2,987E3’s almost upon us, so to get in the mood the Games Team assembled for a roundtable discussion. Join Emmanuel Brown (EB), Mark Botwright (MB), Ste Carter (SC), Niall Gill (NG), Leon Matthews (LM) and James Thomas (JT) as they chat about what the biggest show in the gaming calendar may have to offer.
Q - Amid all the leaks and quashed rumours it’s easy to get jaded, but who's still excited, and what do you hope to see at this year's E3?
EB: Cautiously optimistic is how I'd probably describe my feelings towards E3. I'd love there to be a slew of new IP announcements but I just can't see it happening. Judge's week feedback has been a bit tepid from all sides, so it's either going to be a bit of an underwhelming show or else everybody has decided to keep their major announcements 100% for the stage this year, which will be nice and refreshing. Fallout 4 anybody?
SC: In theory this year's E3 could be the best we've had for a long time and both consoles could really come into their own and finally get some killer games they deserve. I've been excited about it for a while now and being drip-fed some early news already has me wondering what we can expect come the time.
JT: If you'd have asked me a month ago if I was excited about this year's E3 you'd have probably got an apathetic grunt. With last year's reveal of new hardware I had high hopes that this June's jaunt to LA would give us the justification for dropping such large piles of cash on the new machines, but with the rumours being about known quantities such as Halo and Uncharted I couldn't really go past “interested.” With all the bizarre pre-E3 announcements though that's completely changed.
LM: I'm trying to manage my own expectations, it sure is promising that MS have been getting lots of news out beforehand, but I still don't have a great deal of faith in them to deliver, as much of a good job as they have been doing with "responding to feedback" since launch, I still think that what they may consider to be a megaton at E3 might not be the same thing that we are envisioning.
JT: Microsoft have basically dropped a whole E3 press conference in press releases over the last few weeks. From the bombshell that they were unbundling Kinect, the price drop, and the Halo announcement you have to wonder what they're clearing the decks for. Up until the 343 announcement I thought it meant a press conference of nothing but games games games but when they dropped the Halo news even that started to baffle me. They must have something big up their sleeve to let a fan favourite slip our early.
Q- For a show about games, this is after all the battleground for consoles to show off their wares. What can we expect on that front?
JT: The heavy rumours that Nintendo are going to show off new hardware is a huge draw. With Mario Kart shipping this month it doesn't make any sense for them to show off a new platform so I can only imagine that it's either the 3DS successor or, in a similar move to the big M, they're going to yoink the gamepad from the Wii U and slash the price to start moving units. Though even typing that it seems far fetched so I doubt that's the case. Could it be a return of the vitality sensor?
MB: It could be a return for the Virtual Boy! Maybe not, but I'm really starting to get my hopes up that this year will finally see VR step out of the sub-culture of PC geekyness (no offence Niall) of prototypes, dev kits and demos and finally show something that demonstrates it can actually be a hit with the masses. The weird thing is, if Microsoft had something up their sleeves on the VR front, it could help shift Kinects as a peripheral if it were used for tracking.
SC: Not too bothered about hardware or VR. I'm not entirely sure that VR will be priced sensibly or bring anything decent in the long term; I see it as the next motion control.
EB: Regarding Nintendo, I absolutely have zero idea what to expect. Maybe a successor to the 3DS? It's probably too early for that, right? A successor for the Wii U? No chance. Wii U with a price drop, new form factor and better app support? Likely. Whatever they announce will have to be spectacular.
LM: I hadn't heard the Nintendo rumours of new hardware, it would be brilliant if they slashed the price and dropped the pad, I've not bought a NIntendo console for years but at say £149-ish even I might be tempted. I'm intrigued as to how Sony plays it this year, are they in cruise mode at the top? Can they afford to be aggressive with exclusives? Will we get more Microsoft rib nudging throughout the conference? Just what games do they have lined up for 2014? Im still waiting for a reason to buy the console, I can see myself with one as soon as there are some games calling me to the platform, the question is will that be this year or next?
EB: Given the major first and second-party franchise releases are likely at least another year away, I'd hope that both MS and Sony concentrate on evolving both systems and incorporating interesting new features. New firmware announcements would be lovely for both, and something to stir up the pot a bit. Something new on a system level that nobody sees coming. I suspect we'll have more than a few AAA offerings from the usual third-party publishers to prop things up in 2014, so I think they need to capitalise on making their console functionality the very best it can be. Break the paradigm a bit in doing so, and I'll be a happy chappy.
Q - What about the oft-forgotten competitor in the background of all this console chest puffing, the PC?
NG: There's only one thing I'd ask from E3 and here it is: Gabe Newell hits the stage to raucous applause. On the screen behind him there's the Steam Front Page. It's overflowing with terrible games and stagnant Early Access titles that are all £15 each, the crowd gasps in sheer terror at the reality they've all overlooked. To Gabe's right, ten shy, skinny twenty-something guys shuffle on to the stage, staring at the ground. Gabe lifts the microphone to his mouth and utters seven beautiful words: "please welcome Steam's new quality assurance team." The crowd explodes into hysterics as Earth 2066, Day One: Garry's Incident, Air Control, WarZ and Guise of the Wolf disintegrate in front of them. Countless other awful, awful titles follow and soon Steam is clean again. No longer bloated by the mediocrity of money-grabbing developers lazily using Source for half an hour and releasing their 'game' to the poor, unsuspecting public.
