Tag Archives: e3

Kudos to Nintendo’s E3 Booth Team

Yahoo’s Ben Silverman and host Jeff Cannata on the DLC podcast:

Ben Silverman: I think the problem wasn’t that there were fans there, I just think that no one was prepared for this. The management of the [Los Angeles Convention Center] didn’t route people in ways that made sense. It was just like everyone go and charge through these gigantic halls. The booths weren’t set up to handle that crush of fans.

On the first night — Tuesday night — Nintendo furiously reorganized their booth so that Wednesday and Thursday it would make more sense.

Jeff Cannata: And kudos to them because they did a great job. Tuesday it was literally just a sea of people at the Nintendo booth. It was unmanageable, completely. And kudos to them for staying up late that night and figuring it out. They had structure that really worked for the rest of the show. I mean, it was a six hour line — I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy — but it still at least allowed movement through their booth.

My friend and I took note of Nintendo’s queue management restructure on Wednesday as well. It was very cool to see. However, the lines for Super Mario Odyssey remained completely insane, but at least there were lines.

I mentioned that my friend and I lucked out in playing Super Mario Odyssey. Wednesday morning, after being let into the LACC, we beelined it for Super Mario Odyssey, but were discouraged to find that the line was already three hours long. A Nintendo booth actor/temp — dressed in a New Donk City themed suit and fedora no less — whispered “a secret” that the attendees sitting on a bench behind us with Switches in handheld mode were actually partaking in the demo. To a passerby, they looked like attendees playing on their own consoles. We were none the wiser until the fedora-clad “Donkian” gave us the coat full of contraband treatment. (I don’t think he was in character, but it fit the bill.) We immediately formed a line next to the bench, sparking another lengthy queue.

In all fairness, the actor/temp should have informed those waiting in the longer line that the Switches on the bench were demo units as well, long before my friend and I arrived. On the flip side, the lengthy Super Mario Odyssey line was a for a docked Switch with headphones — the full console experience. The bench Switches were portable mode only and did not feature audio, one of my favorite elements of Mario games.

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E3 2017

E3 debuted in 1995 — 22 years ago. This year, for the first time ever, the Entertainment Software Association welcomed the public to the expo. As a follower of E3 since age 9, I was overjoyed to have nabbed one of the 15,000 publicly released tickets.

The Event

The days leading up to the event were spent streaming presentations from Microsoft, Bethesda, EA, and Sony. Nintendo’s event took place while I was in the air, so I dove headfirst into the tidy 25 minute Nintendo Spotlight upon touchdown. I’d missed Ubisoft‘s presentation, but felt fairly caught up after scanning headlines during the cab ride from LAX to the Los Angeles Convention Center. I was ready for E3.

As expected, the entry lines snaked around the building. I had braced myself for standing in lines for three days straight. In the meantime, I took to booking appointments for the Sony booths via the Experience PlayStation app. I attempted to sign into the app with my PSN credentials only to find myself in an “incorrect password” loop bug, identifying storefronts and cars for CAPTCHA for upwards of 30 minutes. (Mind you, the likely “slammed by tens of thousands of E3 participants” LTE reception was poor. This did not bode well for my battery.) I could have signed in as a guest, but was hoping for a bit of PSN love if signed in. After several failed attempts, my password was finally reset, I successfully signed into the app, and was able to grab one of the remaining theater demo slots for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. All other demos and theater slots were booked. Try again at 2pm.

Our entry line eventually moved into the Convention Center’s south hall where buzz was abound the cacophony of video game themed booths. Final Fantasy. Capcom vs. Marvel. Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Massive projections. Lighting flurries. Dragons. Cram over-the-top Disneyland aesthetics into an overcrowded casino and you have E3. Entering the gates of the video game holy land seemed everything I’d hoped it’d be.

Then we looked for games to play. And looked. And looked. And looked. The massive crowds had overtaken all available consoles for the next handful of hours. All lines were quickly capped. Luck being our only chance to play anything, it quickly became apparent that a three day pass for a single price was less of a steal as it was a requirement to actually feel like you were able to participate in what E3 had to offer. It would certainly take at least three days of waiting in lines for an attendee to play your top five choices of E3.

Clinging to hope that the crowds would thin out over the next two days, my friends and I took to wandering, stargazing, and stabbing our phones for appointment times at the Sony booth. Splitting up and sharing our experiences proved to be the best strategy. Nintendo’s construction of Super Mario Odyssey‘s New Donk City was the star of the show. IGN’s production crew and round the clock coverage was captivating. A plethora of fighting game competitions littered both halls. (I was transfixed watching Injustice 2 fighter Jen annihilate nearly every competitor that showed up.) Ubisoft made their presence known with multiple massive projections, live demos from development teams, and plenty of Just Dance 2018 performances. (Any tips for getting Hyuna’s Bubble Pop out of one’s head?)

