In this week’s DF Direct Weekly, the Digital Foundry team spends much of the time breaking down Microsoft Xbox Developer Direct – and to cut to the chase, we all agree that this is the best presentation of games we’ve seen from a major platform holder in years.
After years of complaining about the way games were presented in virtually every E3 press briefing, we got exactly what we were asking for: a proper showcase of the games we’ll be playing this year, presented with passion. by the people who make them.
Let’s be clear though: we understand why the E3 media briefings are the way they are and we don’t envy Microsoft, Sony or even Geoff Keighley for hosting these shows. Ultimately, they’re a showcase for a huge range of games and getting some sort of representation – any sort, to be fair – within a typically tight 90-minute timeframe is going to be tough. And perhaps for a more casual audience, the presentation works – at least highlighting awareness of some games that might not otherwise be covered.
However, the end results are rarely satisfactory. What we tend to get is a procession of in-game images without context that quickly become blurry. That’s if you get in-game footage (or “gameplay”). Although their frequency has declined in recent years, the industry still believes there is a place for the delivery of entirely fictional CG trailers that bear little or no relation to the final product. Most of the content for many E3 pressers fades from memory as soon as the event is over – but classic E3 trailers all have several things in common: you can see the game, time is spent on content and usually you’re seeing real footage in real time, though there are some dramatic flourishes. Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 2 remains the gold standard, nearly 23 years later.
DF Direct Weekly #96 is perpetrated by Rich Leadbetter, Alex Battaglia and John Linneman.
00:00:44 News 01: Microsoft reactions “Developer_Direct”
00:41:50 News 02: Forspoken is out – and there are problems
00:58:12 News 03: Dead Space: our first impressions
01:06:03 DF Supporter Q1: Will you be covering the RTX 4050 at launch? What are your price expectations?
01:08:55 DF Supporter Q2: Could generative AI power an “automatic remaster” feature to update game graphics in real time?
01:14:08 DF Supporter Q3: What kind of performance jump should we expect from a Switch sequel?
01:20:10 DF Supporter Q4: When will DirectStorage support become standard for PC developers?
To be fair to Microsoft, it’s followed up its media briefings for the past few years with separate shows that dig deeper into certain titles, but Developer Direct takes things to the next level by getting the main presentation right. The bane of press events – CG trailers – is all but gone. Each segment focused on the games, what is the vision behind them and why the developers are excited about them.
Each featured title also had time to shine. We have actually discovered that Redfall is actually about! We understand why the next Forza Motorsport should be something special. The format also gave developers the space to introduce us to games we may only be dimly aware of, or to pique our interest in titles we simply didn’t have much information about – The Elder Scrolls Online and Minecraft Legends, for example.
Tango Gameworks revealing a brand new game – and releasing it at the same time – was another highlight. Where could a headline like this have been in a traditional E3 press briefing? An “oh that sounds interesting” moment is turned into a real-life event – and we’re loving what we’ve played so far. The icing on the cake ? A tweet from the game designer, telling us that our #StutterStruggle shouldn’t apply to the PC version. We’ll see the game next week on Digital Foundry.
If you haven’t seen Developer Direct, it’s well worth a watch.
All this to say that Developer Direct hit the mark, but there’s still room for improvement. In fact, there is another key element that should be an essential requirement that was missing: transparency. It’s an area of honesty and disclosure where, to its credit, Sony has led the way. Whenever game visuals are on screen, a caption tells you what you’re actually seeing. Does it run on console or not? Is it a real-time sequence or is it pre-rendered? Will you actually see these visuals in-game or not? For the most part, Sony has even gone beyond the catch-all “in-engine” label which essentially means nothing. Some of Sony’s postings have been brutally honest to the point of hilarity, but it’s important to know if what you’re seeing represents the actual product in what is, after all, promotional material.
Microsoft took steps towards this at its E3 press conference last year, but there were still “in-engine” glitches and even inaccuracies – Forza Horizon 5 in-game footage showing tracing effects rays that are definitely not in the game, for example. However, for Developer Direct, there was no disclosure. Did Forza Motorsport work on Xbox Series X? Probably not, judging by the mouse pointer seen in one swipe. What was Redfall running on? Were these spectacular shots actually in-game and representative of the experience we’ll be playing in May? This is the last checkbox to make Developer Direct the best it can be.
You can listen to our various versions of the show, its component games and much more in the latest DF Direct Weekly. We also discuss first impressions of the PC port of Forspoken (we weren’t able to play it until the game unlocked on Steam) while also sharing some thoughts on the Dead Space remake. A combination of late delivery of review code coupled with significant changes in a day one patch that actually arrived on day one has delayed our coverage there, but it should arrive soon. All of this content, plus a preview of Hi-Fi Rush, the DualSense Edge controller and more will be coming to you over the next few days.
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Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/digitalfoundry-2023-df-direct-weekly-xboxs-developer-direct-was-the-best-games-show-in-years