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E3 2014: EA Press Conference Reaction

Posted on Monday, June 9 @ 20:55:19 PST by blake_peterson
Star Wars Battlefront. Mmmmm. 
All I wanted to see from EA's conference was something about it developing Star Wars games, and I figured they would drag someone out in the middle of the conference to say "We are sort of developing some games," so I was surprised to see its press conference open with a nice, short spot on DICE's developmenlt on Battlefront, including amazing-looking Hoth and Endor environments, including some video footage of its reference material.

I was sated. 

Then there was the rest of the conference. I will give respect to EA for being ballsy enough for saying basically, "We're gonna show you some games that are so early in development we can't really talk about them, but we're going to talk about them anyway to build hype." It's a great way for them to just sort of say, "Yeaaaaaah, we can just phone half of this thing in if we want."

The spot they showed for Dragon Age: Inquisition began with the most inspired live performance of what looked like an electric cello set to a game trailer ever (this is only half sarcasm, it actually was pretty impressive). The actual game looked pretty too, and the choice of a third-person action-oriented gameplay versus the top-down tactical view was a nice touch. The rest of the BioWare segment was a Mass Effect tech demo that did not look significantly different in desig, but had some very nice textures and lighting; and then some tech demos of an empty contemporary-looking Earth environment. It was sort of a we-know-you-like-Mass-Effect-and-we're-only-pretending-we're-not-working-on-a-new-Star-Wars-game moment. 

As I'm not much one for the sports games, EA's sports coverage was a bit less exciting to me, beyond the inclusion of Bruce Lee in EA Sports UFC (I'm curious about the challenge of putting someone so idolized into a sports game, and how they maintain his legend while still allowing UFC Fighters to beat the crap out of him). The general thrust of what I got from the team sports was that EA thinks it's really important to see how a player's face warbles in agony at a lost shot or goal (in this respect it was surprisingly similar to the Sims coverage, where the major addition was giving the player the opportunity to create personalities that defined their basic interactions) and for the FIFA environments to get tore up by some cleats.

One thing I can say, though I'm not a sports guy, is that advances in defensive play for Madden look like that odd mix of what could end up being frustratingly difficult-to-master gameplay or, if well implemented, an intuitive system, but it also may drastically change the balance of play between offensive and defensive play. While it's generally the province of sports games to push the visual fidelity of the medium, the PGA Tour spot was a bit weird with its focus on the Frostbite Engine, though I can see the appeal of Extreme Fantasy Courses, in a mini-golf kind of way—what's odd is that both feel like they're trying too hard to make Golf, a game of refined skill, exciting in a broader mythological way. Like, in the next preview we see, we'll find out you can be able to play as a Viking raider or something, whose clubs are made from the bones of the men who put up the best fights from village to village.

One thing I'll say for EA is that the developer knows how to put together a spot. Even on the games where little information was delivered, like Criterion's new first-person, multi-vehicular game, the mini-documentaries were incredibly well-produced. Similarly, the spot for Mirror's Edge was a great bump for how the game's visuals were developing but gave virtually no information about the story or any potential difference in setting.

For its finale, I know that Battlefield: Hardline is a big deal (two studios working together on a new direction for a franchise), but I literally fell asleep while watching the video. It's not that I think it's a boring concept, just that the gameplay trailer went a little long. I suspect that they may have changed their presentation following the leak of its more directed Hardline trailer. [I thought it looked like Battlefield: 24. ~Ed. Nick] However, I did wake up for the announcement that the beta would be available immediately on the PS4 and PC. I immediately tried to get into it, only to find what appeared to be Origin hopelessly clogged with the sudden influx of traffic, but was able to get access to it later. 

In short, the EA conference gave me essentially what I wanted (one tiny tidbit of Star Wars that looks amazing) and then a lot of pseudo-information that was well-produced that let us know it were working on games, even if they couldn't tell us anything about them. EA's new marketing scheme excites me, because it implies that the company is excited by mysteries, which are the heart of storytelling. 

I did like the EA Press Conference, perhaps more than I'm letting on. I liked it because I actually do think it was bold to show many of the games it did so early. I also think that EA has positioned themselves knowing that the material on their show floor is going to get the most comprehensive coverage, so showing early-in-development material makes sense, since it allows them to build hype for titles that are years down the line and stoke the fires of their new franchises. 
Tags:   EA, Electronic Arts

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