In 2017, I was fortunate enough to attend my first E3. I wrote about and vlogged my experiences between June 10-19, 2017
Trevor Trove E3 2017 Playlist
EA Conference Reactions
As E3 week seems to get longer and longer every year, EA kicked things off by moving their EA Play event to Saturday in order to own the day. I’m about to head off to the airport and attend the rest of the week in person but I was able to get my impressions recorded before I left (yay!) so here’s my take on EA’s conference.
- Peter Moore will make a cameo in the FIFA 18 push
- Battlefront II gameplay to end the conference
- Amy Hennig Star Wars game titled and given a 2018 date with a trailer
- Tom Brady on-hand to talk about the honor of being the Madden cover athlete
- Teaser for the next Dragon Age
Nailed the Battlefront II predictions as we ended with multiplayer match gameplay. Everything else was a no go. Amy Hennig’s Star Wars game and Dragon Age were nowhere to be seen. Peter Moore was weirdly absent on the FIFA push especially as they went to a series of interviews with commentators and the like on the single player protagonist of last year’s installment. And there was a drumline with the drummers in a Tom Brady jersey but no Tom Brady.
My Notes from the Show
Madden 18 introducing a story mode Longshot with Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, Moonlight).
Andrew Gulotta (Producer of Battlefield 1) came out with a Battlefield 1 sizzle reel package with YouTubers/Twitch Streamers. He introduced Night maps in June and July and an expansion: In the Name of the Tsar. It will highlight fighting on the Eastern front with six new maps and a new story vignette focused on the Women’s Battalion of Death. Coming in September.
FIFA eSports. People winning a championship belt (which seems weird…like…why not a trophy?)
FIFA 18 continuing the story of Alex Hunter, their story mode player character from last year.
Need for Speed. Poor YouTube creator dealing with teleprompter issues is giving me flashbacks to Michael Bay. But at the same time, wing it dude. There was a rehearsal, right? You should have a general idea of your script.
Need for Speed Payback – showing a Fast and Furious-type heist mission.
A Way Out. A Prison Break-esque game by Josef Fares (Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons). A co-op game designed only for split-screen. Coming Early 2018.
Anthem tease, new IP partnering with Xbox for the full reveal tomorrow.
NBA Live 18. Be “The One.” Another Story mode for the streets or the league.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 star Janina. Showing off a bit of the game. And an extended multiplayer match on Theed.
Microsoft Conference Reactions
Microsoft tries to start a new conversation today with the official details of their new iteration in the Xbox One family code-named Scorpio. How will Microsoft fair as they move themselves to Sunday in order to avoid the Microsoft Morning vs. Sony Evening that usually dominates Monday?
- Halo 6 Teaser a la the Master Chief in a poncho one we got for Halo 5
- Scorpio Release Date: November 3rd. Will be fully backward compatible for all Xbox consoles including the original
- Scorpio Price: $599.99 (some kind of trade-in offer on 360s and Xbox Ones to help bring down the cost
- Crackdown 3 trailer and release date in October (6th?)
- At least three new Triple-A IPs are shown off to help enforce the idea that Xbox is about games.
Rumors started breaking of a $499 price point for the Scorpio this morning. And they were indeed true. Launching November 7th (so I was off by a measly four days). But the announcement that the Xbox One Backwards compatibility program is expanding to titles from the Original Xbox effectively means my call that the new system will be all-encompassing backwards compatible (for games that give the go ahead I guess).
No Halo 6 teaser but Crackdown got a trailer and a November 7th release date (which I’d’ve thought they’d make a bigger deal about tying it into the Xbox One X’s launch). And lastly we had 42 games shown, including 22 “exclusive” titles with a healthy mix of Triple-A new IPs, indie titles, and established franchises.
Score: Let’s say 1.5/5
My Notes from the Show
Shows starting off with a trailer for the Xbox Scorpio. Phil Spencer comes out to rebrand the Scorpio as the Xbox One X. Coming November 7th. Fully backward-compatible with Xbox One library with better graphics and load times. Strongest processor chip in a console. Xbox One X is the smallest console they’ve built.
Forza Motorsport 7 used as the first showcase of the new tech. And then they announced a new Porsche. Exactly why I tune in to E3: for all of the latest motor vehicle news. New Forza is coming October 3rd (4K and 60 fps one Xbox One X).
42 games in the conversation, with 22 console family exclusive.
Not gonna lie. Metro Exodus looks pretty cool.
Assassin’s Creed Origins debut trailer. Jean Guesdon – creative director – comes out to talk a bit before showing more of the game via some alpha gameplay. Origins seems to be leaning more into the the RPG mechanics. Out October 27.
Brendan Greene – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds creative director. Bringing PUBG exclusively to Xbox One later this year.
Deep Rock Galactic trailer.
State of Decay 2 trailer showed off some of it’s game elements. Coming Spring 2018.
The Darwin Project revealed…and then shoutcasted.
Minecraft will feature cross-play across different systems and a 4K update.
Gaming Bum Rush section:
- Dragonball FighterZ Early 2018
- Black Desert MMORPG
- The Last Night
- The Artful Escape
- Code Vein, 2018
Sea of Thieves extended demo showing the game is about more than ship v. ship combat (like last year’s demo) but that’s still a major component too.
Oh hey there Tacoma – August 2.
Super Lucky’s Tale – a sequel(?) to the Oculus launch VR title.
Cuphead coming September 29th.
Crackdown 3 starring Terry Crews, coming November 7.
Osiris New Dawn, Raiders of the Broken Planet, Unruly Heroes, Path of Exile, Battlerite, Surviving Mars, Fable Fortune, Observer_, Robocraft Infinity, Dunk Lords, Minion Masters, Brawlout, Ooblets, Dark and Light, Strange Brigade, Riverbond, Hello Neighbor, Shift, Conan Exiles in the ID@Xbox sizzle reel.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Ep. 1, August 31
Shadow of War extended gameplay look. More of the nemesis system at play – October 10
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Official Xbox One X price point of $499.
