Masters of Reality

As consoles become more and more capable of creating convincing realities, it falls upon indie developers to create gaming's most imaginative worlds.

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Editor's Note: This is the first in a weekly series of featured blogs from GameSpot users.

Although the arrival of the Wii U marks the point where a new gaming generation started, the unveiling of the PlayStation 4 feels like yet another beginning, because it gives us the first glimpse at the real graphical capabilities of this coming era. As an organic function of this competitive, highly advanced age, it is only natural to expect that systems will be constantly taking steps forward in relation to the technology they carry to power both visuals and sound, and the early displays of PlayStation 4 games confirm that in spite of the ever-rising costs of production, the industry keeps fearlessly betting on pushing hardware forward.

Bean counters will excitedly read over the numbers and try to figure out the economic effects of these advances, and while that does interest us and our wallets, there is an even more intriguing consequence to all of this, which is how games are getting progressively more realistic. Once upon a time, games were more about crafting brightly colored, wacky worlds than simulating the real world; whether that was a necessary reaction to the constraints of the early machines or just a wish to create games based on fantasy, the fact is that about 10 years ago, gaming store shelves were much more colorful and vivid than they are now, and the industry grew up supported by the outlandish and the ridiculous.

With the arrival of technology that gives life to developers' aspirations to build very real worlds, most games--or, at least, most titles by companies that can afford the luxury--will move toward scenarios that are closer to reality. It is pretty obvious that gaming will not lose its magic even if it continues to march in that direction; after all, even if games do manage to, one day, perfectly emulate the lights, colors, and physics that our eyes perceive in the real world, the art of gaming design will still allow its artists to decorate that mundane realism with items, behaviors, and powers that are either nonexistent or are difficult for a regular human being to achieve. We will still be able to pretend that we are secret agents, superheroes, or other fascinating characters. With the advent of truly convincing realities, games will become ever more reliant on developers' ability to create interesting mechanics or dazzling scripts.

For those who can't resist the charm of games that blend technology with the quirkiness and insanity of cartoons--series like Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Ratchet & Clank, and Banjo, among others--the future could indeed hold some bad news. An industry that initially relied on the charm of platformers, which were a product of an era where processing power was very limited, has gone on to transform into an industry where shooters rule. Some say this might be a sign of laziness or a lack of creativity; others might point toward the strong sales of those titles, indicating that the market demand is what is moving the industry onto that path. In truth, it's probably a combination of both of those factors that is pushing companies to that single-minded approach. Not only do simulators require less artistic prowess (something rarer to come by than technical proficiency), but they also tend to sell better, and that can be easily evidenced by the number of "fantasy" franchises that have come to life in recent years compared to the number of new series that go for simulation and realism.

Ironically, the remedy for this somewhat worrisome trend might reside in another surging force of modern gaming: digital distribution, and the power it places in the hands of small developers. Creating big blockbuster titles demands a whole lot of cash, because it frequently involves pushing the hardware as far as it can go and developing complex new engines, and as a natural response to that obstacle, developers with unlimited talent and imagination, but with limited resources, have to go for the uncanny and unrealistic to attract attention, since any attempt at realism would result in their titles being overshadowed by the industry's giants. In recent years, that dependence on being different and creative bore some incredible fruits like Bastion, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Limbo, Journey, and Minecraft, among many others.

While the mainstream "fantasy" franchises seem to be mostly limited to those that appeared back in the '80s and early '90s, the number of great indie titles with a ton of commercial potential keeps growing. It is from garage studios hidden in some small unknown cities that the humble defiance to the dictatorship of reality might emerge.

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Discussion

30 comments
iowastate
iowastate

a new graphics card and my PS2 still works as good as new so until Sony or Microsoft show me something that makes their pricetags worth what they charge I am not inclined towards either.

