We're coming to the end of the Staff Picks part of our Best of Generation season (the Top 50 runs next week), but let's take a moment to look forward. We've celebrated some of the finest titles and moments from the past seven years or so, but how has that shaped our vision of the future? Ladies and gents, it's time to get stuck into our personal hopes and wishes for this next generation of games consoles...
Jonathan - Let's Push Things Forward
I've said it before a thousand times, but just once more for the road: graphics mean nothing without the gameplay to back it up. Given the choice, you'll find me playing an innovative boutique or indie title rather than a shiny AAA shooter. All day long. This new generation promises devastatingly handsome games, but also needs to push forward in terms of systemic, dynamic worlds to explore, advanced AI, bigger contiguous playgrounds and genuinely new things to see and do.
I'm reminded of the beginning of Generation 6, when I first played Rainbow Six: Vegas and Gears Of War and thought, “wow, this is the start of something amazing.” It was to some extent, but sadly, business is business. In a strive to conform to focus testing and market forces, we saw any number of games apeing the biggest hitters, rather than running with new and unique ideas – to the extent where it was occasionally difficult to find a major new IP that didn't resemble a cover-based shooter or, erm, Call Of Duty a while ago. All too often, we saw the biggest studios iterate rather than innovate, falling back rather than pushing forward.
Don't get me wrong, the PC and emergent console download marketplaces have stalwartly delivered bountiful new and interesting games to enjoy; revolutionary experiences to sink our teeth into. We've definitely enjoyed plenty of exceptional triple-A titles too, many of which have attempted to push boundaries. And that's what I want from the next console generation: a desire to push the envelope, to push those boundaries even further in gameplay terms.
Wouldn't it be nice if, when new games are announced, we find ourselves saying, “wow, that branching dialogue looks amazing,” or “whoa, that learning and evolving AI is really exciting” rather than just “gosh, doesn't that look pretty?” With luck, Project Spark and Watch Dogs are going to make this happen, and really be the start of something truly amazing.
Actually, scratch all that pretentious nonsense. Give me a decent Crackdown and Rainbow Six sequel and I'll be happy as Larry. Perhaps take a look at those RRPs while you're at it.
Matt - Me, Myself and the Protagonist
The passing generation will come to be remembered as a time when choices seemed to really matter. Whether or not such a conceit is largely illusory in reality doesn't really matter. The point is that more and more developers came to understand the single most powerful facet of this industry when it comes to narrative and story: player control.
I want to see that explored more this coming generation.
That means more titles that play with the nature of control as a means of immersion -- whether you call them "games" or not is irrelevant and reductive -- titles such as Journey and Dear Esther and Bioshock. When Half-Life blew our minds with first-person immersion back at the turn of the millennium it was because Valve understood just how powerful inhabiting a character can be in a medium that offers interactivity and player control. It's a shame that so few developers have sought to really run with that notion.
It also means more expansive experiences and branching narratives. It is unsurprising that the likes of Skyrim and Fallout 3 and Mass Effect came up so often in our chats about the best games of this last generation. Choice -- whether it's determining a course of action on a radial wheel that could prove a matter of life and death, or simply opting to take a break from the storyline and learn how to be a thief or climb a mountain or see what's over that next hill or send that soldier you've been painstakingly levelling up over to a risky-but-tactically-advantageous vantage point -- choice has proven to be an exceptionally powerful thing. And I want more.
Carl - Ludicrously Speedy Internet
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this one for some time now, and I was basically stumped – good social feature? Nah, we have those up the wazoo these days. Virtual reality headsets? They’re popping up all over the place. A new space sim? We’re getting one of those too, and it looks incredibly shiny. Hmmm.
Then it hit me – the one thing that has been stumbling block for pretty much everything for the last few decades – what we really need for the next –gen of gaming is stable, incredibly fast internet for everyone. It was the sole reason why OnLive didn’t see the success it deserved despite the fact its operating system was fantastic, and it continues to be the bane of gamers everywhere even if they don’t mind it or notice it. With Sony looking to push Gaikai in the near future, and even potentially making streaming a core part of the next Playstation experience after the PS4, as well as Microsoft making the Cloud an important part of the Xbox One, connection speeds will absolutely make or break these services.
