E3 2016 Day 1 – EA Falters While Bethesda Shines

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Once again the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo is upon us and you know what that means!  The annual competition between the gaming powers and their epic struggle for E3 domination!  It happens every year with mega gaming studios and companies engineering content to make the masses shriek with excitement.  Spending the rest of the expo talking about their games and tech.  This year is my second attending E3 and much like the tagline for Fallout, war never changes.

While war doesn’t change, the players and their formations tend to.  Last year, the only player in the E3 Game of Thrones to not participate in the pomp and circumstance of the E3 Press Conference was Nintendo.  This year, Square Enix has followed suit and decided against showing their games via conference.  Despite the hiatus of Square, Sunday had a lot to bring us in terms of press conferences.  Bethesda would return for its second BE3 Conference but it wouldn’t have a day to itself, like last year.  No, instead, it would be EA who would try to horn in on Bethesda’s day with a press conference, of their own.

Long before the conference was set to begin, the gaming company that had chosen not to hold a booth at this year’s expo, had a “leak” for a new Titanfall 2 trailer.  However, is it really a leak if it gets released just an hour or so before you were going to reveal it anyway?  Seems more like a PR deal to get more viewers than anything else.

Nevertheless, EA began their coverage with a dreadfully biased pre-show with two guys who would rather vamp with one and other over trivial discussions in an attempt to “charm the crowd” than show or talk to us about anything of actual substance.  It was so bad, the greatest part of the entire pre-show was when they sent us back to the countdown.  However, it wouldn’t be the worst part of the show.

Featuring a countdown that displayed a time of 1:00 PM PST as the official start time for the EA Play Press Conference, the stream began about 7 minutes after.  It’s not a big deal but it’s a little rude to make your viewers continue to wait when we can clearly see when it was supposed to begin.  When the conference finally began, EA tried really hard to garner excitement for their brand.  However, the crowd wasn’t having any of it.  Before, during, and after every big reveal, the presenters were gifted with two or three little “woops” and “yeahs”, despite having a crowd of hundreds and thousands in attendance.  It was really hard to watch.

EA began by showing off the who’s trailer had been “leaked” just hours before the conference, Titanfall 2.  Overall, the game looks tremendous.  It seems as if Respawn listened to everything the fans disliked about the first game and worked hard to rectify those mistakes, even making a single player campaign, featuring a Titan who sounds like Optimus Prime’s consciousness got stuffed inside a Titan and wasn’t yet aware.  Just as it was picking up momentum, a result of poor scheduling caused the conference to crash and burn.

It would turn to Madden NFL 17 and it would show no new gameplay.  Instead, it would talk about professional gamers and new modes for them.  Then, it showed Mass Effect Andromeda.  A strange place to fit that in, seeing as it’s one of their biggest franchises.  Regardless, they made their decision and the reveal was rather lackluster.  They showed some new gameplay but that’s about it.  No story whatsoever.  The next game, though, would end up showing much more depth in story and it would be the most unlikely of games.  FIFA 17.  That’s right, FIFA 17 has a story mode now.  You play as a young up-and-comer named Hunter playing for Manchester United.  As the resident sports gamer, I’m excited about the prospect.  However, it shouldn’t have come directly after people were clamoring for Mass Effect Andromeda story news.  Then they would follow up the story mode news with a segment over coaches that had everyone wondering where Pele was.

Next, EA would reveal Fe as part of their new EA Originals, indie division, of gaming.  It’s a cool concept, one I believe that was spawned after last year’s success with Unravel.  Essentially, EA is partnering up with indie developers with big game ideas and giving them an avenue to premiere what their games are all about.  It all begins with the small Gothenburg game, Fe.  You play as a wolf cub that uses song to communicate with the different animals of the forest.  It is also up to you to save these animals from the grasp of the aliens that are capturing them.  I loved everything from the concept to the music from the trailer.  It’s very reminiscent of February’s Unravel.

Once that was over, it was time to check in with the studios behind the new Star Wars games!  Except, there was nothing to show.  All they did was tell us that they’re working on games.  Then, they gave us a four minute trailer of studios making the games and incorporating little Star Wars themes for each studio.  It seems like the time they spent making that trailer would’ve been better served actually making the game.  You know, so they could show something at their press conference!  It was extremely disappointing on EA’s part.

Lastly, they finished off the event with their premiere game, Battlefield 1.  They did it in an interesting fashion too by showing us the first minute of a new trailer and then talking about the game.  After the presentation, they showed us the full trailer but it was a little weird to see the first minute again.  It’s not necessarily a bad way of doing it, just one I wasn’t used to.  Also, they kept saying “Change the World”.  I don’t really know how you can change the world with a historical video game.  It’s like your history teacher deciding to throw away the book on the first day of class and yelling, “Make your own history!”.  Then, they revealed two strange trailers from the guys doing the pre-show about their weird rivalry leading up to a big 64 player game of Battlefield 1.

