Australian Senate To Launch Australian Game Development Inquiry

Aust Senate

An Inquiry into the Australian video game development industry moved by Greens Deputy Leader and  Communications Spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam was approved by the Senate on Monday. The Senate Inqury will look into how the Government could support game developers though tax frameworks and how to potentially attract international game companies.

“Internationally, companies have experienced strong growth thanks to smart government support and favourable regulatory settings,” said Senator Ludlam, “In Australia, no such luck: the sector has been treated like the poor cousin of the creative industries”

“This inquiry will help establish what the government should be doing to support Australia’s games industry and the employment, economic and creative benefits it delivers to the nation.”

This comes after the Federal Government abolished the Australian Interactive Games Fund in its 2014 Budget, removing $10 million in funding.

The inquiry will begin to accept public submissions shortly, with a final report due April 2016.

SquarE3nix: Square Enix's E3 Conference Wrap

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Over the past couple of years Square Enix have been flexing their muscle as both a publisher and developer, delivering top content from all corners of the globe including Japan, Canada and more. At E3 2015, things heat up as the publisher took to the stage in their own press conference for the third time running. Thankfully, the end result was a well rounded one with the diversity of Square Enix’s lineup shining through.

Kicking things off was Square Enix CEO of Americas and Europe Phil Rogers. Rogers took the time to congratulate all aspiring developers for being a part of Square Enix’s Collective program; which aims to support and sustain ongoing independent talent and games. His screen time was unfortunately short lived as he passed the torch over to Roland Lesterlin of Avalanche Studios.

Just Cause 3 was the next tasty morsel on the menu. A gameplay trailer was shown  featuring many different methods of travel within the game’s massive sandbox environment. Players can zip around the oppressed Republic of Medici as Rico Rodriguez as he liberates the land from the clutches of Di Ravello and his cohort. The grappling hook makes a return, and allows multiple tethers to objects and seamless use along with the hang glider and parachute. The trailer also detailed destructible environments, rocket riding and online challenges that test the player’s precision or ability to cause havoc among enemy strongholds. Just Cause 3 is currently slated for a global release on December 1st 2015.

Next up was Yosuke Saito with an incredible announcement that many had not anticipated; a new installment in the NieR series. Tentatively titled NieR New Project, it will be developed by Japanese action game powerhouse Platinum Games, directed by series mainstay Yoko Taro and soundtrack composed by Keiichi Okabe. After a brief but gorgeous teaser, game director Yoko Taro jumped on stage wearing a mask of Emil, a major character from NieR and expressed his excitement being involved, despite still being relatively early in its development. I for one look forward to purchasing all 10 physical soundtracks for NieR New Project in a couple of years time.

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Yoko Taro. Truly the king of kings.

Rise of the Tomb Raider also received some ample screen time with a developer diary concerned with the graphical updates associated with the many character models in-game. Lara’s facial animations are incredible and the detailing from the scars on her skin (received from events in the previous games) to the textures on her heavy duty snow gear serves as a testament to the development team and the sheer power of current generation hardware.

After that, Eidos Montreal’s Patrick Naud was happy to report on the positive reception of mobile games Hitman Go and Hitman Sniper. With that momentum, he also announced another game for iOS fans to get excited about; Lara Croft Go. Taking cues and mechanics from Hitman Go, the player is tasked with navigating Lara Croft through all sorts of peril in a turn based. more ambient format. More information on Lara Croft Go will be available later after the conference.

Executive Producer of Kingdom Hearts Shinji Hashimoto took centre stage to announce everything Japanese RPG flavoured. First up, a Final Fantasy VII frenzy with the trailer shown at the Sony E3 conference just hours ago, fans will also have to endure a slight delay as the PS1 version of Final Fantasy VII will be ported to Playstation 4 and iOS platforms later this year. Hashimoto-san kept things simple and clean with Kingdom Hearts as an original smartphone property titled Kingdom Hearts Unchained is set to release on iOS and Android, along with a new gameplay trailer for Kingdom Hearts III featuring wallrunning combat and scaling of large enemies 10 times the size of protagonist Sora. Despite a strong and long showing, Kingdom Hearts III is in development and still without a release date. To curb the pain, more information was released for World of Final Fantasy, as director Hiroki Chiba discloses that the target audience is for anybody ranging from kids to adults.