Anthem extended gameplay. Definitely giving vibes of Destiny meets Titanfall
Bethesda Conference Reactions
Tonight I got to attend my very first press conference and Bethesda went all out, turning a small segment of Downtown Los Angeles into their very own amusement park: Bethesda Land. Attendees were given free food and drink, collectible pins, and there was even a ferris wheel.
(I don’t know what happened to the video on this one. The raw file was fine but anytime I imported it into Adobe Premiere to edit, it went haywire. Sorry)
- Wolfenstein The New Colossus trailer. Coming in 2018
- New stuff coming to Fallout Shelter and Fallout 4 VR release date for Vive and Oculus announced
- Elder Scrolls Online expansion
- Dishonored 2 DLC following the adventures of Meagan Foster
- To correspond to the Amusement Park invite: two new titles announced with one of them being The Evil Within 2
The theme of Bethesda’s show wound up being 2017. Everything shown today is coming out this year. But apart from the date descepancies, I was largely spot on.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus will follow B.J. Blazkowicz as he tries to embolden the American resistance October 27, 2017.
Fallout 4 VR (and Doom VFR) are coming out by the end of the year. (Nothing on the Fallout Shelter front though).
Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind Expansion received healthy screentime (but it came out last week).
Dishonored DLC following the adventures of Meagan Foster/Billie Lurk as she tries to assassinate The Outsider is coming out September 15th.
And The Evil Within 2 got a lengthy showcase and a release date of Friday, October 13th.
All in all, not too shabby.
Score: I’m gonna say 4/5 (in this meaningless exercise).
My Notes from the Show
Didn’t really take any since I was onsite, away from my computer. But most of the highlights are covered up above.
Oh, and Link amiibo support in Skyrim on Switch pretty much sold it for me.
Ubisoft Conference Reactions
Ubisoft is typically one of the more straightforward conferences. They come out and highlight usual suspects (Just Dance, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, etc.), they announce at least one new IP, and Aisha Tyler is usually up there having fun as the host and talking to assorted celebrities. How much of that pattern will we see this year?
- Opening sequence of Far Cry 5 will be shown off (a la Pagan Min introduction from a few years ago)
- South Park Fractured But Whole showing off more of the character classes
- New Assassin’s Creed game shown off. Set in Egypt as has long been rumored. We see an Assassin perched atop the Sphinx
- A lot of stage time dedicated to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle partnership. Including an appearance by Miyamoto
- New IP announcement to close out the conference
I nailed the Miyamoto/Rabbids prediction. And Assassin’s Creed apparently has a Game Informer coming with an assassin on the Sphinx. But apart from that, I was off on everything else.
Score: Let’s say 1.5/5
My Notes from the Show
Awww…apparently Aisha Tyler isn’t hosting. Sad face.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle to kick off the show with Miyamoto indeed coming out onstage to share some time with Yves Guillemot. A tactical turn-based RPG actually might have sold me on this thing that I walked into today dreading. Coming to Switch August 29th.
Assassin’s Creed Origins has been in the works since Black Flag. Game looks beautiful. I just fear it’ll still be locked in to the same terrible controls I hate. Coming October 27th.
The Crew 2 cinematic trailer showing the world folding in on itself and a whole bunch of different race vehicles across a series of different terrains.
Gameplay showed some beautiful street, water, and air racing. Coming Early 2018.
South Park Fractured But Whole got a new trailer (coming October 17th…maybe)
Elijah Wood partnering with Ubisoft for Transference (2018).
Skull & Bones from Ubisoft Singapore. The Black Flag naval combat in a PvP setting
Just Dance 2018 with songs I’ve never heard because I’m getting old.
South Park Phone Destroyer coming 2017.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Fall 2018) a space combat game with a toys-to-life element.
Steep is getting a Road to the Olympics expansion December 5th.
Far Cry 5 “Amazing Grace” trailer, followed by Dan Hay talking about this installment where a fanatical cult has taken over. “People are fucking scared” Trailer shows off guns for hire, fangs for hire, death from above hire, and co-op support.
Beyond Good and Evil 2 to close out the conference with an extended trailer.
PlayStation Conference Reactions
PlayStation had arguably the most talked about conference last year as it was pretty much game after game after game with very little in the way of developers coming out onstage to talk about the game. It was great that they let the games speak for themselves in that regard but a lot of games shown over the last two conferences still haven’t released and we still have no idea when Final Fantasy VII, Shenmue 3, Kingdom Hearts 3, God of War, Days Gone, Spiderman, Dreams, or Detroit Become Human might be launching.
- Kick-off with The Last of Us Part 2 gameplay
- Spider-Man gameplay and maybe a spring 2018 release window
- Uncharted Lost Legacy action sequence
- God of War big beast – releasing November (3rd)
- Days Gone gameplay and October release date (13th)
No Last of Us (with Neil Druckmann tweeting out after the fact that it’s Chloe and Nadine’s time to shine). We did see a couple minutes of Lost Legacy, Days Gone, God of War (including a big beast), and Spider-Man but apart from Lost Legacy already being dated for August 22nd, everything else was unknown or a nebulous 2018.
Score: Let’s say 2.0/5. Called the content mostly correct, missed the dates.
My Notes from the Show
A whole lot of stuff announced in the pre-show. Undertale coming to PlayStation 4 and Vita (this summer). Knack 2 release date September 5th at $40. Superhot VR to PSVR this summer. Ni No Kuni 2 November 10th. PlayStation Experience confirmed for Anaheim December 9-10th (to mirror last year’s Game Awards/PSX combo).
Music lead in to the Uncharted Lost Legacy trailer but the audio is only giving us sound in the room.
Horizon DLC shown on but audio was still out so I was busy trying to find a good feed. The Frozen Wilds coming out this year.
Still down by the time Days Gone started but I went to the YouTube stream instead and that appears to be about the time they fixed it. Days Gone looks solid but a bit too samey with so many other things this generation.
Shawn Layden came out to celebrate PlayStation real quick.
Monster Hunter World coming to PlayStation in 2018. Seems like a good get since I instinctively tie that franchise to Nintendo.
Japan Studio and Bluepoint bringing another HD Remaster of Shadow of the Colossus to PlayStation 4.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 trailer. And a Story Demo out now.
Call of Duty WWII trailer so I tuned out and caught up on Twitter.