While it was nice to see and play highly anticipated games ahead of release, the real magic of E3 2017 were the extravagant booths, passionate publisher/developer staff, wandering games media personnel, and ecstatic fans. The lines were hellish and I really wish I’d been able to play more. It was an exhaustive, discouraging experience that could have been more conducive to consumers with better line management (Sony’s mediocre app was the best experience and even that was painful), more live demos rather than hands-on areas with larger theaters, co-op or multiplayer experiences when possible, more occupied floor space, and simply less people. One full day may have been enough, but three was required to participate in more than one activity. It was certainly a childhood dream come true and I was expecting no less, but I can’t say I’ll be retuning to E3 without media or industry credentials in the future.

The Games

At the end of day three, I walked away seeing live demos of Uncharted, Spider-Man, Monster Hunter World, Days Gone, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and played Super Mario Odyssey and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. (My friend and I lucked out by standing next to a nearly unoccupied Super Mario Odyssey demo and I waited two hours for 16 minutes of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.) In hindsight, it was not enough to feel fulfilled by the experience.

Of the two games I played, Super Mario Odyssey was the better. Odyssey feels like the perfect amalgam of all 3D Mario adventures: The playground of Super Mario 64‘s introductory courtyard, Super Mario Sunshine‘s NPCs, Super Mario Galaxy‘s inventiveness, and Super Mario 3D World‘s fidelity. Above all, there is a “weird” factor that has been generating buzz. The various worlds Mario can travel to feature a variety of art styles: the playable New Donk City feels like a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater / Sims hybrid while the Sand Kingdom felt like a traditional 3D Mario world with a new classic 2D side-scrolling mechanic added to the mix. (Think The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.) The game played as great as you can imagine, but the real allure is looking forward to the variety and trying to figure out just what the hell is going on!

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is the game I’m most looking forward to. It’s gorgeous and surprisingly deep. I can’t recall ever seeing the Mushroom Kingdom in such detail. And like any great Mario game, it feels like it may be deceptively difficult. I’ve never played an XCOM game, and the demo seemed to only scratch the surface, but the number of methods to approaching and evading battle seemed impressive. There is a certain chess-like quality to the game in that you may need to think twice or thrice before executing a move. Enemies lurk in around cover and, if you’re not careful, environmental elements can throw off your game. I do worry that variety will be a problem; the old “Sonic” syndrome where the first handful of levels feel great but then feel dull or repetitive or both. We shall see.

Uncharted looks like Uncharted. I certainly love the idea of playing as Chole, but the sequence shown did little to suggest that this would be any different from previous iterations. And that may be fine, but unless there is a drastically different element (Uncharted 2‘s sequences > Uncharted 1, Uncharted 3‘s story > Uncharted 2, Uncharted 4‘s fidelity > Uncharted 3), I feel it’s a bit soon to jump back into this world.

The live Spider-Man demo went a little off script from the Sony presentation but was largely the same. I love the Arkham-like feel, but the reliance on quicktime events is a bit off-putting. Still, I’m looking forward to this game. (Now I want Insomniac to make a TMNT game!)

Days Gone was touted for it’s variety of mission approaches and environmental effects on the population, but the post-apocalypse / zombie infestation disenchanted me. How are we not done with zombies yet?

Both Monster Hunter World and Middle-earth: Shadow of War looked incredibly chaotic yet impressive. The highlight of Monster Hunter World came when a giant iguana-like monster crashed out of a nearby forest to feast on another gigantic beast — albeit lower in the food chain — plumping up like a snake after the meal, and sauntering back into the forest. Back at the nest, the iguana-like creature regurgitated part of his meal, summoning it’s offspring to the feast. Later in the demo, the same iguana-like creature would join our battle against a T. Rex-like monster as the T. Rex-like was trespassing on the iguana-like’s territory. Quite the world!

Middle-earth: Shadow of War looks to be focused more on castle raids than the previous entry. Players will recruit orc war chiefs throughout their play and choose which ones they will bring into a castle raid, strategizing their recruits’ strengths vs. the castle’s war chiefs’ weaknesses. Before the demo, director of technical art at Monolith Mike Allen touted enhancements to the nemesis system; however, these did not seem evident to me. I was expecting something more along the lines of the beloved Brûz.

