E3 2014: EA, Home of the Conceptual Prototype

E3 2014: EA, Home of the Conceptual Prototype

Electronic Arts wants to make sure you know about all the great games it’s making that aren’t ready for prime time.

Electronic Arts is a company in transition.

Former EA Sports boss Andrew Wilson became the publisher's new CEO in September of last year. This year's E3 is Wilson's chance to show that EA is moving forward, and that means showing off all the great games coming in 2014 and beyond. Unfortunately, most of these great games aren't coming any time soon. Sure, EA showed off gameplay from existing franchises like Battlefield: Hardline, NHL 15, Madden 15, FIFA 14, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and The Sims 4, but what stood out is how many games were little more than aspirational words and concept art.

Did you know there's a new Mass Effect coming? BioWare is taking the series to new worlds, building great stories for players to experience, but all they currently have to show is renders. Screenshots of areas built in the Frostbite 3 engine, with the words "conceptual prototype" in the corner. The words the developers are saying sound right, the concept art looks like Mass Effect, and the areas look great, but there's not much else to take away from the presentation except "BioWare is making a new Mass Effect game."

Then there's BioWare Edmonton's new IP, which is the developer's take on "contemporary stories". Is it near-future, post-apocalyptic, or in the far future? We currently don't know. We don't even have a name for the title.

Burnout and Need for Speed developer Criterion Games is in a similar situation. That studio's new title moves beyond the cars than have defined Criterion for a decade, bringing boats, helicopters, ATVs, and flight suits to the table. The game will be entirely first-person and Criterion wants players to be tied to that viewpoint and they jump from vehicle to vehicle across a variety of landscape. But again, barebones prototype gameplay is all we're getting at this point. What's it called? Burnout World? Need for Speed Beyond? The GoPro Game?

For Mirror's Edge 2, EA DICE has talked to parkour practitioners about expanding Faith's moveset. The combat in the game will be improved and Faith herself has been redesigned and the entire game is supposed to be "elegant" and "minimalistic". That conceptual prototype footage? It certainly looks like a Mirror's Edge game, but that's about all that you can take away from the E3 presentation.

DICE's Star Wars Battlefront is in the same boat, with developers letting us know about the time and effort they're putting in to get it right. EA Sports PGA Tour promises "golf without limits" and extreme fantasy courses now that Tiger Woods is out of the picture. These games sound great. The small snippets that we've seen look intriguing, but at best it looks like we were given teases of games that won't be out until late 2015. Games that EA should be announcing and showing at E3 2015, not this year. EA's studios are telling us everything we want to hear, but the final product doesn't always live up to the aspiration, as day-one purchasers of Battlefield 4 can tell you.

It's frustrating for me, because these are all games from the side of EA I care about, outside of PGA Tour. New BioWare and Criterion games? Sign me up. I'll probably play each and every game when it's finally ready for release. What was shown onstage probably should've been tabled completely or contained within a single sizzle reel, but once you take them out, EA's press event starts to look rather light.

EA laid out a compelling future for 2015, but it's not the most satisfying presentation if you wanted to know what's coming before next June. On the bright side, EA's E3 2015 presentation is probably going to be awesome.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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