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E3 and the Need for Cynicism

It's in that delirious enjoyment of seeing the words of a long-forgotten franchise flash up on stage that you forget how everything could go wrong. But things can go wrong. Remembering that is what shades you from disappointment.

It's very easy to see a brief cinematic trailer for a game and feel a surge of excitement, especially when it's shown on the grandest stage in the videogame world, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). That's exactly what the trailers are designed to do - gain your interest even before there's a game to show you. It's in that delirious enjoyment of seeing the words of a long-forgotten franchise flash up on stage that you forget how everything could go wrong. But things can go wrong. Remembering that is what shades you from disappointment.

For example, some of the biggest announcements of the show are at huge risk of being complete flops, something that people are quick to forget in their excitement for the titles. Final Fantasy 7 is the most notable one that could crash and burn. A remake of the PS1 classic, it promises to bring back Midgar and the surrounding areas with a new next-generation engine. It's something that's been requested for a number of years, and each year we've been told the same thing - No, it's not possible. But this was more than a smoke and mirrors game by publisher Square Enix as they planned something, it was a definite statement of fact. The main problem with remaking Final Fantasy 7 is the sheer scale of the game. It's a massive, detailed game world with hundreds of rooms and assets, and a world size that would dwarf those of more recent Final Fantasy games. We're in an era now where FF13 had to remove a lot of it's free-roaming aspects because it just wasn't possible for the creators to make a world with that much scope. With FF15 they seem to be leaning more towards a larger world, but that's a game which has had an incredible nine year development time - and is still almost guaranteed to have a smaller world than FF7. With all that in mind, what makes Square Enix think they can take on the mammoth task without cutting things out or diluting the game experience? The Final Fantasy 7 remake will not be just a presentation upgrade, and there will be significant changes to make the project actually possible. Until we see what those changes are, it might be best to dial down the excitement.

Another huge game at the show was Shenmue 3. Weirdly, the reveal was just for a Kickstarter for the sequel, which has since been admitted was actually just a way for Sony to judge how much interest there was before helping the developers fund the game. The problem I have with this one isn't so much with the game itself - I firmly believe Yu Suzuki can deliver on his promises - but rather the strange way it's being funded. With Kickstarter, there is a general feel of comradery between yourself the developer, as you are both putting something towards the games creation. With a game like Shenmue 3, there is a definite community spirit felt as it's something fans have been waiting for way over a decade. While it was obvious other funding was going to have to come from somewhere - with the original Shenmue costing closer to $50m than the Kickstarters goal of $2m - the strange circumstances of how Sony's financial assistance came to light makes me wonder how much of an effect will they have on the game. With Shenmue 3 coming out on Kickstarter, you got an immediate feeling of joining hands with Yu Suzuki to make your dreams come true, but when you realise that you're actually just proving something to a marketing executive board, it does somewhat diminish your enthusiasm.

Classic videogame developer Rare seemed to make a comeback during Microsoft's presentation. Announcing a pack of all their previous titles to be released on X-Box One, and a new game looking more akin to their style, it seemed we were finally getting back the Rare we knew and loved, and not a company that was frequently just churning out Kinect sports titles. Fans of classic Rare titles like Banjo-Kazooie and Conkers Bad Fur Day were quick to flood social media with joyous sentiments echoing the words "Rare is back". While the presentation was fun and exciting, there is a niggling thought in the back of my mind - didn't most of the Rare staff leave? Since Microsoft's acquisition of Rare, more and more of the original staff left to pursue other projects, like the kickstarted platformer Yooka-Laylee. While seeing a return to fun colourful games is great, it's hard for me to say that this is a "return" of Rare, as it's mostly run by a new group of people now.

E3 is an exciting time, and there were many more announcements that are a lot easier to be less cynical about. But when it comes to the bigger, flashier and especially enigmatic reveals, sometimes it's best to take a few moments after the initial excitement to think "Okay, that was cool, but what will it really be like?" Because if the game industry has proven anything time and time again, it's that a lot can change from the reveal to release.

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