Entry 123: A little glimpse of things developers should work out
If there's only one resolution any decent video game developer should keep ( at least try to ) with a resolute attitude in 2008, it still relies upon the rewarding factor a modern game should provide to its dedicated fan base in order to push forward an otherwise short life expectancy of said product. In fact, a better reward system would exponentially raise the stakes for a much wider long term value that 99% of games miss nowadays, just like previous generations. It's time to prepare the next gen ( the REAL next gen is 2010 for that matter ), and here's come the time I think for the studios to use more efficiently the artistic & feature budget to propel it much further than what we've experienced since the 80s: c'est-à dire games keeping our interest only for a short time - a matter of weeks. This trend has to end, beginning with cliffhanger endings yet there are other features that could also entice players to stay longer.
For now, let's just say the next gen should not only pretend te reach prettier graphics and photo realism; a next step of evolution should include innovative mechanics as well. And by that, I mean not only gameplay wise but feature wise: ranking systems offline and online; prizes and contests several months after the release; free official add-ons over the months ( not just additional maps ). Stardock, developer of TBS games such the Galactic Civilizations series understood that a long time ago and still remains one of the very few to enhance the same game over more than a full year, by adding twists to the entire construct of the game. GalCiv II rewards the player with two distinct ranking systems now, one online ( the Metaverse ) and a local Hall of Fame offline. Epic's UT2004 offered it also, alas akin the $ One Million Unreal Contest tenure these statistical conveyors remained incredibly scarce in 2007. What can developers do to launch similar features with a brighter appeal? Attract additional sponsors first to allocate the required budgets thereafter? If Epic and Stardock can do it at least the way they did in the past few years, then a huge number of their peers can also - yet the vast majority didn't so far. It' time to change the way games should reward the players.
Perhaps like the way writing is slowly, very slowly evolving in this industry, then so do the implementation of any rewarding system we would like to see. The trend could take years; yet developers must draw the premises NOW if we don't want to spectate an experiment going awry. Why some legendary board games last decades and video games don't? I don't have the answer to that question, though one can wonder their inherent dependence upon a technological construct becoming obsolete so rapidly. Still, chess survived centuries and Tetris - considered quasi unanimously as one of the two-three best video games of all time - didn't survive a decade in its original release ( circa 1986 ).
Well, these little thoughts purely academic lead us nowhere unless some serious steps are taken as to eschew ways to pave future rewards also reinforcing the replay value I want to experience elsewhere than in MMOs. We must be patient but for 2008 here's the first easy step: make better endings. Make rewarding endings. I'm tired of botched cliffhanger endings. If a particular developer can't help to pursue the trend, you know like professional champions of cliffhanging that are Valve and Epic, well at least allocate an extra time of development instead of a dreaded art cut to meet a deadline already delayed anyway. The little song at the end of Portal is a start, leading to the challenges. If you can do it there, Valve, you can do it for your other offerings as well. Studios should open the valves in their official forums and ask fans first what THEY would like to see enhanced ( or cut ) in their favorite games.