4 Things E3 2014 Is Trying to Tell You

Team-based co-op, big ugly monsters, remakes, and grim postapocalyptica. This is what the games industry believes you want

The big day of press conferences at E3 2014 is now officially behind us, and impressions have been posted about each of them individually, but looking back on an entire day of announcements, what is the overarching message? Two platform holders and two of the biggest publishers in the world have laid out their strategy for keeping us amused. Are there common threads? Well, yes. Here’s what E3 is trying to tell us (so far.)

The People Want Team-Based Co-Op

This is arguably the biggest trend of E3 2014. Competitive multiplayer has been driving the majority of the truly massive hits for the past five years, but the huge surge in popularity for team-based titles, and especially MOBA’s, seems to have finally secured the future of collaborative experiences as something we can expect as defining “next gen.” So many of the biggest demonstrations of the day featured four-player (or more) co-operative play as part of the core experience rather than as modes pushed off to the side as separate escapades.

Arguably the highest profile of these was Ubisoft’s stunning Assassin’s Creed Unity. When we first saw the game at the Microsoft media briefing, the emphasis was far from the usual stealth-based assassinations. As Danny O’Dwyer said during our post show impressions video, “the original was very much a game about spending hours trying to kill one person. In this it was four people butchering the shit out of everyone.”

Ubisoft is fully embracing the concept across many of its titles. Shaun McInnis characterized The Division’s focus on collaborative team play, observing “last year it looked like a shooter with RPG elements. Now it looks like an RPG with shooter elements.” Methodical and purposeful, the demonstrations at E3 have made it clear that successful players will be those that work together. Similarly team-focused was Rainbow Six Siege. Though a five-on-five competitive game, it clearly requires the kind of coordination and thoughtful teamwork that have made games like PayDay 2 so popular.

So many of the biggest demonstrations of the day featured four-player (or more) co-operative play as part of the core experience rather than as modes pushed off to the side as separate escapades.

Sony’s Andrew House described Bungie’s Destiny as “the embodiment of our vision” for PlayStation 4 before going on to gush that it “will help define the next generation of gaming.” A large part of this enthusiasm is the effortlessly seamless way it integrates co-operative play into the ongoing narrative.

Crackdown, the Unreal Engine 4-powered reboot helmed by original series creator David Jones demonstrated Microsoft’s own dedication to team play, as did Fable Legends which showed a clear emphasis on players working as part of a four-person party. Even the hilariously-titled Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha Prime is focused on four player co-op.

Turtle Rock’s Evolve has already been well-exposed for its four-player, beast-bashing co-operative play, and it continues to impress more with each successive showing. Interestingly, like many of the games shown this year, it embraces the Counter Strike approach to collaboration - where goals and team needs are conveyed through the actions taken by the players and their very specific roles, more than people just yelling at each other to “kill the big monster.”

Speaking of big monsters…

The People Want Big Monsters

Yeah, they’re kind of a thing now. Dragon Age Inquisition has huge dragons, Fable Legends has giant orcs, Evolve has now shown two of its whoppers - the muscular Goliath and the Cthulhu-faced Kraken, Sunset Overdrive has gigantic mutants, The Witcher 3 has a huge griffin, and Platinum Games’ Scalebound is all about beating the stuffing out of big dragon things. Even Call of Duty Advanced Warfare tried to get in on the act a little with it’s humungous walking robotanks. It seems that the consensus is that there’s no better way to show that something is properly “next gen” than conveying a sense of awesome scale with giant creatures.

Makes you wonder why a certain Sony title with very large creatures in it didn’t make an appearance, right?

The People Want Old Games Remade and Rebooted

Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us, Halo, Crackdown, Phantom Dust…and that’s just the list of games that popped up in media briefings already. E3 will no doubt be full of many more reboots, remasters, reimaginings and redux editions. Are we all really going to be satisfied by older games with new licks of paint, or franchises spooled back to the beginning? Whether it’s what you’re looking for or not, the message from E3 so far is clear; for some franchises, publishers want us to think of things starting over with PS4 and Xbox One.

The People Want Everything Dark and Grim

To be fair, not every game was a demonstration of gaming’s seemingly interminable grimness, but let’s face it - there was a lot of horror and suffering. Gaming isn’t unique in this regard, the majority of popular entertainment seems to harbor an infatuation with oppression and savagery lately, but regardless - when you experience any of it as a sustained glut of information like we did during four consecutive livestreams, it can seem much more apparent. Cynically put, it’s starting to come across as little more than desperate attempts to be “contemporary.”

