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General => The Gaming Lounge => Topic started by: Eliwood on November 16, 2005, 12:39:10 AM

Title: Will the next generation deliver its promise?
Post by: Eliwood on November 16, 2005, 12:39:10 AM
Disclaimer: This is NOT a GU Reporter article nor are the views expressed in this article necessaarily representative of those held by other GUR staff. This is NOT the XBox 360 launch article that will be published next Monday!

The Dawn of a New Era?

A week from today, a new era in gaming will dawn with the much anticipated, much hyped launch of the XBox 360. Microsoft dubs this era as the era of high-definition, marked by the proliferation of HD widescreen televisions, high quality 7.1 speaker systems, and literally the convergence of all media in the living room.

The XBox 360 promises to deliver an encompassing experience with its high profile hardware and its strong library of games. Within its sleek chassis is hardware that surpasses that of almost all PC's today including high end gaming rigs this all comes at a cost of several hundred dollars.

(http://img.engadget.com/common/images/0401843439774942.JPG?0.5060329041139587)
Project Gotham Racing 3

What I'm here to talk about today is what the next generation is delivering so far and what I would hope the next generation systems will deliver. I’m leaving the Revolution out of this article and focusing just on the PS3 and the Xbox 360. (So consequently, I will be leaving out any discussion of HCI and user interfaces.)

XBox 360 Launch Lineup

If you've been paying attention to the gaming review scene lately, you'll notice that reviews of most of the launch games have been published. While reviews are opinionated pieces and one should reserve one's own judgment when buying a game, professional reviews reveal global trends. I don't want to entirely downplay the 360's launch, but we must be realistic in our expectations. Most system launches nowadays are a lot more about hype than they are about substance. And even with the XBox 360's uncharacteristically strong launch lineup, there are still bound to be holes in between.

If you glance through many of the reviews, you'll notice a common trend popping up. Much like the initial reaction to the PSP, there will be that initial 15 minutes of "Wow, this looks really cool!" But after the shock factor wears off, the gameplay will take center stage, and this is where all of these games don't impress. It's not that they are bad games. All of them have extremely high production values and are polished. Most of them live up to the aesthetic standards set forth back at E3. What's lacking is in gameplay. For every single review, even for the better-rated games, the message was clear: "This game is very similar to those before it. The only difference is that it looks a lot nicer and has a few more modes." Go check those Gamespot and IGN reviews, and for nearly all of them, this is what you will see.

Am I stretching the truth or is this really the case? With an exception of Rare's adventure game, the rest are just really, really pretty versions of the games we already have. I was hoping that Perfect Dark Zero would be a big hit, but as several reviewers point out, Rare is "holding the game back" for unexplained reasons, and they continue to say that the game so far just lacks the "magic" that made the original so special. We'll see how it fares in a week. I am still hoping that it's good, but seeing that Rare hasn't delivered any knockout blows recently (Remember Conker: Live and Reloaded?), I wouldn't be shocked if it didn't do as well as anticipated.

(http://www.beactive-wa.org/images/pdz5.jpg)
PD Zero - Is this really what we've been waiting for? We'll see soon...

Despite these shortcomings, I do see better games up on the horizon and think that the XBox 360 will do quite well after the hype dies down and people get to business.

What I'm looking forward to

Now that I'm done with my little rant, I can talk a bit about what I'm hoping to see in the next generation.

Let's set the record straight. Graphics and sound are integral parts of any game, so anybody saying that gameplay is everything is a bit too extreme in their statement. A good game combines all these components into a single package.

I fully expect that every subsequent system will offer better graphics, processing power, and better sound than the previous. But that's not enough. That's a REQUIREMENT, not a selling feature. Honestly, will raw processing power unlock new worlds of gameplay? I think we’re past the point where hardware severely limits gameplay.
   
  In much the same way, I’m always surprised by the excitement that comes about with every new release of a graphics card by ATI and NVIDIA. Is it truly amazing that we always get twice the power as before? It’s just a derivative of Moore’s Law. We’re bound to make that progress already, and there’s no need to gawk at what is supposed to be a routine improvement. I don’t want to offend any hardware aficionados around here, but it’s the truth isn’t it? The NVIDIA GeForce 8800 will be twice as fast as the 7800 GTX right?
   
  No Rehashes or PC Ports

I sincerely hope that the next generation won't just be a rehash of the current generation with prettier graphics, higher definition sound, "more modes," and "better AI." As I said earlier, these are a given. What I want to see is a good use of these tools to enhance gameplay and the overall experience. I'm not looking for longer games or artificially inflated replay value. I just want games that are purely fun to play. Moreover, I want to see games that are different from those on a PC. I already have a PC for PC type games. Give me something that can't be done on a PC. And if a PC game must be ported, at least keep it intact. Giving me a crippled version of Half-Life 2 just doesn’t work.

Video games are an art form like movies, music, literature, cooking, and photography and like any art form, there are infinitely many possibilities out there. There are new genres, new types of games waiting to be discovered, and it just takes a brilliant mind thinking outside the box to find them. If we just constrain ourselves to thinking that all games must fit into currently established genres, we'll get nowhere in this generation and in subsequent generations.
   
  “Sequelitis”

  Face it, there are going to a lot of games released this generation that will be sequels or follow-ups to preexisting games. While these games are within our comfort zone, are these really what we want to see? Do we long to see Madden 07, Ridge Racer 10, Soul Calibur 4, Unreal 3 or Quake 5? Maybe. Each of these games will feature “enhanced” gameplay, much improved visuals and whanot, but fundamentally, will they much different from their predecessors?

