an XCOM/X-COM take a proper pass at it, rather than the mere graphical switch of the original TFTD.
Other things I'd like to see out of E3 - pretending for a minute that I care about any other games - include miscellany such as:
a) a shock PC release of The Last of Us
b) Assassin's Creed Unity to reveal that Ubi have definitely, finally, absolutely got the hang of improving their series and we're not looking at another AssCreed 1, Revelations or III cludge-o-disaster. IV took the series off in a much-needed new direction and relaxed the dour meta-plot at last - I want to see it doing more of that, not III's death-by-feature-creep.
c) C'mon, 2D Boy. Please, c'mon.
d) Commander & Conquer V: The Last One Was Just A Weird Dream And Please Ignore It, Here's A Classic And Spectacular Nod vs GDI Argy-Bargy For You With None Of That Aliens Bollocks, We're Sorry OK.
e) A Mass Effect-style guns'n'conversation cosmic RPG based upon the current, genuinely brilliant and not-just-for-toy-robot-gonks comic Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye. Robo-biff, robo-neurosis and robo-love during an almost certainly doomed galactic quest: it's a perfect fit.
f) About time we saw more of PC 2, no?
So instead of doing a typical E3 predictions write-up, I decided to do a quick Twine game. It's a conversation with myself that takes place in a future E3 presser and involves time traveling Twitter. So it's a prediction. Kinda!
Word of warning: while the game itself is very linear, the storytelling is a bit obtuse. Pay attention to the grammar styles. That'll tell you who's talking.
So right then, here's my "prediction" "game." Hope you don't hate it.
The first faces of the next generation may already have made their debuts in society at the opening of the season, but the traditional É 3 cotillion’s ball, held by our American friends, is a chance for charming débutantes to show themselves to a different Society, one that drinks Dew out of champagne flutes and lurches from buffet to bar with a sack of brightly coloured ‘swag’.
With its high bar for entry and emphasis on having the right name and face, É 3 isn’t the place for independent thought or manner. It would be wonderful to see the likes of Harvey Smith, Davey Wreden, Lucas Pope and Anna Anthropy mixing with the dull old things, but the glitz and the glamour don’t leave a great deal of room for the kind of thoughtful talks or shocking announcements that might take place at a quieter gathering.
Here, then, is the Rock, Paper, Socialite preview of the grandest ball of them all.
As is now expected, Lord Vernon G Microsoft will no doubt spend a great deal of time extolling the charms of his adopted son, John McMastersonchief. Still a bachelor after all these years, the playboy billionaire is likely to have a shiny new waistcoat (don’t be surprised if he retains the dashing green trim that has made him a fashion icon) but precisely fuck all of any interest to say.
As one anonymous society insider put it, “McMastersonchief, darling? He’s relevant because he’s relevant, like all of these terrible oiks who are famous simply because they’re famous. Yah? There just aren’t enough bachelors to go around these days so he’ll always get attention from a certain crowd but everyone knows the best party he ever threw was the Orbital Drop gala a few summers back, and he didn’t even show up!”
Following a recent violent brush with the paparazzi (if a broken jaw and court-mandated anger management can be described as a ‘brush’), Lord Vernon has instituted a strict ‘No Cameras’ policy whenever his family are on the dancefloor. Many members of the press failed to care about the stipulation when the lovely Miss Quantum - daughter of power couple Maximillian Payne and Alan Wake – announced that she wouldn’t be gracing the event with her presence, requiring ‘another twelve months or so’ to find the right gown.
"Tony ‘Sony’ Soprony is the big man on campus these days. Literally. The retired former governor of Wipeout, New Jersey showed off his figure-hugging new trousers at the recent inaugural Project Morpheus techno rave. He claims ‘good living and well-deserved lazy days’ are responsible for his new look, but if Vernon and the rest of the Microsoft clan pull off a surprise by unveiling an elegant and previously unknown niece from some quiet corner of Europe, Tony might be dieting on enough humble pie to choke a Brontosaurus.
“I gots my Project Beast over in this corner,” Tony gestured toward an area of the press room that is definitely not a corner. “That’s one of these, whatchamacallits, a Souls game, huh? Eh? Heh! But youse didn’t hear that from me, you hear me?” His rings caught the light, like tiny metallic belts strapped around swollen Frankfurters. “Then you got your Driveclub, with the cars and the racing, and maybe some of that Destiny.”"
Some joker at the back of the press pack muttered about The Last Guardian. “You got some cheek, chump. You got some cheek. I ain’t never heard of it. I ain’t never spoken about it. Fugeddaboutit. I said fuged.” Your own correspondent wasn’t the only person in the room to notice the hint of tears in those gimlet eyes.
“But, hey, hey! What about this little fella?” Reaching under the table, Tony retrieved Billy Buttons, the mischievous hound that accompanies him at all times. “We’ve been inseparable since the little barker dropped a load on Vernon’s lap back in ’07. Good times. He’s been a little off colour recently after diggin’ into daddy’s fungus patch, no euphemism intended, but he might have a thing or two to say at the ball.”
Billy Buttons has never been known to talk.
Perhaps you’re hoping to see the latest princesses from the great Wii estate? Rumours that show-stealer Bayonetta will be strutting provocatively across the dance floor are as yet unconfirmed and although another showing from Zelda wouldn’t be a surprise, she’ll need to do more than wear an old dress with some new stitching. Patchwork, sweetie, we call that patchwork.
All attempts to contact the Big N were fruitless but a letter from the venerable family did arrive this morning.
