Bethesda E3 2017 Conference Review

Following EA's snorefest and Microsoft's homerun derby, Bethesda showed off content for games new and old, and while it was shiny, it was soured by questionable business decisions and a lack of anything groundbreaking. Still, there were good moments in this bushel of old apples, so let's see if they were spoiled by the bunch.

Bethesda E3 2017 Conference Review
This review won't be long, as the conference was the shortest one yet (though Nintendo will also be doing a roughly 30 minute showcase), but there's still plenty to say. Bethesda makes long last games. Titles that are played for years after their release. Skyrim continues to rank in the top 10 on Steam for most players, every day. The modding community is, by far, the biggest reason it, and Fallout 4, have such a dedicated player base. So it's a mystery that Bethesda would so stupidly resurrect the failed idea of paid mods.

Not long ago, Steam rolled out paid mods onto their platform, and the system was partnered first with Skyrim as its flagship title. The response was furious. I can't believe we have to have a discussion about why paid mods are a bad idea, but here we are. So as unlikely as it is that Bethesda is reading this, they need a re-education. Anyone else confused as to why paid mods are a bad idea, I'll give a brief rundown.

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At first, the idea of paid mods sounds great. Give financial support to the fans who make quality content? Of course! However, it falls apart when you realize that despite making professional grade content, making mods is not their profession. When a person buys a game, and sometimes DLC for it, they expect that game to be supported by the developers if and when bugs and glitches show up. The consumer, after all, paid for a working product. Games are complicated beasts, and not one has ever shipped without a single flaw. So, games will receive updates to clean up mistakes and keep them compatible with the user's PC or console. So what happens when a person pays for a mod, and the mod maker decides they don't want to work on that mod anymore? They want to work on other things, perhaps even focus on their career or family. Well, looks like tough shit, that mod is broken, unless someone else is nice enough to come in and fix it. Mods are also very tricky. With so many different people making them, compatibility issues are constant. Some mods don't work with each other, and sometimes these problems don't present themselves until long after they're installed. Of course, there's also the problem of taking something that has been free from the onset and suddenly charging for it.

Then Bethesda spits into the glass once more by saying the currency you use will be their own. You will use credits to purchase the mods, rather than real cash. No doubt credits are gained through real cash, but that extra step is just unnecessary and often misleading. Early in its inception, Xbox used credits. 80 credits for $1.00. It was an odd exchange rate, as it would make more sense for $1.00 to equal 100 credits. It makes it easy to do the math in your head. Assuming Bethesda's exchange rate is just as tilted, there could be some consumers who paid more than they thought.

However, paid mods wasn't the only thing shown off at the Bethesdaland conference. The vast majority of what was shown, though, was just more content for games that are already out. Some VR titles are coming out, albeit under franchises we've seen before. Doom VFR looks like fun until you realize it's a point-and-move game, clashing heavily with the fast movement gameplay for Doom. Fallout 4 VR is a noble pursuit. For too long we've had VR as little more than a tech demo console. With Fallout support, we'll be getting a huge game that can be experienced in VR. How well the title translates to VR will be another matter entirely.

The whole thing felt like Bethesda taking a victory lap, patting themselves on the back as they prove to be utterly tone deaf. The use of Youtube reaction videos felt like Bethesda was trying to say, "Look, see, people were excited for it, so you can't say they weren't, and why aren't you excited?" Making a video showcasing pro-gamers playing Quake, or doing anything really, continues to feel out of place and cringey.

The entire conference was saved from total failure by virtue of the last two trailers: The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein 2. The first Evil Within felt like a Resident Evil style of horror, going for more grounded scares than anything trippy, at least for the majority of it. In the sequel, because we know that we're entering into worlds where reality can be bent and twisted, it appears as if the game will not shy away from truly creative and horrifying sights. Let's just hope there's no forced letterbox.

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Wolfenstein 2 was some of the most fun I've had so far this E3 (though it's admittedly only just started). The humorous Lassie parody, followed by a montage of other Nazi-corrupted television programs, was simply delightful. Seeing B.J. kicking ass, even while his legs don't work, and interacting in tense moments with Nazi officers while undercover, was amazing. Taking place in a Nazi-occupied America will make the game feel like a more radical and hardcore version of Bioshock Infinite.

At the end of the day, Bethesda still botched it. Despite some flashy lights and two amazing trailers at the end, it was their presentation that's being judged here, primarily. Bethesda is a big company, big enough to have their own E3 conference. It makes no sense why they would only show off things that were coming out this year (although I am excited to see Evil Within and Wolfenstein are coming out this year rather than the next, barring delays). The use of Youtubers and pro-gamers was, and will always be, cheap. If that wasn't evidence enough of their tone deafness, the return of paid mods is more than enough to condemn them. Perhaps I'm still just too bitter about Prey 2 being canceled so they could take the name and do their own thing, but this conference can walk away with nothing more than a F+.

PROS CONS
+ Some cool games, and coming this year!  – Youtubers and pro-gamers.
 + Wolfenstein 2 and Evil Within 2 look amazing.  – Little more than a victory lap.
 – God damn paid mods.

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Sean Rehbein Recent comment authors
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I’m noticing a bit of inconsistency with the grading. I felt that Bethesda was mostly on-point, giving little time for useless talk or shows, other than the youtube reactions.     True, hardly anything new, but most stuff after the creators program thing was pretty solid. It was also short and concise, how I like my E3 presentations. If you are going to waste my time, at least minimize the time spent showing off or trying to trick me.     I’d give it at least a C, at minimum. But I loved Evil Within, so that alone, with showing… Read more »

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