I just returned back home from E3 and what can i say, Its all becoming very polished, yet somehow very dull. Many games look nice, and many games i will play, but there is very little to be excited about. Games have never felt so consumable, like they are meant to be played once with minimum of effort, devoid of any need for creative thinking, individualism or personality. They are scripted, shrink wrapped, and ultimately forgettable.
One trend I particularly don't like is that games don't let you do cool stuff, rather the games does the cool stuff for you. It seams to be a company wide policy at Ubisoft that no button press should result in less then a stellar performance. For something to be cool it needs to be rare, for something to be rewarding you need to actually accomplish something, be in control. More and more games feels like re-skinned quick timing sequences. "In this game you can rip the heads of you enemies" really means: "In this game you can hammer the X button and we will play you an animation". For some one who writes code, how re-skinned these games really are is painfully clear.
The thing is that I'm hesitant to say that different is better. There is a reason these games are all the same, they sort of work. I loved scribblenauts, but I want to show it to my friends rather then play it for hours and hours. Getting Super Mario Galaxy 2 may feel like a disappointment in terms of innovation, but then again, getting more form one of the most innovative and best games we have seen in years clearly cant be bad. A lot of indie games are becoming one trick pony freak shows, screaming out "look at me I'm different!", rather then providing gameplay that is fun to play rather then to discover. I don't care that much that Nintendo keeps remaking the same games given that they are still so amazingly good.
I'm making a game that will cost about 10 euro per month, meaning I need to entertain you for 6 months to make the same money you would pay for normal games that you can finish in a week end. I think its a biz model that encourages a different, deeper type of gameplay, where when the initial flash wheres off it still needs to entertain. I wonder what the industry would look like if all game developers got payed buy the hours of fun they delivered.
As for who "won" E3 I really don't care. If you buy all three consoles it will cost you less then 1000USD, they will last for 5 years, that turns out to be about 15 bucks a month. Imagine what it costs to own a car, go on holiday, take up a sport, or any other hobby, in comparison owning all systems is cheap. So why spend time playing a bad game on one system if there is a better one on an other? Every now and then something really interesting and different does pop up (the last guardian anyone?) and to miss it just because you don't have the machine to play it feels like such a waste.
Being different is good because progress is to discover new things, and we can only discover things by trying new things. Most things that are different fail, but I still think we should hold people who fail in great esteem, because of their willingness to try. But we must never forget that the ultimate purpose of being different is to accomplish something better, not just to stand out.
I would like to thank Ian Dallas, Robert Ashley, House of game, DDT, That game company, SCEA and many more for making my trip to E3 a true joy.