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Editorial

VR, Realistic Expectations, and Communities: What We Want From E3 2018

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E3 2018

With the E3 2018 press conferences beginning tomorrow, the OnlySP team has discussed what we would like to see happen during the biggest show on the gaming calendar. These segments are not wishlists of announcements and trailers, but overarching reflections on the nature of the show, so join us for a discussion that takes place a little left of centre.

Ben Newman

This year’s E3—seemingly immune to the torrent of leaks and early announcements flooding out of every facet of the media—is probably the most hyped conference since 2013’s public unveiling of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. However, despite all the exciting AAA content promised at E3 this year, much of it is unsurprising. The show has always had a touch too much marketing panache and contrived advertisement about it, but, in recent years, gaming’s yearly highlight threatens to become formulaic. For this reason, personal excitement for this year’s E3 stems not from the gilded catalogue of AAA titles, but from smaller indies and VR-focused efforts.

The main stage does have its highlights—who is not excited for The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding, et al.?—but it is always submerged in artificiality. Whether from dishonest gameplay footage or cinematics, viewers are often left awe-struck but detail-starved. Indie companies thrive on the opposite: by showing direct gameplay, hands-on footage, and non-reliance on pricey aesthetics. Excitement, personally, comes from gameplay footage, and that is where indies tend to thrive. Much like how the AAA market drip-feeds content, so do its advertisements. Whilst this sentiment may be a little biased, E3 is exciting because it presents people with an opportunity to express their work. The best stories from the conferences are when small titles go big by taking their moment to shine.

On the other hand, virtual reality presents the biggest opportunity in a while to broaden the artistic and commercial scope of video games, yet the sector is not making the most of conferences such as E3 to present its possibilities to the public. The platform is seen as, and frankly is, a privileged commodity, far beyond the economic and technological reaches of the everyday consumer. If VR can take E3 by the scruff of the neck and present interesting games on the systems, then it will make the event infinitely more exciting. For example, Xbox’s ill-fated Kinect carried itself not on the quality of product, but by utilising E3’s scope and its relative affordability. VR has a lot more potential than that peripheral; it just needs to show its worth at the big moments.

E3 2018

Richard Flint

E3 is that magical time of the year when gamers eagerly await the latest news from their favourite developers, even if that news comes in the form of a split-second clip showing the title of a new project.

Fans and journalists alike tune in around the globe to decipher every nugget of information that comes pouring out of the event, whether it be for a new IP or an announced sequel. Even before the actual event, excitement builds from the speculation of what could be shown off.

The main issue with having so much hype built around a single event is that some games are showcased when still in extremely early development. Therein lies the curse of E3, where developers will reveal their unfinished project to the world in an attempt to capitalise on the hype train, only for it to be delayed, downgraded, or even cancelled entirely.

One of the most disappointing experiences for any gamer is to be shown a visual masterpiece, only to see actual gameplay at a severely lower quality. Titles such as Watch Dogs and Rainbow Six Siege have suffered massive backlash for severe graphical downgrades after their respective E3 shows.

While a game differing in quality is a tough pill to swallow, that pales in comparison to hearing the news of an anticipated release being cancelled. Titles such as Scalebound, Fable Legends, and the original Prey 2 have all fallen victim to post-E3 cancellation. However, even cancellation does not necessarily mean the end of ideas. For example, a shred of hope still lies among avid E3 followers for projects such as Star Wars 1313—cancelled following Disney’s acquisition of LucasArts—as EA’s open-world project will reportedly draw inspiration from 1313.

With that being said, any title announced at E3 should be viewed with caution to avoid potential disappointment in the future. While the hype and spectacle of E3 is what makes the event so anticipated, forgetting all of the amazing projects that have been left behind is easy.

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Chris Hepburn

E3 is a special time of year, where gamers and press are delighted with new announcements and reveals for the coming year or beyond. The excitement the conferences give fans can be likened to opening a gift on a special occasion or holiday, whether that be a lame pair of socks or tickets to a favorite band.

If the sense of surprise is so important to drawing people in to view the show, then why  do developers reveal titles before E3? Why do sources leak information that developers may not want to be public?

A side effect of the pre-E3 leaks and reveals is that the show loses some of its thrill. Watching for the upcoming games no longer carries the elation of opening a present, but instead  the impatience and expectation of more details. The initial reveal may create excitement, yet misses the mark slightly due to not being combined with the atmosphere of hype that comes during the event.

