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PC Gamer’s E3 2015 Keynote

Day[9] hosting the PC Gamer keynote at E3 2015.

Well, the PC Gamer E3 keynote came and went, so now it’s time for my final keynote summary post. Maybe I was spoiled with Oculus, Bethesda, Microsoft, and Sony’s presentations. The high production values, professional presentations, and (near) flawless delivery really hammered home the amazing announcements those companies brought to the table. Never has there been a better demonstration of the phrase “stole the show”, because honestly, I think their glow made the rest of the presentations look worse.

That being said, the PC Gamer presentation was certainly one of the most unique presentations I’ve seen in 12 years of watching E3 presentations. Hosted by Day[9], the PC Gamer show was set up to resemble a talk show, delivering impromptu interviews, allowing developers to give a more in-depth discussion about their games. It featured a desk, couch, and even a city backdrop (made of circuit boards). This model could make for a much better show in the future, so I would love to see them continue.

Day[9] hosting the PC Gamer keynote at E3 2015.

I should also mention that I think Day[9] did an exceptional job hosting, and the music featured by Disasterpeace was an excellent choice, especially in the pre-show trivia game (side note to other presenters in the future, please do this too; give us something to do while we wait). One song featured in the pre-show even remixed a tune from a game which was partly developed here in Winnipeg, Aquaria, by Derek Yu and Alec Holowka. You can listen to that remix mashup here. Heck, even the ironic Mountain Dew gag at the beginning was good for a laugh!

But they needed something with oomph, and (pardon me for spoiling it) they just didn’t deliver. Since they had a different format in their show, I thought I’d take a bit of a liberty with changing up my own format. This was a long keynote, so I’ll try to keep it as brief as I can.

Killing Floor 2 New Expansion, and Rising Storm 2

They started the keynote with an extensive conversation about blood-and-guts physics in Killing Floor 2, and introduced two new expansions, the Incinerate and Detonate content packs. They also revealed that they will be officially releasing community maps soon, and that they won’t be resetting players’ stats after leaving early access. Speaking of early access, this is the first of many games to be discussed today that is currently in early access, which is a somewhat disappointing trend that I don’t see slowing down, but at least some developers (such as Tripwire) are doing it right.

After discussing Killing Floor 2, they showed an in-game teaser trailer for Rising Storm 2. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Rising Storm was the sequel to Red Orchestra, an online multiplayer World War 2 shooter known for its realism. The first game took place during the Pacific Conflicts in World War 2; Rising Storm 2 is set in the Vietnam War.

Star Citizen mocap demo.

Star Citizen

It wouldn’t be a PC gaming show without some mention of Star Citizen. In their demo, they updated us on the progress of their budget (they’re up to $85 million) and showcased their extensive motion capture suite, along with some detailed animations. Some of the acting appeared very animalistic in nature, so I imagine this confirms there will be more personal encounters with the aliens shown in some previous trailers.

AMD’s new Radeon Cards

Richard Huddy, Chief Gaming Scientist at AMD, was up next, and he discussed exactly what it means to be the “Chief Gaming Scientist” at AMD. He noted that he has two primary roles: first, talking to developers about the future of what AMD is working on to give them an idea of where to shoot, and second, a more public role — talking to customers about the stuff they do, why they do it, and how AMD is evolving in the industry.

Then, he introduced the Radeon R7 300 and R9 300 series, ranging in price from entry-level to more extravagant cards.

Responding to a question from Day[9] regarding VR support, he notes that VR is an interesting challenge, and breaks it down into two separate areas of problems: you need an awful lot of horsepower for great VR experiences, to target 90th of a second second time for inputs. That requires heavy-hitting hardware. The other side is a tuned software stack working with the hardware pipeline, that can take input super-fast, and deliver output very quickly. The software side will be improved with DirectX 12, noting that with legacy APIs, throughput was bottlenecked, but this won’t be the case with DirectX 12.

