So first day of E3 is almost done, and after a bunch of "meh" moments and with Sony next on the line up, I doubt anything can top off Ubisoft's press conference today.
We have seen Microsoft's attempt to jump into the fray with Apple and Nintendo with more connectivity between devices (which sounds a bit streamlined and anti-homebrew to be honest) with an awesome Tomb raider trailer and gameplay demonstration. EA's major surprise was the announcement of UFC, which they managed to snag off THQ after a very disappointing attempt to compete with MMA (trust me I worked as QA for it lol), but otherwise very predictable (still got giddy with SimCity though).
Then came Ubisoft.
First off: No Mr.Caffeine! Yey! Instead we had to deal with the failed banter of Tobuscus and Aisha Tyler, which would have worked much better without Tobuscus to be honest but hey, we're here for the games.
Second: We got to see the first actual gameplay example of the Wii U with Rayman Legends, and it looks pretty awesome! The player controlling the tablet takes control of a fairy-like creature which interacts with the environment and helps setup combat combos, while the other players dish it out with the Wii-motes.
Up to 5 players can join the fun and it seems to really work as a game, and it's always nice to see a 2D platformer take the main stage like that.
But what really made it look awesome was the second level they previewed where the players ran frantically through the level while the tablet controller played some sort of beat game on the environment, unlocking extra glowy thingies (I can never remember the name for the "fairy coins" in Rayman lol) and dishing out damage to baddies as the players run along to the finish.
Third: Assassin's Creed 3.... WOW! The game looks gorgeous, from the environment, to the combat animations. The snow effect really caught my attention as the player moves slower depending on the thickness of the snow and has to move to higher ground to catch some speed. But through the gameplay we got to see a ton of new moves and jaw dropping cinematic kills which looked incredible and very fluid. They also confirmed that the game will span a total of 30 years... 30! That is HUGE! I was expecting this to be the beginning of Connor's trilogy but it seems it will go through the span of his whole life...
Still, Assassin's Creed 3 was the BEST gameplay demonstration so far at E3 and it will be extremely hard to top off.
And last but not least: WATCH DOGS!!! How the HELL did they keep this a secret?? Out of the blue and to finish it off, Ubisoft presents us with a fresh and new IP that looks like a crossover between GTA and the Hackers movie from back in the day (think low tech Matrix for those of you born in the 90's). It starts off with a short intro of how everyone leaves a massive digital footprint, that basically puts up everyones darkest secrets up into the open.
The gameplay showed off the protagonist using what seemed like a next gen mobile to hack through other mobiles, block communications and even identify people he walked by, revealing dirty secrets at the same time, and finally even setting all the street lights to green to cause a major collision. A gun fight ensued where we got a small demonstration of what seems like bullet time and cover mechanics which ran pretty smoothly. But another shocker... as the main protagonist captures his mark, the game suddenly moves on to ANOTHER playable character and it seems like the story will be shifting through a whole team of super hackers with questionable motives!
Seriously.. how did none of this leak out before the conference! I've seen and read people moaning about how there would be no surprises this year due to leaks... but Ubisoft proved us all wrong. I can't wait for this to release!
Farcry 3 was also show cased, but looked pretty standard, apart from being able to use random tigers as weapons (not a big shooter fan here so...) and Shootmania looked pretty meh... but still.
Assassin's Creed 3 and Watch Dogs! Ubisoft stole the show!
Having recently watched Nintendo's pre-E3 presentation, I have to admit their social integration of games has gotten me quite excited. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it is a huge innovation as it has been done before, even Xbox has a full Facebook integration app (which doesn't work extremely well) and PS posts achievements on your timeline (spammy but works).
It's just nice to see Nintendo striding away from its cryptic and useless buddy code system and even creating their own platform and not jumping on to the Facebook train. It also seems to be very well categorized, by grouping players into different layers and stages of communication, not only differentiating them by game played, but also at different stages of the game and even providing general forums on which to discuss issues more in depth.
Having worked as a Community Coordinator and Social Media specialist, this aspect is very exciting for me as it opens new doors to social implementation and communication to and between players, I mean imagine being able to program specific events for a game and just posting a note before the level where it takes effect, or even warning of specific bugs and issues.
But also this makes huge red alarm bells start to ring...
When they first showed off the ability to hand-draw your responses, all I could picture in my mind were hand drawn p*nises... I mean let's face it, most of the population doesn't take the most politically correct and mature approach when directly socializing with strangers in game (yes Xbox Live... I'm looking at you). Sure, the general notion is that those filthy mouthed spammers are just twelve-year-olds trying to sound cool (which sadly is false most of the time), but what will happen when this occurs in a console that is generally perceived as aimed to younger segments of the population?