PlayStation VR segment with Skyrim VR as the first showcase piece. Star Child as a second feature. Supermassive showed The Inpatient and Bravo Team (with Monsters of the Deep from Final Fantasy XV mixed in there). Moss – a little sword-fighting mouse.
God of War showcasing more of the new setting, weapons, and gameplay. Featured a big ol’ beast (the World Serpent). Dated early 2018.
Detroit Become Human. Marcus trailer introducing the Android Revolution element of this game.
Destiny 2 trailer showing off the new villain and introducing the new setup and highlighting the PlayStation exclusive strike, weapons, etc.
Shawn Layden then returned to introduce the one more game: Spiderman.
Gameplay featuring Spidey steathily taking out a room of Wilson Fisk’s goons. Then another sequence atop a skyscraper. Martin Li (Mister Negative according to a quick google search) and the Demons might be the big bad. Some quick-time action saving a crane from destroying part of the city and then a showcase of the aerial traversal and another exciting QTE segment. Dated for 2018. And a little end tease after a hype package revealed Miles Morales. My theory on a first view was that that clip was Miles in photographer mode after all of the action he just delivered as Spider-Man but I believe there was a moment in the gameplay where Spider-Man was talking to himself and said “Peter” so it would seem Miles is just a side character.
Nintendo Conference Reactions
I wasn’t expecting too much from the Nintendo Spotlight. I figured they’d be splitting their brief 30-minute presentation between Switch and 3DS titles. Instead, it was a predominantly Switch-centric spotlight that even held a few surprises (new Kirby and Yoshi platformers and the much requested Metroid Prime 4). A core Pokemon on the Switch was inevitable but it’s nice to have confirmation on it. But with how big that franchise has gotten, I don’t know that I’ll ever really feel compelled to get back into it.
I imagine this will be a lot of people’s favorite conference. It didn’t really do much for me but that’s largely because I feel I’ve outgrown so much of the Nintendo catalog. I’ll definitely play through some of these titles but I don’t know how high on the priority list they’ll land when compared to other systems and third-party games.
(Hotel internet was down so I have not yet been able to edit the initial take of this video)
- Star Fox Zero port to the Switch announced
- Mario Odyssey trailer highlighting the hat
- Virtual Console launching with GameCube games like Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, and Pikmin
- SNES-mini announced
- Mother 3 to Virtual Console on Switch. Obviously never going to happen but I’ll throw a prediction away anyway
The Super Mario Odyssey trailer did indeed highlight the hat and its ability to possess seemingly everything else in the game.
Star Fox, Virtual Console, SNES, and Mother 3 were all no-shows.
My Notes from the Show
Reggie came out to talk a bunch of nonsense gibberish about playing “The Game.”
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 got a new trailer. Still slated for Holiday 2017.
Kirby announced for 2018.
Somebody came out to say that multiplayer games would be coming in one of the most pointless transitions possible.
The Pokemon Company reminded us that Pokken Tournament DX is coming to the Switch. They also confirmed that a core Pokemon game was officially in development for the Switch (but the fact that nothing was shown means it’s almost certainly not the long-rumored Stars and is still a ways away – even the developer said maybe more than a year).
A splash screen appeared for Metroid Prime 4 in development for Switch. But again, that’s probably a long ways out (I’m guessing 2019).
Yoshi announced for 2018. Apparently some franchises are just starting fresh with character names on the Switch.
Fire Emblem Warriors is coming 2017.
They reminded us (or introduced if you didn’t watch the Bethesda conference) that the Switch version of Skyrim will include Zelda amiibo content like the Master Sword.
We saw some gameplay from the Breath of the Wild Master Trials DLC slated for June 30th and then a teaser for the Champion’s Ballad DLC pack coming Holiday 2017. Additionally, the four champions from Breath of the Wild will be getting amiibo.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle given a bit of a spotlight in case you missed the Ubisoft conference.
Rocket League is coming Holiday 2017. I could have sworn this was already an announcement or something but apparently it was news. It will feature cross-play functionality with other platforms as well as local wireless multiplayer and some unique Nintendo-theme car ornaments.
And finally we got an extended Super Mario Odyssey trailer with a song that showcased how Mario’s hat seems able to possess nearly everything in the game. Coming out October 27th.
Day One and Two Impressions
I ran into internet troubles yesterday at my hotel so I couldn’t properly edit my videos (and still haven’t got around to fixing yesterday’s) but here are my initial impressions of the games I’ve played at my first two days of E3.
On Tuesday, I kicked things off with Super Mario Odyssey, then delved into the significantly smaller lines for Sakuna of Rice and Ruin, Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age, and Knack 2
Wednesday started with a couple separate demos of Matterfall (to play both levels they were showcasing). Then I moved over to Everybody’s Golf. After lunch I got to play Detroit: Become Human, Harvest Moon: Light of Hope, and South Park: The Fractured But Whole.
Day Three Impressions
Couldn’t connect to the internet to write up this article yesterday but here are my impressions on my final day at E3 2017.
I got to enjoy a demo of Dino Frontier for PlayStation VR, which might be my favorite VR experience to date.
I found myself revisiting Matterfall and Everybody’s Golf thanks to their short lines and addicting gameplay.
And I got to see the behind-closed-doors demos of Days Gone and Marvel’s Spider-Man. Both featured developers playing through extended and alternate looks of the sequences shown of during Monday’s conference.
Lastly, I forgot to mention it in the video but I also played an Indie game called Desert Child so I’ll be sure to give my impressions on that as I write up some more in-depth preview pieces later in the week.
Ranking the Conferences
This is not a “Who won E3?” post/video. Every company had certain objectives and messaging that they wanted to drive home in their conferences and those will always resonate differently with different people.
This is instead my personal ranking of the major conferences (sans PC Gamer just because I don’t follow the PC landscape enough to really weigh in on it). This takes into account my personal thoughts on the games shown, variety, and presentation.
Apart from a few brief shining moments when Janina Gavankar came out to show off a little bit of Star Wars Battlefront II, EA was largely a dud for me. Their sports franchises do nothing for me and Battlefield 1’s extra content is unlikely to draw me back into the game. And the few great minutes with Janina were then followed up with an overly long multiplayer match that did nothing to excite me. I’m excited about the Battlefront single-player campaign and that’s about it.
