As the dust settles on this year’s show, we take a look at some of the games and trends that caught our eye – and the ramifications they could have for the recruitment sector.
Another year, another E3 and while there were grumblings about the show’s relevance in an increasingly digital age – and complaints from consumers that there weren’t enough demos to play at the new E3 Live event – the show still managed to generate genuine interest with its roster of new game unveilings. Critically, E3 still also acts as an important litmus test on emerging gaming trends and themes that can affect all of us working in the industry – and for that reason, we still believe E3 remains relevant:
1. Diversity Matters
How videogames represent minorities and women has been the source of much controversy in recent times. From over-sexualised female characters being stuffed into hot pants to a lack of minority protagonists, mainstream gaming hardly has a proud track record of embracing diversity but E3 showed that the tide could be turning. We have Marcus Holloway, an African-American headlining Watch Dogs 2, a female hero in the shape of Aloy in Horizon: Zero Dawn and the opportunity to play as the female assassin Emily Kaldwin in Dishonored 2 (which also features gay and bisexual characters).
Combined with Mirror’s Edge’s Faith and Life is Strange’s Maxine, we are hopefully seeing the end of the male-only mindset that has dominated and dogged the sector over the decades. Alas for the videogame industry itself, our 2016 Salary & Satisfaction survey revealed that the sector still has its own problems with women being underrepresented – something that needs to be urgently addressed.
2. We Happy Many
The indie scene continues to innovate, this relentless drive perhaps best illustrated by a small game with big, big ambitions – We Happy Few from indie developer Compulsion Games – that created real buzz on its E3 unveiling. A dark, stylised take on the 1960s, you play as a ‘redactor’ who stops taking his Joy pills only to discover he’s living in a horrifying dystopian world. From its unique retro-futuristic visuals to its original concept, We Happy Few shows that you can take on the big names in the industry and still come out on top in terms of generating excitement; a genuine inspiration for any dev working on their own indie masterpiece.
3. Bullshots vs Brill Shots
The industry is renowned for showing off gorgeous graphics in their E3 demos that unfortunately don’t actually tally with the downgraded final-release visuals (hello Ubisoft!) but Sony’s seriously gorgeous-looking slate of titles including Days Gone, God of War and Horizon: Zero Dawn were all claimed to be running on a humble PS4, and not the Neo. And if that’s indeed the case (and we can believe it after experiencing Uncharted 4’s exceptional graphics), let’s have more of that in the future please, publishers…
4. Get Real about Unreal
As we highlighted in our recent VR blog, devs are moving away from the Unity platform used for many first gen VR titles and are crossing over to Unreal for the next wave, which is good news for contractors who specialise in the powerful games engine. The VR industry’s embracing of Unreal was further underlined at E3 by Rocksteady’s announcement that its Batman Arkham VR experience will be powered by Unreal 4 instead of its heavily modified version of Unreal 3 that the dev used for the previous Batman games.
5. Simply the Best
The indie scene goes from strength to strength, a fact recognised by both Microsoft – whose indie gaming initiative, ID@Xbox, now has more than 1,000 games in development up from last year’s 150 – and EA who were absent from the show floor but announced its new indie publishing arm EA Originals that will give 100% of any profits back to the handful of developers who qualify for the scheme; such corporate commitments to the indie sector highlights the huge number of opportunities now available to devs and their teams.
6. Writers Wanted
As criticised by DevelopOnline’s James Batchelor in his blog, quality writing in videogames is still sorely missing judging from the dialogue featured in certain games unveiled at E3. It’s an interesting point and one that perhaps underlines a real issue for the industry as a whole – that character and story in games can sometimes be treated at best as an afterthought or at worst simply ignored. And that’s a real shame because as the likes of Naughty Dog and The Chinese Room have amply demonstrated, rich characters and narratives have the power to create truly immersive game experiences, a fact that both the industry and recruiters need to do more to promote in the future.
7. VR’s Splintered Sell
VR development is in rude health with 50 titles being touted for PlayStation VR’s launch alone – which must inevitably put a huge amount of pressure on the devs involved to deliver by that deadline. But away from such PR-friendly figures, the distinctly non PR-friendly issue of exclusivity exploded this month when Oculus revealed that certain VR games would be exclusive/timed exclusives to its platforms. The resulting fallout has seen some devs venting about why such an approach is counterproductive and risks carving up the burgeoning sector while Valve’s Gabe Newell has already offered his own take on the situation. Is it really bad news for the sector though or the most effective way to stand out from competitors? Time – and sales – will tell.
Looking to recruit across Games including VR or AR or looking for a new job in that space? Come speak to the team on firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 1273 287 007