He then handed Day[9] a briefcase, with an exit statement: “Inside is a symbol of our commitment to PC gaming.”

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided screenshot

Deus Ex Mankind Divided

In an extended demo, Eidos Montreal demonstrated more of the Dawn engine. In fact, more game footage and information was revealed about Deus Ex here than at the Square keynote! From the interview and footage, it’s clear that clutter is a huge focus in the aesthetic of Mankind Divided, with tons of physical props littering the game areas. They also confirmed TressFX for Adam’s beard!

Jokes aside, this game looks great! The lighting and graphics are solid, and the gameplay looks fantastic. While the demo video played, the developers talked about their design methodologies, and how they tested each map to ensure each play style was exciting and rewarding, whether you want to go in guns-a-blazing, take a stealthy approach, or a bit of both.

Total War: Warhammer

Day[9] introduced this game as a “staple of PC gaming for years.” Cue the Half-Life 3 joke – someone in the audience audibly screamed “Half-Life 3.”

While that would have been awesome, what we did see was pretty interesting. The regular Total War fanfare was there, with historical armies doing battle in huge-scale wars with thousands of troops, and even some navy battles, all set to a new-age cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” (what is it about game trailers and Tears for Fears covers).

Suddenly, the game ditches historical battles, and a griffin lands right in the middle of the battle. Flash the Warhammer logo. Some more b-roll showed different races from Warhammer while Day[9] and the developers discussed working with the legendary IP.

Xbox, Killer Instinct, Fable Legends, Gigantic, and Gears of War Ultimate

Phil Spencer took the stage and dropped a quick bomb: Killer Instinct is coming to the PC. Nice.

Then, Phil Spencer discussed Fable Legends, and Gigantic, and introduced the developers.

Fable Legends

The game will feature a story-based world with lots of different heroes, villains, locations, and more. It will feature cross-platform play, and will allow players to be either good or evil, and will allow evil players to compete with the good players. Good to hear they aren’t ditching the series staple! They noted that they are planning for years of content – new characters, new quests, etc. to keep the game exciting and fresh.

Gigantic

Details were sparse at the Xbox keynote, but here they confirmed everyone’s suspicions. Gigantic is a shooter with MOBA infuences and strategy elements. It features varied character roles: some characters don’t get right into the fight, but have strategic abilities, summon units and control them from afar, act as healers, etc.

Gears of War Ultimate Edition

Rod Fergussen from Bohemia Interactive came out, and briefly discussed Gears of War Ultimate Edition. Again, he repeated the phrase “the first, at its best,” but here it sounds like it will actually be true. While the Xbox One version will run at 1080p in 60fps, the PC version will have 4k support, unlimited refresh rate, and will feature DX12 support. Ultimate Edition will feature 19 multiplayer maps, and two gameplay modes (Team Deathmatch, and King of the Hill).

American Truck Simulator trailer screenshot

American Truck Simulator

Day[9] put on a trucker cap, and introduced SCS Software’s American Truck Simulator. This one is exactly what you think. There’s not much to say here, except that it was actually made using Google Maps, which is pretty cool.

EVE: Valkyrie demo

EVE: Valkyrie

Opening by noting that it is unclear what the killer VR app is, Day[9] introduces CCP and EVE: Valkyrie. After a brief discussion about the game, they showed footage of Day[9] playing and loving it. Then, they continued discussing CCP’s vision for the future of VR (over footage previously shown at the Oculus keynote last week).

Ion

Dean Hall (creator of DayZ) and his new studio RocketWerkz showed the same teaser trailer for his new game, Ion. Noting that game development is “…more about what you don’t put in, than what you do,” he goes on to mention what Ion isn’t. “It’s not Elite, it’s not EVE, it’s not Star Citizen,” days Hall. “We’re looking at what is inside the stations – it’s Space Station 13.” Interestingly enough, he confirms that the gameplay is more like an isometric RPG, similar to Diablo.

