I was away travelling during E3 week this year and thus was only able to follow it secondhand. I’m busy processing my trip (and frankly wishing I was still on it) and getting over yet another horrific summer cold, but here are a few thoughts on the stuff that jumped out at me from what I caught of this year’s expo. As usual, I’m focusing on Bethesda and Nintendo as I’m no longer passionate enough about the industry on the whole to expend the time, space and effort it would take to follow all the other companies.
It was a somewhat quiet year for Bethesda and Nintendo, with not a lot of new announcements and much spotlighting of games that had been announced prior to E3, *leaked* prior to E3 or that had been open secrets that were all but confirmed already. Which is fine by me frankly: After a massively successful launch and a year of doing nothing by skyrocketing in popularity, the Switch has made it a *very* expensive few months for me (at last count the system has *over 700 games* already! I don’t own all of them, but enough that I feel it) and I have other things I need to spend my time and money on other than video games. So, I actually really appreciate the breather. But even so, there was some exciting stuff.
I suppose I should lead with the big news right off the bat, even though none of this is really “news”. The talk of the show was *of course* Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Switch. Indeed, Nintendo were so confident in it being the showstopper they basically didn’t talk about anything else, and bloody Smash took up over a half an hour of Nintendo’s presentation. And, much to my chagrin, they were probably right. That the Switch is getting a Super Smash Bros. should be a surprise to absolutely no-one, especially as it was announced in a Direct back in April. Slightly more interestingly is the notion that Ultimate is going to live up to its name and include basically everyone and everything that has ever been in a Smash Bros. game before, and that this may well be the final game in the series. To this end, the developers have made a point to include fan “requested” (read “demanded”) characters like Daisy and Ridley. So, if you every wanted to play as a space dragon unimaginatively named after a film director who directed the film his series is openly ripping off and who is most famous for being a woman’s primary abuser in a story all about abusing her and triggering her post-traumatic stress disorder, now’s your chance!
If I sound cynical and negative about this game, well, it’s because I am. I’m sure Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be a great game and I do plan to get it at some point, but I am beyond sick of this series and its fandom. I have very fond and tender memories of the original Super Smash Bros.…
E3 this year has been weird for me. At first I wasn’t even going to watch it, resolving to put modern games behind me (except Samurai Warriors) for the foreseeable future, but then the Nintendo Switch started selling like Nintendo stuff does on eBay. So then I was just going to watch Bethesda and Nintendo, and wound up watching Ubisoft and Sony too, the former of which actually did some pretty cool stuff. And yet even so, as I write this, I’m not sure I could point to anything I’ve seen at this year’s E3 that makes me terribly enthusiastic about upcoming releases for the next 18 moths or so, or makes me want to shell out the 300 big ones to get a Nintendo Switch just yet (and “XBOX One X”? Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahaha). We’re not getting much in the way of reveals and announcements, more “here’s a thing we announced last year. We’re still making it. Here’s what it looks like now and when it’ll be out”.
But none of that, weirdly, actually matters, because, in giving us a more understated and intimate show, E3 this year shows the industry in a healthier place creatively then I’ve seen it in I think *decades*.
Even though I watched more then two conferences, I’m still only going to write up Bethesda and Nintendo’s showings, if for no other reason then I didn’t take notes for the others. I’ll mention Microsoft, Sony and Ubisoft at points because they’re relevant to the story of these two houses, which brings me to my first point…
I’m titling this simply “Bethesda” instead of “Bethesda Press Conference” because Bethesda actually somehow managed to show up in just about every other show in addition to their own, and they somewhat annoyingly revealed stuff in places that were not their actual event (I would have been royally pissed at Bethesda had I not also watched the Sony show. I still kind of am a bit, but I’ll get to that). Actually, Nintendo did too: Apparently cameos and cross-promotions are the name of the game now, or maybe that says something about the position these two companies now have within the industry.
But they sure started strong. I really appreciated this candid showcase of interviews with developers and their children talking about why they love making video games and why they find it important, meaningful creative work that makes them feel proud to bring joy to people. Pete Hines spelled it out in his intro, saying that Bethesda makes games for everyone by delivering experiences unlike anything else, tying the whole presentation together with a fun mock-Disneyland theme. That Bethesda went with a Disneyland motif this of all years is just one of those fun little bits of synchronicity that tickles me whenever I notice it, and Pete Hines’ sentiments echo Nintendo’s classic manifesto (hi UESP *waves*), and set the tone for the best of E3 this year.