6. Devolver Digital
Based purely on the style and audacity of their parody show. I couldn’t tell you either of the game’s they showcased, but the hyper-satirical take on the extravagant ritual that is the E3 press conference had me cracking up throughout. Kudos to the team that came up with it. Now if only, I’d actually found out that they had their independent offsite show across the street from the convention center before the show closed on Thursday…d’oh!
I don’t know what Microsoft would have needed to do to sell me on the Scorpio/Xbox One X but this wasn’t it. They managed to undercut my expected $599 price point but the fact that their launching another $499 console just four years after their last one failed to capture the market share doesn’t bode well to the analyst in me. There were a handful of games showcased but enough of them will be playable just fine on my normal Xbox One or multi-platform that I see no reason to invest in another system here. Cuphead, Tacoma, Crackdown, and eventually the Ori sequel are the games I’m interested in here but pretty much everything else fell a bit flat for me.
Nintendo is fittingly my middle of the road conference this year. Super Mario Odyssey, Mario + Rabbids, and Skyrim are pretty much the only three titles I’m really interested in on the Switch the rest of the year so everything else was just filler. I’ve never played a Metroid game so I don’t have a deep love for the Metroid Prime series and that announcement fell on deaf ears. And a Switch Pokemon game was inevitable so the fact that they only game on the stream to say that it is in development was underwhelming. It suggests to me that Nintendo/The Pokemon Company really weren’t sure how the system would be received. If there had been some confidence in it, I think we’d see more resources put into developing for it to get it out in the first year.
The only real reason Sony places as highly as it does on the list is because of all the conferences, it has the most games I’m looking forward to with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, the Horizon DLC, and Detroit: Become Human (hell if you throw in the pre-show you can add Ni No Kuni 2 and Undertale to that list).
But overall, Sony has shown us in the past few years that they are willing to show stuff years out to start the excitement rolling and I’ve grown weary of it. I wanted a better sense of when I’d be playing these games instead of trailers or gameplay with nebulous dates. Or if not that, then something new that could at least break through that barrier with an exciting announcement regardless of when it comes out. Yet another take on Shadow of the Colossus is not that thing for me.
Ubisoft surprised me. I was expecting standard Ubisoft where they’d show a game, talk about it, and show a bit more. And they definitely did that. But their conference also had a lot of heart to it. One of the defining images I will remember when I look back on this year’s E3 will be that of the Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle Creative Director Davide Soliani in tears of pride as Shigeru Miyamoto praised him and his game. Additionally, the tears that welled up as Michel Ansel finally got to talk about Beyond Good and Evil 2 after fifteen years. And Ubisoft managed to take a game that I had completely written off with Mario + Rabbids and actually convince me in a matter of minutes that it might be something I’d be interested in playing. That’s a pretty solid feat in a press conference.
Putting aside that Bethesda will now always be my first E3 conference (and the Bethesdaland theme park they setup in the middle of Downtown LA was an extravagant night of fun, food, and drink), Bethesda gave me exactly what I wanted from an E3 presentation: a focus on games you can play by the year’s end. It didn’t bother me that the conference was short (Nintendo’s was shorter and people didn’t complain about that). I won’t even play most of their slate. But Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has me excited to jump back into that universe (and I’m stoked I get to do it sooner than later), I really admire Bethesda’s commitment to VR with Doom and Fallout 4 (and as shown in the PlayStation conference Skyrim), and though I originally scoffed at the hype surrounding Skyrim coming to the Switch, the prospect of having it on the go for conventions and stuff (now with Link’s Master Sword) has me excited.
Bethesda’s conference was my favorite of E3 2017.
My E3 2017 Experience
I ran through my rankings of the conferences yesterday and I’ll have a Top Ten List of the Games I saw at E3 tomorrow. Today, I want to talk about the experiences I had above and beyond the show.
Saturday Night – IGN Community Meet and Greet
I got in last Saturday night. IGN was holding a Community Meet & Greet from 6pm to 10pm. Had I known sooner, I’d’ve tried to book an earlier flight but as it stood, my flight arrived around 6:30pm. So I grabbed my bags, booked it to the hotel to check-in/drop my stuff off and walked the short distance over to the venue.
I probably showed up around 8pm and I think the first wave of IGN people were turning in for the night since they had a big day of work ahead of them the next morning with the Microsoft and Bethesda conferences. But as I arrived, I got to see friendly faces like Zach Ryan, Marty Sliva, Andrew Goldfarb, and Jared Petty (who was excitedly at E3 showcasing Star Wars Battlefront but also eager to see his IGN friends).
I headed inside and got to see Kiersten Slader, the rock star PR and Events Manager who had hooked me up with an IGN badge for E3. I had seen through social media earlier in the day that she’d had an IV in her arm so I asked if she was okay and she explained that for the second year in a row, she was pushing through E3 with a case of pneumonia and would actually be heading off to Urgent Care later to get some anti-biotics to help get her through the week. When I sang her praises on Instagram the other day, I absolutely meant it. She is a beast and her ability to overcome something like that and keep IGN running like a well-oiled machine for E3 is incredible.
I also ran into Jakejames Lugo of The Koalition. I would be remiss not to thank JJ, who also reached out and had set me up with a badge for the show before I eventually heard back from IGN. He pinged me while I was en route to Disneyland a month or so back with my parents and offered up a pass so I wound up booking my trip around that (before being setup with the other badge a few days later). JJ was ecstatic to be around the party and we caught up over a Hot Pocket and talked about the conferences he was attending and the games he was excited to see. We both wound up independently busy so I didn’t end up running into him the rest of the week but I was glad we got to hang out that night.
I was also grateful to chat briefly with Editor-in-Chief Steve Butts. Shortly before Christmas, I had applied for a position as a Promotion Editor for IGN (responsible for schedule content into the front page blog roll and re-promoting the site’s evergreen content). He wound up calling me about the job in a quick 15-30-minute screener call. I unfortunately didn’t make it to the next round but I was glad to have the opportunity Saturday night to introduce myself face-to-face and thank him for taking the time to discuss the position (Pro-tip speaking as a manager, if handled respectfully, this is always a smart move. I sent a thank you email shortly after the call back at the end of last year but this was a chance to follow-up and further the networking opportunity).
