How bad was this year's E3? Not that bad, actually!
If you knew where to look, played the games that were there and talked to enough game creators, you could find plenty of signs that video gaming is still full of interesting new ideas, big and small.
It would have been wonderful if there was more blockbuster news at E3, less next-gen news being suppressed by the major players in the industry and just more buzz. But, hey, this wasn't a show bereft of innovation and quality game ideas.
Some of our favorites (not including the silly Wii U luge thing pictured above!):
- Online career mode in Madden turning into some sort of alternate-reality competitions among groups of 32 real people, one in charge of each team, whose exploits throughout the year—wins, losses, injuries and more—are then reported on, over Twitter, by fake versions of real, top NFL reporters. —Stephen
- Starting something that is going to be huge, the people making the upcoming Paradox Interactive PC game Showdown Effect are adding livestreaming support, letting people stream their games to TwitchTV, live with one press of the button. This is going to become more and more common and is going to help mainstream the concept that in this decade, playing a game will often be the same thing as broadcasting a game. —Stephen
- The people making Halo 4 say they will be offering up to five new 15-20-minute chapters of new missions that can be played solo or co-op... every week... at least for several months after launch... for free....tied to new releases of an online show... essentially turning Halo 4 into what will probably be the first blockbuster episodic video game. —Stephen
- In Injustice, when the Flash is primed to pull off a super move, he'll run around the world to punch Superman. —Stephen
- In the next Need for Speed, which might as well be called Burnout Paradise 2, you will find many billboards bearing the logos of top EA development studios like BioWare, DICE an Visceral. You will be reward if you smash through them, which will turn them into billboards for the EA studio making this game: Criterion. —Stephen
- Watch Dogs. —Stephen
- Resident Evil 6's surprise team-ups. Multiple single-player campaign players can jump in when progress through storylines align. Like I said in the preview, it's Journey-esque but still relatively unique and intriguing. —Evan
- In Ascend: New Gods, an XBLA game that is one of multiple new games beginning to show the influence of Demon's Souls, players will be able to send enemies they defeat to invade other player's games, and those invading enemies will show up with the other player's gamertags on each of their heads. Also: players can surrender control of their own character and send them off as an invader into friend's games. —Stephen
- In ZombiU, every time you die you respawn as a new character, and have to go find your old character and pick up whatever quest items he/she was carrying. More specifically, you have to find your former character and kill him, because he is now a zombie. Better still, when your online friends die in their games, their zombies will populate your game. Awesome.—Kirk
- Another sterling Wii U concept: in ZombiU, the player whose character is being chased by zombies can pause to check their inventory, but their inventory is in their backpack, which is displayed on the screen in their controller. In other words, they will have to look away from the rushing zombie horde to check their inventory and grab survival gear, an inspired analogue to the kind of trade-offs one might have to deal with when encountering a real zombie horde. —Stephen
- A top-down Animal Crossing mini-game on the Wii U requires one player to control two watchdog characters, one with each of the Wii U gamepad's analog sticks, while three other players run around on the TV screen, trying to avoid them. (See it here.) Before this E3, I'd never played a dual-analog game that put the control of a character apiece under my two thumbs. —Stephen
- Since Assassin's Creed: Liberation is on Vita, it doesn't have two triggers on each side any longer, and as a result the franchise will see its first dedicated "jump" button. I don't know why, but this feels like a win to me. —Kirk
- In Assassin's Creed III, instead of calling in a brotherhood of assassins, you can call in some local pals and pull the old Chewbacca-Death-Star-prisoner gambit and have your redcoat-wearing friends march you right through the Imperial's guard line. —Stephen
- Persona 4 Golden takes one of the original game's strongest qualities—its music—and repackages it in a slick stand-alone music player that even includes clips from the live performances of the music of the entire Persona series. Not only is it an interactive tribute to the entire series, it's good enough to entice those who have already played Persona 4 to buy the game again on Vita.—Kirk
- Dance Central 3 finally lets players get creative with "Make Your Move," which finally lets the game become the You Got Served serve-fest that it's long felt like it needed to be. Be careful: if you challenge someone to a dance-off, It Will be On. And when It Is On, you're probably about to get served up something fierce. —Kirk
- Nintendo played some good music before their press conference. Broken Bells and The Shins? Hard to argue with that much James Mercer. —Kirk
- The folks at Vivitouch have come up with a next-gen rumble tech that will make your gamepad's rumbling much, much more accurate and detailed. Yes, this sounds silly. But in actuality, it's very cool—their super-thin rubber device offers levels of nuance unparalleled by the single spinning rumbler of current controllers. It's good to know that someone is thinking about how to upgrade tactile feedback along with all the graphical and processing upgrades the next generation will bring. —Kirk
- In Ron Gilbert's new game, The Cave, the characters you choose determine which areas of the cave you get to explore. It also means you'll play out a different part of the storyline depending on your companions. You'd need to play the game three times to see them all. —Tina
- Also in The Cave, death rewinds you five seconds instead of making you replay a portion of the adventure. Ron Gilbert says that traditional death has no place in adventure games. The Cave can therefore be played in one seamless sitting, sans loading time. —Tina
- SOE's SOEmote technology changes the face of massively multiplayer interaction, thinning the veil between player and player character by mapping facial expressions and mouth movements onto in-game avatars. More than just a voice communication tool, SOEmote aims to bring the subtle movements and facial ticks, mechanics capable of speaking volumes in real life, into a virtual setting. When you raise your eyebrow at a stupid idea, or gasp in surprise at a plot development, so does your avatar, and that creates a whole new level of connection. —Mike & Kate
- In South Park: The Stick of Truth, you get to enter your own name. No matter what you pick, Cartman will just call you Douchebag. This is a perfect (and fitting) way for the game to bypass the problem of voice acting a player-selected name. —Jason
- Madden 13 has an entire playbook just for New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow. —Jason
- With the Blink skill in Dishonored, you can teleport short distances to anywhere you want. Theoretically, this could allow you to break the game. The creators enjoy this. They want you to break the game. That's part of the fun. —Jason
- The mobile RPG Final Fantasy Dimensions gives you several different options for using the touchscreen to move around, one of which is to touch anywhere on the screen and use the directional pad that pops up. —Jason
- In Game & Wario for Wii U, there's a mini-game that requires you to use the tablet controller as a camera to snap photos of criminals in a crowded city. Could we see a new Pokemon Snap for Wii U? —Jason
- Upcoming indie PC game Scale (shown at the Indiecade showcase at E3; and showing up soon on Kotaku) lets you change the size of anything in the gameworld and—along with clever puzzle platforming—the mechanic makes players think about how some things (like butterflies) stop being cute when they become monstrously huge. —Evan
- Co-op games working hard to make sure both players have full, meaningful roles to play (as seen in Divinity: Original Sin and Star Trek) and that either player can feel like the center of the story, rather than making one a tag-along. —Kate
Bottom line: even in an "off" year, E3's full of fascinating stuff.
(Top pic of Wii Fit U by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)