Having already twittered quite enough about the entire thing today I thought I would break the blog out of semi-retirement for a short babble on some of the things that impressed me most from the first day of E3.
Obviously the big things were the Microsoft and Sony presentations but I don't have a lot to say there that hasn't been said everywhere else already. Sony "won" the traditional battle of E3. Microsoft put on a good show for their console but pretty much every fair criticism of the Xbox One is something Sony is doing the "right" way with Playstation 4. Coupled with smart multimedia deals, pursuing indie developers to get them onboard and some neat exclusive games and if you can only purchase one console the PS4 is the clear choice. All that could change before launch, but Microsoft's pretty deep into their particular hole, so I'm not betting on it.
But what about the games?
There were a few standouts for me, so in no particular order:
- Destiny (Gameplay video) - From Bungie, the guys who made Halo, comes another shooter which I had honestly dismissed prior to E3. The images shown prior could just as easily have been from a Halo title and nobody would have known. Seeing it in motion is a whole different thing. Beautiful lighting, vibrant colours, some interesting AI to fight, literal drop-in multiplayer, a public event (read: boss battles) system and bunches of loot to collect? Very much my cup of tea. (Multi-platform)
- Ryse: Son of Rome (Gameplay video) - Better known for Far Cry and Crysis, Crytek have branched out for an historical action fighter-y thing. The gameplay video shows the player storming a castle as a Roman Centurion, which is a thing I would like to do. The quick time events system may end up ruining this as there was a lot of "Press X to finish him" stuff going on... but it's Rome and sword and such! (Xbox One)
- The Division (Gameplay video) - It's actually "Tom Clancy's" The Division, but who cares. Shortly after the breakdown of society in an open world setting you raid buildings for supplies and... you know, I'm really not sure what the goal is, other than shooting a bunch of things. But it all looks fantastic. The gameplay video has players shooting precise bullet holes through glass and metal on cars, using skills and combined tactics to defeat their enemies and at one point a drone pilot drops in to assist them before buzzing back off to parts unknown.
Those're just three truly new games I saw that really grabbed my interest. There are no doubt more I'll see in the next week that I'll also fancy. Not to mention games I already knew were coming, like Watch Dogs.
But the one I'm most excited about is also the one there's virtually no information on: Star Wars Battlefront, coming from the creators of the Battlefield series of games, DICE. And that's all the information there is on Battlefront.
Please sir, I'd like some more!
The National Rifle Association (NRA) of the United States have released their very own video game as an iOS app. After trying to link video games to various mass shootings in the US this is... a bit of a strange move.
To be fair and in spite of some pundits declaring hypocrisy, NRA: Practice Range is not a violent video game. The only shooting you can do is at painted targets, as at most practice ranges in the real world including those used to train our police and militaries. It's no more violent than a game of darts.
But leaving aside the political situation behind this release, is the game itself any fun?
In short... no. It isn't.
Controlling your weapon is achieved one of two ways, either flailing your phone wildly in front of you with the gyroscopic controls or using a small onscreen joystick and an onscreen trigger button. And no, you can't invert the y-axis on the joystick, if you're used to flight sims.
While both methods of control track your movements with a fair degree of accuracy, moving the crosshair on the screen does require quite a bit of real world movement when using the gyroscopic controls. Use on public transport is not advised.
Unfortunately the accuracy of the controls is offset by the half second delay between tapping the screen to fire and your gun firing.
Perhaps that half second is there to give you time to reflect on your actions?
Three practice ranges are on offer. An indoor range with vaguely humanoid targets that appear and disappear in place, or slide back and forth across the screen at higher difficulty levels. The outdoor range is a field with various holes for targets to pop up through and a skeet shooting range where the discus style clay pigeon flies out from behind your shoulder.
Each range has different weapons available. The indoor range is for handguns, the outdoor for rifles and skeet shooting for shotguns. The game comes with one of each gun category unlocked and additional guns can be purchased for 99c each.
It's unclear how they expect to sell additional guns when the standard weapons sound dull and are animated poorly, on top of there not being anything particularly fun to do with them.
If this app cost any money up front it would be a travesty. As a free app, it is merely a wasted opportunity. Even the gun safety tips, laws and hunting season information is just links to websites. A dorky little gun trivia quiz could have made that section a bit of fun, at least.
Also, it crashes a lot. So even if you somehow enjoy the gameplay you'll keep getting interrupted by it breaking.
An all round awful waste of time.
To most people what KSI (real name, Olajide Olatunji) was shown doing at the Eurogamer Expo was clearly out of line. Asking why a woman is not presently engaged in self-pleasure in the middle of an exhibition hall is beyond the pale, not to mention the way he decided to address the first lady shown in the clip.
There's been a lot of back and forth over whether it was or wasn't assault, whether the women were in on the gag and if there was anything wrong with his behaviour in the first place.