There was lots of buzz about Detroit throughout the show. It plays like Heavy Rain, allowing payers to investigate a scene in attempts to build a successful outcome to a dire situation. While I did not get a chance to play Detroit, I did observe four different endings to the hostage scenario players were given the opportunity to partake in: 1 failure, 3 successes. The failure resulted in the hostage being killed. The successes varied in:

  1. the player sacrificing himself to save the hostage
  2. the player saving the hostage, but being shot during the encounter
  3. convincing the rival android to comply, saving the hostage and himself

There are plenty of games that offer a variety of situations and solutions, but to see these different scenarios play out next to each other simultaneous by different individuals’ actions was rather interesting to see. I can’t say the game is for me, but of those that played it, most felt it was the game for them.

As noted, I wasn’t able to partake in much. Nor were all games showcased during the presentations being showcased — Anthem and God of War most notably. Ultimately, I feel I’d gotten everything I needed from the presentations. A trip to E3 was not warranted.

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‘Mother’ Released on Wii U Virtual Console

Hours ago, Nintendo released the 1989 Japanese title Mother to the Wii U Virtual Console as Earthbound: Beginnings, localized in English for the first time ever. Until now, the only exposure to the Mother series English audiences have had was 1995’s North American release of the critically acclaimed Mother 2, released as Earthbound.

The Virtual Console was the biggest selling point for the Wii for me, and it continues to be for the Wii U. My latest Wii U purchases include Super Metroid, Donkey Kong 64, and Paper Mario. The release of Earthbound: Beginnings is certainly interesting and a direct message to the hardcore/loyalist/older audience.

Paired with Super Smash Bros. and accidental Amiibo announcements, as well as the reboot of the Nintendo World Championship, Nintendo seems to be drawing a lot of eyes as E3 nears. 

[EDIT: After browsing the Nintendo eShop, it appears Wii games are not considered Virtual Console titles. I’ve removed Metroid Prime Trilogy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 from my list of recent Virtual Console purchases. That doesn’t change the fact that my most recent purchases have been legacy titles. Thanks to @AlexandreSitbon for encouraging my research.]

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E3 2014: Genre/Gender Breakdown

Continuing my research of video game genre and protagonist/main character gender, here is the collected data from E3 2014. The sample list of 152 video games was sourced from IGN’s Games at E3 2014, platform data mapped to a quantifiable “TRUE”/”FALSE” list, genre lists collected from both IGN and Wikipedia (limited to primary genre), and the main character gender researched to the best of my ability.

Elaborating on the gender categories:

“Multi” being either:
a) multiple characters to select from (ie. Mario Kart 8 / Killer Instinct receive 1 count for “multi” although there are several characters to select from)
b) customizable gender
c) large customizable party

“n/a” being a:
a) gender ambiguous character
b) God-view game
c) first-person with no direct gender association

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Some key points:

  • My data can be found here. (Numbers online)
  • Sample size = 152 games
  • 13 exclusively female protagonists/main characters vs. 47 exclusively male protagonists
  • Female protagonist by year
    • 2012: 2%
    • 2013: 6%
    • 2014: 9%

Additional reference:

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“An intensity I’d never felt before in a game.”

Arun Rath, NPR’s All Things Considered, experiencing ADR1FT using Oculus Rift at E3:

Honestly, I don’t care about the goal of the game. I was just so excited to be in outer space. I could happily spend hours just exploring the environment. But here’s the weirdest part of the experience – I had this deeply emotional feeling of being transported, an intensity I’d never felt before in a game. [Adam] Orth says he wants to set a motion to take gamers beyond the standard, violent, action games.

Orth:

And there’s nothing wrong with those games. They’re great. I love them, and I have made them, and I play them. But I don’t want to make them any more. And I want to tell emotional stories. And that device is allowing me to tell them in a way that I was not able to do it before.

Simulation.

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Nintendo And The Future Of Kids’ Games

Jordan Shapiro, Forbes: E3 From A Father’s Perspective

A great run down of Nintendo’s E3 offerings. It sounds more and more like the Big N stole the show, and without a live press event mind you.

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Polygon: ‘It’s getting better: I spent an entire day at E3 playing as women characters’

Elisa Melendez writing for Polygon:

When I look at Ubisoft’s recent remarks, I can’t even feel anger anymore, just dismay and disappointment. I hoped I could enjoy those same feelings of seeing a version of my gender identity, in co-op, with my husband, a French Lilith and Roland of sorts, overthrowing the monarchy one hidden blade at a time. Knowing just how close they came, and the women they had before them, including in their multiplayer outings, is no salve to the wound. It’s salt.

But, then, I remember Nisha and Athena, Val and Maggie, Fiona, Yvette, and Sasha, and the hunter and speeder. I will still probably play Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and I will more than likely love it. But maybe not as much as I know I could. That doesn’t take away from the fact I spent an entire day at E3 playing different kinds of video games as women characters, and in some cases women of color.

Great perspective on a side of E3 we unfortunately aren’t hearing more about.