To be fair, not every game was a demonstration of gaming’s seemingly interminable grimness, but let’s face it - there was a lot of horror and suffering.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare kicked off the day with its futuristic apocalyptica, and also ushered in a side-order of dismemberment that was later fully championed by Assassin’s Creed Unity and Mortal Kombat X. The Division, though a spectacular-looking game, bummed us all out with its post-pandemic gloom, and then the new Lara Croft game Rise of the Tomb Raider humanized the heroine wonderfully, while also hinting at an even darker experience than last year’s eponymous reboot.

Elsewhere EA’s new cops vs. bad guys shooter Battlefield Hardline dialed the darkness and destruction up to 11, The Order 1886 doubled down on its horror themes, while Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain paired beatings, stabbings, and more beatings to Mike Oldfield’s (yes, that Mike Oldfield. The Tubular Bells guy) appropriately grim song “Nuclear.”

At the extreme end of the scale, From Software’s much-anticipated Bloodborne (previously known as Project Beast) reveled in its gore, while Suda51’s Let it Die juxtaposed its horror with a logo sporting the grim reaper riding a skateboard. At least there’s a glimmer of humor there, however dark.

When the relief came, it felt wonderfully refreshing. Little Big Planet 3, though seemingly plagued by the same control issues that have driven us crazy so many times before, was exhilarating because of its charm. Sunset Overdrive, though technically post-apocalyptic, felt fresh thanks to its 90s-style bodacious goofiness.

Highlight of the day though, was Hello Games’ procedurally-generated, epic exploration game No Man’s Sky. At a time when the majority of sci-fi games are dark, foreboding, and mostly humorless, it’s something that harkens back to the golden age of 1960s sci-fi. It felt hopeful, sprawling, ambitious, and beautiful. Plus, it’s an indie game made by just four people in the UK, and it arguably outclassed just about everything else in town.

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Discussion

130 comments
granttb
granttb

Frankly, "dark, foreboding, and mostly humorless" is the only aesthetic I'll spend money on. The alternative--the inane, cloying, treacle that has been the norm for most of gaming's history--has never appealed. Games should be art, and art should have something to say about the world, for which dark, foreboding, and mostly humorless is the only reasonable description.

BigGhost_AJT
BigGhost_AJT

Growing a little tired of all the death and destruction.  This grim and the gray phase we all seem to be in, I wonder when it will end.  It's tiring already.   And it's not just limited to games.  Certainly the TV and movie industries reflect the concepts as well.  Also, I get that society goes through these cycles where it's fixated on certain ideas.  Right now we seem to be pre-occupied with our own demise.  But I want games that stray from this a bit.  I'm more intrigued by a game like No Man's Sky (for its exploration) over Titanfall (for its "big, stompy robots").  But that's me.  I want exploration and wonder.  Not a digital depiction of stuff I can see when I turn on CNN everyday.  


Not saying that a game has to be all sun-shine and rainbows to be good.  Certainly depends on how the developer use these themes within the game.  Lord knows I will be on line for Fallout 4.  But...oof.  Lighten up would ya.


This is one of the main reasons I am so glad for online marketplaces.  There I stand a better chance of finding little gems like Bastion.  Provided the content I want is there, I see myself straying from the AAA scene a bit once I do go next-gen.

jeremywm
jeremywm

co-op is all I want my loved one and a few friends and are all hardcore gamers and co-op is are favorite way to play games.


Geogyf
Geogyf

And what Gamespot wants?

Ark1of712
Ark1of712

Um, yeah, that is what we want. Why are you being so derisive about it?

ShadowStar83
ShadowStar83

Not all I want, but they don't care what I think. :p

sgtpepper1806
sgtpepper1806

This is the first time I've been looking forward to call of duty for quite a few years. The new weapons look really neat.

I dunno. Maybe its Kevin spacey.

killedbyzack
killedbyzack

WE don't want these things. YOU and the gaming elite, at Gamespot, IGN, and the respective companies at E3 are TELLING us these things are what we want. We want quality games, and more of them. Not the BS we saw from Sony and EA at E3, and certainly not the crap we're hearing from IGN and Gamespot.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

For me the highlight of all the shows were LBP3 ( even if it was kind of obvious they will do another one ), Sunset something that I don't remember right now that comes on X1 and pretty much all Nintendo games.


