Some (kinda) random thoughts about the E3 2011

I wasn’t there but I’m gonna write shit about it anyway.

I need to say here that I was as excited as much as you watching the conferences in the E3. Since they become available to the general public a few years ago, those conferences are good way to measure how much the people in the game industry is wrong. Seriously. But the most surprising thing is that we as public, costumers, designers and human beings in general are giving them all the chances not only to get profit of the videogame media (which is good because I want to get profit out of videogames) but to assume that they can profit effortless.

No, investing a lot of money in games isn’t a big effort. If you are reading this you may know that I’m a game designer, not an investor. I don’t give a shit about where the money comes from, I need to have in mind where the money goes because, wheter you like or not, videogames need a good business model as much as a good gameplay. Besides that (and my paycheck), be aware of money is not a thing listed in my job description.

Take a look (or another) to the E3 press conferences this year: Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Based on what I watched on those conferences the answer to these questions represent my opinion:

How sad is that one of Microsoft’s biggest announces was an avatar creator?.

Even when (in my opinion) they did it good, how is that an apology was the most important thing expected by Sony’s costumers?.

Did you realize that Nintedo practically said: we need no new games, let’s take money out of gamers nostalgia?.

Yeah, I know. The PS Vita, the Wii U, I’m getting there, wait a moment.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier presented a new menu to costumize weapons. A menu. A fucking menu. No gameplay at all, a menu. Comments about actual gameplay were good so far, but they presented a menu. Thanks Ubisoft, I’m so impressed that now I can create weapons, even though I don’t know how I will use in the game because you didn’t show that.

Bioware’s Mass Effect 3 showcase, the upcoming installment of a game series I love, focused heavily on Kinect’s voice recognition, a new feature in the IP, but the public was most impressed when Shepard performed a meele attack, a feature the first 2 games didn’t have. That maybe says something worth paying attention to.

Image owned by whoever the owner is.

Sony repeated a lot their compromise with the (so-called) future of gaming: 3D. Yup, It will be awesome for the headache I’ll have playing those games to get a wonderful 3D black screen when PSN gets hacked again. And again. (Ah, and please, stop saying that used generated content was a concept created by LittleBigPlanet, I love that game but I think John Romero, John Carmack and the whole Doom community don’t agree with you guys).

And Nintendo… fuck, I can’t get over it, no new IP was shown. I love Mario, but if we criticized the lack of creativity in Hollywood because they try to feed us with sequels, remakes and reboots you can’t just forget that Nintendo is doing the same thing. And, apparently, getting short of ideas in the process.

Most hardware features uses presented in the E3 has to be seen as baby steps in the videogame industry: voice recognition, motion and shape capture and so on. I can’t say anything until the game is released, but if I need to talk like a stupid robot in order to play Mass Effect 3 I won’t sympathize with the game more than I already do. And actually, I think it will be a problem for gamers. I need the game to recognize anger, sadness, joy, and from them select options instead of giving them through dialogue lines. Is not that difficult, you just need to recognize how hard is somebodys voice’s tone, like Rockband does for example. They didn’t show a thing like it.  A new button-less menu is awesome if I know what I’m doing in the game. By itself, a menu is not gameplay at all, and that turns Ubisoft’s showcase into total bullshit.

By the way, combinatorics isn’t also gameplay by itself. Customization processes are based on combinatorics of a number of elements, and I have to clarify that such processes are hard to design, but in general they aren’t a gameplay changing feature. They are just makeup most of the time.

PS Move doesn’t get any better than that. Right now, developers are using it as a pointer, like those little lasers people uses in PowerPoint presentations to point at the most boring part of what they’re saying. Well, exactly like that.

And Nintendo, they didn’t show a new game for Wii at all. Wii-mote has been replaced and they wanted you to forget that.

That is just listing a few examples, but you could say almost the same things over all games in E3.

Think about it, Guitar Hero saga is dead because Activision was  short sighted enough about the hardware they built that they killed one of the most succesful game series ever. I don’t know if such a thing already exists, but I would be glad to design a platform game where the character has to be moved by Guitar Hero’s guitar or drums.  Activision restricted a very expensive  hardware to a repetitive game series and in some point players realized that they aren’t that stupid.

Something like that is happening with the new hardware on consoles, but unlike Activision’s situation that’s actually a good thing because there are no restrictions like the ones Activision imposed. Right now developers are discovering interesting ways to use the new gadgets, but thanks to marketing strategy, they are selling them like the next step to the future, and not like what they are: the next step in experimental process shorter than “the future”. Players are getting use to actually have nothing interesting when they pay $60 for a game in the meantime.