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Splatoon

Paul Tassi, excerpt from Fanboy Wars:

But as the industry matured, game makers started creating characters players cared about. Plots were contrived that could actually hold gamers’ attention. Players openly wept when Cloud’s beloved Aerith died in Final Fantasy VII. They gasped in disbelief during the finale of Star Wars: The Old Republic when it was revealed that the character they controlled was a villain the whole time.

Much of this was accomplished with rudimentary pixels and polygons, without anything approaching realistic graphics, the often purely text-based dialogue echoing the silent films of the ‘20s. Over the last decade, an explosion in gaming technology has allowed games to become almost photorealistic. Characters are sharply drawn, with professional voice actors inhabiting the speaking roles. Scripts take years to write, and stories can take a decade or more to be told over a series of games with three or more installments.

When the developers pull off these feats, games can become a transformative storytelling experience. Games actively put the player in the main character’s shoes, rather than forcing him or her to exist as a passive observer with no control over the protagonist’s actions.

E3 presented a stark difference between the photorealistic, mature titles presented by Microsoft and Sony contrasted against Nintendo’s doubling-down of a vibrant, cartoony atheistic. After listening to Jeff Cannata, Jeff Mattas and Matthew Burnside damn near wax-poetic about Splatoon on the latest episode of DLC (along with the success of Mario Kart 8), I am reminded that playful, non-narrative experiences are just as important as photorealistic, “transformative storytelling experiences.”

Splatoon as a playful territory shooter comes off as a hyper-realization of the Super Soaker wars I had growing up. Though the characters appear to be asexual, some inference can be made by stereotypically established gender attributes. This comes off as clever, well-thought art direction, allowing those who want to attribute gender to do so while others can be indifferent. Either way, the impact for children (likely the target audience) is immeasurable. The no-brainer act of allowing a child to conquer a map in the gender or appearance that best represents them is a simple way to reinforce a positive message about misguided gender dominance. Regardless of the chosen gender, everyone is on equal footing and contributing to a common goal. Only by allowing gender choice can that message be sent.

Online multiplayer carries a message that opposing virtual characters are exactly representative of the person on the other side. In reality, for all intents and purposes, gender is a near inescapable implication we carry with us, from simple Super Soaker wars to political war rooms. In virtual worlds (especially online), our gender is implied by the avatar we choose. Without choice, we all become the same (likely male) individual.

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No females in Assassin’s Creed Unity co-op

Alex Amancio, Ubisoft creative director, as quoted by Polygon:

It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets, especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.

Because of that, the common denominator was Arno. It’s not like we could cut our main character, so the only logical option, the only option we had, was to cut the female avatar.

How was this not mapped out in pre-production?

UPDATE: The Internet is ablaze. The sad part is that this title will still rake in millions, likely billions. We continue to give time to a developer that does not give time to its audience or games. If it’s not ready, don’t ship.

Paul Tassi, writing for Forbes, on the 2013 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag announcement:

I like the Assassin’s Creed series, but indefinite annual releases could prove to be too much of a good thing. Of course, this is asking a company to choose the artistic integrity and quality of its series over money, which in this day and age almost never happens. Ubisoft seems to think they can maintain both, but that seems like a hard bet to take.

I’ve said my piece on Twitter but I’ll repeat: If you subscribe to the idea that it’s just a game, great. Include diversity. If you subscribe to the idea that video games influence behavior, great. Include diversity. If you subscribe to the idea that production time ran out, delay. Include diversity.

Whatever angle you approach this from, whatever lens you look through, there is no good excuse for a AAA game co-developed by ten studios and arguably the most successful video game developer and publisher in the world not to include diversity in a game-mode dependent on diversity.

UPDATE 2:

Official statement from Ubisoft to Kotaku:

We recognize the valid concern around diversity in video game narrative. Assassin’s Creed is developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs and we hope this attention to diversity is reflected in the settings of our games and our characters.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is focused on the story of the lead character, Arno. Whether playing by yourself or with the co-op Shared Experiences, you the gamer will always be playing as Arno, complete with his broad range of gear and skill sets that will make you feel unique.

With regard to diversity in our playable Assassins, we’ve featured Aveline, Connor, Adewale and Altair in Assassin’s Creed games and we continue to look at showcasing diverse characters. We look forward to introducing you to some of the strong female characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity.

This statement feels pretty vapid.

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Diversity at press events

Danielle Riendeau, Polygon:

It wouldn’t hurt the publishers to pay more mind to diversity when choosing people to speak at press events. And it would certainly help make E3 a slightly more welcoming place for the rest of the 75 percent or so of people that make up the population. White men are a minority in the world, and video games have an international audience.

My E3 2014 Genre/Gender Breakdown data is still in the works but this makes me think I should include ethnicity as well. View my current data here.

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