XOXOXO: An unlove letter to Bethesda and EA

By: Ashley Rivas

Disclaimer: The following article is a rant, friends.  Disagree as much as you want, that’s the beauty of having different brains.  We all love and hate in different ways (check out the current state of America in 2017 if you need some absolutely insane examples of that).

Disclaimer of the disclaimer: no plushies were harmed in the making of this rant.

And we’re finally here.  It’s the conclusion, friends.  It’s long past time to wrap the recaps up so we can get to the real meat and taters of gaming convention discussion. 

Alright.  Enough stalling.  I can’t stop this from happening.  I can’t stop the inevitable.  The wheel turns, the world moves, and we are bound to that destiny.  You can’t run from this, and neither can I.  I must…I must do my duty.  I must finish what I started.  Even if that means…talking about EA.  Also, Bethesda.  That word has become something very different after this E3.  And much like a harlequin romance novel your grandma keeps in her nightstand, Bethesda had a better cover than actual content.  And that’s fucking wrong.



Games, games, and more games

There’s not a lot of point in recapping each title now, because you already know the basics and frankly, I don’t care.  So here’s a list of what they announced, and a one shot of thoughts for each.  The implications of these games, and the thoughts on the rest of the conference, follow these bullet (in the brain) lists.

The EA Titles

  1. Star Wars Battlefront 2: It looks cool, but that’s because it’s finally what the first game should’ve been.
  2. Madden 2018: Oh good, because we need to pay $60 for a patch and a roster update.
  3. Fifa 2018: I have never been so confused by the meta status of a fictional character before, and I read fan fiction so bizarre your brain would pop.
  4. A Way Out: The one thing that really stood out during the whole conference, this is a genuine and innovative couch co-op that makes prison besties a thing.
  5. NBA Live 2018: Are people still playing basketball games, and if so, ???
  6. Battlefield 1 expansion: Admittedly looked cool, but also looked like every other FPS I saw at this conference.
  7. Need for Speed: It’s Fast and the Furious now, with an added storyline, because why not?
  8. Anthem: I can’t put thoughts here, because EA barely showed anything. Which is what you want to do with a new IP, right?  Hide it?  Cover it up as much as you can?  Shield it from any prying eyes that might want to throw money at it?

The Bethesda Titles

  1. Bethesda VR (Doom, Fallout 4, Skyrim): I’ll buy Fallout 4 VR, because I’ve actually wanted that for a while. Skyrim VR is a cool idea, but it’s not something I can justify buying 100 times.  Doom looked cool, and probably felt like the most apt translation to VR.
  2. ESO: Morrowind. I’m actually surprised this didn’t happen sooner.
  3. Bethesda Creation Club: Paid mods, only made by the devs.
  4. ES Legends: Skyrim is coming to card games too. Skyrim is like an STD at this point.
  5. Skyrim for the Switch: We knew about this before the conference. More on amiibos later.
  6. Dishonored 2 expansion: Yup, looks fine, I guess.
  7. Evil Within 2: Cool movie trailer. Oh shit, this is a game?  Are you sure?
  8. Wolfenstein: New Colossus: A genuine surprise, and the one announcement that felt like it belonged here.

And now, rage (from a place of love)

Doom
Ash’s mood. Source: ESA

Part of me doesn’t want to say these things.  You have to realize that I’m an optimist at heart, and I’m naturally prone to squees.  I want to love things, I want to give my money to video games, and I want to trust infinitely in developers that I believe deserve that trust.  I love you, video games.  I sob love you so much.

But…you betrayed me.  And I don’t care anymore.

WHAT A CROCK OF SHIT.  I CARE A LOT, YOU BASTARDS. 

So here are the very real problems I had with both of these conferences, in terms of news and delivery, in no uncertain terms.  In addition to being optimistic, I’m also not wishy washy.  And I’m still pissed.  Months later, I’m still so fucking angry I can feel how much faster I’m typing because I HAVE TO GET THIS DOWN TO GET IT OUT OF MY SYSTEM BEFORE MY VEINS BURST INTO STREAMS OF MOLTEN BLOOD THAT I PAINT ON MY FACE BEFORE UTTERING A WAR CRY AND TAKING TO THE INTERNET TO SCREAM MY OPINIONS INTO THE ENDLESS VOID.

I’m already doing that.  Only with more caffeine, and a little less burning blood.  Still some though.


