The funny thing about E3 is how it’s all about That First Reaction. The curtains rise. The lights dim. The speakers begin to boom. Or in Sony’s case, the orchestra.
And then everything comes to a close and the internet sits around deciding Who Won. But in my case, I went back and rewatched everything. The trailers, the speeches, the streams. All of it. At least three times. And you know what? I’m bloody glad I did.
When you’re going through Microsoft’s pitch for the third time, or giving Generic Zombie Walkabout your fifth once-over, you notice things you missed. Objects in the background start to catch your attention. The phrasing of a sentence carries a different connontation a day or two later.
Perhaps most importantly, the level of excitement changes. Removed from the heat of the movement, it generally tends to dull. Hype for new trailers diminish when the distance between now and 2017 sharpens into focus. Enthusiasm for new hardware lessens as the reality of the price becomes clearer.
It’s the hardware that loses the most sheen with time. Take Microsoft. A week on, their pitch for the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio remains unclear. I know plenty of people who have only picked up a LCD or LED TV in the last two years. The only people looking at 4K content as a realistic possibility are those purchasing a TV now, or those who picked one up in the next six months.
And even then, the question remains: how much 4K content will there really be? And how much of it will just be upscaled 4K content in the first place? And if true 4K gaming in a console is what you’re really after, how many developers will be able to offer that when Scorpio launches next year?
Phil Spencer, head of all things Xbox, didn’t help with some mixed messaging immediately after the Microsoft conference. He went and told Eurogamer that there was no point buying Scorpio if you still had a 1080p TV. Shortly thereafter, he clarified that developers would be able to use Scorpio’s extra horsepower however they saw fit.
And how could that extra power be used? Developers might opt to upscale their 1080p games to 4K. They might aim for native 4K gaming at 30fps. Or they might simply increase the amount of anti-aliasing, effects, and textures while hitting 1080p/60fps. The decision is up to them — as it should be.
So: why buy an Xbox One S if 1080p owners will still get some benefit from Scorpio? It doesn’t make sense.
Another use case that boggles me: the argument for Playstation VR. Everyone and their dog expected Sony to give it a massive chunk of time during their press conference, but it had a far smaller presence — and left far less of an impression than expected.
That’s a problem, because I’m still waiting for the killer app. Hell, most people are still waiting for games proper to make themselves available, instead of the brief experiences that are littered across the Oculus, Steam and Playstation stores.
The one thing that might have been close was Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. But horror games are too much for some, and being fully immersed makes that harder. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the game made Patrick physically nauseous — which is the tipping point for almost everyone when it comes to VR.
But you don’t get that perspective when you’re sitting at a desk, recording snippets of gameplay footage for a liveblog. And it doesn’t arrive the evening after, sitting down for dinner with your partner rewatching conferences, snarkily commenting on proceedings.
It’s time. And that’s something especially that you don’t get with games, especially if you’re tens of thousands of kilometres from the show floor.
But what’s intriguing is how, despite the pages of impressions, interviews and hot takes, some impressions just stick. The gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, or that instinct that a developer is finally speaking to you.
Take the live Scalebound demo. It doesn’t get better with time. And the more you watch, the more questions arise. What’s the moment-to-moment gameplay like? What’s the difference with the solo experience? What world are all these massive creatures inhabiting, and why the hell are you slicing and dicing them like it’s a Devil may Cry game?
But sometimes, space and time makes things better. Like Ubisoft’s conference.
Don’t get me wrong: it was still the most plodding affair of all the conferences. Just about every segment ran on for too long. It’s almost like the publisher tries to undersell its properties with rambling interviews and monotonous speeches.
And don’t get me started on that bloody inane fake banter that infects all of their multiplayer games.
But the fourth or fifth time around, you tune the chatter out. And I started to wonder: how would I play Ghost Recon: Wildlands with my own friends? What would we be saying? How would we approach missions?
Could Wildlands end up another version of The Division, where my partner and I spend around 60 hours wandering through the dusty plains wrecking NPCs with some cheese and wine?
God that would be good.
And when the memory of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s jokes about Kanye’s dead mother fade, I’m able to remember just how much fun I had with South Park: The Stick of Truth.
Christ, that was a good game. And I don’t know that The Fractured But Whole could live up to that. Obsidian aren’t making it, for one. But I’ll give it a shot, because I can still remember the sound of me laughing to The Stick of Truth.
Games can be many things, but not many of them are truly funny.
So I’m glad I’ve spent God knows how many hours watching, rewatching and watching again all of the conferences from E3. It’s reminded me of the games I truly want; it’s reminded me of the questions that remain unanswered.
If you can spare the time, you should too.