Sony's E3 Conference Was Almost Like Fan Fiction

If you had given 'GamerMAN1786' a pen and paper, and then asked him write down his dream Sony E3 conference, it might have looked something like the event I just spent the last two hours of my life watching.

Is that a good thing. A bad thing? It's almost exclusively a good thing with -- in my humble opinion -- a handful of nitpicks.

Let's start with the good. Nay, the gloriously surprising.

The Last Guardian. It was shown at E3. It appeared to exist. It was playable. It looked functional. It looked like a fucking video game and not just an idea that fluttered around the hivemind for the better part of the last decade.

Holy shit. I could not believe that Sony showed The Last Guardian. But they did.

And it was so hard to look upon it with any sort of objectivity at all. Just the fact that it was there felt like some sort of tremendous triumph. You could almost taste the tears. Twitter exploded. Journalists admitted to fucking crying. Here's what I did: I laughed in the awkward way one does when something just feels utterly absurd. The Last Guardian is here. We will play it at some point. It feels like a minor miracle.

This world is crazy.

The Last Guardian Is Back

Okay. Deep breath.

Then there was a game set in a post-apocalyptic world where you play as a tribe of humans hunting down -- get this -- fucking robot dinosaurs. This is a video game where that idea is treated dead seriously.

It's amazing.

This is the only time I will write this sentence and have it be a compliment: Guerilla Games' dinosaur thing looks, feels and sounds like it came directly from the mind of an eight-year-old boy. In a really good way. I have no idea how this team is going to try and justify robot dinosaurs in their fiction, but fuck it. I'm just going to roll with it.

What else? Man, where do I go from here? Hitman looked alright I guess...

No. Let's talk about No Man's Sky.

Some might have felt as though No Man's Sky was a little bit bland at the conference, a bit of an ordinary demo. I disagree. It was a very real and authentic demo -- one that went a long way to explaining precisely what it is you'll be doing in this mysterious, stupidly-expansive universe. I for one am so happy with this being nothing more than some weird sci-fi exploration simulator. I thought No Man's Sky looked incredible.

Then Sony showed other things. This part of the conference is still a bit of a blur to me, because I've been awake since 1am, but at one point I remember thinking to myself: "wow -- the sheer variety of experiences on display is doing a spectacular job of reminding me precisely why I love video games". Despite the machine-like efficiency of Microsoft's presentation -- which was great by the way -- it never quite elicited that same reaction.

Then.

Then.

Things truly went into the realm of fan fiction. Sony started announcing things I thought I'd never see in my lifetime. Things that -- I believe -- are actually kinda bad ideas. Like a Final Fantasy VII remake. I understand the importance of that game, but really? Shouldn't we leave it alone. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, it will print money.

Then the Shenmue III thing. Sony literally allowed Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki to use its E3 conference as a massive begging bowl to help fund Shenmue III on a Kickstarter that literally just kickstarted. Instead of, you know, publishing the game or taking any sort of risk whatsoever Sony said "hey, you want it? Chuck Yu Suzuki some spare cash." Again, the crowd went wild.

Fan Fiction. Sometimes Fan Fiction isn't that good. Most of the time it's flat out terrible.

But the Sony E3 conference was -- on the whole -- fantastic fan fiction with a handful of slip-ups, the Shenmue thing, in my opinion, being the perfect example.

Uncharted 4's E3 Demo Was Incredible

And then somehow Sony's E3 conference managed to end on the perfect note. Uncharted 4: everyone expected it. No-one expected the minor bug that left Nathan Drake rigid, unable to move but somehow, it just added to the authenticity. Uncharted 4 was a real game. This wasn't a video. Things could and did go wrong.

But the trailer itself represented everything that makes Uncharted work so fluidly: its charm, its unique sense of drama and playfulness. Its ability to craft huge, stupidly unrealistic set-pieces but still make them feel believable and grounded. Uncharted 4's demo was, aside from its imperfections, pretty much perfect.

Almost like fan fiction.


Comments

    “Journalists admitted to fucking crying.”

