EA E3 2015 press conference recap

EA announced updates for a handful of titles at its E3 2015 keynote, but come on, Star Wars was the star of the show. Anyways, here’s what you need to know from EA at E3.

Mass Effect: Andromeda coming holiday 2016

BioWare will deliver Mass Effect: Andromeda next holiday season, according to Electronic Arts.

BioWare showed off the above introduction video, set to Johnny Cash’s Ghost Riders in the Sky.

“While we aren’t ready to go into too many details just yet, as you saw in the trailer and can tell by the name, this game is very much a new adventure, taking place far away from and long after the events of the original trilogy. You will play a human, male or female, though that’s actually not the character you saw in the trailer. You’ll be exploring an all-new galaxy, Andromeda, and piloting the new and improved Mako you saw. And through it all, you will have a new team of adventurers to work with, learn from, fight alongside of, and fall in love with.”

-BioWare, in a blog post

Planning and design for the game was already underway after Mass Effect 3: Citadel finished in 2013, according to BioWare.

“We know we wanted to start with a foundation composed of the best parts of any Mass Effect game: exciting new worlds to discover, great characters, and intense action. At the same time, we clearly wanted to expand the definition of what you should expect from a Mass Effect game.”

-BioWare

Star Wars: The Old Republic’s next expansion arrives October 27th

Star Wars The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old Republic’s next expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire, is coming October 27th.

BioWare is using the expansion to clear house of the three-year old MMO that’s been in development for nine years.

To start, the expansion is free to subscriptions. Anyone who engages with the expansion also can immediately jump to a Level 60 character. It’s basically a role-playing saga starring the Outlander, a Great Galactic War veteran whose task is taking down the Emperor of the Etenral Throne.

The expansion, which is the game’s biggest to date, offers nine episodes with more coming monthly in 2016, according to BioWare.

All of The Old Republic’s stories are being “streamlined to make them more fun,” according to BioWare Austin General Manager Jeff Hickman. Anyone who wants to engage in traditional MMO activities can do so, according to Hickman, but leveling up is going to become a less time-consuming activity.

“At launch, a lot of people talked about how we had these eight storylines. There are literally hundreds of hours of gameplay across these eight storylines. Now we’re just honing in on each one of them. If you want to come in and play the story of the Jedi – probably the best video game Star Wars story ever written – you can now come in and just focus on that if you want to. You don’t have to do the ‘now go collect things’ side stuff. In the past, we’ve had you do that.

“We don’t think of it as grinding. We think of it as ‘the MMO bits.’ But we’re not taking it out, either. We’re repurposing it for the alliance content. If you level a Jedi knight now, it doesn’t take hundreds of hours. It takes a fraction of the time. It could be 50 or even 30 hours now, depending on who you are and how you play, but you’re not going to be doing anything that’s not your personal story.

“We have three years of data on how people play the game and what they want. We know what our players want. They’ve told us. They’ve told us in person, on the forums. They’ve also told us through their play behaviors.

“We can look at this stuff and say, ‘look, if you want to go and play the standard MMO game – PvP, doing a flashpoint, operation raiding – we have that. We’ve always had that. We continue to expand on that. But we also heard, loud and clear, this scream for story, for personal custom story.”

-Bruce Maclean, Star Wars: The Old Republic senior producer

Five new companions will be available throughout the quest, taken from a cast with different allegiances.

“You’re able to recruit help and additional companions from an expanded cast, including companions who were previously exclusive to other classes. Building that alliance involves going to all the planets in the galaxy and doing activities and missions that build faction. If you want to recruit a character who’s favorable to the Mandalorians, you’ll be able to do missions for them. You want to recruit a character for the Hutts, you’ll do missions to build your alliance standing against them.

“If you want to come and play eight really awesome BioWare Star Wars games, come to Star Wars: The Old Republic. We’ll give you eight of them. You can level up your character through your story. Be deeply immersed in it. Come to cool romances and betrayals. Come to moments with the choice wheel where you choose between light and dark.”

-Bruce Maclean

Need for Speed hits PS4, Xbox One, PC November 3rd

Ghost Games’ reboot of the Need for Speed franchise will be released on November 3rd for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, according to EA.