IO Interactive popped in to finally divulge on their latest Hitman project, which will feature a persistent, sandbox environment which promises to return to the series’ roots of multiple methods and possibilities of dispatching targets. A steady flow of content and support will be released in a procedural format upon release. Contracts and targets constantly change and move in real time which can be shared with friends and other neighbouring assassins. Hitman has been scheduled for release December 8 2015.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, tri-ace’s fifth entry in their flagship franchise makes an appearance, with a gameplay trailer rendered in real time. Seamless transitions are featured from exploration into battle as all fights take place in the overworld. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is set for release in 2015 for Japan and 2016 for the Americas and Europe exclusively on Playstation 4.

Eidos Montreal took to the stage once more as David Anfossi and Mary DeMarle discussed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Story information including Adam Jensen’s adventures after leaving Sarif Industries and joining Interpol included a brief gameplay trailer showcasing some of his new augments and abilities that can be used lethally and non-lethally. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is set for release Early 2016.

And finally, President/CEO Yosuka Matsuda encouraged all Square Enix attendees to join him on stage as he announced several things including a handy Final Fantasy encyclopedia for smartphones titled Final Fantasy Portal App, and a new RPG project and IP known as Project Setsuna by new developers Tokyo RPG Factory scheduled for release sometime next year. More information on Project Setsuna will be released as its available.

A surprising turn of events and announcements, sprinkled with further information on existing projects ensured that everybody had something they could take from Square Enix’s E3 2015 presentation and subsequently, get super excited about. The new NieR project will definitely be something special, as a lot of the original creative team are behind it (not to mention Platinum Games) along with Square Enix’s strong emphasis on published games like Deus Ex, Just Cause 3 and Tomb Raider. Let’s face it, we’re all excited about the idea to be finally witnessing Kingdom Hearts III and a Final Fantasy VII remake. From all of the above that was mentioned in this article, there’s plenty to be excited about at E3 2015 and it seems that Square Enix’s lineup is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Leave Luck To Lylat – Nintendo's E3 Conference Wrap

Nintendo’s Digital Event brings the last of the console platform owners to the stage, and boy was it a doozy. Here we go.

Starting off with an introduction seeing the familiar heads of Nintendo portrayed as Muppets, the tone was set for the conference: transformation. And what better way to demonstrate that than by starting with Star Fox Zero, the latest entry in Nintendo’s sci-fi pilot battle series. Fox and co can transform their Arwings mid combat into a ground based mech, as well as having access to at least two more vehicles for players to pilot. We see the return of Star Wolf and co, and Miyamoto-san demonstrated the use of the Gamepad as a cockpit view in conjuction with the classic third person view. The game is due later this year.

Reggie then took us to Vicarious Visions, who showed off a Skylanders Ammibo crossover with Bowser and Donkey Kong, showing off both their Amiibo and vehicle for the upcoming Skylanders title. The figures can be switched between Skylander and Amiibo mode, meaning it can be used on other Nintendo titles. Obviously, this will be exclusive to the WiiU version of Skylanders.

Next up was a Zelda double whammy, with a first look at LoZ: Triforce Heroes. Taking some obvious cues from Four Swords Adventures, the game is a three player dungeon that requires teamwork and cooperation to proceed. The various Links will use different powers and costumes to open up paths and defeat enemies, as well as combining those powers together to progress. The previously announced Hyrule Warriors Legends for 3DS was next, and will come packed with the already released DLC characters, as well as new Wind Waker DLC. Triforce Heroes is due later this year, and Hyrule Warriors in 1st Qtr, 2016.

The return of first person Metroid Prime for 3DS came next, with Metroid Prime Federation Force announced. The unique stylus based action is back in force, and 3v3 “scifi soccer” shown off briefly. Federation Force is due next year.