Lastly, I hung out with Dustin Furman, who would be my roommate for the first half of my stay in Los Angeles. He was offered a free last-minute E3 badge and made the trip, even though he would have to leave late Tuesday. Bethesda announced plans to offer up 300 additional wristbands the next morning for their conference Sunday night so we called it an early night to wake up, walk to the venue, and wait in line.
Sunday – Bethesdaland
Wristbands would be handed out starting at 9am. We woke up at 6am and were probably about 100 people back in line when we arrived around 6:30-6:45am. Having just been at Kinda Funny the week prior, waiting in line surrounding by a bunch of gamers was no big thing. I played some Mario Kart on my Switch. We talked about E3 with some of the other guys around us in line. The time passed.
Eventually, security came through the line to offer up wristbands first, to ensure that we had actually been waiting in line and didn’t try to sneak up at the last minute. Then, slowly the event staff collected emails and checked ids and registered your name to a wristband with an NFC chip in it that they could scan.
With badges in hand, we returned to the hotel. Dustin also had a ticket to the Microsoft conference that afternoon so he headed off there while I largely stayed around the hotel room. After the conference, I recorded my impressions before Dustin got back and then I headed off to the IGN war room and the convention center to pick up my badges. The doors to Bethesdaland would open at 6pm so Dustin headed off early, while I took a quick shower first.
As I walked out of the hotel, I saw Brittney Brombacher and Kristine Steimer from What’s Good Games across the street headed in the same direction so I went and said hi. We walked and talked down that way a bit and eventually parted ways when we got to their hotel so they could head up for a quick meal break as I continued onward to the conference.
Bethesdaland itself was basically an amped up traveling fairground. There were food carts themed to tie in to the various Bethesda properties, specialty drinks scattered around at the bars in the various “Lands” (Prey Land, Doom Land, Elder Scrolls Land, etc.), and even a small Ferris wheel. And everything was free. I snagged a couple of the exclusive pins they were handing out at the event (there were 8 in all to collect but as much as I enjoy pins, I didn’t care THAT much to wait in all of the lines/hunt them all down).
Shortly before 9pm, the doors to the conference stage opened and the masses funneled in to the standing room only section to watch (a selection of VIPs were able to grab seats in the stands overlooking the mosh pit). Following the conference, two more “Lands” opened up representing the newly announced Wolfenstein and The Evil Within (for those in attendance, it was a pretty safe bet they were coming because these two were reflected on the Collect Them All visual aid for the pins but the pins themselves weren’t available prior to the conference). Wolfenstein Land in particular was represented as the Diner from the trailer and was fully staffed with In & Out workers handing out free cheeseburgers to anyone who wanted one.
Additionally, the Chain Smokers (a pair of DJs I’m fairly certain I’d never heard of) started playing for the attendees. After grabbing a burger, fries, and a shake, I wandered around a bit more before ultimately deciding the time was right for me to head back to the hotel.
It was an incredible night and one hell of a first E3 conference to attend.
Wednesday – IGN’s Atomic Blonde E3 Party
Monday and Tuesday were pretty quiet for me outside of the conferences and the show. Dustin left and my roommate for the second leg of the trip Eric Petralia (who was attending as Kinda Funny’s photographer) joined me.
My next real event was the IGN party Wednesday night which Kiersten graciously invited me too. She was also kind enough to set up a ticket for my L.A. friend Lauren Wilson. Lauren drove across town and parked her car in the garage next to my hotel before we walked over to the party. It was great catching up with Lauren and we were both looking sharp for the party.
Located inside the Mayan Theatre (which appears to have been a former theatre venue turned into a club/concert hall), the party was a ton of fun. Kiersten had excitedly talked about it throughout the week that it was her favorite thing she’d ever put together and it did not disappoint. We got to see and visit with more IGN folks as well as other assorted attendees. We had a mini-Kinda Funny table for a bit with Sean Pitts and Tom Hawkins. Jacob Bryant, former contributor to Irrational Passions and current contributor to Variety was there so we caught up briefly. I got to snag a picture with WWE/UpUpDwnDwn stars Xavier Woods and Samoa Joe.
I also had a great chat with Mike Aransky. We’ve have a good rapport on Twitter the last couple years and some more conversations following his Classic Aransky launch earlier this year but this was the first time I was able to have a really prolonged conversation with him and I was incredibly grateful for the chance. We talked a bit about his future plans for his YouTube channel, my writing, and the insane challenge I set forth to vlog every day. It was a great chat and I look forward to trying to develop the connection in the future.
Around 11pm, it seemed like the DJ doubled the volume and my entire body started vibrating with every thump of the bass line. Having had our fill of free drinks, Lauren and I decided to call it a night. On our way out, I got to see Greg Miller and say a quick hello and snap the picture I would use for my appreciation post for him the next day. I walked Lauren back to her car and then headed back to my hotel to edit together my impressions of that day until she texted me to let me know she’d made it home safe.
Thursday – Shit Arcade with Mike Drucker
Thursday night, I caught a ride across town to the Nerdist Showroom for a comedy show featuring Greg Miller and a handful of comedians playing (and making jokes about) shitty games, hosted by Mike Drucker. It was a ton of fun featuring such classics as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York for the NES, Where’s Waldo which was made by a NES-era Bethesda Softworks, and Shaq Fu. The show was a ton of fun though I think there was a bit of a feeling of exhaustion from the long E3 week creeping in. That or I have an over-inflated sense of worth for the jokes that were running through my own head. With Mike’s show Bill Nye Saves the World picked up for a second season on Netflix, he’ll be in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future and announced that this Shit Arcade idea will be a monthly show. I wish I lived closer because I had a ton of fun and would love to see what games they pull out next time.
Ben Bellevue ended up coming to the show so we went and grabbed a bite to eat afterward, with him graciously getting me back across town in the vicinity of my hotel room. We had a nice one-on-one conversation that was a bit refreshing since we’d always been hanging out surrounded by a ton of people the week prior at Kinda Funny Live. We talked about the community, our personal lives, and what had us excited from E3. It was such a great conversation that I didn’t even care that I barely touched my Philly Cheesesteak.
