With the onset of a new generation… it’s time for everyone involved in gaming at all to start looking forward into the future and making predictions, hopes, and otherwise. And get hyped… definitely get hyped.
1) Gimmicks Take A Backseat
This generation has been plagued by titles ruined by the forced addition of a gimmick, by titles that required you to only do it in one way, and by the addition of more and more and more gimmicks. Games like Lair could have been fantastic, but then they were told that they had to incorporate the Sixaxis controls which did terrible, terrible damage to the quality of the game. Then we have the Wii, which was a console I found almost unplayable because the Wii-Mote was one of the most uncomfortable controllers I’ve ever used… and yet they had a fantastic dual-analog controller sitting right there that was almost never used in any game. I desperately hope that Sony and Microsoft take these gimmicks – touch controls, motion controls, voice recognition, etc – and design them well, but not shove them down anyone’s throat. Mass Effect 3 made use of voice recognition using Kinect, but it wasn’t obnoxious or mandatory. It added something that interested players could take advantage of and enjoy, but those who didn’t care could just completely ignore and never feel like they missed anything.
2) Stop The Focus on Improving Graphics
Yes, we have powerful processors that can put out ridiculous levels of graphics. It only takes 5 seconds with Battlefield 3, Final Fantasy XIII, God of War 3, Uncharted 3, or Crysis 3(a lot of 3’s) to see that. I don’t think I need any better graphics than we have now. Stop trying to improve the graphics, and focus on the little things. Animate other characters – even stock npcs – with the same level of detail you put into your core characters. Use all that processing power to make these worlds real and believable. Make them run at a stable rate. Make them load seamlessly in the background to reduce load times. There are a lot of things you can use all this awesome processing power we’re getting for – don’t waste it all on improving graphics further. Most people are perfectly happy with the way games look now, focus on the experience and how we can take advantage of this new generation for that.
3) No More Annual Sequels
Sequels are, of course, important. They allow a developer to continue a story, they tend to make good money, etc. etc. etc. But annual sequels need to be a thing of the past. One year is not enough time to significantly enhance and iterate on an experience – which leads to stagnation and the impression that innovation isn’t important. Where would the RPG be if someone hadn’t decided to innovate with ‘cinematic cut-scenes’? Where would shooters be if someone hadn’t taken a risk on making a competitive mode? Innovation is huge, and it takes time to do well. When creating a sequel the focus should be on the logical next place for the game to go, not “What is the least we can do to call this a sequel and make more money off it?” The industry will be in a better place if we can move away from the annual sequels(well, except Call of Duty – those are never going to stop, no matter what anyone does).
4) More Online Integration
People are terrified of the prospects of an always-online situation, imposing DRM and forcing people to connect. I’m not entirely an advocate of always-online or DRM, but I do feel that the consoles would benefit greatly from even greater internet integration. One of the few really cool things the Wii-U has going for it is the use of Mii-Verse. It has created an online community in a console whose online offering are otherwise pretty lacking. Mii-Verse is a fantastically integrated element creating the sense that you belong to something just by powering up your Wii-U. The childish aesthetic helps to create a dampening effect on trolling and the communities created around games and universes create fantastic places to gather. There’s a reason Mii-Verse is taking off while Home has stabilized and needs to be put on life-support. Integration.
Adding more and more online features is a good start, but making them all tie together and feel like they’re a part of the experience is key to building that sense of community. One of the rumoured features of the PS4 had me really excited: The share button. The rumours were that the console constantly maintained a buffer of the past 15 minutes of video footage and allowed you to share screenshots or video content instantly with the push of a button. I would just like to go on record as saying ‘yes please’. This is the type of integration that we need – not stupid things like trophy sharing or ‘I played x recently’ tweets. I don’t care who in my friends just platinumed x game, and I wager you don’t either. But imagine playing DMC and pulling off just the perfect combo and being able to, from within the console, upload it directly to youtube?
On the other side of this spectrum, online stores need to be refined. Playstation Plus is a fantastic example to follow. It is a small monthly fee, and in return you get huge discounts, free content, exclusive features, and more. This type of thing is a great way to offer value to consumers and make money.
The Internet is an incredibly powerful tool, one that cannot be ignored in this generation. It has the potential to be a complete game-changer for whichever company uses it right. Automatically generated generic social interactions are not the way to go, though. Real social interactions, connection and community, and offering real value to consumers – these are what the internet has to offer if used right.
5) A Change in DLC Philosophy.
I’m going to go on record as saying I support the Dead Space 3 dlc. I’ve said it time and time again, as long as DLC doesn’t directly impact anyone else’s play experience and is not mandatory for completion of the game, I’m in favour. I’d like to reference a game I played a few years back: Record of Agarest War Zero. I think this is the model of DLC I would like to see companies adopt.
For those who aren’t aware, Agarest Zero has well over 30 DLC packs available. These DLC packs range from experience and money to items to non-story dungeons to characters to costumes to art unlocks, etc. None of these things are needed to complete the game – they are all entirely optional. Even more notable, several of them are completely free. These range from a couple of dungeons to a weapon pack and a small experience pack. Utterly and completely free. What they do is allow people who want more to customize their own experience out of the game. The game itself offers at least 40 hours of content, I’ve put in over 100, without paying more than the base retail price. In fact, if you didn’t ever buy any of the dlc, you’d never know it was even there. This is the key, none of this dlc is even hinted at in the game. You don’t get a prompt saying ‘we could explore this dungeon if only you’d bought dlc’. You never get a prompt saying ‘go to the store and buy x to get this character’. Never. You never know they were even available to recruit if you didn’t go to the store and look.
They are just options for people who either want to get more, or who are just short on time and want to spend money to bypass some of the leveling process in order to continue. These types of dlc are non-intrusive, but still enhance the experience for those who want them. This is a model I can get behind. As long as the game doesn’t pull a Dragon Age on me, and prompt me to buy optional dlc the first time I camp.
Another good example is Mass Effect 3’s DLC(with the exception of the at-launch one). All of the essential multiplayer DLC has been free. Several map packs, class expansions, etc… all free. But they have an option to spend money to buy the multiplayer ‘weapon packs’ that can contain modifications, classes, and weapons with real money if you don’t want to grind out the in-game credits to buy them that way. And then, to augment the experience, they’ve released a few story based expansions that merely create new experiences separate from the core story that you can experience. The only one that bothers me is the one that came at launch. It provides too much to the core story that you’re almost missing out if you don’t get it, and it was available right from the get go. I understand that there’s time between the boxing and release, but if you’re going to work on content that is important to the core story… include it with the game. Nobody’s going to complain about free day 1 dlc.
Essentially as long as DLC isn’t necessary to complete the game or get the full story experience, doesn’t intrude on your experience as you play, and is appropriately priced(15 dollars for 4 multiplayer maps is not appropriate, 5 dollars for a complete dungeon is), I’m okay with it, and am actually quite pleased to purchase in many cases.