EGX 2018

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After enjoying my visit to Insomnia63 last month, I was looking forwards to visiting similar events in future. However, I wasn’t expecting the chance to attend another one quite so quickly. On Sunday I went to the final day of EGX 2018, alongside two of my friends. Danny, aka Adoboros, has also written up his thoughts on EGX here if you want to read them.

The Arena

As Insomnia took place so recently, and in the same building as EGX, I instantly noticed the visual contrast between the two events. While EGX had a similar number amount of stands, it appeared less visually cluttered and more organised. Its fairly dimmed lighting made navigation easier by allowing colourful stands and lights to stand out. From an audio perspective, EGX also had fairly good sound balancing, where loud displays didn’t spill over into quieter displays too often.

Finally, the ratio of game displays to merchandise displays was weighted far more in favour of gaming at EGX. Merchandise was given a fair space, but games were front and centre.

The Games

I can’t go to a games expo and not mention the games, so here we go. The first game I tried was Soul Calibur 6. I’ve previously enjoyed Soul Calibur 2, 4, and 5, so I had a fairly good idea of the newest instalment might be like. SC6 delivered everything you would expect from a 3D fighter – fluidly-animated character models battling in beautifully rendered backgrounds, accompanied by flashy weapon effects. It slightly refined and polished every part of SC5 …. However, that’s all it did. To me, SC6 felt like an update rather than a new game. The only gameplay difference I saw was an increased use of dramatic slow-motion hits and special attacks which took away my camera control. For me, that was a negative change. It increased spectacle and drama, but at the expense of player control.

Then, I played Team Sonic Racing. The core aspects of arcade racing, drifting to gain boost, and using item pickups to take out opponents were all present, and they felt just as satisfying as they did in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The ability to trade items also seemed helpful. With my play time limited to one race, I couldn’t get much information about the team interactions, or how much strategic play the team ultimate mechanic may offer.TSR is enjoyable, and I appreciate that Sumo Digital are building a more co-operative racing game, given that previous attempts at this style, like Onrush, have struggled.

However, while the original Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing features bikes, cars, and hovercraft, and Racing Transformed has cars, planes, and boats, TSR only uses sports cars. Limiting the gameplay to one vehicle type, when previous games used three distinct styles successfully, seems like a step backwards. Sumo Digital promise that unlockable parts will let you change your car’s looks and performance, but that’s just not the same as turning your car into an aeroplane. Removing the transformation aspect also limits how easily TSR can be differentiated from other mascot racing games, especially as Mario Kart also has a team mode. As a result, I think people are likely to view TSR as just “Mario Kart, but for Sonic” rather than as a well-made Sonic game.

Finally, I played a multiplayer match in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Visually, the map was vibrant and detailed. The map we played on, Hacienda, was a medium-size map reminiscent of Raid from Black Ops II. Gameplay felt smooth and consistent, with no unexpected behaviour or issues. Black Ops 4 is faster than Black Ops II, but slower and more ground-based than III – it chooses a middle-ground pace that I really enjoyed. Black Ops 4 also tries to compromise between its predecessors in terms of character abilites, by including elements of both the loadout system from II and the hero system from III. In theory, this means people who like the hero system can keep using it, while people who don’t like the hero system can unequip hero abilities to gain an extra equipment slot.

While that idea is interesting, I didn’t have enough time to explore how it could work. I instead found that the abundance of options and abilities created too much busyness, and so barely used my abilities. Along the same lines, I genuinely didn’t notice the health bar for the first round, because I simply don’t associate health bars with Call of Duty.

The Talk

In the afternoon, we listened to a panel discussion titled “The future of VR: Where, how and when will you play?”. One panelist worked at a VR arcade company and another worked in R&D, while the third was a Community Manager for VR title Skyfront, and the fourth was a YouTuber who specialises in VR tech. Their range of perspectives showed how different priorities for making VR more popular could clash. Hearing about the issues VR developers face when designing games to be interesting, as was finding out that VR devs call non-VR games “pancake games”. They also discussed how VR development can be limited by its narrow audience, and how the future of VR is likely to be in non-gaming applications.

Overall, the talk was accessible yet detailed. I’ve only learnt about VR through hyperbolic gaming news or through articles which claim every issue can be solved by adding technology, so I enjoyed hearing the measured exploration in this talk, which discussed both the potential successes and potential failure points of VR.<

Conclusion

Based on what I saw from this year’s EGX, I really want to go again next year. The talks available had a lot of variety, so I would want to listen to more of them. EGX provided access to a large range and variety of games, alongside opportunities to learn about game development and current technology. Personally, I also enjoyed its calmer, less commercial nature (when compared to Insomnia63), its focus on development-based content, and its greater connection to real-life technology and careers.

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