The Chris Lawn take on E3 2015

Welcome, my friends, to my final article about E3 2015. A lot of things about this year's E3 got my mind reeling - after mellowing out over the excitement from a week ago, I've decided to compile my thoughts into one place and share with you the things that excited me the most this year.

Every year is full of surprise announcements at E3 - and with the metric ton of leaks, pre E3 reveals and press releases, I wasn't sure we'd be getting that many surprises this year. I'm so, so glad that I was wrong - nearly every game that I am super pumped for is something I hadn't even heard of two weeks ago.

What was great about the titles that I'm psyched for is the lack of major franchises/sequels. A big part of this years E3 seemed to be about giving fans the sequels/remakes they always dreamed of, plus the next game in the big budget franchises that everyone loves - but those games are like a given. The excitement comes from things that seem to just come out of no where, enticing your mind into imagining something very different.

Here's all the bits that I loved from this years E3.

 

Firewatch

What is Firewatch? Well, that is a good question. It seems from the trailer that was shown that the game is some kind of open world-ish exploration/walking simulator with a driving narrative that is both humorous and intriguing. This smaller indie title has a fantastic cartoony art style, with an amber colour scheme that reminds me of autumn leaves, of warm days and cool nights, of exploring in fantastical woods where you may happen across strange mythical creatures.

 

Horizon: Zero Dawn

The big budget title that is a shot at something new, that totally hits the right nerves. A dystopian land, set an unknown number of years in the future, with robot dinosaurs. All that packaged with a bad ass female lead protagonist - a female lead protagonist that isn't purely for eye candy, but is actually representative of a real woman figure in the world this game is set in.

This game looks so unbelievably cool, and more importantly, fresh. Other big budget games that are completely new these days are typically variants of some other game - Horizon is a new concept in a new place with a completely new story. I'll be following the development of this one closely.

 

No Man's Sky

I'd never really paid much attention to this game for some strange reason. I'm usually not that much of a space guy when it comes to gaming (Mass Effect obsession notwithstanding) so I'd always just thought "I'll see what it's all about when it comes out" when it came to No Man's Sky. After watching the demo in the middle of Sony's press conference, I was moved from the "wait and see" basket to the "I must play this game!" basket.

I think what I like about this game is that it doesn't really have a clear goal, no actual point - which is strange for me, considering I seem to always need a great narrative to love a game - other than exploration. Which, when it comes to this game, seems to be rewarding in itself. The knowledge that I can go to places in this game that no other human eye has seen before is a major driving force in that interest - the excitement of the unknown, of genuine first time discovery, is something that normal people don't ever really get to experience in their lifetimes.

Plus, take a look at that art style. This isn't just a black endless space game - it has a week alien-like feel, like where you are going is somewhere that not only no human has been, but that anything else might exist in.

I've heard this game referenced multiple times as a game that seems like one where you can drop in every now and then, do something different, explore a new area, then put down and come back to another day. I used to do this in Skyrim a lot, until I got to a point when I felt like I had really seen everything that world had to offer. This game literally has no conceivable size, so I know I won't ever run into that problem.
 

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Super Mario Maker

Nintendo's future lineup has some exciting games in store - Zelda, Fire Emblem Fates, Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem and a ton more I'm really looking forward to - but none of those are quite as different as Super Mario Maker.

I usually suck at games where you make your own stuff - Minecraft never really grabbed me, for instance - but the toolset and possibilities in this game seem like something different. Reactions out of E3 this year were very positive on this game, and people that I thought wouldn't blink twice at this game are pumped to play it, which has really brought it to my attention.

It's something different from your usual AAA games from a big publisher, while still tugging at those nostalgic heartstrings. Plus, the amiibo that comes with it is exclusive to the bundle, so I'll be getting it anyway.

Even if I'm terrible at making new levels, just playing over people's creations will be one hell of a blast.

 

Recore

While all we got was a CG trailer, Recore sounds like it has a fantastic premise. AI cores that can inhabit different structures? I can already imagine so many possibilities as to how this could be used in both combat and environmental puzzling.

Also, yet another game with what looks like a kick ass lead female protagonist that isn't female for the sake of eye candy. The developers have listened.

Also, the trailer was clever in such a heartwarming way. That robot dog. 'Nuff said.

 

Beyond Eyes

The idea behind Beyond Eyes is unique and novel, making this indie darling of E3 2015 stand out amongst the masses of game titles presented this year.

That colour palette and art style. Damn. The watercolour paint feel of the world is a perfect fit for the imagination of a child who's never experienced sight visualizing her surroundings.

Beyond Eyes gives me the same kind of feeling towards the game as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons did - which can only be a great thing.

 

Unravel

When I originally heard about this yarn game that EA had revealed at their press conference, my first thought was "EA has made a Yoshi's Woolly World clone". When I watched the conference, I was so damn happy to see that this game is nothing like that - it is fantastic on it's own merits, and has it's very own unique mechanic to really make this game feel special.