Everything else looked very boring to me ... either super realistic or futuristic, very dark and gloomy. During the Order 1886 I was bored, at first I was wondering if it was a new survival horror with zombies, then it was a werewolf, ok interesting but still boring with all the vampyre and werewolf in tv shows.


otherwise it was a lot of multi plat that I didn't care and still too many shooter.


Sorry to be cynical but I'm fed up with Microsoft and Sony ... I feel like they are very bland and there isn't a lot of interesting stuff. It is pretty much copy and paste with a different paint job.


Coop multiplayer is next-gen ? It was a thing during SNES, N64/PSOne days ... looks like Next-gen is only a world for new shiny graphics but beneth it is still a stinky turd plague with Trophy and Acheivement ... stupidly useless that made almost everygames shorter since you have nothing to unlock anymore. Thank god we still Have Nintendo fort that.

irwin888
irwin888

Ya, I would enjoy more SP focused games myself. The dark and ugly stuff I can always have fun with (to be honest I am a horror fan). I'm more than excited to see what's been brought to the table on that genre, but I do feel bad for the gamers whose cup of tea rests somewhere else. Too much of anything can be a bad thing, no matter the content. 


As far as remakes go, I've definitely got my share I'd like to see, but in the end I'd put my dollar toward a new and promising title over a redone one that I've finished. I would like to see more life breathed into the industry on this point and it seems like indy studios might be helping to do just that. Only time will tell, I guess.


And as for focusing on multiplayer integration...well, I'm not a fan. However, viewing it through the eyes of the ever-growing community who do embrace it, it's definitely a good thing. As long as there is as much support out there for the more-to-themself players like me as there is for those opposite, I'm fine with it. Everyone has their thing that makes them tick after all. Mine just happens to be less popular in the gaming world right now.

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

Just to be clear on my intent with the tone of this; I wanted to convey what the briefings on Monday (particularly, though it's relevant to the bulk of what's on-show at E3 with some notable exceptions like Nintendo) were trying to communicate about the game industry's observations of it's audience are. It's not that we collectively necessarily DO want co-op, or grimness, or remakes, or big monsters - but that the presentations at E3 are telling us that publishers currently believe that's what we want. Or should want.

Evil_Sidekick
Evil_Sidekick

One thing i forgot to mention yesterday that, imo, make SP much better when it comes to SP vs Co-Op.


Co-op is great if your goal is to have a few laughs and drink a few beers, nothing tops co-op when it comes to that.

But, if what you want is immersion, to be the character, to overcome the struggles thrown at you, to see the drama unfold.....nothing beats SP, even if there are AI companions in the mix.

Why? It's called PERSONALITY!


Take this for example:

Let's say you are playing 5 different games with your fried, let's call him Peter for the sake of argument.

In each game, Peter will play the same way (unless the game forces him not to).

If he is a gung-oh, he will always be one in very game; if he likes support, he will always be support; if he he is cautioned, he will always be....and so on.

Each character he plays with will be "Peter".


With AI companions (and i mean, great AI) each character will be themselves, they will play distinctive, they will have their own personality and ways of thinking.

greasemonkey42
greasemonkey42

The reboot trend is just a money spinning tool, it's not necessarily what the people "want". Companies are doing it because A) It's easy and B) It will enable people to hop onto these franchises easily and potentially buy future titles.

themc_7
themc_7

Actually, I don't want any of those things. Without friends online, co-op can be really annoying. Reboots are alright, but I'd rather see new IPs or sequels instead of shelling out $60 for a game I already played. Dark and grim? No man's sky and Sunset Overdrive were some of the coolest things from E3 and they're not dark or grim.

Runeweaver
Runeweaver

Instead of developers and publishers telling us what we want, Perhaps they should ask us what we want, And as for big monsters Dragon's Dogma did big monster battles better than any game i have ever played last gen,they need to look at that,getting bored running around monsters feet shooting at them or trying to break their kneecaps with melee weapons.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

"In this(ACU) it was four people butchering the sh.i.t. out of everyone" and that will make me buy the game. :D 

PSYCHOV3N0M
PSYCHOV3N0M

I find it funny that GTA V on last gen consoles has amazing scale with the map/terrain yet in GTA Online 99% of the time I see people ONLY in the bottom half of the map. Makes me wonder where Rockstar went wrong in not keeping players enticed to truly explore & do crazy stuff in the top half of the map.....