    And that right there is everything that’s wrong with game journalism and E3 in one sentence.
    Too often it’s like letting the embarrassing gimps who attend political victory speeches and carry on like they’re at a One Direction concern also provide the media coverage for the whole campaign. The whole thing becomes a circle-jerk from start to finish.

    Great games from Sony though. I think the 2nd/3rd E3 of every new console cycle needs to be known as a SUPER E3.
    We’re at the stage we were at last gen when they started showing the Mass Effects, Assassins Creeds and Bioshocks that really heralded an awesome period in that gen.

    Last edited 16/06/15 1:57 pm

      To be fair, a lot of the journalists probably grew up playing the likes of FF7, ico and shadow of the colossus and were perhaps still in high school when the last guardian was first teased the better part of a decade ago. A lot of people, not just journalists may have had an emotional moment, and begrudging them their humanity is in poor form regardless of an expectation of professionalism. We are all here because of our love for the medium and it is because of our ability to get excited or angry or teary that we get can write with passion.

      Agreed on your great games from sony point though, was nice to see some new titles and less of the manly sweaty marine men shooting things ad infinitum.

        Yeah, journalists are people too. I felt a few shivers myself while watching, so I certainly don't begrudge them the excitement :-)

        no if it literally makes you cry you need a paxil prescription

      Yeah, we are not at the stage where people who don't get excited for video games will cover video games. This is the enthusiast press, after all.

      I mean, if you're looking for someone who's not interested in what's coming, you're asking for a coda that reminds readers that all the stuff at E3 is for man-children and anyone with any sense would be going outside and talking to people instead of wasting their time playing video games. The industry, other than mobile, is not in a place where it's making products for adults.

      Judging by Mark's use of language in his E3 liveblogs he is also complicit in the way more and more games 'journalists' are covering video games.

      Yeah man that's a seriously big problem amiright? Games journalists being excited.

    That Shenmue thing bothers me. Sega and Sony are obviously confident enough that it'd be successful to mention it at E3, so why aren't they funding it themselves? It's not like Sega is poor, they have 500 billion in market cap.

      Yep that irks the hell out of me.

      Wait till we get to the other end of the cycle, when not only have they not had enough faith in their own project to fund it themselves, they now expect you to put money down for it before it’s released so you can get all the content.

      Oh, and they’ll put a review embargo on it so no reviewers can tell you if it’s good or not before you hand over your money.

      This is what happens when, as mentioned above, the journalists who are supposed to be monitoring the industry are in tears at the sight of a game trailer. It takes a lot of unprofessional, fanatical man-children and very few level heads to end up in a situation where this kind of thing is viewed as anything other than ridiculous.

      I do want new Shenmue though….

      Last edited 16/06/15 2:11 pm

        It's certainly a first for a publisher / platform-holder like Sony to put a crowd-funded project front and centre like that. I think that the $2 million is probably only 5% or 10% of the real budget, which Sony will be associated with in some way - perhaps they will do the marketing? - with the rest funded by Sega. Is it weird for an E3 conference? Absolutely. But I'm OK with it. If the choice is between Kickstarter and no game, I'll go with Kickstarter.

      I don't see what is wrong with the sequel to a game, that was not really all that successful financially, but has a cult following, seeking a Kickstarter type campaign where only the people that want to play the game, pay for the game.
      A lot of cult stuff people make a big noise about wanting, but then don't plonk the money down when the title actually is made. I think this is a good thing, and kinda cool of Sony to give the dev a bit of spotlight;

        Financially both games made back their production costs and a midling profit on top, but the first was hobbled by the poor takeup of the Saturn and Dreamcast consoles it was released on. I can certainly understand Sega being cautious, but fan campaigns over the years have shown there's a definite customer base wanting the saga to be completed. The games often appear on lists of the best games of all time.

        As for putting money down, the campaign is at $1.2M of its $2M initial goal and it's only been open for what, a few hours now? I don't think it's going to have any difficulty reaching its stretch goals, and I'll be watching it with interest to see how much it ends up raising. If the asking amount on Kickstarter is representative of costs, it's really minimal risk to Sega to have invested in it themselves.