In my case, better uploads speeds would be a godsend (the making of those videos for you all isn’t the truly time consuming part – getting them onto YouTube is) but the obvious benefit of faster and stable internet speeds would be better multiplayer gaming all round. Wouldn’t be great to be able to play anyone, anywhere, and for it to be all about player skill instead of worrying about latency? It’s a pipe dream, I realise that, but it’s the one major hurdle I feel we still need to get over.
Well, that and developing better batteries for portable devices and wireless peripherals. I mean, come on – why hasn’t someone developed a battery that can handle more than 24 hours of intensive use with modern devices? Ugh.
Chris - Everybody Wins
I know I harp on about Nintendo a lot, but the truth is I’m a massive fan of a wide variety of games from a variety of developers and consoles. I think that competition between the Big 3 is a healthy thing and when you think about it is necessary to keep pushing our industry forward, as each of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft work to outdo each other and stay relevant to the market and its audience. Without that competition we could face stagnation and lack of choice – and as you know we’re big fans of choice here at Dealspwn.
It’s to that end then that my biggest hope for this new generation is that each of the Big 3 do make a success of things. Early indications in the UK show Sony doing extremely well, but if we as gamers really want our medium to grow and develop we need Nintendo and Microsoft to be pushing boundaries and keeping Sony on their toes. Both of those two need to convince gamers of their vision for the future of gaming and get people on board. No one wants another Dreamcast.
Not of course that I’m suggesting that either console is heading that way at all, but healthy competition is critical. This last generation was one of the most balanced we have seen for a while with different consoles appealing to different types of gamers, meaning that multi-console gamers were commonplace. You bought a Wii for the simple, group-orientated games, as well as your Nintendo exclusives. The PS3 and 360 were less differentiated, but exclusives, reliability and online functionality split the field, but importantly that field was split reasonably evenly.
Simply put, monopolies in the games industry should only exist if we’re talking about putting hotels on Mayfair, otherwise they’re bad news for us gaming consumers. It’s why I’ll be paying particular attention to E3 and other events next year when the big 3 will be showcasing their futures, and I just hope that I am impressed – for different reasons – by all of them as it will mean our industry is fighting each other, and we’ll reap the benefits.
Brendan - Less Gouging on PSN / XBLA
Here at Dealspwn, we’re always on the lookout for a good deal to pass on to our readers, but ‘discounts’ on PSN/XBLA aren’t exactly prolific or are rarely worth posting about. Compare this with the never-ending price-slashing over at Steam and you have to wonder why more console gamers haven’t made a permanent switch to PC gaming.
Throughout this generation, we’ve seen digital versions of retail games often far exceed the price we’d see them on the high street or online retailers. They’re often at least £10 more despite not getting a box, a disc, a manual, having no resale value and them swallowing up a large portion of hard-drive real estate. You only need to look at the prices hovering around the £60 mark for the latest PS4 downloads to see nothing’s changing anytime soon. As excited as I am to see more indie games make their way to PS4 over the next few years, it’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow if we’re getting charged four times the price of PC gamers.
Unlike the PC download market, we rarely see digital console game prices drop over time. It’s not much of an issue for the larger releases as we can wait for the physical versions to drop. But digital-only titles need to start coming down sooner and on a permanent basis. This would be better for smaller games that have fallen off the radar, as the renewed sales from slashing the price in half is going to bring in more money than the odd full-priced purchase.
The issue of consumers having rights to re-sell their digital games will hopefully keep arising, potentially leading to a digital revolution allowing gamers on PC, Xbox and PlayStation to sell their digital games or at least trade them in for store credit at the site they were purchased.
We can’t heap all the blame on Sony and Microsoft; after all, it’s the individual publishers that tell them what prices to list their games at. If these greedy publishers looked at the big picture and ran a proper and fair business, they’d get a steadier and constant flow of sales and wouldn’t have to rely on flash muggings hoping for a big score on gullible gamers.