Fates is the upcoming title in the Fire Emblem series, with gameplay similar to Awakening, and some familiar faces and production quality showcased as well. We then saw the latest trailer for Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, now called Fire Emblem Shin Megami Tensei. A healthy dose of idols, “Mirages” and cutscenes were on display, but no release date unfortunately.

Xenoblade Chronicles X had a new trailer, which showed off some more of the game’s stunning visuals, and gave us a release date of the 4th of December this year.

Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer showed off the ability to design homes, gardens and builidings in your particular town, and will hit 3DS on September 25th of this year. AC Amiibo Festival then presented us a Mario Party style game set in the Animal Crossing world, and requiring an Amiibo for each player in the game. You’ll be able to get your KK Slider fix later this year.

Yoshi Wooly World and its fluffy Amiibos were shown off by their creator, and we were introduced to the Mario Yoshi in game. October 16th this year was the release date given for this one.

The popular Yokai Watch series is receiving a 3DS game, with the ability to find and battle your various Yokai making up the majority of the gameplay shown.

Two of my favourites were up next, with Mario and Luigi RPG crossing over into Paper Mario. Much like the previous games in the series, different buttons control different characters in the team, and combos involve the three coming together in various ways to power up attacks and defend against enemies. We even saw a giant Papercraft Mario smash his way through waves of enemies. Early 2016 will see this one hit 3DS.

A new iteration of Mario Tennis for WiiU, subtitled Ultra Smash, gave us giant powerups, familiar shot styles and the bright visuals we’ve become accustomed to from the series. Anthoer one due out this year.

Finally, the old boys waxed lyrical about making Super Mario Brothers, showing us the original design documents used to make the game. They have introduced a flying cloud option for Mario to use, as well as stacking enemies and various other different uses of traditional Mario assets. Amiibos will also make an appearance in game, with the ability to play as your various characters through the game, as well as a special 8Bit Amiibo which comes with an “Sample course” book. Mario will be melting enemies this September 11th.

Hype Dreams: Sony's E3 2015 Press Conference

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Everyone has their dream E3 lineup. For many, this list consisted of a variation of The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3. These were the most farfetched of E3 announcements; they were pipe dreams at best. It’d crazy enough to see even one of these games appear at E3. But what if all three were announced? What if they were all announced in a single conference?

Where do we start? Well I suppose we should begin with The Last Guardian. This game was first announced at E3 2009 and has essentially been unspoken of except by the most ardent Team Ico…that is until today’s extended trailer. It’s still the same puzzle-platformer we saw all those years ago, we are still playing as a little boy as he and a giant cat-creature make their way through ancient ruins. Since then, there has been a lot of detail added to the visual treatment, particularly that of the creature, whose feathers now look near-seamless. The Last Guardian is (finally) coming to PS4 in 2016.

It’s a tough act to follow one of gaming’s white whales, but Guerrilla Games somehow managed it with Horizon: Zero Dawn. Set long after the end of the world when nature has overrun the former husks of civilisation, the Horizon demo followed the main character Aloy as she used her bow and spear to spot and hunt robot dinosaurs, culminating in a combat sequence against a robot t-rex. Not much more was revealed, but I hope there’s more to this than simply surviving in this intriguing universe.

Maintaining airs of mystery was Media Molecule’s new title Dreams. Taking inspiration from lucid dreams, the game uses the Dualshock 4’s motion controls to allow you to sketch, create and puppet whatever you fancy. These works can then be shared and jumped into by the community. What happens from there is completely ambiguous. The watercolour art style looks sublime, but we will have to wait to see what we will actually be doing in this game.

Similarly, we aren’t any clearer on what we’ll be doing in No Man’s Sky, despite another gameplay demo from developer Hello Games. The demo emphasised the game’s pillars of “trading, fighting, exploration, survival,” and I can see the potential for a laid-back afternoon of just exploring the game’s near-infinite procedurally generated planets. I, like many others, still want to know what else we can do in this universal sandbox.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an E3 presentation without a wall of trailers, and we got more than a handful this year. We had trailers for Street Fighter V (which confirmed Birdie and Cammy as combatants), Hitman (no subtitle, just “Hitman”), Firewatch (the gorgeous narrative-driven game from Campo Santo), the Taken King expansion for Destiny (hopefully it will come with more than three missions), and World of Final Fantasy (a chibi take 0n the FF franchise).

