Articles E3 2018

E3 2018 – In the MIX

Though the draw of E3 is obviously the show proper, every year it’s the Media Indie Exchange (the MIX) that ends up being one of greatest highlights of the show. After a long day of running around the loud, busy show floor of the convention center, being able to relax and chat with developers directly about their games and the current state of the industry or the world at large is a nice way to unwind at the end of the longest day of E3. Every year I come away wishing I had more time to see more games and to chat with more people. Alas, such is the nature of E3. Never enough time for anything. Here’s what we saw:

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Neo Cab
Neo Cab from Choice Agency follows Lina, a driver for the titular Neo Cab, a fictional stand-in for ride-share corps like Uber and Lyft. Lina is currently looking for her friend who’s suddenly gone missing, prompting Lina to search for them while also trying to maintain her job as the last human cab driver in Los Ojos. Neo Cab looks to tackle topics like the automation of labor and the difficulty of surviving under the gig economy — extremely timely topics given the current threat of displacement that automation would bring under our current hellscape or the constant precarity of gig-based work that so many of us are forced to rely on.

The game takes place entirely in the confines of the cab. You select one of many potential passengers and, while en route to their destination, engage in small talk. While watching another person play, they picked up someone who was also a gig-worker, thus sparking a conversation about the difficulties of working and relying on the gig economy to survive. When I took over, I ended up with a guy who wanted the “classic cab experience” and his date who was not at all thrilled by the idea because she thinks automated cars are inherently safer. She cited a recent incident where someone drove a car into a crowd of people that resulted in a few deaths. Her opposition to human driven vehicles acted as a source of conflict.

Eventually the guy decided to show his entire ass by being extremely patronizing toward Lina. At which point his date and I immediately turned on him and eventually left him on some street curb while the woman was dropped off at a bar as per her request. By the end of the ride, she felt a bit more comfortable about riding in non-self-driving cars. Before getting out, she invites Lina out for a drink, but, due to Lina’s current mental state (certain dialog options are blurred out depending on how she feels), she’s unable to take up that offer. And so it’s off to pick up the next client, and with it the end of my demo.

Neo Cab doesn’t yet have a release date.

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Where the Bees Make Honey
Where the Bees Make Honey is a puzzle game that revolves around perspective (think Monument Valley or Echochrome). You play as a young girl named Sunny who, thanks to the bee costume she wears, is able to shift the environment 90 degrees at a time, allowing her to access to otherwise unreachable areas. The goal is to collect all the honeycombs scattered around the level.

Of the few levels I got to play, most of them were simple takes on the core concept (cross a river by shifting the perspective until the dock on the other side can act as a bridge, for instance), but there were elements that moved with each shift in perspective that make things a bit trickier. Shift the level in one direction and a platform will rotate with it. Shift the level in the other direction, and a different thing will move as well. I usually expect to only consider the perspective or the placement objects in these sorts of puzzles, so to see both be used in tandem is a nice change of pace.

At certain points, the game will also swap to a first-person perspective, wherein Sunny is an adult reflecting on her childhood. The story looks to tackle themes of nostalgia and the importance of imagination. Though the demo focused squarely on the puzzles, Where the Bees Make Honey looks like it’ll be a delightful and intriguing game. It’s currently slated for release sometime next year.

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