I wrote this tweet this morning:
It’s a tweet that deserves to be a full blog post. But I have this terrible habit of saying everything I want to say in two pithy sentences, with little room for expansion. Twitter is a great blogging platform.
But yeah, I didn’t pay much attention to E3 this past weekend. Other bloggers have much better recaps (eg. Belghast and Scopique, whose blog I have only just now noticed has moved). I did watch the full Bethesda showcase last night, because it happened to start right after I finished a boss fight in Bloodborne (the Witch of Hemwick, if you must know) and I was waiting for some videos to render.
The Twitter vibe was that Bethesda made a huge mistake even mentioning Fallout 76, but personally I thought it was a bold move to put so much emphasis on it. From the coldly logical business perspective, it suggests that they really need it to perform better because they won’t have anything else ready for a while (no mention of Elder Scrolls VI or Starfield). But it’s nice to see that they aren’t abandoning it completely. Despite the problems, it’s still a game that I might buy someday, and it sounds like they’re finally approaching the point where it should have been at launch.
Other than that, I can’t even remember what Bethesda showed, even though it’s only the next morning. It was just trailer after trailer that looked nice, but there was rarely any actual *game* shown. Just story settings. Settings are nice, but it’s almost never the thing that gets me to buy a game. It’s the gameplay. It’s how much the gameplay makes me exercise my brain and decision-making skills.
A compelling story or characters will get me to endure boring gameplay, but that is pretty rare, and I can’t imagine I’d ever pay a full price tag for a story-only game. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was a game that I endured boring gameplay to see the story play out. Ryse: Son of Rome as well. I got them on deep discount sales, back when that was still a thing. To some extent, it’s why I occasionally go back to Guild Wars 2 for Living World episodes (“say, I wonder what that crazy Canach character is up to this time?”). That costs nothing.
Then there is the complete opposite side of the spectrum, the games like Gone Home or Life is Strange, where the story *is* the gameplay. Those games go too far for me, and playing the “game” part actually interrupts the flow of the story too much for me to enjoy it. The story would be much better served if they were made into short animated films or something. (Yet weirdly Telltale’s Walking Dead series managed to strike a good enough balance where the gameplay part didn’t irritate me for the most part.)
Anyway, a while back I wrote a big post about story in games. I don’t have anything more to add to it. And I hate to write more than one blog post about the same topic. It’s why the longer you blog, the harder it gets. :)
Oh! I almost forgot. The funniest moment of the Bethesda showcase for me, by far, was when I noticed the lyrics for the song playing during the initial hype video: “When I tell you to jump, you say, how high?” I thought it was a delightfully sinister subliminal message to send out from a game studio to its player base, and really summed up the entire gaming industry in 2019, and I just burst out laughing.
P. S. I’m of course interested in this new game from From Software called Elden Ring, but since I have seen no discussion of the gameplay, I can’t reach any conclusions yet. The name “George R. R. Martin” is not a selling point for me, considering it’s likely his involvement is minor. From Software game design quality is definitely trending downward after Sekiro, so there’s that to consider. And if it is indeed an “MMO,” they have never made a traditional one before, and the multiplayer components of their games are notoriously easy to hack.