EB: I'm with Niall in hoping Steam gets a few headline updates to their store and approval procedures, but I'd go one further in hoping they finally redesign the Steam client for PC. It was overdue about five years ago, and as much as I love Steam for the most part, they could really do with freshening up a little rather than continuing to lump new functionality on top of that ancient UI.
NG: Oh yeah, also a refund policy from Steam too, please. If Origin can do it I don't know why you can't, Valve.
Q - How about more general predictions of the show as a whole?
LM: I think it's all going to be quite understated, everyone is assuming Microsoft has some sort of Megaton up their sleeve especially since so much has already been released before the show, Sunset Overdrive game play, Quantum Break is at Gamescom and they just announced Forza Horizon 2, what else can there be. If they were smart in the same breath that they officially launch the Kinect-less Xbox they would offer some sort of ambassador program like Nintendo for the early adopters, not because I think we deserve it but because they need to try and win back a few hearts after the past 12 months.
SC: Nintendo will try and make a big deal out the same old games and franchises they have done for the past 1000 years. That or they'll announce something completely bizarre again like being able to play your Wii U with your GameCube controller (true innovation). Don't expect new hardware from them yet...
NG: I predict 'Gameplay' trailers for new games will show them rendered with unbelievable fidelity. The hype train rolls out claiming 'the next gen is here!' This'll either happen on the new Uncharted, the new Halo or another IP. Fast forward a year or more and the game releases with blurry textures and muddy lighting. Arguments break out once again whether or not these E3 trailers should be representative of the actual product or simple advertising platforms to solicit unwarranted pre-orders.
MB: I foresee the continuation of the trend of merging online and single player experiences. Whether it's full on Dark Souls game invasion or a bolted on Titanfall mini-story, the idea of entirely splitting the two sides of game design seems to be viewed as increasingly dated. Expect lots of cringeworthy phrases like "your buddy can jump into your game" whilst someone hamfistedly demonstrates and the internet wonders if it's in real time.
Q - Now it's down to the nitty-gritty, what do we expect and want on the games front?
LM: Outside of the platform holders I'm really hoping that this E3 shows signs of a rich promising future, not just upscaled versions of last generation games, not old franchises with high numbered sequels, I want new IP with new ideas and new concepts for a new generation, I don't expect them to arrive in force this year but I at least need proof of life that this wont just be generation 7.5
JT: Nintendo will will unveil at least one port of a classic game to the Wii U and/or 3DS. I'd stick my neck out and say Majora's Mask. At best we might get a new Metroid but don't expect anything nearing a new IP.
SC: In terms of things I'm expecting to see, we're bound to get more info on the new Call of Duty, I want to see some more actual gameplay footage of The Order (that looks phenomenal) and there has to be something from from Bethesda. Despite them saying otherwise, it's a long time since Skyrim and I don't know how much longer I can go without Fallout news! Rockstar have to have something up their sleeves too, whether it's GTAV on next-gen or a new title altogether. If it's Red Dead Redemption 2 I think I might explode.
NG: I think there'll be fewer 'one console' exclusives. What I mean by that is more PS4 and PC or Xbox One and PC. Hopefully now that PC has a louder voice and larger sales we'll see more games hitting the PC that wouldn't have 5 years ago. I'm looking at you, potential release of Red Dead 2.
EB: Fallout 4. Has to be there, right? Bethesda will have to hit big, give folks a decently lengthy trailer and then confirm an early 2015 date; which will then be pushed back to summer 2015; which will then become Christmas 2015. It'll launch in March 2016 horrendously crippled on one system and full of bugs on the other. People will love it. 10/10. Microsoft timed-exclusive DLC.
LM: Fallout returns, the rapture will unite the the gaming factions while ushering in a new era of harmony, understanding and critical hits! #WARUNITES
MB: I reckon this year The Last Guardian will appear somehow. I doubt it'll be a proper trailer, let alone full gameplay footage, but more akin to a final reveal shot at the end, designed to reassure people that it still exists before it becomes the next Shenmue III. I predict this each year, more in hope than expectation, but this time I've got a good feeling!
JT: What I really want is new IPs but I think the theme of this year will be countless sequels from the big publishers. If there are any new triple-A franchises announced I'll be surprised.
SC: If I see some Uncharted footage, confirmation Arkham Knight is still coming this year with actual footage from The Order: 1886 and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor then I'll be more than happy.
EB: Mass Effect: Something New. Given how far along Bioware supposedly is in the new ME game, I figure this has to be the time to reveal something big. I suspect it'll be set prior to the events of Mass Effect 1 and introduce an all-new set of protagonists along with a few cameos from the likes of Tali, Liara, etc. It'll focus primarily on the human struggle to integrate into the galactic council. It will be an underwhelming reveal to everybody except me. I'll watch the trailer approximately 73 times.
LM: OMG a Garrus and Thane buddy cop game set on the citadel would literally melt my mind!
EB: They could call it True Galactic Detective.
You heard us Bioware, make it so.
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