And then we got the Final Fantasy VII remake everyone was hoping to see. It was implied that the remake will come first to Playstation 4 before being released on other platforms.

…What?

The tentpoles that previous Sony press conferences build themselves on were noticeably absent this year. Previously, Sony championed the indie scene, this year we only got the few indie titles mentioned above and a montage from publisher Devolver Digital featuring Ronin, Eitr, Mother Russia Bleeds and Crossing Souls. Also absent was an Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate gameplay demo; that section was relegated to a trailer showing off Evie Frye, one of the game’s playable characters. If you want to read too deeply into this, this absence of gameplay from both Sony and Ubisoft could be an indicator of the cultural impact that brand has today compared to its glory years of Assassin’s Creed II.

In its place, however, was Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Activision has jumped ship, and now Playstation will have the timed multiplayer map pack exclusives. As for the game itself, it seems to have taken more than a few momentum cues from Advanced Warfare and Titanfall, with its plethora of jumpacks and wallrunning. The gameplay demo also featured four players battling against a giant robot, perhaps indicating a Monster Hunter-esque co-op mode.

We also had more details about Star Wars Battlefrontm, Batman: Arkham Knight and Project Morpheus, but these were deeply overshadowed by the unveiling of the Kickstarter campaign for the open world action RPG Shenmue 3 — thus completing the trilogy of Shenmue and E3 announcements nobody expected to ever witness. Shenmue 3 is currently slated to be released on Playstation 4 and PC.  This is contingent on the campaign reaching its $2 million target. “The fate of Shenmue is in your hands now,” said game director Yu Suzuki. When I started writing this, the campaign had already reached $750,000; when I published this it eclipsed $1.1 million. Odds are by the time you’re reading this it would have already met its goal.

Closing out this ludicrously announcement-heavy conference was Uncharted 4. After some technical hiccups, the demo showed off a driving sequence that seemed to take place in an expansive city environment. Nathan Drake was driving though alleyways, on rooftops, through farms — and this all appeared to be at the player’s freedom. It was an impressive set piece for a game already known for its elaborate sequences.

We all joke about the hype train, but this press conference was probably the first time everybody was well and truly on board. Even the most jaded of cynics was left laughing at their Twitter feed, wondering what sweet madness was unfolding before them. Sony’s press conference will go down in the ages as one of the few times everyone’s dream E3 list was crossed off, when the internet’s insatiable desire for hype was well and truly fulfilled.

Another Tower: Ubisoft's E3 2015 Live Conference

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Ubisoft is comfortable with its established formula. Many of its recent titles have taken place in the open world, have had multiplayer hooks and featured the same sodding towers to climb up. Even its E3 press conferences deviate little from the set routine; Aisha Tyler returned for the fifth year in a row to host this year’s conference and brought with her the familiar willingness to enthuse, ad lib and #meme. However, there were some surprises in this year’s event.

They came from the very first trailer, as Ubisoft announced South Park: The Fractured But Whole, a sequel to last year’s The Stick of Truth. This new title drops the predecessor’s fantasy trapping in favour of a superhero flavour, featuring The Coon and Professor Chaos, and will dive into the origin story of The New Kid. The game will once again be made with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Immediately after this, we got a first look at the new title For Honor (between this and Dishonored, my Australian spellchecker weeps in terror), a medieval multiplayer arena combat title. The emphasis here is on duelling; players will use the right stick to determine the direction of their swing, and duels almost become battles of attrition as both players try to find an opening. Paradoxically, these duels take place whilst an army of AI soldiers (let’s take the MOBA analogy to its logical conclusion and call them creeps) battle it out around you. As capital-M Medieval as this game looks, it was refreshing coming out of an Ubisoft press event — despite the relevant setting, there wasn’t a single climbable tower in sight!