We first got another look at Bethesda’s virtual reality offerings, VR now being an established platform for many gamers who are not as poor as me.…
QuakeCon is an annual convention held by the Bethesda family of game development studios in Dallas, Texas. Originally created to showcase a massive tournament for the best competitive Quake players, in recent years it’s evolved into a kind of mini-E3 for Bethesda, where they show off new reveals, demos and trailers to closed-door-invite-only audiences in addition to the tournament that’s the centrepiece of the show.
I’ve traditionally not covered QuakeCon, and that’s for a variety of reasons. Primarily of course there’s the fact that it is largely invite-only, and there’s obviously a fat chance I’d ever be invited anywhere by game industry professionals. Also, I tend to focus my game journalism energies, such as they are, on the big E3 show in June. But times are changing, and now it seems a lot of companies like having their own events scattered throughout the year catering to their specific fanbases as opposed to putting all of their eggs in the E3 basket. QuakeCon has become that event for Bethesda, and since Bethesda has become one of the only two companies in the video game industry I actually care about anymore, this year I decided to pay closer attention to what was going on in Dallas. Indeed, Bethesda made no attempt to hide QuakeCon’s central focus at their E3 press conference this year, repeatedly saying they’d have considerably more details to share about their reveals at that show.
(Incidentally, speaking of that other video game company what I give a damn about, just as I was about to go to press it was reported that Pete Hines told reporters that Bethesda is in touch with Nintendo “all the time”, is “well briefed” on what’s going on with their new console, codenamed NX, and that “our philosophy is that we will put our games out on any format that supports the games as we envisage and make them. If the NX fits that from a technical standpoint, and fits the game that a developer in our stable is making, I don’t see why we would not put it out on NX. But it’s too early to say, ‘we’ll definitely be putting games out or not.’ Like with mobile, we want to have the right fit for the right formats”. So that made me exceedingly happy.)
This year’s QuakeCon took place between August 4 and 7, and while there’s no way I was ever flying to Texas, I kept a close eye on my newsfeed and Bethesda’s own blog this past week to keep track of the show’s progress and watching any trailers or other videos released to the public. As is Bethesda’s way, the emphasis was on quality over quantity, making a handful of announcements and showing a smattering of new footage from their current and upcoming games, but spent a lot of time talking about the core design philosophy and ethos that went into them to give us a good idea of a game’s feel and spirit, which I happen to find incredibly commendable.…
Almost every year, I like to digitally “attend” the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, the biggest trade show in the video game industry. Since I started blogging regularly six years ago, I’ve tried to provide readers some written coverage of the show’s numerous press conferences for the benefit of anyone interested in my raw thoughts on the week of product reveals and announcements. This year, I’m pleased to be able to bring my E3 coverage, such as it is, to Eruditorum Press. The following is a part of a series I’m writing on E3 2016, looking at the press conferences and events of three major players in the industry: Bethesda Softworks, Sony Computer Entertainment and Nintendo.
Last year, Bethesda gave its debut press conference at E3. It was a symbolic move indicating that the company, long known for its quality output, ethical business practices and loyal fanbase, had become a major enough player in the industry that it deserved to stand alongside the biggest names in the game like EA, Ubisoft and Microsoft. And though they didn’t actually reveal a ton of new stuff, they revealed enough to keep people talking all throughout the show: Fallout 4 and Fallout Shelter stole the spotlight, while Doom and Dishonored 2 were pleasant surprises. This year was much of the same-Not a whole lot of “new” information per se, but enough (including one bombshell announcement I literally cannot wait to talk about, let alone play) to leave us with a good feeling. Over the past five years Bethesda has established themselves as my absolute favourite non-Nintendo AAA development studio and publishing house (basically meaning the only one I can still even remotely tolerate, though that does undersell them), and they sure didn’t disappoint last night.
First up was Quake Champions. All we got to see was a reveal trailer, but that was enough to get me excited. I’ve always been more of a Quake person than a Doom person (though that’s not to say I’m anything like a master of either) because I prefer to take my first-person shooters as old-fashioned multiplayer arena affairs. Suffice to say I have fond memories of Quake III: Arena, and I’m really happy id Software and Bethesda seem to be trying to bring that scene back by filtering it through e-sports to update it for modern audiences, hopefully without losing what made the original concept great. They pulled off the balance with this year’s new Doom, so I’m confidant they can do it for Quake too. Interviews with the developers after the show seemed to indicate Bethesda/id are taking cues from recent games like Splatoon and Overwatch, where you find a character or class of weapon that fits your preferred playstyle and gain mastery in it, or jump between various classes as you see fit, which I think is a great way to utilize and update Quake’s cast of characters. I just really hope by the time it comes out I’ll have a gaming rig that can actually run it.…