Last year’s E3, other than the backwards compatibility surprise from Microsoft and the Bethesda conference in general, was pretty bog-standard. And arguably, since the dawn of E3, every conference has really been publishers showing gamers the toys they have locked up in their development studios, only willing to show them the shiniest pieces of a toy that might look completely different in a few months with no context whatsoever. And when many writers and journalists are asked who won E3 in a given year, the cliché many go to is that “the gamers won this year.”
Which is like saying the audience of a magic act wins when the magician’s assistant gets hacked to pieces in front of them. In all honesty, the magician won because the audience members are walking out of the show with less money than they did walking in. But PC Gamer’s conference is, honestly, the only conference where developers, publishers, and gamers are at least on a more level playing field. Fewer shiny cinematic trailers and more gameplay trailers offer better perspectives on what gameplay might actually be like, while the mini-interviews Sean “Day9” Plott has with the developers adds some depth, context, and personality to the studios that are making the games we’ll love/hate/microwave/marry.
The conference in total was about an hour and a half long, so I think I’ll spare writing down everything that premiered and just check off anything that stuck out to me. You can however watch the conference in its entirety here, but the studios and games mentioned should be in the order they appeared.
Day9 was the host of the conference again, which he did a wonderful job at. E3 is divided into two camps: the excited, hopeful optimists and the angry, sarcastic pricks that make comments about everything shown. And while Day9 definitely plants his flag, tent, and garden in the former category, it never came off as disingenuous. He almost really feels like “just another gamer” that gets to host a huge conference, questioning developers about what their games will be about and actually figuring out some pertinent information. If he were interviewing the devs that are making that Spiderman game for the PS4, he’d be the only guy to ask if the game will have Spiderman 2 webslinging.
Firstly, Relic Entertainment doled out some Dawn of War 3 gameplay footage. In the interview, Philippe Boulle of Relic Entertainment stated that they were going to merge the base-building of Dawn of War with the squad-based mechanics of Dawn of War 2. Which was really off-putting to me. It’s like saying that have a great car and a great truck, so you’ll just cut each in half and create a great automobile with the pieces. But not too much gameplay was shown, so we’ll have to wait until it has some more gameplay footage to see how Relic handled the merger.
Probably the coolest concept for VR that was shown was Giant Cop. You play as a large, overbearing cop that enforces the law from above by grabbing people and flinging them like pickle slices on a window. Disrupting hippie protests with an oil truck thrown at their faces brought a certain grin to my face, and the trailer was just tongue-in-cheek enough to be a stand-out among every other straight-faced, serious game announced. Giant Cop is also planned to release on the Vive, Rift, and PlayStation VR, which will be nice not having to worry about which set of glasses limits what games you can play. Few VR games have made me think that the experience would be completely improved with the use of VR, but Giant Cop definitely is a great addition to that list.
ARK: Survival Evolved had a fun tech issue where Jesse Rupczak mic just didn’t work for most of what she was talking about, which was unfortunate, since it sounded like she was trying to get out some really interesting stuff. But one of their official mods, Primal Survival, looks pretty neat. It lets players play as any dinosaur in the game, build a family of dinosaurs, and raise them as their young. It will let everyone actually play out the Jurassic World fanfic they’ve had running through their heads.
Obsidian is making another RPG titled Tyranny, so if you’ve ever played an Obsidian RPG and enjoyed it, you’ll probably just buy Tyranny and love it. It’s trying something new where the “bad guys won,” with your character living in that world of terror and hatred. But it was only a reveal trailer dropped in as a filler, so not much is really known right now.
Dropzone looked like an interesting mesh of RTS strategy concepts and a somewhat-MOBA playstyle. Players controls three different machines that they customize before the battle and use them to overpower their opponent. Not much on the actual implementation was discussed, but the concept seemed different enough that it could shine in a genre of repetition.
Bulkhead Studios along with Square Enix announced something called Turing Test, which is their reskin of a fast-paced style Portal. The clean scientific look, the cubes players carry around, the gun that shoots different colors all sort of look somewhat like Portal, but seems much more quick-paced than Portal. And since Valve develops games by writing binary in sand while hoping that there isn’t a strong wind coming through, we’ll hopefully see a nice spiritual successor to Portal through Turing Test. Maybe we’ll be given a pie instead.
Dual Universe looked exactly like the mix of Minecraft and No Man’s Sky that most Steam users would downvote on Greenlight. It has these bland graphics that don’t do too much to impress, and the concept seems like something so many other games either have done better or just already have done, not really adding anything interesting or intriguing. There’s no real hook to Dual Universe; just aiming to reap some of what the crafting genre has sown.
Halo Wars 2 also seems to be in a bit of dire straits. The game looks like it still only has two factions to play as, limiting a lot of diversity in terms of combat strategies for each side. It’s nice to see the strategy title finally hopping onto PC. But it’ll take more than a mouse and keyboard to sway me. Probably a Flood playable faction, or even a Covenant or Human rebel group. Or just something to make it stand out from almost every strategy game ever, like space combat as well as the ground forces battles. Oh wait, Star Wars: Empire at War already did that.
At the end of the conference, Warren Spector gave a bit of a speech about the history of PC gaming and the positives of modern PC gaming. For those unaware, he’s the creator of the Deus Ex series, had a big hand in game development in Ion Storm, and has been an influential game developer for over 30 years. Having that sort of historical figure discuss PC gaming was a great end to the conference, as he went through some of the older hardships of developing for PC’s in the 90’s and how the Age of Internet has solved so many of those hardships.
The PC Gamer conference is hopefully going to continue being the unique jewel it is in the ravished E3 wasteland. This is the conference that got Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to show off gameplay footage last year while Square Enix showed another cinematic trailer just hours before. Gamers and audience members at least get a fairer shake at the content shown to them than during most other conferences, and the Q&A style conference rather than the lecture-based approach gives developers time to discuss cool aspects of their creations.