Things entered familiar territory after this, with a Tom Clancy’s one-two. The Division showed off its Dark Zone mode, a PvP raid where players can run for high-level loot and occasionally encounter other human-controlled squads. Like the World of Warcraft dungeons that seem to have inspired The Division as a whole, this mode will also allow for players to betray their squads and make off with all the loot.

We also spent some time with Rainbow Six: Siege. This year’s press conference introduced a story involving biological warfare and actress Angela Bassett as your team leader, known only as 6 (I wonder who Ubi will cast to play ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Siege’). The game will also bring back the Terrorist Hunt mode from Rainbow Six Vegas. These TerroHunts allow for solo players or co-op teams to take on enemy AI with the same wall-destroying gusto as what was shown off last year.

Among the smaller titles announced included Trackmania Turbo (which introduces the Trackmania franchise to consoles and brings with it one-button random tracks), Anno 2205 (featuring colonisation in space), Just Dance 2016 and the subscription service Just Dance Unlimited, The Crew: Wild Run (an off-road racing expansion) and Trials Fusion: Awesome Level Max (which has a flaming cat riding a rainbow unicorn…so I’m assuming it’s a collectable card game?)

Of course, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate sneaked into the show, but only in the form of a CG trailer; we’ll probably see more at Sony’s press conference.

Ubisoft’s press conference ended with a new title: Ghost Recon Wildlands. This latest Ghost Recon game utilises the ghosts’ squad tactics to bring down the drug cartels of Bolivia. Unlike previous titles, Wildlands take place in an open world, one which is affected by day/night cycles, weather and varying terrain. With the open world comes vehicles to stealthily hoon around in and even a plane to insert your squad into certain areas. And oh yes, there are multiplayer hooks, maybe there’ll even be a tower to climb.

So now we have three Tom Clancy’s games to act as pillars alongside the annual Assassin’s Creed tent-pole, and odds are there will be more than a few common elements between them. Ubisoft isn’t quite shaking things up as much as the conference openers would have led us to believe, but that’s the thing with the established formula: It might not be exciting but it’s reliable, and Ubisoft’s press conference was very much dependable. We know that Aisha Tyler will deliver an entertaining show with only a handful of corporately mandated moments of cringe. We come to expect that Ubisoft will show off its grand open-worlds alongside a couple of fringe projects. And we knowingly brace ourselves for disappointment as Beyond Good and Evil 2 doesn’t get announced for yet another year.

Ultimate Team: EA's E3 2015 Press Conference

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6am AEST brought us the gaming bounty that EA had to offer, with a lot of familiar titles coming back for another iteration, and even some new IPs. Here’s the lowdown.

The show started with a teaser for the next Mass Effect game, subtitled Andromeda. That’s all. The first real announcement however was Need For Speed (no subtitle). Running in the Frostbite engine, it’s twice the size of the map from Rivals and combines a lot of elements from the more successful games in the series. The game is due for release on November 3rd this year.

EA also unveiled Unravel, a physics platformer starring a small red character made of yarn, another entrant in the emerging “yarn protagonist” genre. You traverse various settings and obstacles while utilising your particular yarn inspired powers to help. Definitely not the most obvious title one would expect from EA, but it remains to be seen if the gameplay matches the intriguing aesthetic.

Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 was discussed in more detail after its appearance in the Microsoft presser, with the new Graveyard Ops mode demonstrated on stage. This time, you play as the zombies holding off the plants, and we saw some new classes taking down the onslaught of vegetation. Single player and splitscreen were confirmed, as well as the ability to transfer the unlocks from our save file in the first game. If it maintains the reasonable booster system of the original Garden Warfare, it’s shaping up to be an exciting sequel to a criminally underrated game. It’s due out early next year.