(http://interactive.usc.edu/members/jchen/unreal3.jpg)
   Unreal 3

  At the risk of making a broad generalization, many high profile games released this year turned out to be disappointments because they were exactly that, just incremental improvements of well established games. This is the crux of my entire post. I don’t suggest that developers intentionally break the basis of a game for the sake of varying it (as was unsuccessfully done in MKDD), but I’m sick of seeing games that just get a very pretty treatment and have the gameplay stay nearly identical from game to game. Everybody including Nintendo is to blame.
   
  While I’m definitely not advocating the abolition of sequels, we need to see fresh ideas come forth. It’s hard to innovate in an industry when playing it safe will probably net better profits and wider acceptance, and that’s just a sad reality. The failure rate of “innovative” games is at an all time high, but among the failures are standouts like Pikmin, Viewtiful Joe, Animal Crossing, Odama, Shadow of the Colossus and more. What we need is a balanced combination of new games and old games, much like the careful balance that Nintendo is making with good touch-based DS games (Kirby, Meteos) and traditional DS games (Mario Kart, Castlevania).
   
  In summary, I’m just hoping that the game industry doesn’t fall prey to making incrementally improved games that look nicer and have online capability. There’s a lot more to the gaming experience than working with the visuals and operating on an already successful formula. Things like HDR, volumetric fog, and all those fancy graphical devices are nice to behold, but is this truly what we live for and long to see? At least, I don’t. I just want to see games that are fun to play that don’t draw so heavily upon what’s already been released.
   
  Thanks for reading. Any thoughts?
Title: Will the next generation deliver its promise?
Post by: Legendary MMSX on November 16, 2005, 07:18:48 PM
Great article as always.  I agree with it completely.

Honestly, after these three systems come out, I don't think we need any more.  If a game isn't good, it isn't because the system isn't good it is because the developers aren't putting great work into the games.  Most just make a remake with extra features to get more money cause they know people that have played the game before AND new people will buy it.  Then again, the people continue to buy it and dismiss other games that are "innovative" such as some that appear on the DS.  They are so different that some people will not accept them for some reason.

Sometimes, you have to let the older games take a rest.  All of the new systems I think will have to ability to play the older system's games on them, so I don't really see a reason to revive them.  Focus on making new and innovative games. :dpold_man
Title: Will the next generation deliver its promise?
Post by: Kixxe on November 17, 2005, 10:49:14 AM
As long as it's NEW CONTENT (maps, wepons, Grapichs) it's not gonna be that bad really. And most copys turn out okay and pretty good. (super mario sunshine!)

These are also launch titles. Most later game titels comes AFTER launch.
Title: Will the next generation deliver its promise?
Post by: Aliem on November 17, 2005, 01:20:15 PM
Ehh...  in this day and age, most developers focus primarily on graphics, which is sad.  Gameplay should always be the top priority.  Sure, this generation will look better than the last, but what does it matter if the games aren't as good in terms of actual content?
Title: Will the next generation deliver its promise?
Post by: Goteth on November 17, 2005, 02:37:37 PM
Quote from: Eric
Ehh...  in this day and age, most developers focus primarily on graphics, which is sad.  Gameplay should always be the top priority.  Sure, this generation will look better than the last, but what does it matter if the games aren't as good in terms of actual content?


Haha...I totally agree.

Since I've only seen the XBOX 360 in action, I can only judge input on that...and right now as of the demos I've seen, it just doesn't too appealing. All I see are superb graphics, and not enough interesting gameplay really. It just doesn't seem to appeal me much, but maybe it's just me...:-\
Title: Will the next generation deliver its promise?
Post by: Eliwood on November 20, 2005, 08:26:59 PM
Quote from: Kixxe
As long as it's NEW CONTENT (maps, wepons, Grapichs) it's not gonna be that bad really. And most copys turn out okay and pretty good. (super mario sunshine!)

These are also launch titles. Most later game titels comes AFTER launch.

Of course, but there is one title that everybody's been looking at intently which is Perfect Dark Zero. As most of us know, Perfect Dark was one of the best games ever to hit the N64, clocking in right beside OOT and SM64 as its strongest titles. It was so good, that I, a non-FPS oriented gamer purchased the game. To this day, it remains my only FPS title in my posession, and I still play it here and there. I'm not kidding!

If you've paid attention to the final impressions of PD Zero, you will see something that echoes what I've said. Across the board, the editors are impressed (But not floored) by the technical merits of the game, and they are glad to see that the game hasn't been ruined or screwed up in any way. But on the flip side, they summarize that the game is a prettier expansion Perfect Dark and that it hardly introduces anything new. While I'm glad to see that the one fatal flaw in PD, its utterly poor frame rate, has been solved, I'm disappointed (in the same way as I am with lots of recent, hyped games) that it didn't go further. That's really the heart of the issue with a lot of big mainstream titles nowadays. They are technically flawless, but they don't go that full mile. It's like the student who writes that "B+" paper. It's a great paper that covers all the issues in a technically flawless manner, but it fails to look at the bigger picture, "plays it safe," and doesn't strive to go further and become that "A" paper. PD Zero is still the must-have game for the 360, but it's not the killer app we were hoping for. If it had been, I would honestly have been happy to drop $400 and buy a 360 just for that game.

I'm not denouncing the XBox as a system, because it's really just a piece of hardware, and in the case of home consoles, you can't screw up hardware too badly (in fact, MS did a fairly good job designing the system and the controller this time IMO). It's the games that make or break a system, and I'm intent on seeing some great games being released. If anything, I'm a lot more understanding thatn the average consumer in waiting for good games to arrive for a system. It took the DS 6 months to get an "outstanding" set of games, and it's taking the PSP about that long too, so if anything, I know that it'll take a while for the 360 to get any of those games.