Cheekily, Day[9] then asked him, based on the development track record of DayZ, what is the best bug in Ion so far. Hall notes: “if you were clicking on another player, all of their organs fell out” — revealing that the game features realistic organ simulation.

Strafe

This Kickstarted classic Quake-style shooter was demoed live on stage to a gushing Day[9]. Key takeaways:

  • Looks a lot like Quake 1
  • Blood and guts are persistent, as well as some gun effects (you can accidentally paint yourself into a corner with acid, for example)
  • Additional guns are like powerups other than your core weapon
  • When you run out of ammo, your powerup guns become some kind of other weapon. For example, you can throw a pistol, or use a rocket launcher as a baseball bat

Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 1

Obsidian and Paradox are working on a new expansion pack for Pillars of Eternity titled “The White March Part 1.” This expansion pack will increase the maximum level cap, while introducing new abilities, soul-bound weapons, and new new companions.

Planet Coaster

Elite: Dangerous developer Frontier Development took the stage to reveal their revival of a great PC gaming genre, the “Tycoon” or Maxis-style simulator games. Coming to PC in 2016 and available for preorder now, Planet Coaster appears to be similar to Roller Coaster Tycoon, or Sim Theme Park. It is a huge departure in terms of aesthetics and function from Elite: Dangerous, but it looks charming. No gameplay was shown.

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns guild hall map screenshot

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns

ArenaNet took the stage to discuss the Guild Wars 2 expansion pack, Heart of Thorns. This expansion introduces Guild Halls: customizable guild hangouts which unlock new features with new buildings.Together, players can build a shared history, brawl inside their own arena (including battles between guilds, or dare I say… guild wars) and adventure together (portaling your entire guild together, to a special quest, event, puzzle, etc.)

This is not just a guild hall, it’s an entire map your guild can own. However, the map is initially owned by a Jungle Dragon and his army, so you have to fight for the map with your guild in order to earn it.

Hitman screenshot

Hitman

Again, what would E3 be without technical difficulties? While demoing this game, the presenter’s mic didn’t work, so he had to lean in close to Day[9]. However, they owned their error, with the developer stating “I will never let you go.”

Details about the game:

  • Maps will be 6 to 7 times bigger than in Absolution
  • No checkpoints – the ultimate assassination experience
  • Release date: Dec 8th 2015

AMD Discusses R9 Fury X and R9 Nano

Lisa Su, the CEO of AMD then took the stage to discuss the R9 Fury X (AMD’s flagship card) and the R9 Nano. Both of these cards are designed with DX12 and 4k resolution in mind. The R9 Nano offers powerful graphics in a small form factor, measuring just 6 inches long.

Then, Lisa Su showed a small form, super powerful, 16 Teraflop gaming rig. The case was a little odd looking – to be honest it looked a bit like a lamp, but from the looks of it the shape was conceived with heat management in mind.

Then, we got to see what was in the box: a Dual Fiji GPU, a dual-chip version of the GPU powering AMD’s new line of cards.

ARMA 3: Tanoa Expansion

This was essentially a new jungle island level for ARMA 3. Also, it introduces DirectX 12 support, and expanded mod support.

Beyond Eyes

Sherida Halatoe took the stage to give a bit more detail on her game, Beyond Eyes. This is really shaping up to be one to watch, I think. Halatoe explains that because the protagonist grew up sheltered, she doesn’t always have the right reference for what she is hearing. She may hear something and think it is one thing, then her other senses tell her it’s different. For example, she can hear running water, think it’s a fountain, get closer and smell it, and know it’s a sewage pipe. By the way the interview went, it seems like this is a main component of the game. Seems cool!

Dirty Bomb

New cinematic trailer, not really a whole lot to go off of here. They used the word “scrubs”, so that was kind of funny.