One example is Bethesda’s pre-event showings. Fallout 76 and Rage 2 having been shown off means they are expected to have a major part to play during E3. Other games, including The Elder Scrolls Online and The Elder Scrolls: Legends, also being almost guaranteed to make an appearance to show off new expansions leaves little time for Bethesda to shock with other projects. Viewers no longer receive the surprise of something new, but must instead subsist on more information about known projects. Similar to watching a movie, going in without foreknowledge to keep the mystery and suspense alive makes the entire experience more entertaining.

Bethesda is not the only company guilty of showing too much too soon. Many gamers may feel that E3 loses its importance because they already know about what seems to be almost all of the major announcements from certain companies. The conferences may pull more people in by using hints in advance, rather than just outright stating what will be there because it gives the sense that anything is possible.

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Damien Lawardorn

As Chris and Richard have already written, E3 is an exciting time for gamers, but it is also a double-edged blade. Although the annual show is a celebration that brings players together on a massive scale, the structure and the hyperbole surrounding it is divisive. With various companies trumpeting their value proposition, frequently with veiled jabs at others, the segregation of experiences is evident as competition overrides co-operation. The gaming media tends to take those ideas to the extreme, every year arguing over which publisher or manufacturer ‘won’ E3. Debate is valuable, but the absolute nature of claims made spurs only vitriol, etching the imaginary battle lines ever deeper. The attitudes fostered by the discussion that inevitably surrounds E3—moreso than almost any other event on the gaming calendar—endorses and reinforces the kinds of toxic communities and comments that abound in the online world.

Something needs to change.

Battlefield V is the latest game to spur backlash for daring to foreground women and a spirit of inclusiveness. The prevalence of such debates highlights the exclusionary culture rampant across the gaming landscape and help to emphasise just how difficult solutions will be to find and implement.

Perhaps the starting point for healing needs to be the spirit of competition that has divided the industry for more than 20 years—from Nintendo vs Sega to Call of Duty vs Battlefield. Setting a fine precedent, publishers and developers frequently applaud each other for their achievements via social media, but that sense of camaraderie has not yet trickled down to the fanbases. For Sony to take the stage at E3 and praise Microsoft for building up its first-party output with the likes of State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves would act as a ringing endorsement and a model for fans to follow as a means of mitigating hostility.

Hideo Kojima is reportedly doing something different and trying to connect gamers with ropes rather than sticks in Death Stranding, and that is a spirit that E3, publishers, and the gaming media at large should embrace, rather than continuing to foster divisions.

Death Stranding

Michael Cripe

Recent trends in the gaming industry are pointing towards a future that puts multiplayer at the forefront while the single-player experience gets the back burner. However, 2018’s E3 does not just present a chance to show gamers that solo gaming is alive and well: it is an opportunity to prove single-player gaming will never die.

The idea that the biggest titles—the likes of Fortnite and Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII—proudly wear an exclusively multiplayer experience on their sleeves is undoubtedly troubling. Battle royale game modes are spreading like the plague, so the presence of more such modes at E3 is inevitable.

Perhaps the team at Only Single Player is just a bit biased, but most publishers know that the thrill of a single-player story is important and prove this knowledge with games such as Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Doom, Wolfenstein, Assassin’s Creed, and, soon, Metroid Prime 4. These titles are just some of the examples that prove the wider industry knows a franchise does not need PvP competition to thrive on the market.

Cyberpunk 2077 and Death Stranding are two of this year’s biggest draws. Battle royale fever will sweep the show floor, but it will not be bigger than the litany of single-player games showcased.

The proof is in the pudding, but publishers and developers must take the initiative to proclaim their commitment to delivering single-player stories on the AAA level for years to come. If industry icons let gamers worry about the proposed loss of dedicated stories in video games, then the medium just may see an abandonment of single-player, at least on some level.

All gamers, young and old, hear about battle royale nearly constantly, so the time has come to inject a heavy dose of single-player love into mainstream discourse the same way Fortnite has for multiplayer.

Hopefully at this E3 the conferences can be an answer to the question “is single-player dying?” in the same way PlayStation answered worries about DRM policies back in 2013.

Yes, the rumor that the next Fallout—a franchise built on unique single-player stories—will be taking a multiplayer spin is scary, but proof that single-player gaming has a future is all in the numbers.

God of War just topped off at 5 million copies sold in about a month and the success of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim—more than 30 million copies to be exact—certainly warrants the existence of a sequel. The single-player experience sells, and EA wants your money.

Hopefully, in the wake of this E3, the industry will be talking a little more about Bethesda’s project Starfield and less about the next ridiculous choice of a game to receive the Fortnite treatment.

God of War

Why not join in the conversation below and leave your thoughts on what you would like to see the E3 2018 experience look like below?

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Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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