Besides all, I’m a gamer too, and I find that situation very sad because I love videogames and game design.

On the other hand, innovations like PS Vita and Wii U are always welcome. I need to say that PS Vita looks great. I’m particularly glad with the rear touch pad feature; I saw it working in SIGGRAPH 2007 and it’s so useful that I think It came really late. Wii U solves Kinect’s problem in some way. With the lack of buttons in Kinect, driving a character is always complicated and even awkward. Wii U includes a pad and touchscreen in what it seem a half way solution between Wii-mote and Kinect. (They said that most of the for Wii U were WIP demos, I want to thank the sincerity even when the videos of established games weren’t from that console).

The thing here is that you can’t rely all your game design on the hardware the market offers you. It’s exactly like saying that a driver chances to win a race only depends on the car he has. So, a monkey can win a major competition if it is trained to press the gas pedal all the time. Thanks Sony and Nintendo, for calling me monkey.

Don’t tell the people that the hardware itself revolutionize anything, because it doesn’t. Wii-mote gave new options to game designers, but the ideas they came up with were the succesful thing here, the hardware was just the door. Think in all those 80’s consoles like Vectrex, they failed for a lot of reasons, but the most important one was the lack of ideas to use the hardware.

The new iWii.

A good comment about E3?, actually I have many but this entry is not about them. I find very interesting how Sony and Nintendo are creating a whole suite of gadgets like Apple with the iWhatever thingies. A sense of belonging is importante as Jobs has proven, in the game industry company it makes a little easy for developers to engage players into games. XBox as an interactive entertainment center through the Kinect for me was the most important announce Microsoft talked about, they are showing a very well develped use for Kinect (if it works like they said).

In summary, as a gamer I’m really excited about what happened in E3, but I’m excited because I’m trying to look every thing in the right manner and not in the way they companies are selling them to  us.

The future of videogames is really big, but developers and gamers alike have no idea how it looks like. And as I said, seen from the right perspective that is actually a good thing.

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2 Responses to “Some (kinda) random thoughts about the E3 2011”

  1. Rafael Polanco Says:

    Great post.
    I made a couple of jokes about how E3 seemed like a proper name for an event that seemed to focus a lot on sequels, specially trilogies. It was kinda sad to find that all big titles and announcement on software seemed to be sequels, reboots, special editions and whatnot, little to none risk on a new idea. And I mean, sure, is nice to play another Battlefield or Uncharted, but it speaks in loud volume of what “looking into the future” means to a bunch of people that hang on to their precioous golden egg hens and milk them for all of their worth (if any, lately).
    Sure enough, PSVita and WiiU could be promising, in the right hands, otherwiese we will end up with the most expensive paper weight and table decoration ever.
    Marketing as usual is showing its ugly face, and it’s shortsight when selling “the future”. Is like they don’t even try anymore, just thrown a lot of big words in there and make it sound epic (the new trend after extreme went downhill, no pun), and if that fails, what the heck, sell some nostalgia. Problem is, when you are selling so called nostalgia and values and fidelity, is a sure sign that there is little else to sell.

    • nicolailobachevscki Says:

      ” And I mean, sure, is nice to play another Battlefield or Uncharted, but it speaks in loud volume of what “looking into the future” means to a bunch of people (…)”

      I think that quote summarize everything I tried to say in the post.

      A thing I didn’t say, because it deserves its own post, is that the generation gap is getting very evident since a few years (I guess). For those who didn’t play Mario on the 80’s and 90’s all those games showcased are pretty much new things. For those like me, and I guess you too, who have more than 15, 20 or even 25 years as gamers, the lack of fresh ideas, new IP’s and the marketing strategy they use to sell the games is just exhausting.

      You can avoid that, any media gets old, that’s natural and good, but that fact is melting a lot of feelings.

      On the other hand, another thing the E3 is missing is how much diverse the industry of videogames is these days. E3 is a lot more than the main conferences, so I can’t say anything properly because I haven’t been there (yet), but it just focus pretty much only on consoles and forgeting mobile devices, social gaming, advert games, indie developing scene and so on is a mistake the general audience is suffering. The most profitable game company isn’t Activison/Blizzard, EA or even Nintendo, is Zynga with games like Farmville and stuff, It’s imposibble no to ask how they didn’t get to the confereces? (as far as I now), and anyway, you won’t see any press coverage of the things I just listed. I can’t blame both the conference and the press for that, they have their target, but it’s a fact that in my opinion could be a problem for a real analysis of the videogame scene.

      Por cierto, puedes escribir en español cuando desees.

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