JamesThePrince
JamesThePrince

I love games that feel so real.Just remember I was playing Aladdin  on SNES and now playing AC3 on a ps3.We've gone through a long long journey and process to make games that can make us aww. 

izmostyle9
izmostyle9

thing is you could do crazy worlds with awesome graphics no need to be 2d and stuff xp

MJV1989
MJV1989

This is exactly what I have been thinking... Realistic games are great, but I need something more imaginative and over the top as well so the realistic games don't become stale and boring. There are still a lot of imaginative game worlds, but the guns have become boring... Nobody makes insane guns like the Cerebral Bore from Turok 2: Seeds of Evil anymore...

snakefantasy10
snakefantasy10

Very good post Pierst179, At the end of the day video games are games they are not Movies trying to make them too realistic is not what it's all about, That's why I find the Indie game are pushing more in the Ideas of the fun factor and the, The big company are pushing more in the way of graphics power, and to me they're just wasting time and money.   

ViskiJack
ViskiJack

I stop here at age 27 no more consoles PC or any gaming after this gen.I'm just not exited about the stuff that is coming next.Also i think I'm addicted to this shit like it is heroin.Lets just say i need something stronger.

ashyblood
ashyblood

Does anyone know what game the top screen shot is from? Looks like a real winner with me I like futuristic cities.

painpas
painpas

My thoughts-

Next gen DOA will be banned in some countries. 

Mortal Kombat will be banned in some countries but might sell the most of any fighting game next gen.

Elder Scrolls will get their first competition and may lose its spot as top selling RPG from this gen. 

Street Fighter will not be the highest selling traditional fighting game next gen. 

Tekken will fight MK for top sales and may become the traditional fighting game of choice in tournament play. 

Photo realism will be done by multiple studios but lighting will be the most important feature in this generation more than polygon count. 

Intelligent AI will be the new hotness this generation setting unprecedented immersion in games. 

Bioware and Naughty Dog will be the story of this generation again with their next gen games. 

Japan returns to prominence with Last Guardian, Zwls HD and FF15.

Square goes exclusive this generation with the FF series.

Epic goes exclusive this generation with all games for a reason.

Sony sales and marketing shock the industry however every one will do relatively well sales wise next generation. .

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

I just wish the companies that make the greatest games would take full advantage of technology. I would love to see a Zelda game max out PS4 hardware. One can only dream.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@MJV1989 I totally agree. In art, after realism came surrealism and I'd like to see more weird, truly alien and otherwordly settings, because you can only take realism so far, but the worlds our imagination can create are endless.

Total_mischief
Total_mischief

@ashyblood The animation from the demo is pretty stiff though. Hope they change that until the release. That's why I hate mocap, if it's done wrong everyone has a stick up the ass.

KeviNOlighT
KeviNOlighT

Did you have a look at Cyberpunk 2077, Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous yet? They just came to my mind.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@painpas  Good joke. Square Enix will never return to prominence again for the remainder of their company's years. They have irreversibly screwed the pooch in the past 10 years with Final Fantasy and there is no way for them to redeem themselves.

Lord_Sesshy
Lord_Sesshy

@painpas Don't forget Bungie/Destiny.....MMOFPS, seems very promising for next gen.

Total_mischief
Total_mischief

@painpas Higher poly count and lighting will both hold the same importance I think. The polys will allow for much better and detailed facial animation, and when it comes to realism, animation is pretty much the most important part.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@theend3r @ViskiJack The best way is to have so many damn games you can't even play them, like me. I still have so many games I won't even finish them until the next generation actually has some titles underway.

ashyblood
ashyblood

@KeviNOlighT I have seen the Cyberpunk 2077 preview and it looks really good. I just hope the gameplay is good too. I'll check out the rest of the titles you listed.

Fr0oTy
Fr0oTy

@Lord_Sesshy @painpas No it doesn't. At least not from Bungie. 

MMOFPS has been done before a few times aswel, Tabula Rasa immediately springing to mind.. Along with Planetside and I *think* FireFall? Though I've not played FireFall nor do I much care to look more into it.

painpas
painpas

@Total_mischief @painpas You're right. No question detail will matter. However, we have to respect Journey and Flower and not forget what art direction can do. Those are 2 of the most visually beautiful games that will last the test of time. Everything matters but sometimes we may not realize as beautiful as  Uncharted is in the art and high poly models it is the lighting that makes the game stand out that much more than the rest. Every thing will come together this gen. This will be the first generation where drawn sprites will be out classed 95% of the time to polygon models. 

KeviNOlighT
KeviNOlighT

@ashyblood Each game is in really, really good hands, so I'm not very worried, just very impatient. :)