So, apparently we needed a PC-specific event at E3. Previously, we haven’t had one because the PC as a platform lacks the centrality of consoles (which are single systems owned by single companies, whereas PC gaming is spread out over dozens of hardware and software manufacturers). PC gaming also doesn’t have the same reliance on E3 due to its broad audience and diverse tiers of games. This year, though, PC Gamer magazine hosted its own big-platform event.
Just a note before I begin – the opening had a shot of a hand pouring unlabeled mountain dew into a wine glass, and swishing it around while classical music is playing. I understand that's the joke among the “PC Gaming Master Race”, but combining it with the dramatic assembly of a gaming PC was almost too much.
The venue was comparatively small relative to Xbox's grand arena, consisting of only a small theatre. Sean “Day9”'s hosting style wore thin at times, whether it was the light-hearted jabs at Xbox head Phil Spencer, or rough-housing a metal case provided by AMD’s “Chief Gaming Scientist” Richard Huddy.
Organs and gore were something of a common theme at the PC show, as it opened with Killing Floor 2, where Tripwire Entertainment's John Gibson talked about their united physics engine running several different physical elements at once. The implementation of this gore-soaked slaughter fest was defined by interactive organs, bouncing off of walls and dangling off of lampposts, along withe the more immediate new maps. Ion, the space-based exploration game by DayZ's creator Dean Hall, had a noteworthy bug where people's organs would fall out of their bodies, rendering them useless (they are actually functional in this game!). Gibson would also announce Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, a military shooter set during that most infamous of American wars. Gears of War's Ultimate Edition and Splash Damage's Dirty Bomb were also shown, putting things securely in the military shooter’s front.
AMD 's aforementioned chief scientist, and their CEO Lisa Su revealed several new GPUs, ranging from the Radeon R7 and R9 300 series, to the new supercomputer-class twin-Fiji Fury X cards. Even though it’s a small form-factor card, this 17+ teraflop monster produces more processing power than 9 PS4s, or 13 Xbox Ones. Used in the tiny Project Quantum computers, these cards were used to power many of the display stations around E3.
Eidos Montreal sent their two Executive Directors, Jean-francois Dugas and Jonathan Jacques-Belletête to show off the busy, well-stocked vegetable carts and slick floors of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. It may have lacked the pervasive golden haze from the franchise’s last installment, but still demonstrated excellent lighting effects in the form of beams of light shining in through smoggy bar interiors. Total War: Warhammer was showcased as well, following a trailer of the history of Total War and discussions of Games Workshop’s elaborate, expensive figures. Arma III's Tanoa expansion flaunted its lush “green hell” environments. Related to Arma, DayZ is getting more threatening zombies and expects to see a full release in 2016. Fullbright revealed their next “walking simulator”, Tacoma, an exploration game in a gravity-deprived colony. Space exploration was a theme extended to Bohemia Interactive’s Take On Mars, which showcased the latest state of the game.
Much of what was on offer had already been shown by other conferences and developers – a new Hitman game, and the Gears of War Ultimate Edition, but we also saw footage of the customizable guild halls for the new Guild Wars 2 expansion, Heart of Thorns. Blizzard gave us footage from their Diablo-themed expansion for their Heroes of the Storm MOBA, as well as from the final expansion for Starcraft 2, Legacy of the Void.
Personally, I was very excited to see Obsidian showing off the cinematic trailer for part one of their Pillars of Eternity spin off, Winter March. It was an eye-catching move that raises questions about the size and scope of the project. The announcement by Hello Games founder Sean Murray that No Man's Sky would also be released on PC was of top importance, as to find out so long after it was originally showcased that it would not see a PC release was a difficult pill to swallow. The game is stunning; a gorgeous procedurally-generated universe, so to hear that it will grace the broader PC market is joyous. The event ended on a rather high note for me, as well. Beyond Eyes, and its blind protagonist and surreal visuals representative of other senses is something to get excited about.
The abbreviated nature of this article reflects the PC event itself; there seemed little time to actually explore any game in detail, or even discuss any large topics, and only a few live games were played in the theatre. Among these was the boxy, charming Strafe, but only a brief look at the retro, Quake-evoking shooter was given.The same goes for Enter the Gungeon, a combination of rouge-like dungeon exploration and bullet hell that appeals to my pixel-loving, rage-addicted self. There was a lot here, and it was all rushed over with the host scrambling along from topic to topic. Oh, and Cliff Bleszinski talked briefly about shooters, but announced no game.
I’m not opposed to an event like this happening again, but there needs to be more attention payed to the individual topics and better presentations. We don't need to congratulate ourselves on PC gaming – we need to showcase what PC has to offer the rest of the community. This is the year of accessibility on PC in the form of the Steam Boxes, and we really needed to sell that with more focus on quality over the rapid-fire quantity that we were bombarded with. There was much more I didn’t mention in the show, largely because there was just too much, and it went by far too fast to leave a lasting impression in a lot of cases. That being said, the giant monster MOBA Gigantic and Frictional Games’ new horror title Soma stuck with me and deserve to be elaborated on beyond what little we saw. Next year will undoubtedly see improvements, but such a fumble of a first attempt, at such a crucial point in PC gaming history no less, is not something the community wanted to see.