“We’re going deeper into customization than we ever have before. If you want to be grippy, make it grippy. If you want to have it drifty, make it drifty. You can even set up your different cars with different handling styles.”

-Marcus Nilsson, Ghose Games general manager

The handling choice is presented in the game through the car customization menu. You can tweak individual, granular parts of the handling setup, or you can just pick a spot on a single bar, with one end representing a more sim-style “grip” system and one representing a more arcade-like “drift” system.

“It might sound easy to people, but physics systems are complicated. Even if it’s an action racer like Need for Speed, there’s still a really sophisticated racing engine underneath it. The game needs to be tickled a certain way to be an action racer and tickled a certain way to be grippy. We now have a layer where we can kind of define that.

“We went as far as making sure that we had people that worked on each previous title back in the studio, so we have people from Carbon, we had people who worked on Underground. We definitely have Criterion people who worked on their titles. We’ve got people from Black Box. We have them all. The amount of Need for Speed knowledge in Ghost Studios is just insane.

“My guess would be yes, we will want to bring back this handling choice system. We can already see that it works. I’d say that everything’s indicating that we’d like to keep this going forward. Ultimately, it will be the reactions to it that decides that.”

-Marcus Nilsson

Nilsson wants to make Need for Speed “massive again.”

“Think about the journey from Need for Speed Underground, where we sold 15 million copies, to maybe a third of that now. I really, really want to make it great again.”

– Marcus Nilsson

Unravel strings players in a 2D stone and water world

Unravel

Unravel is a 2D platformer featuring Yarnie, a twine character that unravels as it moves, creating lines that players must use to solve the physical puzzles that stop progression. Loss of too much twine leads to an ultimate unraveling. The game is created by developer Coldwood Interactive, a small studio based out of northeastern Sweden.

There are three noteworthy factors in Unravel, starting with the mechanic of guiding a main character whose body carries both the means of progression and a potentially fatal flaw. Secondly, the game is a platformer with a story that seeks to tug at your emotions. It seeks meaning in its own setup’s physicality. Finally, Unravel is about place. Northern Sweden features rock, moss running water, clear skies, and wintry trees, probably unlike where you live (unless you live in Northern Sweden). This environment is heavily factored into the game’s backgrounds and puzzles.

Unravel arranged a publishing deal with Stockholm, Sweden-based DICE to arrange a publishing deal with EA.

“Everyone at EA is so genuinely into this. It would be easy to think they are being cynical and just saying, ‘oh, let’s try to be indie,’ but it’s not like that. It feels more like dealing with people who genuinely like the game.

“It’s always fun to play with physics. It’s not just about solving puzzles. It’s also a big part of how you move. Sometimes it’s just traversing, navigating. Since you always leave this trail behind you, you can always grab it and climb on it and swing on it. You can do these really cool things when you combine stuff.

“Let’s say you attach yourself, like you’re mountaineering. If you anchor yourself you can jump off and grab the rope in mid-air and just change your momentum so you can swing in under something. It allows you to grab the next thing. You get this real flow going.”

-Martin Sahlin, Coldwood Interactive creative director

Coldwood’s homebase of Umea, Sweden is a big inspiration for the game, according to Sahlin.

“We live in the sticks. It’s a very small town, very far north, close to the Arctic Circle. There’s not a lot of people, but a whole lot of countryside. I wanted to share some of that, some of the places that I love. I think you don’t really see enough of that in video games. You tend to see more fantastical stuff.”

-Martin Sahlin

Unravel is planned to come to Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows.

NHL 16 looks to unlock on-ice creativity

NHL 16 is looking to end the drought of on-ice creativity in video games this year with a subtle gameplay tweak.

Until now, players of EA’s NHL franchise were forced into a glide when making a pass. Players will now be able to receive a pass while accelerating or turning. New puck pickups are designed to lead to smoother transitions to the player’s next move.

