Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Holy Fuck, the E3 2017 Devolver Digital 'Press Conference' was a Thing of Fucking Beauty

First, some background. I love Devolver Digital -- their style, the kind of hyper-violent, hyper-mature (immature?) or just generally bizarre, over-the-top games they publish. The music you often find in their games is simply sublime. More generally, they just don't give a fuck. They don't seem to hold back on anything -- and I love it. They know a great indie game when they see it  -- games big publishers wouldn't or couldn't touch with a 10-foot pole due to either some of the themes broached or just the riskiness of a project. In the end, they pull games into their line-up that seem to consistently reflect a certain, shall we say... je ne sais quoi?

This guy's face from Hotline Miami 2 may as well be Devolver Digital's face

Some of my personal favorites are games like Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong NumberMother Russia Bleeds, Shadow Warrior and Shadow Warrior 2, Gods Will Be Watching, Strafe, OlliOlli 2, and The Talos Principle. There's quite a bit more that I haven't played, too -- they've got a pretty sizable catalog for an indie publisher, but it continues to grow every year, and they rarely miss the mark. Most of their games look like they came out of a time machine from the 80s, inspiring a wonderful bout of nostalgia, especially from us millenials. Of course, this is either part of the charm and the draw, or 'retro' is just an excuse for small or single-person development teams to get away with shitty graphics. In any case, I think they look quite beautiful, and they often implement gameplay mechanics and/or styles that are original, innovative, and just refreshing. Since big publishers are far less likely to take many risks on this kind of content, Devolver Digital fills a very important void.

Mother Russia Bleeds is extremely fun, albeit completely insane

This week began 2017's annual Electronics Entertainment Expo, also known as E3, where some of the biggest publishers and developers showcase the exciting new projects they've been working on. Unfortunately, I found most of it to be a bit of a let-down, even though you could sift through it all and find some gems after scraping down into the bottom of the barrel.

Buying an E3 Time Slot to make the Equivalent of a 15-minute Shitpost

Enter Devolver Digital, with a highly unexpected 'press conference' of their own, which immediately piqued in me a sense of morbid curiosity. What in the hell would their press conference be like? How many games would--could, a publisher 'like this' showcase? They're not swimming in money like Bethesda, Sony, Microsoft, and Ubisoft, so the production value will likely be complete and utter shit. How 'clean-cut' would they be in an E3 culture where a big-publisher CEO or PR guy maybe saying the word 'fuck' is seen as 'edgy', but also kind of encouraged to say it -- only in small doses?

Well, I have to say... I was not disappointed. In Sun Tzu's The Art of War, you learn to recognize strengths as potential weaknesses, and how to turn weaknesses into strengths. If you're small, use guerilla tactics and create a perception that you're bigger than you are. Create some confusion and engage in psychological warfare. They did all this and more, and they clearly had a lot of fun with it. They go after everyone -- there were no sacred cows. Gamers, developers, publishers, 'hip-with-it' PR guys and CEOs, the press, commenters (!), and even the fucking audiences during these displays -- no one was to be spared.

I often use the phrase, "If you're gonna be a bear, be a grizzly," and Devolver Digital decided to take this concept right to 'Level 3'.  In their case, it goes, "If you're gonna be a bear, be a coked out, LSD-tripping, rabid bear, experiencing an increasingly psychotic episode in the last moments of its life." Oliver Stone could have plopped this right in the middle of his movie, Natural Born Killers, and anyone watching wouldn't blink an eye.

I won't provide more spoilers than that, because you deserve better, and I've already said too much. Just watch, and enjoy. You'll laugh. You'll cry. More likely, you'll probably just have nightmares.

seems legit

Of course, the games they did showcase look pretty great, too. I've been especially looking forward to Ruiner for a while. The Swords of Ditto and Serious Sam: Bogus Detour games both look like pretty fun couch co-op. I don't quite know how I feel about it, yet, but Absolver looks like an interesting hand-to-hand online fighting game in the vein of For Honor.

Keep up the good work, Devolver Digital. You're doing God's Work, and this 'press conference' was a moonshine-infused cherry to an otherwise anticlimactic E3.

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