          From what I understand, the first game cost so much that they had no hope of ever recouping the development costs, unless every person who owned a Dreamcast bought two copies...

            I can't find details on Sega's publisher cut for the time Shenmue came out, but it sold about 1.2 million copies for just over $70M total revenue, on $47M development costs. I read somewhere a while back that the first game made back its development costs but wasn't considered successful (for obvious reasons, there's basically no margin left) but I can't find the source so I can't really support that part of my comment until I do.

      Shenmue I/II combined cost ~$300 million, the Kickstarter's only asking for $2 million. It's just another gauge for interest thing, I assume. Sony'll cop the rest of the funding, hence the exclusivity

        No they didn't. Shenmue cost $47M, Shenmue II cost $20M. That's $67M combined, not $300M. No idea where you got that idea from. And Shenmue III is not exclusive, it's being developed for PC on initial release as well.

        Last edited 16/06/15 3:45 pm

          Sorry, guest account. Read your (more informed) post later. The $300 mill. came from wiki... my bad (I never learn...)

      Errrr.... $2m is not going to make Shenmue III. Not even close.

      The first Shenmue cost over $70m to make, and that was going on nearly 20 years ago.

      This is market testing, pure and simple. The real development costs will be coming, presumably, from elsewhere.

      Last edited 16/06/15 2:35 pm

        The first Shenmue cost $47M, Suzuki stated the $70M figure Sega claimed was incorrect. It cost so much because they developed most of Shenmue 2 and the storyline for Shenmue 3 before the first was even released. It was poor development planning on their part, the second game only cost $20M in comparison. Shenmue 3 will be cheaper than that because it's using off the shelf components (eg. Unreal Engine 4, which only costs 5% of sales volume) which already has PC and PS4 targeting so cross-platform expenses are negligible compared to what they would have been for the first two games, a story that's already developed in full and what appears to be a more conservative scope.

        Last edited 16/06/15 2:45 pm

          Fair enough! Thanks for the info.

            Don't get me wrong, you may be right that it's just a marketing test, but my gut is telling me Suzuki has drastically reduced the scope, gone with out-of-the-box components and a storyline that was already fully developed as a result of 14 years of trying to get the damn thing picked up. $2M is definitely very low, but I think they're expecting to hit most or all of their stretch goals and end up with $5M to $10M by the end of it.

          Still more than $2m. Look at how many staff are involved.

            How many staff are involved? Their Kickstarter only really shows 10 regulars and a publicity/crowdfunding trio that may or may not be volunteer. It's not unusual for developers to take low wages in exchange for a cut of sales so it's hard to say what their real expenses are going to look like.

            I mentioned above to Shane, but my instinct is they're expecting to easily exceed the initial goal. I think that figure was literally their bare minimum "what's the lowest salary you can live on in exchange for profit share" amount.

              There was a good write-up at Polygon the other day on kickstarter and budgets: http://www.polygon.com/2015/5/19/8624665/big-indie-kickstarters-are-killing-actual-indies

                I skimmed it (will give it a proper read tonight) and I agree with the gist that costs tend to be a lot higher than people realise for a typical development cycle. I used to work for an middleware developer that worked with both the big end and the indie end of the spectrum, and you tend to get a lot of gambling and risk-taking and profit-sharing agreements in exchange for painfully low regular income the closer you get to the indie end, where they're just desperate to get something going because the alternative is to shut shop.

                I don't doubt Sega will support Suzuki with ancillary costs. From what I understand, Suzuki has been working with them the whole time even though he hasn't been involved in many of their projects, it wouldn't surprise me if he had workspace and office costs handled already. If he gets the game completed, Sega will most likely cover all the necessary marketing and publication costs.

                Without more information, I wouldn't call this a typical Kickstarter campaign, but I don't get the sense that main development funding is being supplemented by Sega either. Hopefully someone on the Kickstarter will ask the question and we can get an answer.

    It was definitely something out of fiction that's for sure with some of those announcements. Once again, Sony just showed games that offer a very wide variety of experiences, as opposed to Microsoft's "bro centric" showing, though less to a degree this year I guess.