“Former master of ceremonies Jimmy Nintendo will be operating the Dodge ‘Em stall and Kong Memorial Coconut Shy out back. ‘The kids love them dodge ‘ems, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Hop on board the gravy train and hope it don’t crash too hard. Gee whizz.’”
So says the press release, written in biro on a torn sheet from a Pukka Pad.
Of course, away from the bright lights and even brighter dental work, there are other rooms, and other characters, drawn like clumsy moths to the vicinity of the flame. They dance to the beat of different drums, unable to compete with the Dubstep Waltz. We're here for the red carpet and the showpiece. The rest might as well be silence."
The one announcement I wanted out of E3 was Windows support for Xbox One controllers. As this came yesterday, I consider myself the true 'winner' of E3. Great E3, thanks everyone. See you next year. But if E3 is to go ahead regardless, I'd quite like to see a cinematic trailer for the next Deus Ex. I often enjoy looking at things which are set in the future and contain neon lighting, and I imagine such a trailer would offer both. In fact, I'd like to see more smoky streets and neon lighting in general. Clearing up whatever's going on with Prey 2 would be nice, for similar reasons. (Who knows what the heck is going on with these thoroughly wacky documents that are doing the rounds lately, supposedly leaked from an Arkane reboot of Prey 2.)
On that note, there are a few other announcements I'd like simply because they'd make my job easier. I'd like for Sega to finally reveal Alien: Isolation's combat, so we can stop pretending that it's all about hiding from one single alien. It's not. We know it has weapons. Show us the androids or aliens or clones or space marines we'll be fighting and let's get this charade over with.
I'd also be awfully grateful if Microsoft could say exactly what's going on with Games for Windows - Live. It seems unlikely that a number of developers would just happen to put the time and effort into stripping GFWL out of their games if all were peachy, especially following a rescinded announcement that the service would shut down. Something's afoot and I'm so bored of this.
Most of all, though, I'd like to see some signs that we're exiting this extended period of muted palletes and dull wastelands. Let's have more colours please, E3.
E3 isn't for us and it never has been. The things I want I already know I can't have. But the dream is the same every year.
Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have their pre-conference conferences. EA and Ubisoft have theirs. Then when all is done, I want the PC to have its own. I want Valve and Riot and Blizzard and GOG and Wargaming and CCP and Nvidia and a hundred indie developers to all team up, rent a hall, and throw a pointlessly extravagant show where they announce a bunch of games.
It would be a bizarro-world version of the rest of the conference, with all the same production values. Soft focus documentary footage of designers talking about their in-development games, but with the likes of Christine Love and Brendon Chung in place of the usually coiffed marketing executives. The big names would be there too, on equal footing with the smaller indies. SOE would show off H1Z1, then David Pittman would show off Neon Struct: Die Augen der Welt. CD Projekt Red would show a new section of The Witcher 3, then the developers of Rain World would show off Rain World.
The whole event would be sixty hours long, the doors locked so no one could escape. Six hours alone would be devoted solely to Skyrim mods. Day two would begin with an elaborately choreographed breakdance fight between Mark Rein and Cevat Yerli. Every few hours, Peter Molyneux would fly above the crowd on Santa's sleigh, throwing gift-wrapped presents to everyone below. The boxes would be empty.
Then, when all seemed finally finished - when the staffs of Gamespot and IGN had started eating each other, when a barter economy had been founded based around free USB sticks with press assets on them - Gabe Newell would step out on stage. The rabble in the audience would briefly stop and fall silent.
Gabe wouldn't say anything. He'd simply stand there. A minute would pass, then two, and then a button attached to a podium would be wheeled out in front of him by previously unseen lackeys. He'd raise his arm high into the air and then slam it down onto the button. Screens behind would start to flash, so bright and quickly it would take a moment for anyone to read the words they were displaying.
"HALF-LIFE 3 IS OUT NOW."
No trailer, no hype, no more waiting: just instantly available to buy and play via Steam at that very moment. Mad with hunger, thirst and the need to bathe, the assembled press and unfortunate onlookers would start to frenzy. Hugging, crying, screaming, fighting for no reason.
When the rabble again started to die down, a few people would notice that Gabe hadn't moved. He's still up on stage, still standing in place, still without having spoken. Only now there's a second button in front of him attached to a separate podium no one noticed being wheeled on. Gabe's hand goes up, Gabe's hand smashes down.
"HALF-LIFE 4 IS OUT NOW."
The screens are flashing again, and a few people start to cheer and clap. Some people look pretty confused, but they go with it. Hey, it's great.
Meanwhile, six more buttons are wheeled out on stage. One by one, Gabe hits them. HALF-LIFES 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 AND 10 ARE OUT NOW. Some people in the crowd are laughing, but there's a wave of real fear spreading across the group. More buttons keep being wheeled out. They now line the stage, and Gabe is running down the rows slamming them one by one. When he finally reaches the last button he stops.
He turns towards the audience and opens his mouth as if to finally speak, but his lips stretch beyond their natural limit, his jaw pops off with an audible snap, and his beard ignites into flames. Games start flying out of his mouth into the audience. Tens of games, hundreds of games, thousands of games. Some are more Half-Life sequels, but there's others that are train simulators and hidden-object games, games about walking around and games about shooting men, games about racing cars and games about breeding horses. People are screaming, running for cover.
A booming voice resonates across the room, coming from everywhere and nowhere. It screams.
YOU DON'T NEED E3. YOU ALREADY HAVE SO MANY WONDERFUL GAMES TO EXPLORE.
No one escapes.