E3 2015 Impressions – Microsoft
So, E3 2015’s come and gone, and we’re left with a slew of announcements, demos, and wishful thinking for future titles. Now that the swell of hype has somewhat passed, we have some ever-valuable hindsight. As such, I’d like to go over my impressions on what the Big Three had to offer for this E3.
Overall, Microsoft’s conference was pretty solid. With a heavy focus on games, especially first-party ones, Microsoft was able to convey what was coming to the Xbox One well. While there were notably less awkward stage presentations and less business-man-in-suit presenters (even Phil Spencer dropped the blazer/indie dev shirt combo from last year), many of these conferences dropped the ball on gameplay over scripted in-engine trailers with their showcase.
To avoid ending on the negatives in these impressions, I’d like to go over those first. Some press conferences had more negatives/positives than others, so I’ll just be going over the aspects I didn’t like and was impressed by from what was at the show.
Forza Motorsport 6 Presentation
Forza 6’s enhancements are actually pretty cool. Dynamic rain effects are being added that alter performance and the audio design changes based on your perspective. In addition, 3D puddles and night-time tracks are coming. Could Microsoft have shown any of this off in a demo? Nope, just lower the new Ford GT onto the stage for who knows how much money and show those new features in a brief trailer for 10 seconds at max. It’s the showmanship that takes this over the top, and made it one of the more frustrating moments of Microsoft’s conference.
Ok, I’m not going to dis the demo outright because let’s be fair, that concept is pretty cool. Having your own Minecraft world displayed on your coffee table and getting a different perspective is sick! I do have a couple concerns in hindsight, though. For starters, your actual degree of input as a Hololens user seems pretty low. Sure you can move the world and set beacons, but it looks pretty unlikely that you’ll be able to do technical building in its current state. Also, it is known that the camera view of the demo varies much differently from what other outlets have actually experienced with the Hololens. The field of view with the device is actually much smaller than implied. Granted, both issues can be fixed by launch, but those sticking points put a wrench in the demo to me.
There were a few games that were already knew wouldn’t be at E3, like Scalebound, Quantum Break, and Crackdown. One of the stranglers I was hoping to see was Phantom Dust, but recent news has confirmed that the game has no developer and is currently not in active development. Considering the news of how the developer Darkside Games lost the project and was shut down was evidence enough, but this current news twisted the knife even more. Things like not allowing for a larger budget for a promising studio and project, yet spending millions on a Ford GT brand deal is just one of many examples of why I dislike Microsoft’s business practices with video games.
Xbox One Backward Compatibility
It’s not all bad, though. Microsoft did have some strong new reveals, with perhaps the most important being Xbox One Backward Compatibility. Each console handles backward compatibility differently this generation, but the Xbox One will be the only console with the ability to play previous-gen games natively. The Wii U can emulate Wii games by booting into the Wii OS, and the PS4 can stream PS3 games via PlayStation Now, but Xbox One Backward Compatibility will run Xbox 360 games virtually identically, even allowing for online multiplayer with other Xbox 360 owners. These games will also have access to Xbox One features like screenshots and streaming, and over 100 Xbox 360 titles will be available to play on its holiday launch. Most importantly, if you own the game, it’s free! With all of that, It’s obvious that this support is the highlight of the show.
Out of the Big Three, I was surprised the most by how much of the Microsoft conference was devoted to indie games. While Nintendo’s lineup was non-existent (granted the Nindies@Home strategy for downloadable home demos of upcoming Indie titles is a more advantageous take), and Sony had their Devolver Digital sizzle reel like last year, Microsoft devoted stage time to 4 indie games in addition to a sizzle reel. Granted they were pretty much trailers and there’s no sign of their release window, but it’s a step in the right direction and I’ll praise Microsoft for that.
Although many might not think that free-to-play is a good trait for a game to have, I can appreciate Microsoft pushing some more charming games to the Xbox One and the upcoming Windows 10 OS. Fable Legends will be bringing some unique gameplay with its 4-vs-Dungeon-Master design, and Gigantic appears to be bringing some character and color to a multiplayer formula better than games like Battlecry. Microsoft is also showing an initiative with bringing Xbox One titles D4 and Killer Instinct, as well as enhanced Xbox One controller support to the PC. We’ll see if this has legs, but I’m somewhat optimistic that Microsoft will at least try.