Nintendo has always worked that extra mile (sometimes extra 200 miles) to make sure that all their games are free of any sexual or over the top incorrect references (even by having specialists on double entendres test their games) and that was mainly the reason for their "buddy code system" on their consoles, to make sure that no offensive and unwanted information would reach minors.
So what is going to happen when Nintendo opens the flood gates and gives players the ability to hand draw offensive material? How strict will moderation be and what consequences will breaking the rules have? And most of all, is Nintendo prepared and ready to handle this in all languages and stages of the game?
I am still looking forward to see how well the system works for myself, but I have a nagging feeling this is going to get awkward real soon.
Lately we've seen a plethora of sites that used to share/stream videos and various archives, go down or be shut down by the infamous S.O.P.A - P.I.P.A - A.C.T.A conglomerate. I'm not going to get into politics or strike up a banner for piracy, as that is subject to everyone's personal opinion and it's not what this blog is about.
I'm more concerned about the "unintentional" role these acts of piracy have come to fulfil in modern society, which I like to call "Pirate Librarians".
Since the dawn of history, humanity has taken upon itself to collect and preserve all forms of visual expression for future generations, such as books, paintings and films, so as to pass on previous acquired knowledge or prominent artistic expressions for future generations to learn from and enjoy. These actions were more prominent (and I'd like to say easy) when these goods were tangible and also more limited in quantity.
However we have now entered the age of the digital archives and the internet, which not only has increased by a thousand fold the amount and availability of visual content, but has also greatly decreased its longevity, as they all tend to disappear into memory (and availability) in the span of years or even months. From a personal point of view, who among us cannot say that they have uploaded some sort of content to a server or webpage which no longer exists?
But this is not only affecting the digital world, as it also affects books, movies and even our beloved videogames, as thousands of titles seem to disappear when they no longer seem profitable as they are no longer made available by their creators. Just try and find a working copy nowadays of Zork or the Simpsons beat'em up arcade through conventional methods and you will find yourself chasing after one holy grail and another to no avail.
Some might say "but I'm sure somebody has a copy of Zork stashed in their attic somewhere". I won't say they don't, but unfortunately, all those precious stashes of floppy disk games will no longer work, as the information was magnetically recorded, and that over time becomes unreadable as the strength of those magnetic fields dissipates.
So how do future generations gain access to those videogame gems? Thanks to roms and torrents mainly.
What online piracy has unintentionally done over time is gather an immense amount of visual content (again books, videos and videogames) and repeatedly made them available through various means and sources to the general public once more, becoming the unintentional librarians of the digital age.
How many libraries have copies of the great video game classics available to the public? I personally yet have to see one. And how will future historians be able to access the plethora of information shared and posted over the internet in the future? Unless they find a super server that somehow has an undegradable information storage unit I find that highly unlikely. They will be more prone to believe we all had super powers as the only tangible remains of our era will be those mint condition laminated comics stashed in someone's basement.
Until some sort of official service or group picks up the role of cataloguing and storing all this information for future generations, it will fall to online piracy to keep storing our virtual relics and making them available to the general public.
I just recently saw an interview Peter Molyneaux (Creator of Black and White and Fable among others) at IGN talking about some of the features that will be released in the upcoming Fable 3. A lot is going to change from previous instalments as the company has set itself a goal of reaching 500,000 copies sold, so it will have to target a much broader audience, moving from it's classic RPG setting to a more action adventure kind of feel. But that's not the point of this blog entry. What struck me was the use of the term "Arcade" game mechanics. That single concept has made me review the history of gaming in a whole different manner.
Let's back up to the birth of video games. Arcades (in all their different genres and forms) are truly the first video games to come into existence. But what is the true concept behind the arcades? A similarly repetitive form that increases in difficulty through a progression of levels. I mean think of your childhood, playing whatever arcade game you can think of. The whole emphasis of the game was to make it past all the different levels of difficulty, repeating time after time the same levels over and over till you finally managed to beat the game. The whole game was based on a continuous repetition of the same concept with slight variations and you'd have to rely on your reflexes, memory and skill to finish the game. This is what I would consider the core "Arcade" concept. For a more ideal setting let's just say we're talking of Space Invaders type game when we refer to the "Arcade" concept (low graphics, high repetition).
Slowly as the years passed the games have started to move further and further away from this basic "Arcade" concept to a more "gaming experience" orientated type of game (as in the feel of the game itself, the feeling and experience you have while playing a game). The graphics improved, more combinations of movements where introduced (or character skills) which made the game more engaging and enjoyful, improving the gaming experience users had while playing the game. Then suddenly the "credits" concept was torn away from the "Arcade" concept. Ok fine in the REAL Arcades (machine in a bar or arcade) they still existed since it was the way they made money out of it, but in the consoles it suddenly became obsolete. You could continue an indefinite number of times and some of the whole level repetition was removed. We suddenly started seeing concepts like saving a game, which were borrowed from the PC games (mostly graphical adventures) and where now a applied to console games. A lot of classic elements rapidly became obsolete such as High Scores and most games started introducing more and more complex story lines to go along with the levels to improve the "gaming experience". And suddenly a revolutionary concept hits the market: The Simulators. Levels and "Arcade" concepts are all thrown out and the game is fully based on the players' personal "gaming experience": they don't get points, don't pass levels, they just enjoy the ride.
