Another year, another E3; Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo have shown their hands. And, as per tradition, within those hands was a lot of Bull. Shit. I'm talkin' buzz words, and lots of 'em. So let's take a look at this year's roundup of crap, violently spewed at us courtesy of our friendly neighborhood gaming industry.
This year had four major words and phrases I heard over and over again: "It's real game play footage," "You can change the world around you," "We're blurring the line between single player and multiplayer," "Our new AI system rocks." Each one is annoying for its own reason, and almost every time I heard them uttered I shuddered, so here's my analysis of E3 2013's biggest buzz words.
The game industry of today seems to have it stuck in their heads that we can only be immersed in something if it's hyper-realistic, and as such they've taken to make comments which are reminiscent of the introduction montage to a dystopian movie. Using phrases like "human-like intelligence" to refer to their apparently incredible AI systems. These types of crazy-complex AI systems appear to be most prevalent in sports titles, as EA Sports spent loads of time talking up Madden, Fifa 14, and UFC's skynet-level intellects. But guess what, game industry, ICO's enemy AI is some of my favorite I've ever played against, and it had nothing to do with realism at all. Games don't need realistically human-like intelligence unless you make them stupidly realistic! Do you think Puppeteer is going to have realistic AI? Of course not. EA, if any of your games were able to have a style they could call their own instead of just realism, maybe not every single game you make would feel the same.
On a related topic, the concept of dynamic worlds seems to have infected the minds of our medium's executives, as it seems like every non-sports triple-A game thinks we just have to be able to drastically change our game worlds in order to have fun -- or at least they're making us think we'll be able to make an impact; the jury's still out on whether or not that will actually come true. Before E3, games like Destiny and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt were making a big deal out of the way in which your actions will affect the world, but now that the E3 conferences have come and pass, games like Dragon Age: Inquisition are planning to take the same route. And, you know what, I'm actually not too mad about this one in particular, it sounds like an intriguing feature. It's just that I don't want to see another enormously homogenized triple-A industry this generation, and unfortunately, too much of any good thing is still bad.
Call me old fashioned, but I still like single player games. I don't want the line between my single player and multiplayer blurred like someone's taken a mediocre eraser to it; I want it bold and dark, like a pen mark who cackles as the pointless pink blob tries to scrub it out. However, the game industry does not seem to share my sentiments, as they've become obsessed with Demon's Souls-esque "single player is multiplayer" ideas. Both Need for Speed and The Crew were toting their new multiplayer functions; even The Wind Waker HD saw fit to add its little message-in-a-bottle system. I'm just left here wondering, "What happened to the days when I could play a game without constantly hearing dick jokes and curse words tossed around?" Now, I'm not saying that no game is allowed to have simultaneously personal and connected experiences -- in fact I rather liked Demon's Souls use of a message system rather than a Zelda-like companion -- but there are just some games I fear will get saddled with some sort of invasion-style multiplayer that just doesn't fit them very well. Perhaps I'm over-reacting and this one's just a passing trend, but either way I'm still a bit worried.
You know, I was really hoping that this generation wouldn't be as obsessed with high-fidelity graphical quality as the last was, but it appears those hopes are to be dashed as just about every triple-A title was making a big deal out of their trailers being "in-engine," even when they weren't "in-game". Sure, in-engine is a cut above pre-rendered, but it still shows that the publishers care about having impressive visuals first and intriguing game play second. This was especially apparent in all of those constantly angling racing game trailers. And Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was even asinine enough to have a pre-rendered trailer in an attempt to hype us up for something that's not even an actual part of the game. True, Ubisoft did bring out a true game play trailer right afterwards, but that cinematic crap just pisses me off sometimes. On the upside, I couldn't have been happier to see that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD's trailer was built almost entirely of captured in-game footage. It let me get excited for what I would actually be playing instead of some stupid video trying to emulate a bad ass movie trailer. I guess it's "alright" for a new game's announcement to be mostly made up of special footage, but even Kingdom Hearts III managed to drop a few seconds of game play into its reveal, so kudos to it.
Here's to hoping our game industry can realize this generation that just because one thing worked in one game doesn't mean it will work in every game, because the second I see that Beyond: Two Souls has invasion-based multiplayer, I'm running for the hills. Come to think of it though, Nintendo and Sony were largely exempt from most of these trends. I'm sure at least Sony slipped them in somewhere, but Microsoft and EA were the biggest offenders (as they are on most subjects), and Ubisoft was just kind of neutral -- again, as they often are.