This was the second straight year I was a credentialed member of the media at E3, but no matter how many more I get to attend, the 2013 show will probably always stand out in my mind. It’s not every year that a new consoles gets their official unveiling, and the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 press conferences ushered in the eighth generation in earnest (with all due respect to the Wii U, OUYA, and any other system that might feel slighted).
Once you got past the console hype, the rest of the show was all about the games. And just like last year, it was possible to identify some common themes running through the company press briefings, booth demonstrations and hands-on sessions. Two seemed especially prominent among the games we’ll all be playing over the next year or so.
Open world everything
Linear paths through games are passe. That’s pretty obvious from the number of times the phrase “open world” was thrown around during E3.
The very first game shown during the week’s first press conference was “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” and it promised to break free from the previous games in the series by providing open world gameplay. Other games that had open world predecessors, like “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” and “Dead Rising 3,” touted even more expansive areas for players to explore according to their own whims.
New IPs? They’re following suit too. “Mad Max” showcased a vast desert wasteland where the post-apocalyptic hero made famous by Mel Gibson can choose his own plan of attack to take on roaming bandits and simply figure out how to survive.
For the most part, this is a good thing. Open world games give players the freedom not only to tackle content in the order they’d prefer, but also to spend time doing whatever interests them the most.
The only real downside is that people could get so taken with, say, hunting whales in “AC IV” that they never finish the main storyline – and gamers already have enough trouble completing what they start. I’m willing to bet most people will accept that risk for the extra hours of enjoyment they can get out of open world games.
Don’t expect this trend to die down soon. If anything, the transition to next gen consoles will just cause it to pick up even more steam.
New types of games are undergoing MMO-ization
Let’s play word association for a moment. If I say “MMO,” the first thing that comes to mind is almost certain to be “World of Warcraft.” That’s because for many gamers (and I’m no exception), the terms MMO and MMORPG end up being used interchangeably, with WOW‘s domination of its genre a big reason why.
But when you consider that an MMO can be any massively multiplayer game played online, it broadens the definition considerably. So much so, in fact, that some surprising types of upcoming console games fit it just fine.
Take the racing games “Need For Speed: Rivals” and “The Crew.” Both titles will allow players to jump in and instantly join races with multiple human competitors. “The Crew” offers a large persistent world and its own equivalent to guilds, and the game’s narrative director practically begged the MMO comparison when he told me the game’s ambition was to be like a “World of Carcraft.”
Even primarily single-player games like “Watch Dogs” are going to have some elements that are reminiscent of MMOs. That gameplay demo that showed one player hacking another and settling things with a running gunfight before each of them resumed play in their own worlds? Sure felt like an MMO instance to me.
Add in games like “World of Tanks” and “Elder Scrolls Online” making their way over from PC and it’s time to stop wondering when consoles are going to get their share of MMOs. They’re already here, and the Xbox One and PS4 are just going to bring us more.
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