The concept of "gaming experience" and enjoying the ride has slowly crept over to all forms of gaming, especially with the use of open worlds and sandbox concepts. Who can say they never just rode around Hyrule on Epona in "Ocarina of Time" just for the sheer joy of it? (yeah ok anybody who never played it, but if you haven't you should!) The general public has also opened up to gaming thanks to this, and proof of it is the smashing success of "The Sims" franchise. The game developers have seen it and since money moves the market all games have slowly evolved to a more "gaming experience" based philosophy with more or less success (Star Wars Galaxies anyone?). The rule now was not to make more detailed and intricate games with a gazillion options, but a more simplified and intuitive way of gaming that instead of challenging you takes you more for a ride.
In a natural way the gaming community divided itself into two opposed factions: The Hardcore gamers and the Casual gamers. The Hardcore gamers are more "Arcade" based: they enjoy games with a higher degree of repetition where they can hone their skills and deeper and more intricate layers of details which they have to slowly delve into to understand fully. The Casual gamers are more "gaming experience" oriented: they revel more in the graphical and submersion elements, enjoy the ride more and look for an entertaining experience instead of sitting down in front of a game trying to crack it down. (By these definitions I'm merely trying to introduce concepts and mean no ill to any of the factions per say.) But none of them are better gamers than others, they simply look for something different.
Take WoW for example. Hardcore gamers in WoW are Raiders, PvPers and even Power Levers. They enjoy the more "Arcade" aspects of the game: repetitive actions which allow them to hone their solo and group skills to achieve the "end game" aspects of the game, they aim to beat the game as in the old arcades. The vast majority of the rest of the game is more for Casual players (again not saying this in a negative way): it let's you explore environments, develop characters, meet other people and has more attainable and frequent milestones.
A lot of friction has appeared amongst the factions simply for an incorrect branding in my opinion. It would seem that the hardcore gamers are more dedicated and higher in the gaming hierarchy than the casual gamers just for the name. But this would be incorrect, as it is simply that they each choose to experience different parts of the game.... after all it IS simply a game.
But I digress... Games are evolving more into the " casual" and "gaming experience" end of the stick. But this is not just because the game distributors are money grubbing loving bastards (even if they are :P) but because it's the natural evolution of gaming. Remember the utopia at the end of the 80's and beginning of the 90's about the whole 3-D goggles thing with alternate realities? Well it's still here! What does that have to do with arcades and levels? The whole function of games is to pull us away from reality so we can relax and flee from our complicated lives for a while, and of course that need is going to push video games to a more immersive and virtual reality, a better "gaming experience". Sure there will still be a place for "Arcade" gamers, but even hardcore games are getting more intuitive with time (when was the last time you HAD to read the instructions before you started playing?).
Maybe it's just me but the whole idea of the "Arcade" concept becoming slowly obsolete both has me disturbed and excited about what things will come in the future. I mean rumours have it that Blizzard will be pulling out it's current raiding system from WoW which is it's core "Arcade" aspect, so what will the future have in store for us? Bioware's highly anticipated Star Wars: The Old Republic is mainly based around story and narrative which is essentially part of the "gaming experience" concept. "Arcade" and "Gaming Experience" are not incompatible but we've seen full core "Arcade" games.... What will full core "Gaming Experience" games be like?
From a gamer's community to another I bring a plea of help. Gaxonline.com has been an active gamer's community for a few years now, much like Dtoid but not as successful. It all started thaks to Gary Gannon, co-host of the now seemingly podfaded MOG podcast along with Ryan Verniere, and it offers the most common tools like blogging utilities (more user friendly than the Dtoid ones imho), a main news page with highlights from the most important gamer blogs out there, a chat window, forum, buddy system and what you'd except to find.
But since Mog podfaded it seems to be falling appart and with the releases of the various MMO expansions it seems to be dieing slowly. So I call out to you famed bloggers and all those that just wish to be heard to lend us a hand and help reactivate gaxonline.com even if it's just by reposting your blogs there or simply leaving your comments on the current blogs. You really have nothing to loose, it's ad free and you'll be able to access a greater audience. Plus your blog will remain on the main page longer since we don't have such an avalanche of posts as in Dtoid at the moment.
So give us a hand and come checkout gaxonline.com. You'll access a bigger audience and maybe make some friends in the process. Our doors are always open to newcomers!