“There’s more control now. In previous games, you’d always have to go into a glide to receive the pass. Then you could accelerate or stop or whatever. Now, when you get a pass, you can say ‘OK, I want to stop and go the other way as I receive the pass.’ Or, ‘I want to accelerate and take the pass while I’m accelerating.’ Or, ‘I want to keep the puck.’

“There’s more control. The system tries to anticipate what you want to do as you’re picking the puck up, as opposed to always forcing you into a glide and then letting you do what you want to do after that.”

-Sean Ramjagsingh, EA Canada producer

This adds more realism into the game, according to Ramjagsingh.

“The old version was more of a video game mechanic that we had in there. This is taking another step toward what you see in real hockey. It’s more intuitive. It’s more seamless. The end result is that your character is doing what you expect your character to do.”

-Sean Ramjagsingh

Other new additions include four-player local co-op and online tournaments, which are being introduced with monthly playoffs at the end of seasons, according to developer EA Canada.

Players can also create themselves inside the game with an expanded personalization tool in the Be A Pro career mode. During careers, coaches are more likely to offer advice and direction, and new visualizations are in place to help new players through training.

In the Be A GM management mode, player morale now factors into the mix. Players who want trades play less effectively, while those teamed up with old friends are likely to excel.

“Like any sport, it’s about managing the dressing room, managing the personalities, the interactions, understanding when a player isn’t happy because, say, he didn’t get as much playing time as expected. Or there’s external factors that are bugging him. He’s not playing well. He’s in a slump. So he hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games and his morale is down. It’s all those things. If a guy is in a slump, you can give him a pep talk, or you might just say, ‘you better start scoring some goals or you’re out of here.’ You see how he reacts to it. It’s just managing the dressing room.”

-Sean Ramjagsingh

NHL 16 is coming to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in September.

NBA Live 16 launching September 29 with Live Motion, new physics-based movement

NBA Live 16 will launch September 29th on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – the same day as rival NBA 2K16, according to developer EA Tiburon.

Live Motion, a feature that’s been in development for two years, is intended to eliminate the feeling of being stuck in animations. It combines run-time physics with motion capsule to create “thousands of new animations,” according to Tiburon executive producer Sean O’Brien.

Tiburon is also adding a new face-scanning app with GameFaceHD technology. A live on-stage demo took less than 10 seconds to generate an in-game model after a face scan using a smartphone’s front-facing camera.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour brings big changes to EA Sports’ golf franchise

Rory-McIlroy-PGA-Tour-15

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is an all but officially stated reboot of the 25-year old series.

“We’re started from scratch. There’s nothing left in here from the older games in the series.”

-Ryan Ferwerda, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour producer

It’s the first time developer EA Tiburon has brought its golfing franchise to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, so the obvious technological and visual improvements are here. At the top of that list, is that the entire course loads when a player selects a course to play, significantly reducing the wait between holes.

Players are offered three ways to control their swing. The first is an arcade mode that you vaguely simulate swinging by flicking the left stick.

There is also a Pro version of the same mechanism that relies on skill.

Finally, there’s the three-button hit in the middle.

The usual courses of TPC Sawgrass, TPC Boston, St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Chambers Bay, Bay Hill, and Wolf Creek are here, but Augusta National (home of the Masters) is not.

There are also a lot of fantasy courses, including one styled on EA’s Battlefield franchise with ships, explosions, and a ton of silliness. There’s also a “nightclub” course with 170 challenges and minigames including a fantasy Grand Canyon course.

A career mode is also included in which players level up abilities and gain XP through experience and specific challenges.

EA Tiburon has also opened up the golf environment, allowing wayward shots to end up on an entirely different hole. Weather systems are also a focus, allowing courses to take on a different challenge as clouds roll in.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is coming July 14th on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Madden NFL 16 gets fantasy-football inspired mode, upgraded passing game

Madden NFL 16 brings fantasy football into the storied franchise in a new way through the new Draft Champions mode.

“Fantasy sports and football go hand in hand. People just love to draft. They like to get together in a room and pick their team. They think they have more insight about a certain player. We thought about how we could bring the draft experience into Madden.”

“We decided to come up with this simple 15-rounder, where you have to make an interesting decision every time. That’s what a draft is about. ‘I know more than you. I’m going to make an interesting pick.’