I was immensely humbled that a handful of people came up an introduced themselves to me, recognizing me from stuff with Kinda Funny or just online. At the IGN Community Meet & Greet, Bethesdaland, and on the E3 Show Floor, I had people walk up and introduce themselves, which was a surreal feeling.
On the flip side, I walked alongside Burnie Burns, Ashley Jenkins, Cliffy B, and Ashley Johnson at various points throughout the week but didn’t want to interrupt any of them.
While I was playing Knack 2, the person tasked with being in the Knack suit leaned in and watched me play. Sadly, I was busy playing and did not get a picture of this moment.
My Take on a Public E3
A lot has been said about the decision to open up 15,000 tickets to the public this year. While technically holding a media badge, I was effectively one of these public attendees this year. I had no appointments and just played a handful of things I could get my hands on. And while I don’t have anything to compare it to myself, there was a definite sense that the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) did not plan appropriately for this influx of people. When it was announced, I calculated that 15,000 new people would effectively act as a 25% increase in attendance (bringing the previous year’s attendance of roughly 60,000 up to 75,000). Shortly before the event closed on Thursday, I received a press release stating “E3 Closes After Welcoming 68,400 Attendees.” They had previously announced that all 15,000 public tickets had sold out so it’s possible they converted some former media attendees into public passes or the companies and developers that were given passes to hand out to the public last year were drastically cut back.
So even if the ESA didn’t quite reach the potential 25% increase of bodies, they did have significant growth but by most accounts, none of that was accounted for on the show floor. Rami Ismail has already written a great piece on the absurd lack of security (it blew my mind that I walked in Tuesday morning with absolutely nobody checking my bag). To their credit, Nintendo and Sony did drastically rethink how to approach queues after the first day but the ESA-run components were wildly inconsistent. As an example, on Wednesday morning I entered the LA Convention Center near the West Hall around 9:50am to find that the line to get in was nearly gone because they’d opened the West Hall early. I made the trek over to the South Hall and watched from above as the line remained out the door because it had not yet opened, waiting until 10am to open the doors and start funneling people in. It’s a small example but it was a significant walk from one hall to the other so the fact that one line was already done while the other hadn’t yet started highlights a management and communication issue.
On top of that, it would seem that operations were largely identical to last year so there was not a massive influx of extra gaming stations to account for the thousands of extra people who were trying to experience the show. This meant long lines on the big name titles like Super Mario Odyssey. And when I tweeted months back that I envisioned this would make E3 more like PAX, that’s what I was anticipating. The Expo Hall was often very reminiscent of what I’ve grown used to at PAX or PlayStation Experience. Members of the bigger established outlets have kind of dismissed this as something that doesn’t really affect them too much since most of their work was going to be demos behind closed doors anyway. But I think they’re often forgetting that this is pretty much their experience at a PAX East or West as well. They’ll explore the show floor for indie games but the Indie presence on the actual E3 show floor was relatively minimal. Even the demos that were there on the floor might have been drastically different if you actually had the industry connections to have one on one playthroughs with the developers as opposed to the PR team working the show floor. As an example, I was excited to play a demo of South Park: The Fractured But Whole on the show floor. It was hilarious and irreverent. And apparently – as I would find out when hearing Tim Gettys talk about his playthrough – abbreviated. Tim described a gauntlet of fights that closed out his demo in a sequence that immediately followed where my demo on the show floor cut off. This was disappointing in hindsight because it featured the one aspect I would have liked to play more of: the combat.
Overall, I still enjoyed my time at the show. Being around everyone’s energy and excitement was the same feeling that struck me when I attended the first PlayStation Experience and decided that this was a path I wanted to pursue. But I am very curious to see what ESA does with the millions of extra dollars they brought in this year. If every public ticket was sold for the stated rates of $149 (for the first 1,000) or $249, the total extra revenue amounts to more than $3.6 million. Now I’m sure some of those tickets were likely comped or something but I think $3 million is a healthily conservative projection. So where did that money go? Not to security? Not to line management? So where?
I’m not opposed to keeping the show open to the public (especially as I hope to have more PR contacts by next year so that I can strive to get some of those appointments instead of just wandering the show floor), but the ESA needs to drastically rework their approach to the show if that’s going to be the case. Some people suggested the Gamescom model of specific days for the press and the public so maybe we’ll see E3 week continue to get longer with an extra day or two tacked on to the Expo Hall. Or perhaps they’ll go the PAX approach and sell separate badges for separate days to make it more affordable for people who only want to come out for one or two days and then hit Disneyland instead.
Whatever the case may be, my take is that this approach did work but it was far from optimal.
My Top Ten Games of E3 2017
To close out my E3 2017 coverage, here is my ranking of all the games I saw at E3, as well as some more in-depth impressions.
I only played thirteen games so I might as well give a minor highlight to the three that don’t quite crack the top ten.
- Harvest Moon: Light of Hope – I did not have a good time with this demo. It looked really rough around the edges and didn’t feel great with a controller in hand (it seems much more built for a mouse and keyboard at the moment). It also seems incredibly over-simplified, replacing a need to swap out different tools for different jobs with a single catch-all action button. Unless it sees some drastic improvement, I’d much sooner go back to Stardew Valley than give this game any more time.
- Sakuna of Rice and Ruin – I didn’t really know what to expect from this one. I only checked it out because Alex Van Aken of Ok Beast suggested I look for it based on its art style. It’s a perfectly serviceable 2.5D hack-and-slash side-scroller but it didn’t really do too much to stand out for me. The one little novel aspect appeared to be that you could use the girl’s scarf basically as a hookshot for traversal or to grab enemies and throw them around the level.
- Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age – I only really played this one because I was walking through the Square Enix booth and there was an open station. It didn’t really look like a drastically great graphical overhaul compared to the PlayStation 2 original but I of course wasn’t directly comparing the two (but I’d say it looked more PlayStation 3 than PlayStation 4). Some of the UI looks tweaked with a more modern aesthetic but the basic game is pretty much the same. I will applaud them for adding in a “rush” mode that, like Persona or the PlayStation 4 port of Final Fantasy VII, is great for playing through the game quicker to cut down on the time investment usually needed for grinding through these games.