Penguinlord1
Penguinlord1

Eh, I'd rather more single player only, story-driven, closed-world experiences. I hate multiplayer because in a lot of ways I feel like it is a cancer on the industry. More story-driven games because in recent years it seems as if this has been tossed on the back-burner in favor of more "dude-bro" types of stories we see in most games these days. Finally, although many would disagree with me, more classic, closed-world experiences. I'd rather a short game with excellent content, and story instead of a long game with mediocre content. It seems when most games become "open-world" these days, they sacrifice every other aspect of the game for simply the sake of making the game open-world, and taking on lukewarm DLC for extra cash. Those are what I would like to see at least. Also, more "color". I'll admit I love grim, and gore as much as the next guy, yet I also love something vibrant, colorful, and happy amongst all the grizzle.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

A trend I'm surprised isn't catching on is a 'you're it' mode. One player in an online game is it (but not specially targeted) and his/her mission is to infect or kill other players. Good examples of this are indi titles you can find on YouTube called Roblox Murder Mystery & Spy Party. They are incredibly addictive and fun with a replay value that is off the charts.

Mraou
Mraou

Thing I learned from E3: Game journalists like to ignore Nintendo.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Must we find a way to bring up Last Guardian in every freakin' E3 2014 post? A boy and his overly big bird-like dog and their adventures. Ok, it's not coming out, we get it. Can we move on please? There's obviously reasons why it's not on display. You think Sony would turn down buckets of money at this point?

If I read ONE more thing about this game, I'm destroying my copy of Socom: Confrontation. Dare me not to!

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

I'm all for co-op games. I'm shocked it took this long after the amazing experience of Rainbow Six 3 and Ghost Recon on the original Xbox.

It makes linear games less linear.

thermalmotion
thermalmotion

1. I want isolated single player experiences
2. Yes, I want enormous challenges
3. I seek new experiences
4. Give me a new spectrum!

MegaMark1991
MegaMark1991

My God, 4 people made NMS? That is amazing. I have heard a lot of people say it might be over ambitious, but I really hope it is a success and wish the devs all the best!

Zloth2
Zloth2

What I would actually like:

Deep games - the kind where I'm still figuring out how things work 40 hours in.

Single player - because nobody wants to wait half an hour while a mull over some game mechanic or decide which of the 15 different kinds of guns to buy.  (And I don't want to make them wait.)

Great graphics - VR if appropriate but don't mangle the game just to try and make it appropriate.

Moddability - Skyrim has basically become a design-your-own-RPG on PC thanks to all the mods.  The "Longest War" mod made the new XCom game even more fun.  Heck, the WAD files we played with Doom back in the day were awesome!  These things should be the rule, not the exception.  And let the console folks get a taste, too.

granttb
granttb

@BigGhost_AJT Frankly, "dark, foreboding, and mostly humorless" is the only aesthetic I'll spend money on. The alternative--the inane, cloying, treacle that has been the norm for most of gaming's history--has never appealed. Games should be art, and art should have something to say about the real world, for which dark, foreboding, and mostly humorless is the only reasonable description.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Evil_Sidekick  I have a couple of friends that I CAN NOT play any game with them that requires teamwork. They simply will not play that way. They are the worst when it comes to playing the Borderlands series. They go a loot everything right in the middle of a battle screwing over everybody else  that is fighting the enemies.

Runeweaver
Runeweaver

@greasemonkey42 A game that was out at the beginning of the previous gen being rebooted i dont have a problem with,for example if they updated Saints Row 2, but this gen has been nothing but releasing games that were out within the last 18 months, nothing really improved just a fresh coat of paint.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@greasemonkey42  I and many other people would love to see the Entire Half Life series updated with new gen graphics. They would sell millions.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@themc_7  Sunset Overdrive looks like a lot of fun. Do we know if it has coop or not?