One look at the video has been enough for most people. Many can't even finish watching, the behaviour is so disgusting. Two of the women involved have said they were not prepared for his line of questioning, though the one who was "motorboated" gave her consent at the time and has since said she has no issue with KSI. The woman referred to as "Massive Tits" has since accepted KSI's apology for any offence caused. It was clearly not planned prior to the camera being switched on. The question of whether it was or wasn't assault would ultimately be up to the courts, if anyone chose to press charges - which seems unlikely.
What has ruffled a lot of fan-feathers is the publication of the article which originally drew attention to the video. Some KSI fans feel that the women themselves are the only ones with the right to complain about their treatment and that it's not the media's place to object.
Well, that's just rubbish. It is absolutely the media's place to shine a light in the dark corners of society and it always has been.
Further, it's the responsibility of the community to stand up and say that this behaviour is not okay. KSI has a quarter of a million followers on Twitter and who knows how many others via other sources. Whether he sees himself as influential or a role model of sorts, he is one. A lot of people will watch that video and think what he is doing is just harmless fun. And, if he had gotten away without punishment, they may have tried to emulate him.
Fortunately since then the Eurogamer Expo has banned him from future shows. I would imagine shows run by other companies will be keeping an eye on him, too. Or perhaps that is wishful thinking.
In any case, fans have leapt to his defense on websites and Twitter, attacking anyone daring to express dismay or disgust. Julie Horup merely collated some of the responses on her blog and received a bunch of angry tweets in return.
I tweeted about it once - once! - and managed to get someone on my case. Admittedly, I laughed as they told me to get a life after they'd clearly gone searching for someone to harass... :)
I can only imagine the torrent of hatemail Wesley Copeland and Ian Miles Cheong must have received for writing and publishing the original article.
And all because they dared to suggest people shouldn't be disgustingly disrespectful to others.
We need more of this, not less. The more people avoid the issues because it's "not their problem," the longer this sort of thing will continue. Yes, it's often uncomfortable challenging such entrenched behaviour, particularly from such well known figures.
Yet if nobody is holding them accountable, why would they ever stop doing it?
Not every game leaves much room for exploration and even those that let you wander off the beaten path don't always have anything to see when you get there.
Guild Wars 2 has things to see and do in obscure locations, but even if it didn't, I think I'd still waste a bunch of my time exploring...
Lots of games have high score boards. It's been a staple of gaming practically since gaming was invented. Old arcade machines let you choose three letters to digitally scratch on the board beside your score and in the modern era a lot of score based games upload your result to the internet, assuring virtual immortality.
And that's neat.
But Zombie Driver stores a player's Slaughter-mode high scores on the internet via Steam. So you can see exactly how well your friends have done on any given map and set yourself a target.
The bit I really like? While playing the game your next highest scoring friend has their name in the upper right corner of the screen, alongside how many more points you need to surpass them.
It's such a small thing to include and many may never even know it's there. But I like it.
Zombie Driver is just $10 on Steam, if running over zombies while competing against your friends is stuff you like.
When given a choice between a male and female when creating and customising a new avatar for a game, more often than not I'll choose a female. My primary alter ego in most MMOs is a redheaded, ponytailed lady, when customisation options allow.
This isn't a gender identity issue, I don't think I'm a woman trapped inside the body of a manchild. And it isn't the oft-repeated reason of other male gamers - if you're going to stare at an arse for hundreds of hours it may as well be a ladybum. Nor do I ever pretend I am a lady in real life, mostly because the people who ask such things are only asking because they're sleazebags.
No, the reason I do it is because when it comes to customising a look and choosing an outfit and all the rest of it, it's a lot more fun doing so for a woman than it is a man. In part because it's not something I could do ordinarily, where I could dress a bloke up however I wanted, whenever I wanted, because I am a bloke.
But also because most games offer a more interesting set of options for female avatars. Sometimes that just means more "revealing" clothing or a slider for boob size, but not always.
I know it seems a little silly, especially in games where designing an image for a character is lost on most due to combat oriented gameplay being at the forefront.
But what it comes down to is that this:
Is much more interesting to me than this:
Maybe it is an issue that exists more in my mind than in reality. Most games do offer plenty of options when creating male characters and have heaps of clothing/armour to choose from. Yet most of the time I get sick of trying to create a guy I'm happy with and start the creation process over as a chick.
I really wanted to post some more pictures of past female characters but it turns out that, even when I do remember to take screenshots, I don't have any sort of plan to keep track of the resulting files.
Since I have a blog, I might start taking a nice picture or two of my character/s when I inevitably play more games. Maybe I'll include a little bit about whatever the game is, what that character's goals are... maybe I'll just throw a picture up.
Maybe I'll forget altogether and this will be the last entry on the subject.