Alright, now onto the real Top Ten.
10. Knack 2
God I hate that this is on here. Maybe I should have capped this at a Top Nine Games of E3 2017 and bumped this up to the “Honorable Mentions” section. Knack 2 is… more Knack. The platforming doesn’t exactly feel great or drastically improved over the first game. Same with the combat, though I think they’ve rebalanced it so you can take a few more hits before dying.
Co-op feels tacked on as only Knack Prime appears in the cutscenes. And friendly fire existing wound up being a hindrance as we tried progressing through an area because we kept accidentally punching each other instead of the big Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark boulder that we needed to punch through. There are some combo attacks that are interesting from a visual perspective (one Knack can rapid punch the other in order to fire the bits like a machine gun, for example) but the stranger I was paired up with and I rarely used them so co-op mode felt more of a hindrance than a help.
9. Days Gone
Not playable on the floor, but I did get to see the so-called “alternate path” demo they were showing off that revealed an alternate take on the sequence we saw in the Monday PlayStation conference.
The game looks great. It seems like Horizon Zero Dawn but with a motorcycle gang instead of robot dinosaurs. It looks like the kind of game that can pull off both stealth and all-out combat in equally entertaining measure. The zombie…err…freaker aspect of the game doesn’t strike me as incredible appealing but it appears to lean more into a Last of Us “man is the real monster” vibe that might ultimately pull me in.
Matterfall is the next title from Housemarque and this one is definitely more in line with Resogun than Alienation. It’s a side-scrolling twin-stick shooter platformer that’ll have players aiming for high combos and the top of the leaderboards.
I typically enjoy Housemarque games but I’ll never be the guy trying to maximize my runs or climb the leaderboards but this strikes me as a game that could be a fun challenge, if I can overcome the control scheme.
7. Desert Child
Desert Child is an indie game I stumbled upon Thursday (and forgot to mention in my recap…it’s been a long week). It’s a 16-bit-style side-scrolling racer that has you on a motorcycle shooting obstacles (or your race opponent) and trying to win the race.
Races will affect your personal hunger levels as well as your bike’s repair levels. In between races, you will have to use your winnings to balance your hunger and repair levels, as well as your gun units. Each aspect affects your racing. Sell off all of your gun units and your weapon in the race becomes little more than a pea shooter. Leaving yourself hungry or your bike broken will affect your in game boost and how quickly it will recharge. It all leads to an interesting risk-reward element to the game that’ll leave you looking to find just the right balance.
6. Everybody’s Golf
Outside of Golf on the original NES and a bit of the Golf mini-game in Grand Theft Auto 5, I’ve never really been into the sport. But the line was short at E3 so I hopped in. The “Event version” they had featured a quick 6-hole round of golf with Shuhei Yoshida built using the game’s Character Creator.
The fast-paced golf game with 10 players – in the floor demo, myself and nine computer opponents – running through the holes simultaneously kept the game incredibly quick and fun. The demo characters seemed a bit powered up, but the game’s leveling system (as someone new to the Hot Shots/Everybody’s Golf franchise) intrigues me and I think it could be a ton of fun to just hop into some rounds of golf with friends to unwind after a long day.
5. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Like Days Gone, I didn’t play Spider-Man but I did watch a developer play it on a projector screen. And holy damn does the game look beautiful! The extended demo shown here was essentially the same sequence as was shown in Monday’s Sony conference but there were a few more fight scenes, which go a long way in making the game appear less quick-time-event-driven.
Effectively the Rocksteady Arkham games plus some great aerial traversal from Insomniac Games, I’m very excited for this game. I mentioned in my Thursday round-up video that I envision the interactive environment elements of this game really helping it stand apart from the standard Arkham combat formula. The reason it doesn’t make it higher on the list is because it wasn’t playable and we don’t have a real concrete time frame of when to expect it outside “2018.”
4. Dino Frontier
My favorite surprise out of E3. When Dustin and I were talking about games we would try to get into using the Experience PlayStation app (where you could attempt to book a play time without having to wait in the crazy lines), he told me about Dino Frontier, which he had played at the PlayStation Experience in December. The slots were extremely limited but on Thursday morning, I was able to take advantage of everyone scrambling to get into to the bigger Battlefront or Destiny 2 demos and went for this smaller option instead. And I was so glad I did.
Dino Frontier is effectively a god simulator in the vein of Black and White or Populous. You oversee a settlement and are responsible for helping it grow and thrive by grabbing settlers and directing them to perform certain actions like chop down trees or gather berries. You can also use those resources for new buildings which you’ll place and then hammer together. Once I upgraded my lumber mill, I was awarded a watering can that I could grab and use to regrow trees and bushes so that my settlers could re-harvest them.
Oh…and all of is this is happening amidst a wild west backdrop with dinosaurs. This kind of game is right in my wheelhouse and even in my short 10-15-minute demo, things got out of my control when bandits came and tried to wreck my little town so it’s definitely something I’ll have to be methodical about. But all in all, this was probably my favorite VR experience to date. The game type is right up my alley and I haven’t really played a god simulator like Black or White in a decade or so and the immersion of being in VR and controlling everything felt really good.
3. Detroit: Become Human
Detroit: Become Human, like Spider-Man, is a game that looks incredible. My first thought when I went hands on with the demo was just how beautiful the game looked. The demo featured was the Hostage situation that was shown off at last year’s E3. In this demo, an android has gone rogue and is holding a girl hostage. You play as Connor, an android hostage negotiator dispatched to address the situation.
Quantic Dream’s divergent storytelling approach is in full effect here. You’re given a success probability calculation based on your actions investigating the penthouse suite/crime scene. Investigating an tablet in the girl’s room will show you a heartfelt moment between the deviant android and the girl that helps fill in your knowledge of the situation (and will unlock certain dialogue options from the eventual conversation). Investigating a body will fill in more blanks and Connor can even digitally recreate a crime scene (via a similar mechanic to the detective stuff in the Arkham games) which increased the probability.
