Games inspired by arts and crafts materials, more stage time for women, virtual reality tech, and an ongoing transition between old and new consoles helped mark out this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Publishers and developers appeared more receptive to having women as lead characters, or at least making them (as well as female staff) much more visible at E3. "Assassin's Creed Syndicate" has a brother-sister pairing in central roles, with Evie heading up the expo build. Similarly, princess Emily Kaldwell is back in "Dishonored 2,"now a kingdom-saving infiltrator. Among others, Faith Connors is back for action game "Mirror's Edge Catalyst," as a franchise first players will be able to create a female character in "Fallout 4," Lara Croft leads both "Rise of the Tomb Raider" and "Lara Croft GO," and "Mega Man" creator Keiji Inafune has a young woman starring in "ReCore."
Skeuomorphic design might not be in vogue when it comes to computer software -- Apple, Google and Microsoft have been moving away from real-world references in favor of flatter, minimalist looks. But several video games embrace the physical with more vigor than ever. Media Molecule chases an acrylic style in "Dreams," "Beyond Eyes" adopts a watercolor look, while "Yoshi's Woolly World" and "Unravel" both have yarn-based aesthetics.
Though the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been available for a year and a half, the developers' trustworthy transitional mechanism -- remastering a well-loved game or franchise for the new machine -- has not yet outstayed its welcome. Hence "Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection" and "Final Fantasy VII" on PS4, "Rare Replay" and "Gears of War Ultimate" on Xbox One, and "Battle Zone" for the Morpheus. The XBO itself should be backwards compatible with 18 Xbox 360 originals by the year's end. Nintendo, meanwhile, appeared to be straddling the divide between existing Wii U and 3DS consoles and the in-development NX.
Not yet mainstream, but plenty of big players have been pushing virtual or augmented reality tech at E3 in 2015. Xbox announced two significant partners in Oculus VR and Valve VR, showing off AR glasses HoloLens. Oculus had demonstrated its Touch controllers just prior to the event. PlayStation brought dozens of games to showcase its 2016 Project Morpheus headset, and Scandinavian developer Starbreeze Studios impressed with re-branded acquisition StarVR.