You would think that after this many years of presenting at E3, a AAA company like EA would have nailed the formula for a successful press conference. The event is a chance to show off your game in action, live, for the whole world to see, and EA completely fucked that up within the first minute. Why bother with live demos when pre-rendered sequences and heavily scripted in-game footage can be used instead? The conference didn’t show off games so much as it explained their features with the riveting execution of a powerpoint presentation detailing China’s dominance of the manufacturing market. There were certainly some diamonds amongst the seminal fluid ocean of pre-packaged marketing, but when the waves of cgi and inorganic demos crashed down, you were just left drowning in frustration.
Right from the start, EA made one point clear: They are listening. Andrew Wilson, the CEO of EA, came onstage to introduce the event and hammered home that player feedback was important, and he made it clear that EA was ensuring players came first. The first few times speakers mentioned player feedback, I was pleasantly charmed at how our concerns had become EA’s concern. Thing is, after every speaker said that something was modified due to player feedback, it lost its punch, and by the end, ‘feedback’ had morphed into a buzzword. It started off genuine enough, but it eventually turned into the same marketing buzz that almost every other presentation reeked of.
After a minute long cgi Mass Effect trailer, Andrew Wilson handed the stage over to “three original IP’s”, which was about a third correct. There was an extended look at Need For Speed (pre-rendered gameplay footage), a teaser trailer for The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire (cgi), and a quick look at Unravel (pre-rendered gameplay footage). Of those three, two of them are far from original, but Unravel looked like a unique game from a developer fuelled by passion. There’s no need to excessively hype me up by saying there’s three original IP’s, just let the gameplay speak for itself! Unfortunately, there were no live demos to see them in action, but when EA did have a live demo, it was hardly an organic demonstration of the game.
The only live demonstration of the conference was for Garden Warfare 2, the sequel that no one really asked for but were willing to put up with to make Battlefront come quicker. To say the least, the demo didn’t feel like the game was being played, it felt more like it was being showed. Each class was highlighted, each power was used once and it felt too rigid for a wholly organic session of play. Maybe it was the speaker commentating in the background or the all-too-perfect runthrough, but I felt that the gameplay wasn’t allowed evolve and pan out naturally. The game had to be explained rather than demonstrated, and this exact problem rang true for everything else in the conference, especially the sports games.
As we all know, EA loves their sports games, and this year’s E3 brought the unveiling of a new generation of richly detailed games that I saw practically no gameplay of. NHL16 was first up, and I know that it comes with a whole slew of new features, but I only saw ‘in-game footage’ that wasn’t gameplay. So, if you asked me how these new features impacted the game, I couldn’t tell you, but I could tell you what other features there are! This happened for NBA Live 16 too, but that was plagued by an impromptu appearance from TheHoopLawd, who was also given zero context (seriously, who the hell was he!?) to show off a gimmick face-registration app. Now, between the release of the next-gen sports games, there was an odd spot for mobile.
Mobile games are rarely given much time during these press conferences, and I’d be surprised if they ever show up again after EA’s attempt to integrate them into their presentation. It was strange; the speaker blurted out a whole bunch of numbers about mobile downloads across the world, which then switched to the announcement of a Star Wars mobile game. Then, before the game’s genre or design was even established, the focus was switched to EA’s new Minions game, and the rest of the mobile portion was spent watching animations. There was gameplay happening, but it had been cut and spliced together, so nothing logically progressed. All I got out of the mobile section was an overwhelming sense of confusion, and this was compounded when Pelé showed up.
Okay, look, I’ll admit, this was the point where I basically gave up all hope. For some reason, Pelé was invited on stage for an interview. At E3. I assumed that this was for the announcement of the latest FIFA, but the interview went for what felt like 16 years (it was 5 minutes, which is longer than it sounds). Don’t get me wrong, Pelé’s a cool guy, but why the fuck is he at a video game press conference talking about his career!? More importantly, why are we interviewing him at all?! There are games to be talked about, gameplay to be seen (or not, honestly) and this felt like a wholly pointless exercise. After this came Mirror’s Edge, but my patience was nearing it’s limit.
At this point, it was 5am, and the fact that there had been almost no real gameplay footage shown was getting to me. Mirror’s edge didn’t help, with less gameplay shown than last year, and that’s saying something. In lieu of gameplay, we got art assets, screenshots and a cgi teaser trailer with a release date! Alright, something of substance! Well, Madden came after that, and trust me when I say that adding an ESPN fantasy football commentator doesn’t fix the lack of gameplay footage. No gameplay is still no gameplay, and it had taken us the whole conference to finally get to what we wanted… But first we needed to get through a bit of circle jerking.
Peter Moore stepped on stage as the Madden gents left, and he began the hype. He knew what we wanted. We wanted the Star Wars. So, Peter took the opportunity, after this hyping, to highlight a few technical aspects of the Frostbite engine. After his waffling on the technical power of Frostbite, we finally got some gameplay… After listening to someone’s story about their childhood love of Star Wars and discussing what we were fantasising of doing at length while screenshots of gameplay LITERALLY FLASHED ACROSS THE SCREEN. There’s a difference between building hype and trying my patience, and quite frankly, I’d had enough. Finally, the speaker cried, “If there’s one thing we’ve heard loud and clear, it’s that you want gameplay,” and that was it. As I watched the incredible battle unfold in the Frostbite engine, I wasn’t filled with glee, I was filled with rage. Holy crap though, Battlefront almost made it worth it. Almost.
This conference wasted an hour and a half of my life. I could have spent my time better by reading lists of features and watching the Battlefront trailer without the shit before it. Overall, the conference was presented in the most obtuse and disingenuous way imaginable, filled with pre-rendered trailers or irrelevant ‘in-game’ footage. Was the conference worth sitting through for Battlefront? Well, that’s not the point. I shouldn’t have to ‘sit through’ for the end, I should have been sold on everything being presented. After this long of doing these conferences, it astounds me that EA have somehow fucked this conference up with such a potentially great line up of games. If you’re listening, EA, try and give me some more actual gameplay next year. Grade: D