Overall, the EA Play press conference was disappointing.  They somehow showed us barely anything from the premiere titles people wanted to see.  Sure, Battlefield 1, FIFA 17, and Titanfall 2 look awesome but it seems like the pomp and circumstance of these press conferences are becoming progressively pointless if they’re not showing us an update on all the games.  What is the point of telling us, “Hey, we’re working on this really cool game!  Here’s a trailer of our team making the game you won’t actually ever see until 20??!”?  Don’t waste our time with games you’ve already told us about if you have nothing new to add.  Which brings us to the flip side of that discussion and a studio that did their press conference right, Bethesda.

A few hours after EA Play, Eric and I made our way to the LA Hangar, a massive Hall behind a residential area.  After waiting in a long line full of gaming media, interns, and big wigs, we were finally introduced to all the incredible decor Bethesda had created.  Once you got passed the sign-in tables, the entire area changed.  Instead of parking lot gravel, our shoes were welcomed with plush black carpet, the walls arranged in tiles that shifted in size, reading Bethesda and #BE3.  The signature Vault-Tec boy stood out in front of a dark corridor, greeting us with that mushroom cloud-measuring look.  After we took a few selfies with him, we advanced through the dark corridor only to be stopped in our tracks by one of the coolest stages I have ever seen.  

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Standing in front of risers that filled 2,000 seats was a giant blue arching stage with an even bigger single screen behind it. The screens would change, showing us little details of the games from corner to corner.  I found myself looking all around during each transition, while the main focus was meant to be in the center of the stage.  As the show was about to begin, these screens began showing us footage of past gameplay, courtesy of the BE3 Pre-show, hosted by former G4 and X-Play duo Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb.  I started to realize, though, that underneath was part of the stage too.  They had installed woofers underneath the risers so that you could feel each big reveal.

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When the conference began, the entire room cheered at the reveal of Quake Champions.  There were shudders and gasps everywhere as they unveiled their first cinematic trailer and boy was it sweet.  Then, the conference pivoted to Elder Scrolls Legends, a strategy card game that Bethesda announced last year.  Afterward, it was time to check in with the new additions to Fallout 4.  From new tech to awesome new levels like Nuka-World to even building your own Vault, like in Fallout Shelter, fans cheered for the DLCs Bethesda would provide later this year.  However, it was the unveiling of Skyrim’s Definitive Edition that really stole that segment.  Bethesda would reveal that Skyrim would be coming to Next-Gen consoles with unbelievable new graphics.  While it wasn’t a new Elder Scrolls, it was an exciting development!

Next, the conference pivoted to a newer game, one that we really didn’t see coming.  Working with and Austin team of developers, Arkane Studios has been hard at work on a reboot of Prey, and boy does it look sweet.  It’s just a cinematic trailer but seeing what Arkane has done with Dishonored has us pretty pumped for the new game.

Then, BE3 showed us something we really didn’t expect, Bethesda VR.  It wasn’t for just some piddly game, either.  It was VR for Fallout 4 and Doom, two of Bethesda’s biggest titles.  They would have it at the afterparty but more on that later.

BE3 shifted from Doom to Elder Scrolls Online, revealing new content and acclaim, but the night belonged to Dishonored 2.  It really showed as not only was it the main event but it was by far the most content they showed.  They even gave us a walkthrough of the game, revealing little nuggets of information that would cause River Song to screech, “Spoilers!” from the top of her lungs.  However, the game looks incredible.  It may even rival that of the first one.  I’m not quite sure if it’ll have all the acclaim, as sequels rarely do, but it’s still an exciting title for this fall.  Plus, they did reveal that anyone who pre-orders Dishonored 2 will get a chance to re-live the first Dishonored on Next-Gen consoles.

While the conference was done, the night was not.  Bethesda had set up a massive party, themed in their new games and inviting people to try them.  They even had themed food.  Turkey legs for Elder Scrolls, Dippin Dots for Prey, among others.  Bethesda had booths for Doom tournaments, a Prey lounge, Quake Champions questionnaire booth, Elder Scrolls Legends tables, Caricature artists, a giant open bar in the middle, a sound stage for Blink 182, and the Bethesda VR booth. The first thing we did was jump into the line for Bethesda VR.  We would be here for the entire party.  Unfortunately, due to a long demo of the game, we were unable to play it that night but what we did see was pretty darn cool.  It will be on the show floor so we’ll be working pretty hard to get you that coverage.  

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Instead, we were able to play Elder Scrolls Legends, which is pretty cool.  It’s like a mixture between Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering.  The goal of the game is to defeat your opponent by taking out all of his points.  To do this, you have to strategically use action cards and heroes to defeat your opponents heroes and attack them directly.  After a 5 minute game of Eric losing and myself winning it declared that I was Cinelinx Champion of Elder Scrolls Legends.

Finally, it was time to leave and shuttle our way back to our home away from home, with a driver who had a unique take on the government, but that’s a story for another time.  On today’s docket, we have EA Play where we’ll be playing Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, FIFA 17, and Madden NFL 17!  We’ll also be live from Sony’s Press Conference.  Also, don’t forget to follow us on twitter during every stream as we’ll have breaking news and pics from all the biggest events!  My next journal entry will appear after Sony’s Press Conference so keep an eye out for your in-depth view of E3 2016!

Be sure to comment below on what your thoughts are from Day 1 of the E3 experience!  Did you like EA, dislike Bethesda?  Tell us what you’d like to see!