The dust from this year’s E3 is now settling on the planes of the internet, and I managed to talk about the main tidbits from E3 for almost two hours earlier this week in Nerds Assemble (before I lost my voice to a throat infection). But there were several things from the event that I wasn’t, and still aren’t, that happy about.
3. Samey indie games
Indie videogames have barely had a chance to flower in the minds of the general gaming public as a thing they can consider playing. I’m not keen on the way indie games are being handled by MS and Sony. Or rather, I’m not keen on the kinds of indie games they’re chasing and promoting. A lot of the indie games showcased during keynotes all had something in common: it seemed to be a pursuit of games with a certain visual aesthetic over narrative. The stuff that was highlighted all looked very pretty, but Gone Home or Papers, Please they were not.
Entwined was mostly about how it looked and all attempts to say it was about two souls journeying together or whatever sounded like the most ridiculous veneer ever. I’m not sure how joking Debbie Timmins was being over on The Average Gamer when she reviewed the game this week, but I agree with her opening statement:
“Entwined is about sex. Sure, they may claim it’s “a game about two souls who are in love but can’t be together”, as creative director Dominic Robilliard said during Sony’s E3 conference. I’m pretty sure it’s about simultaneous orgasm.”
Meanwhile, if it wasn’t elegant simplicity that was being shown off, it was some 2D side-scrollers. The next game from the creators of Limbo, Inside was true to its predecessor and I was overwhelmed by the number of 2D platformers on show. It was all about gameplay and not narrative.
2. The Assassin’s Creed Unity avatar debacle
This broke out outside of the presentations and press events, but showed just how little mainstream developers think of female players. It was revealed that female avatars for Unity‘s co-op mode had been dropped due to a lack of resources. The excuses that came from both sides as to why this should or shouldn’t be were bordering on ridiculous. From Ubisoft’s James Therein:
“It was on our feature list until not too long ago, but it’s a question of focus and production. So we wanted to make sure we had the best experience for the character. A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation, a lot of costumes [inaudible]. It would have doubled the work on those things. And I mean it’s something the team really wanted, but we had to make a decision… It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality of game development.”
Personally, the fact that they didn’t budget from the beginning for female avatars is what pisses me off. It was a secondary thought for management. The fact that a large number of Assassin’s Creed fans are women seemed to have passed them by.
Meanwhile, this video interview with Matt Boch (Dance Central, Rock Band), while unrelated to the Ubisoft revelations, makes some good points about gender and motion capture and ponders how much of it is just cultural.
1. Alphas and betas to sell games
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t trust unfinished versions of games to be enough to sell them. Or rather, having been involved in The Elder Scrolls Online beta, I decided not to buy a subscription to the MMORPG, because I couldn’t see how they could polish it up enough to make it enjoyable. And I just can’t understand why a) publishers would think alphas or betas are a selling point b) why people would buy a game/subscribe to a game based off of a beta. But the Destiny alpha was something that Sony couldn’t shut-up about during their press conference at E3 and the way they were pushing it sounded like they thought it would make a selling point for the game.
Alphas and betas, especially betas, all feel like people who are likely to be buying the finished game are giving up their free time to be unpaid quality assurance testers. So when brave PS4 owners were given the chance to take part in the Destiny alpha over the past week and Bungie tweeted:
— Bungie (@Bungie) June 16, 2014
I just felt like my “unpaid QA testers” theory was being played out. Are demos any better? It depends on how finished the game segment used is. The last demo I seriously got into was for The Darkness II and that told me what the gameplay was like and didn’t bug out on me.