E3’s over. Finally. Hear the collective sigh from news writers and editorial teams everywhere.
In light of everyone being E3 fatigued, I’ll do my best to keep this one short.
EA’s conference, held on the day before E3 officially opened – the same day as Microsoft, Sony, and Ubisoft’s conferences – did something a little different this year.
Instead of the typical explosion of unrestrained and obviously contrived hype, the light shows, the dubstep, the breathless announcements of [game] being “innovative”, “visceral”, and “truly next-gen” or whatever the popular buzzwords are these days, we got something slightly different.
Well, okay, we did get all that stuff, as well as All The Feels™. But EA’s conference was different in another way.
Instead of prerendered trailers, instead of flashy logo eyecatches with zooming graphics and loud noises, instead of gameplay snippets from a vertical slice build put together specially for E3 that we’d never end up seeing in the final product, EA did something different.
What we saw, instead of the usual rubbish that has zero to do with the final game, was team after team explaining the development process, discussing the game’s design philosophies, and footage from “concept” builds.
Nothing fake, nothing contrived – just honesty.
Well, as honest as in-studio development diaries can be.
Still, more honest than the vertical slice prerendered videos we’re normally saddled with.
EA’s choice to include so much footage from concept builds and development diaries copped a decent amount of flack – including from our very own Nathan Hughes. And, while I agree that it was disappointing to not see gameplay from some hotly anticipated titles, I also have a lot of respect for what EA did.
Instead of wasting everyone’s time – developers, investors, media, readers, customers – with a bunch of footage from a build that will never see shelves, EA said “look, these games aren’t ready yet, but here’s us making the game.”
Okay, that’s a paraphrase, but you can read EA’s executive VP Patrick Söderlund’s exact words over on Polygon. It’s full of PR spin of course, it is E3 after all, but there’s a kernel of truth there: the vertical slice process is a massive waste of time and money.
Sure, I would have loved to see more gameplay from Mirror’s Edge or Battlefront or whatever else. But if that’s not ready, I’d rather not see an entirely contrived mock-up of gameplay that we’d never get to see and that is completely unrepresentative of what we’ll be buying in two years. It’s more honest. It’s more respectful to the viewers. And, it saves a lot of extra crunch time that studios often go through to completely create a vertical slice build just for E3 that won’t even be used in the final game.
Think of the time, money, resources saved by skipping the vertical slice step. How happy must those developers be, getting to spend their time on meaningful work, time with their families that they wouldn’t get due to vertical slice crunch? How happy must investors be, not wasting all that money?
And think how happy we are – as reporters on E3 – to not have to write previews and impressions based off stuff we know will probably not make the final game.
While I don’t think EA got it a hundred percent right with the way they did their press conference, I do think that a more open approach to the pre-E3 development process was a good way to go. Perhaps relying too heavily on the developer diary as a PR tool instead of a genuine look behind the scenes was a little bit hokey, but it was E3 after all. EA’s use of concept gameplay, and labelling it as such, felt more honest, and less condescending than the typical vertical slice approach.
Nobody’s fooled when a game slated for a release in two years’ time has “in-game” footage shown for it. Tech changes fast, and the creative process behind development evolves just as quickly. And EA, with this year’s press conference, decided to pull back the curtain a bit – saving time and coin in the process.
And I can respect EA for that.