Let’s do the sports stuff in one shot though, shall we? Tiger is gone, and Rory McIlroy is the new face of EA’s PGA Pro Tour, the first one made on Frostbite. NBA Live 16 showed off its face scanning app and live-motion physics, and Fifa 16 gave us PELE PELE PELE. Oh, and improvements to pathing and decision making, training options and the introduction of women’s football teams. Finally, Madden 16 talked up its changes to playmaking, in particular passing, receiving and defence, as well as their fantasy football league system, Draft Champions.

Along came Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst to spice things up. A prequel to the fantastic original game, we learn about the origin of protagonist Faith, as well as the fall of the city into corporate rule. The movement options and momentum seem intact, so here’s hoping the high execution remains as well. Game is due for release on February 23rd next year.

Finally Star Wars. There’s three games to cover, so here goes.

Star Wars: The Old Republic was first, with their upcoming expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire. We’re told that player choices will affect the story, which will be interesting to see work in an MMO, and will remain free to play throughout.

We then briefly saw a new Star Wars CCG, titled Galaxy of Heroes. Only a name, not much else.

And then there was Star Wars Battlefront. Borrowing a lot of cues from the previous games in the series, EA showcased the Hoth based map, where AT-AT’s are enroute to destroy the Rebel base, and both sides fight to achieve their particular objective. We see TIE fighters, Snow Speeder and AT-ST’s populate the landscape, as well as both first and third person gameplay. We see Rodians playable as a race, alongside Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker as unlockable ‘perks.’ We even had splitscreen and single player modes confirmed. We’ll find out if it lives up to its insane amount of hype on November 17.

Something Old: Microsoft's E3 2015 Media Briefing

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At its inception, Microsoft was vocal in holding out the Xbox One as the future in game. It was the all-in-one entertainment centre with the next-generation Kinect. Since then, the company has slowly stepped away from these lofty ambitions, to the point where the Xbox One might as well be merely an upgraded Xbox 360; even the Kinect has fallen to the status of neglected peripheral. At today’s Media Briefing, the Xbox One took the next logical step and actually became an upgraded Xbox 360.

Kicking things off was noticeably not Call of Duty, but Halo 5: Guardians. The game sees Spartan Locke chasing after Master Chief; you will jump from squad to squad a la Halo 2. Today’s gameplay demo took us along one of Locke’s missions. There was a distinct flavour of Halo Reach and ODST to proceedings, something which was aided by the presence of Nathan Fillion Buck Nathan Fillion — a direction which I am very much in favour of. Unlike Halo 4, which felt like a cover version of a Bungie Halo game, Guardians looks more assured, with more ambitious level designs and scripted destructibility. This will all fall over once the game inevitable dives headfirst into its tome-like lore. Also shown off was Warzone, which looks to be a much larger scale version of Halo’s multiplayer; ships and explosions will ensue. The game will be released on October 27.

Halo 5 Guardians might have got the predictably brotastic “Wooos,” but  there were sincere cheers for the next announcement. Xbox head Phil Spencer took to the stage to announce that Xbox One will soon be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games. Hundreds of older titles will be natively supported on Xbox One this holidays and more will be added afterward; no work needs  to be done for a game to be backwards compatible aside from publisher/developer approval. Players will be able to either download their previously digitally purchased game or put in an Xbox 360 disc into the disc drive; a digital download will then be offered. These games will function as they did on the Xbox 360, but will have Xbox One’s surface features including screenshot and footage capture. Considering the death-knell backwards compatibility in recent years, it’s impressive to see Microsoft leaning so hard back into it; if nothing else, I finally have another console on which to play Rez and Beyond Good and Evil!

The retrospective didn’t end there. Rare took the stage to announce Rare Replay, a collection of 30 of its classic titles from arcade to Xbox 360, including Battletoads, Killer Instinct Gold, Blast Corps, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark and Viva Pinata. The collection promises over 700 hours of gameplay and 10,000 Gamerscore points for US$30. Kinect Sports 2, however, will not be a part of this collection.