EA rant

I’d like to take a minute to address EA sports games.  They hold the corner on this market, and those bastards know it.  Pushing 2K out of the niche was the final nail in the coffin.  Now, don’t think I hate sports games.  I don’t.  I think they’re boring and stupid, but I don’t hate them by any stretch.  My husband adores the Madden franchise, so while I haven’t played them, I’ve been exposed to more hours of the series than I really want tabulated in my life history Excel chart. 

So when I saw the…um…”changes” implemented for Madden 2018, I couldn’t believe it.  They showed barely any footage, but more importantly, there wasn’t anything substantial added to the game.  This is a patch.  This is an update.  This is a glorified roster change.  Now that the game’s out, and my husband has been suckered into giving our money to it, I posed a very real question to him: Why do you feel comfortable spending $60 before tax every year on what should be an annual update to a major title released every 3 to 5 years?

He couldn’t answer.  I asked if the Long Shot mode was worth the money.  He said no.  I asked if the roster change was worth $60.  He bit his lip.  I asked if the menu color changes were worth the $66 we paid in Washington State.  He asked me to get away from his face with my crazy wide eyes. 

madden
Really worth another $60?

Now I know nothing about Fifa, but I’ve seen the updates posed every year at E3, and it does seem like an incremental effort is put into that game as opposed to Madden.  It’s smoother, looks better, and I don’t know what else.  But if the release system is anything like Madden’s “buy it every year so you can get a major change maybe every 3 years and a new list of names that you should be able to download at a MUCH LOWER PRICE” model, then it’s a vampire, a blood sucking fiend that you willingly let hang off your neck like a fucking infinity scarf in a Starbucks.

Let’s take a turn to talk about Anthem.  It’s the new EA IP.  And I feel like I already talked about this? Oh………

I DID TALK ABOUT IT IN THE MICROSOFT ARTICLE HAHAHAHAHAHAHA WHY IS THAT FUNNY??  OH IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE FOR SOME FUCKING REASON EA DIDN’T TALK ABOUT IT MORE AND INSTEAD COCKTEASED YOU SO MICROSOFT COULD FINISH THE JOB.

Why did they do this?  Why do they hold us in such contempt, that they think a fucking TEASER is the best thing to highlight at their press conference?  In a world of prequels, sequels, DLC, and half assed add ons, why would a new property be glossed over only to let someone better have the glory in their conference?  EA isn’t that fucking brain dead.  Well, I mean, they are, but seriously.  What the FUCK?

Another major gripe: story mode!  Story mode for you, story mode for your cow, story mode right up the ass of every game EA is dealing with right now.  Give it to all the sports games, give it to the racing game, give it to the Star Wars game (which John Boyega asked for, so you better fucking give it to him).  How many of these need it?  OH, MAYBE ONE?  This irony is even more rich now that my husband revealed how fucking short and pathetic the Long Shot mode is to Madden.  SO WELL DONE, EVERYONE.  The EA team pulled off another fucking magic trick and made your money vanish from your wallet for absolutely no reason.  BET IT FEELS GOOD!

So now to the two things that actually scare me, both as a player and as someone moving into the industry professionally.  Their indie partnership is terrifying.  Major developers are doing this in different capacities to both bring those little gems out to the forefront, while simultaneously profiting from sales and indie innovation.  Normally, I’m all for it, but when it comes to EA and their track record of buying up companies and then killing them, I find it absolutely horrifying.

It was then that Andrew Wilson mentioned getting games in the hands of players faster, that EA would change the way players interact with products prior to launch.  This is an ill omen.  Developers are already pushing games out way earlier than they should be, with bugs or horrifically underdeveloped components trying to imitate former AAA titles (yeah, hey, Mass Effect Andromeda).  So how, in all that is both holy and unholy, is this a good idea?  How is putting more pressure on teams an even better idea than readjusting schedules and giving players appropriately full demos on time?  Oh, wait.  It’s not, not even remotely. 

I’m coming down violently on EA because I do not agree with their choices as a company, and this press conference was an attempt to capitalize on shitty cash grabs disguised as new ideas and new implementations.  They can’t seem to understand that just taking money and giving almost nothing in return is something people don’t seem to agree with.  And after years of this, I’m just so absolutely fucking exhausted of seeing them prance on stage and pretend like they’ve offered gold when all they’ve done is spray paint a can of year old shit that they just made smell a little better this year.