As I've previously mentioned, the reveal for this game was fantastic. In amongst the bright flashing lights of the biggest titles and the crazy over the top sports demonstrations, it was like a crystal clear drop of clarity in an ocean full of convoluted douchebaggery. Unravel is a pure example of what makes gaming such a special medium.

While the idea's behind the game might sound corny, after watching the reveal, you can tell just how genuine the idea, game and meaning really is. This game comes from a team that is truly passionate about not only the game they are making, but gaming as a medium, what it represents and what it is capable of. The whole thing is truly the opposite of cynicism.

On top of all the heartfelt messaging and passion behind the game, it actually looks and sounds like a great game to play. Side scrolling platforming mixed in with puzzled solved by weaving yarn about the place? Great premise, hopefully great gameplay. I'm sold.

 

Honourable Mentions

Tacoma - A new game from the makers of Gone Home that expands the story telling mechanics of the original without creating a sequel? Count me in.

Lara Croft Go - The Hitman Go mobile game got some pretty good reviews, and while I'm not overly a fan of that universe, a Tomb Raider version sounds like a a great addition to the mobile line up.

Mirrors Edge Catalyst - I've only ever heard about how amazing the original Mirrors Edge was, so I'm not sure if I'll be into it or not - but the idea of free running around a city, running along walls and vaulting over rooftops sounds like a whole ton of fun.

Fallout 4 - While I've been waiting for this game for a long time - Fallout 3 & New Vegas are two of my favourite games of all time - I was a little bummed that 4 got revealed earlier in the week. Still, the game looks amazing, and I know that I will totally get sucked into the world once I start playing it.

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Amiibo!

I'm totally sucked in to the amiibo craze, and am now a full on hardcore collector of these little pieces of plastic. Sadness of that aside, This year's E3 was a buffet of amiibo announcements for fans to gorge on.

From the completion of the Super Smash Bros main cast by adding in Falco, R.O.B (with 2 colours), Duck Hunt Duo and Game & Watch (with multiple swappable poses), to the mii trio, the DLC characters Mewtwo, Lucas, Roy and Ryu, to 8-bit Mario (two different colours), to the surprising skylanders crossover figures, to 8 new animal crossing figures and a whole ton more animal crossing cards... This is going to be a busy 6 months for Nintendo's amiibo fans.

I want them all. I must get them all. My body is ready.

 

Xbox One Compatibility

I'll be honest - I chose sides. When the Xbox One and PS4 were both announced in 2013, and both respective companies did their E3 press conferences that year, I picked Sony. From that time, it seemed like the PS4 was the console for gamers - which it still is. The PS4 is a fantastic system. I'd completely dismissed the Xbox One as the console I would buy at the end of the generation, getting the best of the exclusives for the console.

In the last two years, Microsoft has been working hard at turning their reputation back around. They've systematically removed all the crap that gamers don't want with Xbox and have been slowly rolling out the features gamers do want. And you know what? The Xbox One is starting to look like a pretty good gaming machine.

Microsoft's surprise announcement of backwards compatibility was both the turning point to get me to really pay attention to Xbox One and also the announcement that garnered the loudest applause in any press conference this year. While there are a few caveats as previously mentioned - not all games will be available from day one - I'm optimistic that a large majority of the games that are worth playing on Xbox 360 will be either compatible with Xbox One or at the very least remade as remasters anyway.

With the advancements Microsoft has made with Windows 10, the exciting tech around Hololens and the great turnaround of the Xbox One, Microsoft has been quietly making its way to being a true Apple/Sony/Everyone rival once again.

 

Virtual Reality

There's been a lot of chatter around the web about VR in particular at E3 2015. The conferences didn't really show off that much and the floor had a lot of demos of varying types of games. E3 2015 was supposed to be VR's E3. But was it? On one side, you have some people feeling underwhelmed with the showing of support, worried that this round of VR will be another fad - on the other side, those that played the demos were completely wowed by the wonders of the tech. I say that E3 2016, or maybe even 2017, will be the E3 for VR.

When it comes down to it, Virtual Reality is extremely hard to explain to someone who hasn't physically tried it. Of course you can say it's like being in a whole 'nother world, it's really immersive etc, but that isn't what sells people on the experience. I don't think it'd be reaching to far to say that I think all of the people that believe in VR now have used a headset at least once.

The first wave of VR headsets entering the market probably won't sell in massive numbers. The initial year of sales will be much more like a beta than an actual consumer launch - The people that will own headsets will be the hardcore believers (and probably the people with to much money to burn). It will take those people sharing the experience with the people around them for VR to really sink in to the general populace as part of the future of viewing entertainment - and subsequently take off as a platform.

I do believe that VR will have a drastic effect on the future of media consumption - not just games, TV and movies, but all manner of other experiences that don't fit into those categories. Experiences such as walking through a museum on the other side of the world, seeing the view from the top of Mt. Everest, swimming through the wreckage of the Titanic - the kinds of things that will be possible with VR.