All the while, I was acutely aware that the deviant android had a gun to the girl’s head so I made my way outside to confront him with the information I gathered and try to talk him down. I went out with a probability in the 70-75% range. As I slowly approached, I had to determine when it was appropriate to calm the guy down and when it was appropriate to lie. I was pleased when I successfully saved the girl, getting (as the booth worker claimed) the “optimal” result. I was even happier when I was talking to someone later who had allegedly seen someone go into the conversation with a 99% success rate and still walk away failing the mission.
I really enjoyed Heavy Rain and this definitely feels like that game. The android vs. humanity questions that David Cage and crew appear to be tackling are right up my alley in terms of science fiction storytelling so this probably gonna be one of my most anticipated titles of whatever year it comes out.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey had two levels for their E3 demo: the New Donk City level or the Desert level. I watched as Dustin Furman played the New Donk City level before me so I chose to play the Desert level.
The game immediately feels like a return to the the Mario 64 and Mario Galaxy style of level design. Each level has you seeking out Moon Shards. The level will have one highlighted for you by default but you can go around discovering hidden shards, performing little side quests and mini games, or collecting the 100 purple World coins hidden within each level.
The movement and platforming feels great (but I will be happier when I’m not having to play with the loose Joy-Con controllers in motion control mode – I much prefer a button prompt to having to waggle them left and right to do a spin attack).
The demo was for ten minutes so I barely had time to explore the level but I did manage to nab a few hidden shards scattered around. I also enjoyed using Cappy’s possession technique to inhabit some Bullet Bills and fly around. As an old school fan, my favorite moment might have been going into a warp pipe that converted me into 8-bit Mario on a wall (kind of like hieroglyphics, but these kinds of areas are not restricted to the desert level, New Donk City had one too). Possibly the coolest part of this: you can purchase other outfits for Mario – like a swanky New Donk suit and fedora – and they become 8-bit too.
As I tried to reach one of the Moon Shards, I encountered an invisible path between some pillars so it appeared as though I was walking in mid-air. I later found out that there will be an upgrade in the game that will allow you to actually see the hidden path so there will likely be shards that are cordoned off at first until you can collect these upgrades and come back later.
All in all, it felt good to be playing a 3D Mario platformer again (the last games I played were some of the 2D side scroller stuff). This will be a great game to play without a guide so you can enjoy the discovery on your own trying to collect all of the shards. And best of all, I’ll be able to throw it up on my television or bring it around to conventions with me (i.e. it might end up my most played game at PSX).
1. South Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Stick of Truth surprised me in how funny it was (easily in my top five funniest games of all time) but also with what a good little RPG it was. Based on my hands-on demo with South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Ubisoft is aiming to expand on everything the first game introduced.
This demo started you off with Scott Malkinson (as Captain Diabetes) serving as your guide in a seedy bathroom. The Ubisoft rep gave a quick little guided demo explaining the movement, punching, farting, and detective vision controls. Yup. South Park now has it’s own form of “Detective Vision” like every other game (though I imagine it will introduce it in a very tongue-in-cheek way).
As soon as you leave the bathroom, you are in a fully functioning strip club, with topless dancers all over the place. You’re looking for a specific stripper so Captain Diabetes asks you to talk to three of them around the room. None of them match the person you’re looking for so Captain Diabetes takes you to a back room because he’s found a couple of middle-aged men who might have the information you need.
In their drunken stupor, they mistake you as strippers and a Lap Dancing mini-game begins where you have to grind up against these guys and twerk to the rhythm of the music. Oh, you’re also farting on them.
After completing the mini-game and getting the information you needed, Captain Diabetes announces that you were not in fact strippers but young children (the New Kid this time can be a girl, as mine was, adding to the cringe factor). Then a fight ensued.
As you’ve probably seen from gameplay or trailers of the game, the combat has been given a more tactics-based feel in Fractured But Whole, with positioning on the battlefield now mattering as much as the attacks themselves. You can use this to your advantage and ram opponents into each other or use area of effect attacks. As with the first game, there are also little triggers associated with each attack or defence that can allow you a chance for extra attack or a stronger block, similar to Super Mario RPG or the Paper Mario games.
After the battle, I was tasked with getting a special drink for the DJ because Captain Diabetes has determined that whoever’s name he says comes out from backstage (so if you can replace the DJ and say the stripper’s name you want, she’ll have to come out, right? Children logic is a delightful juxtaposition with the crude humor). So anyway, you need to get a special drink for the DJ with three components: a gin & tonic, and two mystery ingredients. If you try to buy the G&T at the bar, it costs way more than you have so that’s a no go. Instead, it comes down to solving some environmental puzzles using your powerful farts and detective vision. In doing so, you’ll come across the ingredients of “boogers and cum” and “rat shit.” Then all that’s left is the G&T so it’s time to sneak behind the bar and grab one from back there.
The game then introduces a new aspect to the series in the form of a crafting menu. Only used to craft this DJ Special here, it wouldn’t surprise me if this eventually leads to being able to craft stronger weapons or special modifications for your weapons. Looting cabinets and stuff around the world was providing assorted crafting materials to support this idea.
One last good fart on the DJ Special and it’s ready for consumption. He takes it and immediately becomes sick from the farts (not the cum, boogers, or rat shit, of course) and Captain Diabetes calls the stripper to the stage. She argues it’s not her turn and then mistakes the kids as the police and runs backstage with you in pursuit.
This is where my demo ended, but apparently the behind-closed-doors demos wrapped up with another fight of the strippers backstage to show off more of the game’s combat.
A fun and hilarious demo all around that left me wondering “if this is what they brought to show the public at E3, how insane and over-the-top will the final game be?!” I’m very impressed by how much they’ve done to improve nearly every element of what made the first game special and I can’t wait to play it when it comes out (even if it gets delayed again).
It takes the top spot over Mario for me because of that surprise. I go into a 3D Mario Platformer expecting it to feel good. I didn’t expect South Park to work to drastically go above and beyond their last game. Both games will probably be great. But I had a non-stop grin on my face during South Park and Mario, while good, didn’t leave as memorable of an impact in its ten minutes.