Bethesda rant

This is hard.  This is the hardest part of all of this.  This is exactly what I wrote when I started taking notes for the Bethesda conference:

“So IGN is talking about what Bethesda has to do to get people talking.  I have to be honest; do they really need to talk about much?  They’re Bethesda.  They’ve built trust and reputation.”

I guess I really couldn’t have been more wrong.  They needed to do something to get people talking explicitly because people trust them.  And don’t get me wrong, they gave us Wolfenstein.  But when you spit out more, and more, and more versions of the same 6 year old game instead of even teasing something else, you can’t escape the unyielding eyes of your rabid fans.  Honestly, how sad is it that Bethesda only really brought two new games to the table this year?  How fucking sad is it that this company that worked to reimagine the state of western RPGs decided to just take a breather and whore out their cash cow until the teats bleed?

Skyrim launched in 2011, followed by DLC in 2012.  Bethesda said in 2013 that they were done with Skyrim, so they launched the Legendary Edition (all of the DLC included) in 2013.  Then the special remastered version arrived in 2016.  Now the Switch version and the VR version will launch in 2017.  So, in total, that’s five versions of the game.  Five.  Versions.  Of the same.  Game.  Despite saying that they were moving on from Skyrim to work on other titles years ago.  Add on paid mods with the Creator’s Club, and take a real good look at how badly Bethesda wants Skyrim to take your money. 

skyrim
Would you kindly buy another edition of this game?

Speaking of mods—I was absolutely ecstatic to see the amiibo use in the Switch version of Skyrim.  I thought it looked adorable.  Until I remembered that I have a master sword / Link outfit mod for my PC copy of Skyrim.  It’s a glorified mod, and it’s not enough to be more than something cute.  Maybe, if you haven’t already bought Skyrim, or if you really want it to be portable, you’ll get the Switch version.  But I personally have three copies of the game already, like a lot of people.  I can’t justify this. 

The biggest problem with this conference was that it was a glorified Facebook update.  There wasn’t any game play outside of a couple of seconds here and there; trailers dominated the day, and most of the topics were either already known or minimal exposits of updates to expansions, add ons, or new ports of existing games.  There wasn’t anything groundbreaking here except Wolfenstein, and one awesome game announcement does not justify an entire god damn conference.


The attitudes

These were all over the map, honestly.  I felt uncomfortable during the EA conference and absolutely distant and removed from the Bethesda one.  It was a weird time to be on my couch, absolutely weird. 

  1. EA: bored and scared. They had separate hosts for each game segment, and they droned without any interest or panicked and started flubbing lines.
  2. EA: guest presenters like YouTubers and content creators showed up a lot. They were mostly responsible for line flubs, which I understand, but having it happen multiple times was just jarring.
  3. EA: Buzzwords are life. “Products”, not games.  “Extraordinary experiences”, “virtual humans”, “seasons of free content”.  It’s just exhausting. 
  4. Bethesda: All pre-recorded. This keeps the audience removed, and it was an issue I had with Nintendo too.  I appreciate the stream of content, but I feel sad when I don’t get to engage with the actual team. 
  5. Show footage of families. Maybe this was what they had in mind for engaging with the team, and it’s really sweet, but when the conference is short and minimal, cut this or add more to the damn game roster.
  6. IGN host: Bethesda NEEDS to show games, but “Anything they announce, I’m in 100%”. How can you do both?  Easy, I felt the same way.  Until they announced nothing.  We trust the studio, but when they actually misplace that, we’re jaded and burned.

What’s next?

I have nothing else to add.  I have nothing else to give.  This has taken everything, absolutely everything, emotionally and mentally.  Going from the highest highs to the lowest of absolutely fucking abysmal lows was not simple.  But, there’s something else E3 related to talk about.  And that’s the current state of hype culture.  To get our teeth sunk into that, we’re going to take peeks at other conferences that bank on hyping up something (or sometimes nothing), including PAX Dev, PAX West, and the Seattle Indies Expo.  So let’s check out some absolutely fantastic in person events—I’ll personally be at all three—and compare exactly how these nerd-paloozas bank on early news and manic fans to get the hype train out of the station.

PAX Dev

About The Author

I'm a big ol' nerd, and I want to effuse that nerdiness for the rest of my life. I spend as much time as I can drawing and playing video games, and I've taken that to the career level now since I'm back in school to be a game designer. I'm the mom to three puppies and a fat kitty, and the wife to a fellow nerd.

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