I'm a real tech nerd at heart, but even I wasn't sure about VR in the beginning - I wasn't sure it'd actually work. Then I played a simple indie 2D platformer at EB Expo 2013. While a strange title to play in virtual reality, it completely sold me on idea of VR. Then came Eve Valkyrie.

While that 2D platformer has been the only thing I've ever seen in VR - I've never experienced any gameplay of Eve Valkyrie - that trailer captured with a Rift for the game excites me beyond imagination. The knowledge of how VR works is enough for me to look at that trailer and imagine what it would be like playing that game. I believe Eve Valkyrie will be at least one of, if not the killer app for VR.

This brings me back to this years E3 conference and VR. I believe we (those not able to attend E3) didn't see much about VR is because the world isn't ready for it yet. People outside of that hardcore group of enthusiasts (who are already bought in to VR anyway) can't look at a trailer for a VR game and get excited about it, because they don't know what it really will be like experiencing that first hand. Once headsets get in the hands of that critical mass of consumers and people start to get it, then we will start to see a much bigger presence of VR at E3.

A lot of these headsets are coming out in 2016. I'm calling it, here and now - if 2016 isn't the year for VR at E3, 2017 will be.

 

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Augmented Reality

I was originally writing this as "Virtual and Augmented Reality" in one section, but that's unfair to both. There is plenty of talk all over the web over "VR vs AR", but that's simply not the right way to put it - both technologies are in leagues of their own.

In all my hype for VR I hadn't really paid much attention to Microsoft's Hololens - until that Minecraft demo during Microsoft's E3 conference. Well done Microsoft.

I'm still not sure how I would practically use this piece of tech - I'm not exactly a fan of Minecraft - but the talk about how amazing the Halo demo at E3 was with Hololens gives me hope. Even just being able to see a big computer screen on a wall, whether it's to watch movies, browse the net or even type these articles, seems pretty cool to me. Plus, I'm sure Microsoft will have an interesting lineup of software to support Hololens at launch.

Part of the excitement of Hololens isn't just the visual part - the voice and spacial recognition tech seemed impressive. having the headset actually understand you properly first time is already leagues apart from something like Siri or Google Now - and the hand gestures seemed to work a treat, even though you're essentially just moving your hands in front of your face. If it's this good already, hopefully that will mean great things for the eventual launch of this thing.

I seriously hope this tech doesn't become vaporware. Given that Microsoft included it in this years E3, I'd say we have a strong possibility of seeing this commercially released in the next few years - but still. Fingers Crossed.

 

Big Budget Gaming

Of course, E3 wouldn't be the same without the massive games that sell millions of copies, and I'm partial to a fair few of the franchises that are getting sequels. While I'm much more excited for the titles I mentioned above, I'm still very much looking forward to (eventually) playing these games.

Rise of the Tomb Raider stands out as the big AAA title that I'm most looking forward to out of my list. The reboot was a fantastic game with brilliant storytelling and superb gameplay, so I have high expectations for it's sequel. The E3 demo's showed a lot of flashy action sequences, which is good for trailers, but I'm really looking forward to the meat of the game. That reboot was so god damn fun.

I don't even know how many games we've had in the franchise, and I should be kicking myself for saying this, but Assassins Creed Syndicate looks pretty sweet. It continues to be a standard among the biggest of games, and really, we should all be celebrating the fact that a non FPS is up there with the big guns. Anyway, while it's just "another Assassins Creed", I really like the look of Syndicate in a way that I didn't really feel with Unity. Now, if I can just finish 3, Liberation, Black Flag, Rogue, Unity and the Chronicles series...

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looks like a super slick next gen gaming experience. The previous game, Human Revolution, has been given a ton of praise by many people, and Mankind Divided looks like it's going to take everything that game had to offer many more steps further. Even though I've never played any games in the series, the newest sequel in the series has me wanting to go back and play Human Revolution in order to prepare for and play the newest game. Much in the same way as The Witcher 3 did. And Dishonored 2. I have a large backlog, OK?

Finally, while it was the tiniest glimpse, I can't not mention Mass Effect Andromeda. I know this game is still a ways off - realistically probably a 2017 release - I could use some more Mass Effect in my life. While the new game won't feature Sheppard and crew - which is really sad, as I already miss Garrus, Mordin, Legion, Jack... well, all of them, to be honest - I have faith in Bioware's ability to create new characters that I'm going to fall just as hard for this time around. I'm excited to see what the devs come up with for this whole new storyline.

 

E3 2015, as seen from the eyes of me

I don't know if it's because I sat down and watched every conference and have written so much about it, but this year's E3 feels like one of the best and most important E3's I've been around to experience. Though I'm located on the other side of the world, E3 still has a massive affect on this gamers' outlook on the next 6, 12, 18 months and beyond in gaming, and gets me excited about the future of games again in only the way E3 can.

I hope you've enjoyed my reports and ramblings about gaming's biggest event of the year over the passed couple of weeks - I certainly have. I do believe gaming is special in a way that other forms of entertainment can't match, and E3 is the celebration of that. I was proud to bring you all the coverage from this year's grandest gaming event.

See you next year E3!