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Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

Matt Gardner
E3 2014

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

E3 week is done and dusted for another year, so we're left in the wake of the industry's biggest event to sit and take stock of all of the things we've seen. With that in mind, here are ten key things we took away from this year's show...

Call of Duty's influence is waning

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

Can anyone even remember anything about the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare trailer? Because I can't. Even Hardline gave a better showing at E3 this year, and that 's basically an inconsistent BF4 reskin job (but with better netcode). Even Activision seem to have realised that Call of Duty's days of phoning it in might be slightly numbered, with a game that looks at first glance about as far away from COD as you might imagine.

It'll still sell, it always does, but one gets the impression that Activision and its studios might have work a little harder than usual because...

Even the most stale genres are seeing innovation

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

The FPS genre often comes under fire for playing things safe, but there were a few reveals at E3 that pointed towards some seriously cool progression. The first is absolute destruction. This is what we want, and Rainbow Six: Siege pointed the way forwards. We've been begging DICE for years to give us true destruction, we've always wanted to be able to breach and clear any surface, and that's exactly what that look at R6 gave us.

"I'm gonna make a new door in this wall," came the voiceover. And then he did. This is what we want -- unscripted, genuinely dynamic destruction, because it can turn a boring duplex into a thrilling, tension-stuffed crucible.

Then there's asymmetrical multiplayer in Evolve and Fable: Legends, simple-but-deep twists on stubborn genres such as Splatoon's ingenious variation on standard TPS multiplayer, Destiny looking to combine FPS, RPG, and MMO elements all into one package. These might not all be groundbreaking steps in and of themselves, but more and more studios are showing greater ambition. You only have to look towards Hello Games and No Man's Sky to see that.

Which brings me nicely onto...

Developers are dreaming bigger than ever before... but size will only get you so far

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

Scale has been a huge buzzword at this year's E3. Think about Destiny, The Witcher 3, No Man's Sky, Elite: Dangerous, new Zelda, The Crew, Far Cry 4, the list goes on.

All of these games revolve around giving players a huge environment (often one that has dynamic elements or is completely procedurally-generated). The invitation is clear, thanks to crisp visuals, gorgeous art design, and draw distances that give you sights to aim for. But as much as scale is a worthy ambition to have, you have to remember to fill those spaces with interesting content. It's all very well having heaving crowds in Assassin's Creed: Unity, but they'll only really be worth anything if we can exploit them in some fashion.

Still, it's encouraging to see developers really dreaming big.

Phil Spencer will get Xbox back on track

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

How refreshing was it to see a Microsoft press conference that didn't have us groaning in our seats with boredom at more corporate, buzzword-stuffed doublespeak. Instead, out came Phil Spencer, a man who came up through Microsoft Studios making and overseeing games. He thanked the audience, the fans, and the hard workers in Redmond, and then got out of the way and let the games do the talking. He's already managed to secure an E3 drinking game rule based entirely around his fabulous t-shirts. He was humble, excited, and best of all, we could relate to him.

We said that Microsoft were on the up just before E3, and they really built on that momentum in applause-worthy fashion. They've got a great short-term plan, and Spencer's real test will be just how prepared they are for 2015 and beyond when Sony and Nintendo start rolling out their big legacy exclusives.

The floodgates are open for remasters

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

Initial delight is swiftly turning towards apprehension with regard to remasters, but there's clearly an audience for this stuff, even if I'm not sold on full price reissues of one-year-old games, more of which we got at this year's E3. What I am up for, however, is the return of Grim Fandango, and all games like it. Forget The Last of Us and GTA V and, if the rumours are true, Sleeping Dogs (no matter how much I love that game). Give us games that we can't play on PS3 or PS4, on Xbox One or 360. Give us remasters that matter, not swift cash grabs just to plug gaps.

Give us X-Wing Trilogy HD basically. Or a Rogue Squadron HD legacy collection for Wii U. That'd be nice. It won't happen, but it'd be nice.

The gap between indie and AAA is closing fast

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

These terms are starting to lose all meaning in a way. There's no real segregation in terms of retail any more on consoles, with all games, large and small enjoying pride of place in marketplaces and subscription initiatives. Both Microsoft and Sony went big on indie this year, with Ori and the Blind Forest, No Man's Sky, Night in the Woods, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Entwined, and more featuring alongside big blockbusters. Again, small teams of developers doing interesting things with AI, fresh takes on well-worn staples, procedural content, inter-device connectivity proved that you don't have to be a big studio to have big ideas.

New show, same issues

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

We had a show were there were more severed heads than female presenters, followed by a PR nightmare for Ubisoft when their flagship studio attempted to suggest that resources were the reason for not having female player models in Assassin's Creed: Unity.

This industry has managed to to keep female protagonists in games to around 15% since the Nineties in terms of mainstream development, there were no real signs of change at E3 this year. Representation and diversity, however much controversy those words might stir up, are still issues that the games industry needs to address from top to bottom.

VR is seriously snowballing right now

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

Superhot and Alien: Isolation on Oculus Rift? Wait a second while I stock up on underwear a sec... YES PLEASE!

Nintendo are still relevant and will be back in a big way... next year

First of all, that Nintendo video presentation was fantastic. It was probably the most entertaining of all of them. In fact, I wish it had gone on longer so we could have seen more stuff at the time. It was marvellous: Robot Chicken Nintendo, Reggie vs Iwata, letting devs and games speak for themselves. It was pure fan service, of course, but they had us utterly enthralled with an effortlessly charming showcase that delivered a strong selection of games that'll only be found on Wii U. It was exactly what we wanted to see from Nintendo...


We were reminded that Nintendo have some of the most promising games out there, that even when they're under pressure, they'll still look to innovate and explore new avenues (and new IPs!). But so many of them, possibly too many of them to persuade me to buy a Wii U this year (though given the awesome Bayonetta double game package they announced that might well change), are slated for 2015.

2015 is going to rock our socks off

Ten Things We Learned From E3 2014

Nintendo weren't alone, though. As frustrating as it might be to see games constantly delayed and so much of what was on show at this year pushed back into next year, it means that 2015's lineup promises to be absolutely spectacular. 2014 is not looking like a barren year by any stretch of the imagination, but the sheer number of tantalising games coming in 2015 is mind-boggling. We know that The Division and Arkham Knight and The Order: 1886 and new Zelda and Rainbow Six: Siege and Halo 5: Guardians and Xenoblade Chronicles X will be coming next year. But then there are titles such as Crackdown, Uncharted 4, Mass Effect 3, Battlefront 3, Mirror's Edge, Crackdown, Quantum Break, and Scalebound. There are so many studios unaccounted for, especially for Nintendo and Sony.

We've been spoilt rotten by 18-month dev cycles and being able to get hyped for massive games every year or two. But games for new generations do take time, even if our impatience sometimes gets the better of us and it sometimes gets difficult to see beyond our own immediate excitement. The point is this, though: the road ahead looks bright indeed.

Those are a few of our thoughts from this year's E3, but what about yours? Let us know yourfavourite moments, the best announcements and the games you're most looking forwards to in the comments below.

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