“We limit the number of picks that you have so that those decisions are hard. You’re not going to fill every position on your team. How do we create this draft experience, but take it one step further? With fantasy football, you pick a team and you passively watch it. In our game, you pick a team and you can play with it on the field. It makes it a bit more special.”

-Sean Graddy, Madden 16 senior producer

The drafts aren’t done with other people, like in Connected Franchise mode. You draft players by yourself, and then play others with that team. The quality of NFL players throughout the draft are randomized, according to Graddy, so players available in round 15 could be just as good as those in round one.

In the main game, EA Tiburon has tweaked passing options for quarterbacks and receivers. The QB can decide to loft a pass to let his receiver get under it, or fire off a bullet, and Madden 16 players will be able to choose from three different catch types, with each one suited to different situations. Receivers can attempt a stylish aggressive catch or a safer but less flashy possession catch, for example.

New animations have been added for the moment receivers catch the ball and best their opponents. AI receivers and defensive backs are more likely to react to one another’s movements and decisions, part of EA Sports’ attempts to brighten up its virtual players using the Ignite engine.

“We give you deeper controls to be more creative. At the point of the catch, we built a system to allow our animators to animate the battle between the defender and a wide receiver. They’re very authentic, very exciting. They’re the big ‘wow’ moments you get on Sunday.”

-Sean Graddy

Like EA’s other sports games, Madden 16 is also getting on-screen player prompts and increased tutorial feedback mechanisms.

Madden NFL 16 will be released August 25th on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3.

FIFA 16 getting significant design upgrades

Late last month, EA heralded the arrival of women’s soccer in FIFA 16, but it might only be considered as a footnote compared to the other design tweaks and improvements coming in this year’s iteration.

At E3, the company announced a significantly upgraded defensive AI, so strikers will have a much more difficult time gaming the system. At the top of the list is a smarter system for intercepting through balls from the midfield.

Defenders have also been boosted with the sliding tackle, which no longer penalizes players too much if they miss. Players can also recover a failed slide, turn and get back into the game. A player running with the ball will not run as fast as a chasing player as well.

Players who like to take off on Messi-like dribbles can now add a no-touch dance that leaves defenses speechless when executed correctly to their arsenal.

Many of this year’s changes are about creating “more moments of magic,” according to FIFA 16 senior producer Nick Shannon.

Players are also given more control over the pace of their passes. Previously, long passes told the game to move the ball a long way out. Now, they say “kick it hard,” meaning that players can ping short, hard passes to one another, or drift long passes across the park with greater control.

FIFA Trainer is also being introduction. The optional icon appears next to the controlled player offering suggestions. The depth of the lessons can be tweaked up to six levels, allowing for selections that might not be chosen otherwise at the higher levels.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst launching February 23rd

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will launch on February 23rd, according to EA.

As detailed in the trailer above, the game will focus on protagonist Faith’s backstory, chronicling how she became a freedom fighter in the game’s oppressive world.

Developer DICE has decided to completely remove gun combat from Catalyst.

“In Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, you won’t be using any guns at all. We’ve completely removed that aspect of the game. You can’t even pick them up.

“Faith will fight, but she doesn’t kill. Now, the fighting is more of an extension of the movement. It builds on the flow. It fits a lot better with the game mechanics. When Faith is in flow, when she stitches together move after move without failing and keeps her momentum going, she’s actually invulnerable to bullets. That can keep her out of harm’s way. It’s only when she stops that she can get hurt.”

-Sara Jansson, DICE senior producer

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will come to PS4, Xbox One, and Windows.

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is a mobile collectible card game

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes

EA has another Star Wars project in the works: collectible card game meets role-playing game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. It’s coming to Android and iOS later this year.

Galaxy of Heroes “tap[s] into the fantasy of collecting characters and Starfighters and [letting] people enjoy the fun of playing with them creatively,” according to EA Capital Games. The game will feature characters and vehicles from throughout the Star Wars universe, including the original and prequel trilogies, and animated series like Star Wars Rebels and the Clone Wars.

 

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