Bethesda @ E3 2016 Recap

Bethesda Softworks: A Subsidiary of Zenimax Media had plenty to show at this year’s E3 conference.  Let’s discuss what we saw.


Skyrim: Special Edition

An “HD” update to the game that was purchased by absolutely everyone that has ever existed was rumored before the start of the show.  It was not a surprise to see this game get announced at the press conference.  A couple of key points about this “Special Edition” that Bethesda was sure to let us know about; next-gen visuals, and mods.  Those of us in the PC master race have already enjoyed playing a special edition of Skyrim.  Mods on the PC have been around since the launch of the game, and many of the most popular mods are graphical enhancements.  It looks like the graphics enhancements fall in line with some of the most popular graphical mods on PC.  God rays, screen space reflections, dynamic depth of field, and many other techno-jargon enhancements will make the game feel truly “Next Gen”

“Next Gen” – Their words, not mine.  This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, by my count it is 2016, and the “Next Gen” consoles came out 3 years ago.  This is “Current Gen”.  They are making Skyrim look like a PS4 (a 3 years old console) game.  That is what is happening here.  Will I buy it?  Yes. Of course I will.  Because I have no will to hold on to money in my pockets, and I love buying the same game 3 times.  I am what is wrong with America.  But, in all seriousness, I will be happy to shell out 40-60 bucks (Please Bethesda.. have mercy) to play one of last generation’s greatest games all over again.  And I say play and not “complete” because, this is a Bethesda game.  I am going to explore around for 50 hours only doing sidequests, collect 1000 pieces of cheese, and get tired of the game without completing more than 20% of the story. I will love every minute of it (Again, I am what is wrong with this country)

The re-release of Skyrim is more than a money grab though.  Fallout 4 has limited mod support on the Xbox One, and it is clear to those who have been following Bethesda, that they are excited about bringing mods to consoles.  They are also excited about monetizing mods, earning money for both modmakers and Zenimax alike.  I have mixed feelings about paid mods.  I have been PC gaming for nearly 20 years, and mods have always been one of the best parts of the open PC platform.  Free fan-made updates help keep games fresh and re-playable long after release.  But.. paid mods is a scary proposition.  Many mods can break the game or add powerful cheats for the player.  We could see mods become paid cheat codes or the very real issue of people ripping off free assets to sell them in game.  Paid mods will require a large amount of oversight from Bethesda, from keeping from turning into a shitshow.  This has happened before, and I hope that lessons were learned then, and that I can get my Randy Savage dragon on my PS4.

Dishonored 2

I don’t know much about the dishonored series.  I own the first game, and I played about an hour of the PC version.  The gist I got was, you are in some sort of steampunk nightmare where rats eat people.  Also, you kill about 1000 innocent guards.  All I remember is how terrible I was at not being seen.  I honestly tried to sneak by un-noticed, but likely some guard would hear me shuffling around.  “Please just leave me alone! I don’t want have to super-murder you with my powers”  But.. they always noticed.  And I was all like..

Guards, you should have just ignored how bad I am at this game.

 

Look, I am bad a stealth games.  As a loud-mouthed man of a large stature, I don’t really know what it is even like to be stealthy.  As a child I used to spend time in school “spying” on people.  I would tip-toe down the hallway in my light up sneaks, trying to go unnoticed as I tailed another kid or teacher.  Hiding through the stacks in the library, maybe picking up Boxcar Children #5 to fake peruse while waiting for my subject to make their move.  I was a real baby ninja.  I even built a ninja kit with a grappling hook (cut up coathanger and twine) and a home-made blowdart gun.  My days of sneaking around school hallways and using a crude and dangerous grappling hook are long gone.  How was I more co-ordinated as a dopey 9 year than I am now?

Umm.. Dishonored 2, that is what we are talking about right?  The trailer that they used looked neat.  Umm…  You can be a muder-lady?  Who turns into some terrible smoke monster?  (Like my ex from college, amirite?)  One thing that I have thought about in games like this is a term called “ludonarrative dissonance“.  The term basically means that the gameplay doesn’t match up well with the narrative the game is portraying.  For instance, in Dishonored, you are supposed to be a batmanish savior of the people, but in practice you murder a bajillion guards. (who likely have familes and kids)

The gameplay demo that we were shown displayed some distinct ludonarrative dissonance.  For instance, watch the gameplay demo, and don’t assume that the main character is the protagonist.  Assume that the character you are playing is some sort of anti-governement psycho serial murderer.  Yeah.. eye opening huh?  You kill a lot of people.  If it is that easy for the gameplay of the “good guy” to be seen as the horrific retelling of a villainous murder spree, I think there is a problem in your overall gameplay and messaging.  I like me some video game murderin’, but sometimes you have to step back and think.. why am I doing all of this?  How can a man (or woman) of the people be such a hard-hearted killer?