Sure, the Xbox One library (and piles of shame) may have just expanded exponentially with these old games, but there are still new games coming. Recode comes from Kenji Inafune and Armature Studio, which has roots in the Metroid Prime trilogy (an aside: Let’s note that a Nintendo brand was evoked to sell a Microsoft Studios title). Scant details were provided in the trailer, aside from a post-apocalyptic desert setting, a girl and an AI core transplanted into a robot puppy dog. The game will come out in Autumn 2016. We also got a glimpseinto Ion from DayZ creator Dean Hall, Dark Souls III (out Early 2016), Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 (I will be referring to it as 2 Grass 2 Furious) and Sea of Thieves, a perpetually online pirate game from Rare, complete with naval warfare; if the combat resembles that of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, then it would mark Rare’s first impressive release since, well,  Kinect Sports 2.

There was also an impressive show of force from the indie sector. On top of the perfunctory video montage set to power-pop, several developers were given a chance to show off their games. Fullbright is working on Tacoma, which is set in an abandoned space station and looks to follow the storytelling techniques established by Gone Home. Ashen comes from New Zealand studio Aurora44 and is set in a stylised world with faceless humans and flying monsters. Beyond Eyes is being developed by tiger and squid and allows you to guide a blind girl though an unfamiliar world using her sense of hearing, touch and smell. Finally, last year’s indie montage breakout Cuphead was given its time in the spotlight, as Studio MDHR explained its objective of emulating the look and feel of 1930s cartoons.

Indie developers were also given another avenue to develop for Xbox One. Microsoft announced its take on Early Access, the Game Preview program. It will function similarly to Early Access, except players will be given a free trial of every game in the program before deciding whether to buy into it. Some of the first Game Preview titles announced were Elite: Dangerous and The Long Dark, both of which will be available later today. It was also confirmed that the Xbox One version of Fallout 4 will support PC mods.

Of course, it isn’t an E3 press conference without the tent-pole on stage demos. The Rise of the Tomb Raider demo picked up where the last game left off and put Lara Croft in even more peril, this time on a snowy mountain which, of course, underwent an avalanche; she can never catch a break can she? It doesn’t appear to deviate too far from the Tomb Raider, which can only mean good things come its release. We got a look at the HoloLens version of Minecraft, which sincerely looks like some sci-fi movie made material in our world. The HoloLens wielder acted as an overseer to someone else’s game, giving them a god-like perspective on the world and the underground, and the ability to strike lighting upon the world. Somewhere in Godus HQ, Peter Molyneux was shaking his fist angrily at the demo (the anger from which probably gave him inspiration for his next game).

The conference closed off with Gears of War. Nobody even tried to act surprised with the announcement of Gear of War: Ultimate Edition, a visual upgrade to the original Gears of War coming on August 25. Finally, we got a first look at Gears of War 4 (Gears of Four? Ge4rs of W4r?). Sure, it mightn’t feature Marcus Fenix, and sure the characters aren’t walking slowly with their fingers held to their ears, but this demo was otherwise very traditional Gears of War. Like the Doom demo at Bethesda’s conference yesterday, it adheres to the classic formula, but given the innovations being pushed by Fallout 4 and even Halo, is this throwback gameplay enough?

Perhaps it is. The fact is: The most impressive thing to come out of Microsoft’s press conference this year was not a brand new game or IP (although Recore has my attention), but the old ones. Whether they be repackaged ones like Rare Replay, reimagined ones like Minecraft X HoloLens or literal last-generation games with Xbox One’s backwards compatibility, the thing that garnered the biggest reactions on Twitter and amongst the NG+ crew were the retreat to familiar titles. We gamers can be a notoriously conservative and nostalgic bunch — it’s taken a while but Microsoft has seemed to finally realise this.

Setting the World on Fire: Bethesda's E3 2015 Showcase

E3 Bethesda Fallout 4 Horizon

It’s that time of year again, kids. All the marketing money the game publishers of the world can muster is thrown at Los Angeles, California for the Electronic Entertainment Expo. But this year, a few new additions have been added to the usual press conference line-up, starting with Bethesda. The show from the Dolby Theatre was full of the bombast you expect from an E3 presser, but the focus on their upcoming games made for a unique show.

