And we’re underway for the first press conference of E3, I’m your 4 AM correspondent Blade Shaw. My hopes heading into this where that EA would give us a solid blueprint of what their plans were for the next couple of years, as well as providing a more detailed insight into the games which had already been announced.
The show was opened by EA CEO Andrew Wilson, with the content of his opening definitely slanting for a community first vibe which is something unexpected for EA given how loathed they generally are by the gaming and business worlds. To make the proceedings a little more interesting, EA hosted two live events with Peter Moore as the other host in London. With both men listing off the roster of games we’d be treated to, fans and press in the audience seemed most excited for Mass Effect: Andromeda and Titanfall 2.
Vince Zampella, the CEO of Respawn Entertainment was up first to introduce Titanfall – and it’s good to see they can keep their sense of humour about the trailer leaking prior to the conference. The trailer for the multiplayer had a focus on showing the divide between mech-based and solider combat – with a whole lot of action thrown in for good measure. It seems that the game is trying to offer a more rounded experience this time, with more variety in Titans and customisation, but especially with the addition of a campaign mode which is fully playable offline. Fans can expect this one out on October 28th on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Immediately afterwards, it jumped straight into the stark contrast of a trailer for Madden 17 – complete with rap music to give that epic edgy feel that sports fans have come to love with their sports games. Peter Moore took this one on, discussing the depth of the playable modes and how they will be supporting the growth of the eSports scene with three different models – Challenger, Premier and EA Major. It’s amazingly telling how big the eSports scene is growing with EA really throwing their support behind it, championing a focus from the ground up on establishing an entire scene with a prize pool of $1 million dollars across 4 EA Majors.
Aaryn Flynn, the General Manager from Bioware, followed up with an update on a game that I was the most excited for – Mass Effect: Andromeda. Already I can feel the hype given that it will be on the Frostbite engine, meaning it’s going to look AMAZING if the cinematics are anything to go by. While the “in-engine” cinematics look beautiful and incredibly fluid, I’m still curious to see what proper gameplay footage is going to look like. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any gameplay footage to be shown AGAIN, which was super disappointing – and is the only thing really holding me back from being at a 10/10 hype level.
After, we were treated to a nice message by Mr. Wilson about EA’s philanthropic undertakings with Play to Give – very exciting stuff for those who are interested in helping out with in-game challenges. With a short message about community inclusiveness through charity, Andrew kicked the proceedings back to Peter Moore for a look at FIFA 17. It’s great to see that FIFA is finally adopting the NBA approach to games with “The Journey” mode which is essentially “My Career” from the NBA 2K series, and it’ll also be running on the Frostbite engine meaning FIFA fans are definitely in for a treat. Of course, though, there had to be a sports celebrity cameo appearance somewhere, with Jose Mourinho (Manager of Manchester United) joining Peter on stage for a bit of friendly banter which was SUPER cute and not at all AWKWARD. With one of the FIFA developers coming on stage, it looks like EA have placed a lot of emphasis on overhauling the engine mechanics of FIFA. In doing so, EA are trying to model it towards being as realistic as possible for the player – with features such as smarter and more active AI.
After last year’s warm reception for indie darling Unravel, Patrick Soderlund announced that EA is starting a program called EA Originals. This innovation means EA will partner with indie developers to get their games developed and published, with all the profit apparently being redistributed back to the developers. And, surprisingly, EA brought out a developer from their first EA Originals title – Fe. A game about the player’s relationship with nature, it focuses on allowing you to experience things without any systemic intervention via gameplay or design. I’m very curious to see how this EA Originals program continues to develop, as hopefully this will allow underfunded developers to bring their projects to the table with the assistance of a large publisher.
Next up was STAR WARS with Jade Raymond, dropping a huge bundle of announcements about new Star Wars games on the horizon. We’ll be getting a new Battlefront by DICE and Motive next years, as well as a narrative-driven game from Respawn Entertainment and a third-person action adventure game from Visceral. It was a little bit disappointing to see yet another dev diary in the line-up, but I guess this is the product of the Star Wars games portfolio being entirely future focused at the moment. I’m particularly annoyed with the fact that they’re already announcing a new Battlefront, considering how much the current Battlefront lacks in content. Essentially, they’ll be asking full price again from their fans after under delivering the first time and that doesn’t sit well with me at all.
Without a doubt, the most anticipated portion of the evening was Battlefield 1, with Dice GM Patrick Bach taking the stage. Starting with a small teaser trailer, it was announced that they would be streaming one hour of multiplayer gameplay following the conference; showcasing a 64-player match that included film celebrities, Jamie Foxx and Zac Efron. No, I’m not kidding. This may have been the most hilarious moment of the conference so far as I definitely didn’t expect these two to be involved Battlefield 1. Overall, there was a lot of emphasis on the game never being the same, especially with the addition of a variety of different weapons and vehicles and 100% destructible environments. While it certainly looks amazing thanks to Frostbite and has garnered a lot of attention, I’m still just waiting to see what it’s like physically in the hands of actual human beings. The multiplayer looks pretty solid, and is something I’ve felt that Battlefield has always done incredibly well, so this really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Even though I can appreciate EA’s dedication towards creating a community based around eSports and social/corporate philanthropy, it’s not really what I wanted to see out of this year’s conference. Despite the fact EA might be taking a big step towards repairing their brand’s image, I was highly disappointed with the breadth of announcements without any actual gameplay footage to be seen. Instead, we were treated to a list of games that look cool, but we still have no idea how many of them actually play – and, unfortunately, this is becoming an increasingly booming trend in AAA game development. Grade: C-