#15: Not-E3 2021, day one (Day zero? day -1? Look, whatever yesterday was)

One of the purposes of this newsletter is to try and cut through the noise, whatever that noise may be; today it’s the sheer volume of games announced in short order yesterday evening, when most people were busy with work or family. So, here’s a few notes on the first day/evening, followed by the games that stood out to me the most.

I am already quite cross at the scheduling of it all, which I’m not sure really suits anyone. Keighley’s kickoff show began at 11am on the west coast, and so clashed with the US working day; at 7pm in the UK, with dinner, the kids’ bedtimes, and the already vanishingly small amount of time I actually get to spend time with my wife; and at 3am in Tokyo, meaning Kojima’s interview had to be prerecorded because he, and most of the potential audience across Asia, were tucked up in bed. 

I get that it’s like this every year to an extent. But traditionally, E3 press conferences are over and done with in a couple of days, so it’s reasonably straightforward to clear your schedule for them. It’s going to be like this all weekend, and well into next week. Even if I didn’t have kids (what a world!) I’d still struggle to fit it all in. Last night I caught what little I could in realtime, then watched it all through again after my wife had turned in, scrubbing through the stuff that didn’t interest me. It wasn’t exactly Hype Central, and I’m going to have to be pickier about what I try and catch live over the coming days. Annoying.

Still, some lovely stuff on show, and it was great to see the excellent Day Of The Devs getting some well-deserved time in the spotlight. And I suppose it’s my fault I chose to have children. Anyway! Here’s what caught my attention.


Phantom Abyss

In purely conceptual terms this was probably my highlight of the whole evening. Just a wonderful, wonderful idea. I hope they pull it off.

Vokabulantis

Sumptuous stuff from Felix The Reaper developer Kong Orange, with help from Danish animator Johan Oettinger.

Unbeatable

You’ll hear no finer elevator pitch all week: “An anime-inspired rhythm adventure game where music is illegal and you do crimes.” So up my street that I think I can hear it outside.

Walk

Staggeringly stylish lo-fi horror from Japanese developer Kazumi Games. It’s powered by Shibuya indie incubator Asobu — in part the brainchild of Mark MacDonald, one of the nicest men in the game industry who deserves every success coming his way. 

Planet Of Lana

Hand-painted Ghibli Inside, basically. Lovely.

Last Stop

Cheeringly British supernatural mystery from the highly talented Virginia bods, Variable State, and published by the faultless Annapurna. Out next month!

Elden Ring

I’m a little disappointed by how familiar this looks. Forgive me the tangent, but I remember talking to Supergiant’s Greg Kasavin late one night at E3 a few years back. They’d recently shipped Transistor and I told him I thought it was great, but very similar to Bastion. And given how talented a bunch they clearly were, I’d like to see them stretch their legs into other genres. Then they made Pyre and Hades, and shut me right up. I’d love to see From do something similar — to see where else their world-beating flair for level design, boss fights, world building and lore could take them — and hoped with George R.R. Martin involved that Elden Ring might be the game that saw them break free of the template a bit. Evidently not. Day one, obviously.


That’s your lot. I don’t normally send this newsletter out at the weekend but let’s see what the hype train delivers to us; perhaps I’ll make an exception. Have a good one, won’t you.

One final thought: what’s up with Geoff Keighley ritualistically introducing all Canadians with the preface ‘My fellow Canadian’? Is it in the constitution or something?