    Last edited 16/06/15 1:57 pm

      Agreed. I mean, when I was watching that game about a blind girl who senses the world around her in different ways, you could literally see the Mountain Dew dropping from the stage. Sony, with the CoD exclusivity definitely brought the indie feel back.

        Haha. Touche.

        As I said, though worded somewhat poorly I admit, there was less of that from MS this year. I was impressed with Recore the most personally, but that's really it similar to how I was most impressed with Sunset Overdrive and something else last year, one or two titles. By "bro-centric" it's really more with how MS conducts their conferences in recent years. Every conference will have their presenters that try far too hard but MS have always brought folks that have never presented quite well for me. Then there's their selection of games. Sony in comparison since the PS4 have presented a more rounded experience for their conference.

        In case people want to check bias, I own neither consoles lol.

    I don't completely understand The Last Guardian reaction. It seemed that the audience was only luke warm to the announcement. From what friends have told me, everyone should have been going absolutely bonkers in there - am I missing something?

      Not sure why people are meant to be losing their bonkers over a game that was announced years and years and years ago...

      Want us to be impressed...

      Say it's finished and releasing worldwide, today and people attending can pick up a copy on the way out... AND for taking so goddamn long, here's a remastered copy of ICO.

        I definitely agree with you - but with social media apparently exploding and journos crying (seriously??) everyone I know was like 'meh - I need more'.

    LOVED their showcase. Less into the Final Fantasy and Hitman stuff. More into No Man's Sky and Uncharted. VERY interested in The Last Guardian, despite knowing little about it other than it's now mythical journey to existence.

    And that robot dinosaur game? Holy hell! Where did that come from?! Looks absolutely amazing.

    Sure, I didn't get the No Man's Sky release date I was hoping for. Or a "Buy It Now" Journey remaster. But hell, who cares? Sony killed it.

    Definitely going to watch Microsoft's now and see if it can convince me to buy their console.

    Guerilla Games’ dinosaur thing looks, feels and sounds like it came directly from the mind of an eight-year-old boy

    8 year olds, dude.

      Nah man, I meant specifically an eight-year old boy. What with gendered toys and expectations and what not. Not meant to be a sexist statement.

        I know, I just can't resist a Big Lebowski reference whenever the slightest hint of an opportunity arises.

    Overall I thought it was pretty great. It would have been better if they'd shortened it a bit by dropping the Destiny / COD / Star Wars / Assassin's Creed stuff. Showing multiplatform stuff at platform holder conferences always seems a bit of a waste of time to me. Let the big publishes show their stuff and make their announcements at their own conferences.

    I was disgusted by the Shenmue 3 deal. It was like, here - we don't believe enough in this project, give us your money now.

      You are quite free not to back it, but it appears that thousands are OK with the concept.

      I think it was very unusual, but in reality, who does it hurt?

        Presumably Sony are backing it to some extent, given that it was on their stage at E3 and the kickstarter doesn't mention Xbox, even as a stretch goal (not that I saw in my quick peek at it, anyway). Whether that's just making a donation to the kickstarter or whether they're pouring in some money outside of kickstarter, I'm sure they are funding it in some way.

        Because it's a slippery slope for the consumer. I was similarly alarmed with the Early Access deal that MS announced. There was a time when you used to get a game and that was all you need. Now, you need to pay them money before it's even in production, on the promise that it will be made, pay for a game while it's being made, pay for mods that other consumers work on (oh wait, maybe...), pay for DLC that was already on the disc or in the games files and shipped with the game, the list goes on.

        I'm not railing against Kickstarter on this point. I'm just shaken on an industry that won't take risks and pushes back in the way it has. I mean, really, Sony's conference was remakes, HD collections, sequels and there was barely anything that really pushed their imagination. I was similarly disheartened with MS and Nintendo as well. The use of the car on the platform to showcase Forza 6 was cheesy and stupid. The use of a musician to sing a song while Ubisoft was informing about Just Dance 2016 was unnecessary.