If you've played Star Wars Galaxies in the past couple of years you could be forgiven - barely - for thinking the game is nothing but a World of Warcraft style MMO when it comes to selecting and playing a class in that galaxy far, far away. It hasn't always been so.
What you've experienced is what Sony Online Entertainment dubbed the "New Game Experience", commonly abbreviated as the NGE, introduced in 2005 in a misguided attempt to recapture player interest in the game.
But what came before the NGE? How did players develop their characters before the dark times?
Short answer: Yes. If a multiplayer tower defense game with third person action RPG trappings sounds interesting, Dungeon Defenders is that and you should buy it.
Long answer: For some reason I occasionally get people asking me if Game X is any good, especially if I have the Steam Community logged in while playing something. I don't know why anyone would ask me, I play all sorts of random crap!
But never have so many people asked after Dungeon Defenders. There's been a few questions on Twitter and a few via Steam Chat and rather than answer any more individually... BLOG POST.
The original Dungeon Siege was released way back in 2002, with Dungeon Siege II following in 2005. With no sign of a sequel for many years and the original creators, Gas Powered Games, busy developing a number of other titles it didn't seem like a third in the series would ever eventuate. Having been a fan of the series since the original was announced, this was almost as sad to me as the long delay between Diablo II and III.
But at long last Dungeon Siege III (DS3) was unleashed upon the world this year. It wasn't developed by Gas Powered Games, it wasn't going to be as party-based as the previous two titles, the skill system wasn't going to be freeform anymore and it wasn't going to be a PC exclusive - perhaps the most egregious of all the changes, in some circles. Obsidian Entertainment have brought a lot of changes to the formula for their version of Dungeon Siege.
Fortunately, some things never change.
Taking a leaf out of the book of a variety of MMO developers, Valve have stealthily added something to Team Fortress 2, alongside the other announced features that came with the Uber Update.
For a while now the game has had "Unusual" hats available. Obtainable only through opening mysterious crates - using a key that costs $2.49 - these Unusual hats are blessed with cosmetic effects, such as confetti falling from the brim, a swirling holographic Team Fortress logo or unearthly glows in a variety of colours, among many other neat effects.
But the chances of finding one of those Unusual hats has always been quite low, with the chance of a regular version of a hat not being much better. Couple that with a general reluctance of players to spend even more money on a game they've already paid for and the mysterious crates are not as enticing as they once were.
And so now mysterious crates can be unlocked to reveal... "Strange" Weapons.
Fortunately these aren't dolled up with particle effects, as are their Unusual Hat cousins.
Instead, the "Strange" version of any given weapon looks and performs identically to the regular version but with the addition of a Kill Counter in the item information. Each time you kill an enemy player with that weapon the counter will increment by one. As the count reaches certain predetermined numbers the weapon will update its name.
So you may start out with a "Strange Shotgun" and once you've recorded 10 kills with the gun it will update to a "Unremarkable Shotgun". Score 25 kills in total and it will become a "Scarcely Lethal Shotgun" and so on up the ranks.
It's a completely cosmetic change - the effectiveness of the weapon never changes, nor do any bonuses or maluses attached to the weapon. But as you attain each milestone with a weapon it will announce the update to the entire server. Which is a bit of extra fun.
The benefits here for Valve are fairly obvious - people will need to buy keys to unlock the crates to get more base level Strange Weapons. More keys sold means more money for Valve!
And by having the items announce their milestones on the server they naturally spark conversations between players wondering how they, too, can have an item like that. Increasing the chance people will go ahead and buy a key.
The players of Team Fortress 2 benefit from this a little less obviously. Assuming you discount the "cool factor" of a fun new mechanic in the game.
First and foremost, people are going to have a reason to use weapons they may not ordinarily choose. The first Strange Weapon I found was a Soldier's "Direct Hit" rocket launcher, my least favourite of his weapons because I am simply terrible at using it.
But because I could "level up" that launcher, I was giving it another chance. And I even found myself coming to like it... from time to time.
People who do not ordinarily play Scout might choose to give it a shot when they unlock a crate and find a Strange Scattergun inside, or someone might swap to Pyro when the team needs one, just so they can try that Strange Backburner they just uncrated.
Someone might use the Heavy's Brass Beast for a reason other than not knowing any better.
Secondly, and a little less obviously, if Valve sell more items, be they keys or hats or anything else, Valve are obviously going to be motivated to create more new items for players to collect and kill each other with.
And it's that new stream of revenue from an old game that has made things like the Uber Update possible. Very few FPS titles have such a strong following this long after initial release and Valve's continued support has played a large part in Team Fortress 2's continued success.
So when you see someone's Strange Weapon update come up on the screen you can see it as "another way Valve is ruining the game" or even "another cash grab by Valve" but in the end the reason you're still playing the game is because Valve have continued to support it so well.
So just shut up and play the game. It's supposed to be fun, remember? :-)