Tacoma

This is a first-person exploration game from the developers of Gone Home, where you explore a space station. The developer explained that Gone Home was about recreating a time and place that really existed, while Tacoma is about imagining a new place. Unlike Gone Home, this is a full 3D exploration of the environment, because without gravity, it changes the way you explore.

SOMA

SOMA

September 22, 2015 release date announced, very short trailer, very atmospheric and spooky. I’m glad they didn’t reveal much, but disappointed there was no interview, because Frictional Games’ blog is one of the most interesting developer blogs out there.

DayZ

DayZ will be going into beta soon, and will be leaving early access after that. They confirmed that a singleplayer DayZ experience will eventually be available. Also, once in beta, they will begin opening up the servers so you can host LAN parties, etc. with your own servers. Maybe we’ll see some DayZ at future BaseLAN events!

Take On Mars screenshot

Take On Mars

Here’s yet another title that started as an ARMA mod. This one is a space simulator multiplayer survival game, with dynamic construction and destruction of your shelters, advanced physics simulations, all set on Mars, in orbit, and on the moon. Now available on Steam Early Access.

Project Blue Streak

Boss Key Productions studio head Cliff Bleszinski took the stage, and mostly discussed his hiatus from the games industry. What was his break like?

“I had fun, hanging out reading books. But honestly I got really bored. I saw announcements, trailers, and I missed it, honestly, after 6 months. It took a year and a half to find the proper partner with Nexon.”

This game will be a sci-fi first person shooter with unique weapons. A tiny bit of footage showed some cool-looking guns. Before exiting, Cliffy discussed CounterStrike, and the nature of eSports, stating that “CounterStrike is [still] the most solid shooter experience,” and that they are trying to capture highly skill-based mechanics.

Enter the Gungeon

This one is a bullet hell dungeon crawler. Strange combination of genres, but it looks great! Dodge rolls with invincibility frames allow you to dodge through bullet waves. It looks like a twin-stick shooter, and reminds me of Nuclear Throne. The final game will feature over 200 hand-designed weapons.

Heroes of the Storm

Ah, the ever pervasive MOBA. “Internally called BlizzCon or Blizzard the Game,” sounds about right. After a trailer, they confirm that the current focus for Heroes is Diablo. The treasure goblin from Diablo III is a new feature, and King Leoric is a new hero (err… villain?).

On dying, he turns into a wraith and can haunt people with damage, reducing his death timer with successful hits. Unlike most characters, you spawn exactly where the wraith was standing, so you can get vengeance immediately.

StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

StarCraft: Legacy of the Void

Of course, you can’t have a stage show with Day[9] and not talk about StarCraft. Legacy of the Void will be the end of the current StarCraft storyline. After an intense cinematic trailer, they announced Whispers of Oblivion, a 3-mission prologue releasing in July 2015 for everyone who pre-orders the game, and later on for all other players, completely free of charge. It connects the story of Zeratul and the end of Heart of the Swarm to Legacy of the Void.

No Man’s Sky

Nothing new was revealed here. I’m not really sure what else to say. We knew the game was coming to PC already. No release date. This was a lackluster ending to an E3 which has already showed dozens of absolutely legendary-looking games, including the return of many long-awaited franchises.

That being said, the format was great, the presenter was excellent, and I hope they continue to host PC Gamer events like this at every subsequent E3. PC Gaming is huge, and it’s growing, so it’s great to see an emphasis on the platform, in an open and participatory presentation fashion reminiscent of the platform itself.

*     *     *     *     *

So, with the last E3 keynote coming to a close, the show floor is set to open. We’re bound to see some interesting demoes, and the AYB content team will write about whatever catches our interest. In the meantime, let us know what you think about E3 so far. Which keynote do you think was best? Which one was worst? What were your favourite reveals? What disappointed you the most? Did you like our coverage of the events?

If you missed any of the previous keynotes, be sure to read them here:

Oculus

Bethesda

Microsoft

EA

Ubi

Sony

Nintendo

Square Enix

As always, thanks for reading!

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