        So much of the conferences was overblown with unnecessary and pure marketing stupidity. CG for the FF7 remake, for Assassin's Creed Syndicate, just ridiculous. Gamers deserve better.

          I agree with the sentiment, but the only answer is regulation. Left to the free market, consumers will keep paying for early access, substandard products etc. I would have liked to have seen a consumers returning products like Ass Creed Unity en masse, but most consumers are too lazy even to do that, which only encourages companies like Ubisoft to keep churning out broken games. Either consumers stand up to this scurrilous behaviour (mostly won't happen), or governments regulate the games industry better (certainly won't happen). I can't see a third way as long as profit is the driving force behind making games.

      I'm one of the people who have been waiting nearly 15 years for a proper conclusion to the Shenmue series. The fact that its even a thing is just amazing to me. And it's clear that it isn't a title that Sega had a lot of faith in. If anything, Sony making a big hullabaloo about it is an awesome thing indeed.

    The Final Fantasy VII remake is what made my day... I grew up playing this game and I still have it play it regularly... All i've wanted for years was for it to be given a solid update... so I for one am very happy this was announced... now lets just hope they do it justice and not release a rotting piece of turd.

    Sony, you finally enable media play back on the PS4, but yet you have not given us a media remote for the PS4. What the hell is you're thinking behind this? What the delay?

    I was very excited for TLG, but Horizon really really grabbed my attention. It seemed to be a kind of Enslaved Odyssey to the West kind of world mixed with Jean M Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear tribal setting. I'm on tenterhooks for further info!

    I was leaning toward Sony for next gen.... Now I'm leaning back to XBone because of my 360 library.

      If you have a PC, there is very little you will get from what was announced today for PS4 as No Man Sky, FF7, SF5 and Shenmue 3 are all coming to PC (and some eventually to Xbox). Moat of the rest of the show was multiplats.

      The only exclusives off the top of my head were Uncharted and The Last Guardian. These look good, but its pretty weak as far as an exclusive lineup for the next year.

        I've missed all Uncharted to date so don't really care and haven't played something out of Japan in years.

        PS4 was just looking the more stable of the two.

    I think Sony really doubled down on this E3 conference, and did extremely well. They put out a whole load of one IP, games we never even heard about and at the same time showed a lot of old IP in sequels and remakes.

    The MS conference felt like it was back to usual for Xbox, which is good, because it was kind of wandering aimlessly for a year or so...but Sony really pressed its advantage with this conference I feel.

    Granted, these games have to be released and play well for it all to count

    I'm gonna have to disagree with Mark on a few things:

    The Last Guardian
    Let me start by saying I've never played Ico or SOTC. So this madly-hyped up re-emergent game from years ago needed to convince me why I should be "in tears" and salivating over it. After watching the footage, all I could say was "That was it?" It looked ok, but nothing near the godly second coming everyone is eating their hats over. I guess nostalgia will be selling this game.

    No Man's Sky
    "Some might have felt as though No Man’s Sky was a little bit bland...I disagree. I thought it was a very real and authentic demo that shows you exactly what you'll be doing."
    That doesn't make it any less bland. If anything, it makes the disappointment even sharper. Don't get me wrong, I love the concept of this game. I really want it to be good. But the gameplay just seems so shallow. What is there to do after you find a planet? And how diverse will the planets and ecosystems be? I have a bad feeling that it will be "Planet A" has red grass, green tigers and blue trees, whereas "Planet M" has blue grass, red tigers and purple trees. Where is the incentive to keep playing after you've discovered 20 planets? What's the hook? What will keep you coming back?

    Final Fantasy VII Remake
    "A bad idea? Shouldn't we leave it alone?"
    No. We shouldn't. I'm one of those unfortunate gamers that never played the original. I've had to hear about how epic it was from just about everyone over many years. I will be glad to play an updated version of this game and experience all of its grandeur like I never could before. I also have a friend who still has his PS1 and the original game. He's played through it 3 times over the years and he's stoked that it's being remade

    Last edited 16/06/15 8:26 pm

      I've tried to replay VII but can't... There are many things that are dated more than just the graphics. Loved it ages ago.

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