It’s true that this generation of consoles is now coming to a close. We’re looking at the very last few games coming out for the Xbox and the GC – with the PS2 to follow. The reason, obviously, is that the Next-Generation machines are almost upon us. The 360 has been here a while now, and has been met with a mixed success so far, going from a massively under-stocked launch to a pretty much mainstream product now. Of course, the Wii and the PS3 are also coming – albeit this year over in the US, whilst here in the UK we’ll have to wait till March for the new Sony machine.
I’ve been revisiting some of my old games on both the Xbox and the GC, and it’s made me consider what it is that I’d like to be playing in the future. I’m not just talking about a wish list here, but things that are actually possible with the technology – at least the real stuff rather than the hype that they give it. So, lets take a look at what I would love to see in the forthcoming generation:
1) Now that the technology is here, I’d really love to see a game that features clever writing in a horror scenario. A recent Kotaku post touched on this, with Florian stating he wanted to play some rather good horror games over this October. I guess what this really touches on is that we now have the visuals to create some truly atmospheric (and obviously scary) content, but now we really need to have some good writing to back that up.
2) A successful merger between a tightly scripted event-based game with puzzles (such as Half Life 2) combined with the freedom of say GTA would open things up. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun here, who knows, maybe that’s exactly what Bioshock is going to be? It is shaping up at least by this preview’s account, to be something a little special.
3) Next gen games are more expensive than a lot of things – more expensive even than some Hollywood movies now, with production schedules to match. That being the case, you wouldn’t think it’s true but it is sadly the case that there is some very poor writing in games. Either the storyline is just ‘strange’ (think of the oddest far eastern movie plot you can think of then triple the oddness) or they come across as half-baked, just like Half Life 2.
Even games renowned for their story kind of fall apart at close inspection. Half Life got it right to a certain extent – but then Valve followed KISS – i.e. Keep It Simple Stupid when making that game. Experiment goes wrong, aliens are about and you are the hero and must stop them. I’m not suggesting we go against the Aristotelian narrative logic here but I’m fairly sure that something more impressive can be done, and things like Gears of War or Alan Wake will hopefully prove me right.
What I’d really like to see is a cohesive narrative that has some strong storytelling elements, written by someone who has taken the time to really try to understand the medium of games and what it can convey. If any of those games studio types are interested, I’d be up for writing something, so if you’re in the UK feel free to contact me!
4) It goes without saying – there’ll be a lot of complaints about this no doubt – but games that are on the next gen should look next gen. I’m not suggesting everything has to be in 1080whatever, but there needs to be a certain graphical flair to the visuals. I’m not a graphics obsessed geek (far from it, more of a video games snob), but I do want to see what these new multithreaded, multicored processors can do.
This also touches on another point about the next gen of gaming. If boundaries are always being pushed visually, we’re going to be sucked further and further into our virtual worlds. Essentially, that should mean more fun to be had, as we are further immersed in our virtual environs. No, it’s true; all games do not have to look realistic. Graphics however can be used in whatever way you wish, but the more horsepower there, then the better the stylistic elements. Okami for instance is breathtaking to look at – imagine it not with realistic graphics, but more power to push out even more colour and style.
5) This last one is pretty big – an improved A.I. system for all games. I’m not convinced we’ll ever see a game such as Oblivion able to have massively complex A.I. systems for all characters everywhere – but what we have so far is good. Nonetheless, thinking about the next level of thinks makes me wonder. Where next? Well obviously we won’t have things like ‘packracing’ in our driving games, or enemies standing stock still as you open fire on them. What I would like to see though is even more interactivity.
A.I, remember, is there to create the illusion of a complex virtual world. Enjoy it if it is good; laugh (or cry) if it is bad. The next level of gaming will undoubtedly see all manner of patterns and routines with freedoms to switch between them at will with player interaction. Your squad will not die stupidly, or have problems path-finding.
So there we are – a few things that I insist on seeing in the next-gen before I make the transition from my current gen consoles. You’ll notice of course that I haven’t actually written a section on ‘new/fresh controls’ – the reason being that I haven’t been taken in fully by the hype of the Wii, whilst the 360 is here and playable. Perhaps this list will change and evolve as time goes on – who knows. However one thing I can say for sure is that I am damn excited for the next generation to roll around.