It is wholly unfair to single out the Dishonored series as being one that exemplifies the aforementioned ludonarrative dissonance.  For instance, in the Bioshock games you just murder everyone you meet.  Sure they are wearing creepy rabbit masks and are trying to kill you, but you are basically an avatar of genocide in Rapture.  Most games have this problem.  Hell, look at the Uncharted series!  Nathan Drake has murdered like 1000 pirates and guards. Simo Häyhä, a finnish WWII sniper, who had the bad ass nickname “White Death” had 505 confirmed kills of Axis soldiers.  This guy was an extraordinarily deadly soldier.. and Nathan Drake, playboy adventurer makes him look like a joke.  Action games and shooters, by design, have to throw battalions of enemies at you to keep the gameplay exciting for 6-20 hours.  So, don’t hate Dishonored 2… hate the game?  (That analogy doesn’t work when you are talking about games)  Either way you feel about guard-murderin’, Dishonored 2 does look pretty cool.  I probably should play that first game.  I wish the PC port wasn’t so sketchy though.  I am sorry that I want to freaking alt tab!

Quake Champions

Quake MOBA?  OverQuake? Quakewatch?  They did not have much to show off at e3 this year.  All we got at E3 this year was this teaser.  Bethesda knocked it out of the park with the recent Doom revival, so I think as fans, we can trust ID software knows what it is doing.  A reboot of the competitive Quake series?  The trailer shows some hero abilities similar to Overwatch’s “Ultimate” abilities.  Supposedly this game is built to run at 120 Hz, and will be PC exclusive.  It will be interesting to see what they have to show at Quakecon in early August.  Orbb in HD please. E3 = Esports.  Esports are pretty hot right now.

Prey

Prey was a pretty divisive game. In Prey (Original, not “Prey” 2017  But seriously, can we stop naming reboots with the identical name of the first game?) you play a native american named Tommy, who, along with his girlfriend, is abducted by aliens.  I loved Prey.  The game was weird and full of flaws but there was something unique about the concepts in the game that stuck with me.  One of the mechanics in the original Prey was that there was no “dying” in the game.  If you ran out of health, you had to play a self-resurrection minigame to bring yourself back to life.  I also thought that the spirit walking mechanics and alien portals and weird gravity tricks were cool. I finished the game in just a few sittings.

Prey 2 was supposed to be the sequel, and it was officially canceled in 2014.  Prey 2 looked amazing.  If you, as a child, had dreams of being a bounty hunter in space, this game was built for you.  All that the public saw of Prey 2 was a vertical slice trailer of what seemed to be an open world alien city with wall climbing and traversal mechanics.  The public reaction to the Prey 2 demo was universally “That looked pretty effin’ cool”.  I guess that the development was not going well, as Human Head studios is not developing “Prey” (Lets say Prey 2017 from now on, ok?  Arkane Studios will be working on Prey 2017.

Bethesda has said that there is no “Prey 2” in Prey 2017.  And that kind of blows.  Prey 2 looked rad as hell. This new trailer, which is all we have seen of Prey 2017, is fairly generic.  This is a teaser that shows some sort of groundhog’s day style scenario.  The alien creatures look like spooky smoke monsters, the action appears to be a typical FPS exploration game, and it looks like there is going to be some sort of twist ending at the end.  “We were the bad aliens.. the whole time!”  You can’t really pass judgement on a trailer, and who really knows how Prey 2 was doing internally, but that was the concept I wanted to see. 2016 and 2017 seem to be the years of the 3 R’s “Reboot” “Reimagine” “Remake” We had Tomb Raider, Doom, Ratchet and Clank, Star Wars Battlefront, and probably 10 more I can’t remember.

Can someone make a space bounty hunting game? Oh.. god no.. not that.

So, what do you think?  Cool stuff? Excited to buy Skryim for the 10th time? I know I am.

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