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

@Runeweaver I think much of it is a result of the lag between products being green lit and when they're finally shown. Much of what we're seeing right now is a direct result of stuff that was selling very well, or getting a lot of attention a couple of years ago. The co-op trend particularly seems to be a result of that. The big monsters thing is probably as much the industry's reaction to Dark Souls as anything

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

@spartanx169x the pacing of ACU is much faster. I think if you found the trudge of previous AC's a bit dull, you may find this more fun. Certainly helps it feel a bit more exciting.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@PSYCHOV3N0M  People that play the online from my experience only want to hunt other players. So they spend all their time looking for other players to shoot. Just my opinion, but I think that is where they went wrong. I can see a gametype for that. But not the main game. But I play GTA to goof off , not for constant combat. I play Shooters(BF, COD, HALO Etc) for that. I think they split their fanbase for the online. Some love it while others hate it.

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

@Penguinlord1 Judging from many of the responses here, you are clearly not alone feeling that way. Honestly, I'm right there with you. I enjoyed Wolfenstein: The New Order immensely, and a big part of that was due to Machine Games' focus on the single player experience, the story, the characters, and the pace at which it all unfolds without them having the distraction of trying to build a multiplayer game, which has very different needs

Swaghard
Swaghard

@Penguinlord1 With few exceptions, it's always Nintendo who capitalizes on vibrant, colorful games. Yet other companies never follow their lead. I've never understood this. Nobody wants to compete with them on their turf.


Also, I too see multiplayer as a cancer on the industry. I like some multiplayer games, but when it's tacked on (Dead Space 3) or ruins immersion (Resident Evil 5 & 6) it really does seem like a cancer. Overpaid, corporate suits ruining a game's artistic integrity... sucks.

Psycho_Kenshin
Psycho_Kenshin

@Penguinlord1 I agree with a good bit of that, a really well crafted linear game (not talking a literal straight line line CoD) is terrific stuff I'd love more of. For example the procedurally generated stuff of No Man's Sky there, that does not appeal to me. I'd rather play a world that was meticulously crafted and optimized for fun.


And in general I agree co-op can make a single player game weaker, though I like Borderlands etc. And I'd like more variety in tone, like a Tomb Raider game not being so similar to Batman in tone, though that game looks good none the less.


But in general I definitely agree, a strong single player game is always incredible. Co-op games and multiplayer are fun too, but not at the expense of immersive single player experiences.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Sevenizz Both COD and Halo have those game types. One is called Infected(COD). the other is called Infection(Halo) and they are popular.  If this new game does well, you can expect other games to follow.

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

@Mraou Nintendo had yet to announce anything when I wrote this. Intention was to convey what the first day of big conferences was trying to convey. Thankfully, Nintendo's approach is quite different to the vast majority of the industry. Hopefully that will translate into influencing others. The only way they'll really do that though is by proving that their approach is superior with sales.

greasemonkey42
greasemonkey42

@Mraou The way I see it, there's Nintendo, and then there's the rest of the games industry. They don't belong with the rest (not that that's a bad thing!)

Ovirew
Ovirew

@Mraou  Well you gotta admit, it would make things a lot easier to count Nintendo in if they actually held a conference at E3, and did so on the same day as the other game companies.

TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@Sevenizz Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian Last Guardian

Ovirew
Ovirew

@Sevenizz  Yeah, it's really kind of a shame how Sony screwed people with TLG.  I think now that we still haven't heard anything a year after the unveil of the new consoles, it's time to let that urban legend of a video game out to pasture.

oflow
oflow

@Sevenizz Its still probably coming out. They are saving it as the big bang for the Japanese gameshow.

Its too little too late though. Has taken so long to come out it can never live up to the hype now no matter how good it is.

Also, I'm not a a Sony fan. 

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

@thermalmotion you're certainly not alone with your point #1. Feedback to a lot of the announcements so far this week is that what many gamers really want are rich, deep story-driven experiences. Best way to prove that is to support the studios that are sticking their necks out for that kind of thing; CD Project Red with The Witcher 3 next year, obviously - but also, if Wolfenstein: The New Order does well, I think that will start to send a clear message that successful shooters don't necessarily need to be multiplayer

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

@MegaMark1991 they've hired a few more recently apparently, but yes; the core team is just 4 guys! The core team are ex-Criterion, and are responsible for making Burnout Paradise feel so magical. Good pedigree!

Foppe
Foppe

@Ovirew @Mraou Have to agree, I prefer them to talk about stuff instead of assuming and predicting stuff.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Damn, now I'll never be able to play Socom: Confrontation.

err, wait...