First was Doom, re-imagined for the new age with updated graphics. The demon slaying remains intact, with all the classic weapons and gore that made Doom the household name it has become. Melee takedowns are now part of your arsenal as you pilot the familiar Space Marine protagonist through different UAC facilities — and even Hell. Multiplayer was featured as well, and Bethesda unveiled Doom SnapMap, a modular level creator that allows players to make their own maps and modes for others to play. Honestly, the game looks fine, even if the ‘realistic’ graphics take some of the slapstick out of the gore, but I’m hoping the Id Software pedigree inspires some Quake-inspired craziness, even if I have to create it myself in SnapMap.

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Next was Battlecry, Bethesda’s foray into online multiplayer third person combat. The game itself looks similar to what we’ve seen in the past, with the addition of a new army and class, but basically appeared to announce its open beta, which until now had been an ANZ exclusive.

Things quickly moved onto Dishonored 2, the sequel to one of the hidden gems of the last few years of gaming. Set in the same ‘steampunk’ world, players can take the role of Corvo Attano from the first game, or new protagonist Emily Caulfield, allowing you to experience the game utilising two different skill sets and characters. No word on release date, but Bethesda did announce a new special edition of Dishonored, which will include the two DLC packs, for release later this year.

We also got a glimpse at Elder Scrolls Legends, a card game based on the lore of the Elder Scrolls series, with more to come later, as well as a reminder of the recent release of TES: Online for consoles.

E32015 Bethesda Dishonored 2

Let’s face it though: You’re reading this for the Fallout news, and boy was it a doozy. The character creation options have been greatly expanded, and allow you to again play as either a male or female protagonist. Starting before the bombs drop in downtown Boston, you run to the nearest Vault upon seeing the news reports of mushroom clouds across America, then “stuff happens” and 200 years later, you emerge from Vault 111 to begin anew on the wasteland.

You have the dog shown in the trailers as a companion, who can be ordered to execute commands, and we see the combat versatility remains: First person, third person and VATS are all still options available to the player, and there are many new enemies, including giant Mirelurk Queens and a new race called simply “Synth.” The Pip-Boy has a few new tricks as well, allowing the layering of armour and redesigned menus, and we even see the protagonist call in air support and Power Armour sporting jetpacks. So far, so good.

Then we have the crafting system, which has been massively ramped up. Not only can you break down common items found across the wasteland to craft your particular item, but the ability to customise weaponry allows for huge changes to the 50 base weapons, affecting range, spread, accuracy, power and so on, as well as cosmetically altering the weapon itself. This will also extend to the Power Armour, with the ability to mix and match parts from the various Power Armour you discover in game.

Fallout 4 will also allow you to build and maintain a settlement of your own, right down to building construction, power grid, facilities and, perhaps most importantly, defences; your settlement will face attack from enemies throughout the game. You can even set up multiple settlements and start trade caravans between them. Time will tell whether this is mandatory, however it represents a very cool new element to the series. The biggest surprise was the release date, with the game set to release on the 10th of November this year. Maybe that’s enough time for my beloved “Hardcore” mode to make the cut…

E3 2015 Bethesda Fallout 4 Wasteland

If you need your Fallout fix right away, however, Bethesda has you covered. Fallout Shelter is an iOS and Android game that allows you to make your own Vault. In a system reminiscent of XCOM, you decide the layout of your facilities and rooms, as well the occupation and skills of your Vault Dwellers. You’ll face food shortages, raider attacks and even pregnancy as you attempt to keep your Vault alive, and can send your inhabitants on missions into the Wasteland for supplies. It’s available right now on the App Store, so it should help pass the time until the wait is all over.

 

LEGO Worlds Hits Early Access

(In brief) TT Games has released the LEGO themed world-building game Lego Worlds on Steam’s Early Access platform. Like Minecraft, Lego Worlds allows players to customise their procedurally-generated worlds and build anything from creatures to vehicles using Lego pieces. Lego Worlds will be in Early Access through 2015, with development to take place in collaboration with the community. The game is planned for full release in early 2016.