We all have a hype o´meter regarding things we want, be it games, movies, books, music records, etc. Most of the time, we idealize this thing we want, giving it either too much praise, or picturing it as the second coming. But not all folks are the same. Some of us, actually end up liking what we get, others, just placed their minds in the whole second coming thing, and get totally dissapointed with what they get. This ideas created a lot of myths regarding what Next Gen should be, so lets point a few.
- If one game reaches amazing graphics, all games should be able to do the same: There is a whole lot of different ways of developing games. And there are a whole lot of different genres of games. Some games are stricty linear, others give a little bit more of freedom, others have a lot of effects going on in the screen at real time at the same moment, and others give you whole places to explore. Most of the gamers know nothing about the developing process, and unlike people like myself, they didn´t even took the time to learn a little bit of how it is done (not coding, but the proccess as a whole).
There is a big difference between developing a game like Uncharted, and doing a game as expansive as Grand Theft Auto 4, or a game with many explosions and individual AIs as in Metal Gear Solid 4.
For starters, games as Uncharted have a lower focus on stuff as horizon, pop-up, etc. Mostly because of their lineal nature, which even if you are outside, the map is a corridor. Thats why games as Gears of War and Uncharted can reach such amazing levels of graphics.
On the other hand, we have games as Metal Gear Solid 4, and even on a lesser extent, Resistance. Metal Gear Solid 4 uses really low res textures on the stages, as in the previous games, it sacrifices them in order to aim that power to character resolution, which is among the best in videogames, and in some points, close to a "High" setted Crysis. This games focus their power on other stuff, explosions with lots of particles (the explosion clouds on MGS4 are just amazing, specially in Act 2), the Hedgehog grenade in Resistance, which, if you take your time, is composed of individual needles, that act as single objects, not as a group.
Finally, we have the "Sandbox" games. This games use a lot of power from the console, the constant loadings, the expansive areas, the multiple objects, and to that, they have to add the speed at which we move in that world, if we go to fast, the objects have to appear even faster. Or the distance at which they appear. I remember that I could never finish San Andreas because I was stuck in a mission, where I was asked to fly and deliver a box, but I had to go in low altitude, suddenly, I found myself near a forest, and trees would appear 10 feet in front of me, which equals death. Thats why sandbox games restrict themselves, to either less on-screen objects with no area loadings, or closed areas (Assassins Creed) with lots of object.
- New Gen, New Game Controls: This has to be the biggest misconception ever. Old timers as myself, found that the same happened when the jump was made from PS to PS2. Its a lie, a complete lie. In fact, after 2 years, you could count the "innovative" games with one hand (ICO, Devil May Cry, Zone of the Enders, Metal Gear Solid 2, and possibly Final Fantasy X). This gen will be faced with the same. After 1 year, we had 2 games that where "different" from the rest: Dead Rising and Gears of War. after more than 2 years we now can include Metal Gear Solid 4 in the pack. But as you see, we are not that different from previous gens. It has to be understanded that it is not easy to make a new set of controls, just look at how badly received was Lair, a game that got criticized for a controller flaw (though I dont agree, and I sort of know why it got killed in the West). People is not ready for "big" jumps, and wants something more familiar. Games as ICO, Shadow of the Colossus and Okami offered great and fresh gameplay, but apparently not many cared. This gen wont be different, get ready when Heavy Rains flops in sales as Indigo Prophecy did before.
- Innovation: The biggest discussion today in System Wars, and in gaming communities in general is in regards to Innovation. Are games as Little Big Planet and Braid actually innovating? Or are they doing what PCs have done in the past? Why is this happening? I will call it to lack of education on behalf of the ones who deny innovation. By deffinition, Innovate is "Introduce something new". In general terms, then any creator in a console is not something innovative, because it has been a feature in many PCs. But that comes from reading, and not from understanding. To understand something, one must have a certain level of "brains", and this is acquired in the school, high-school and university. If you take your time, you will notice that most games are actully innovating in some sort of way. Innovation has to be measured too. For example, Resistance is not your usual FPS, as most would believe. Why do I say this? Because Resistance innovates from other areas, something that Insomniac has always been good at: "Weapons". Most of Resistance arsennal is completely unique, from the Hedgehog grenades to the Far Eye Quick Motion skill, or a 40 player online mode, etc.
Then we get to games as LBP and Braid. Lets start with Braid. Braid at simple sight looks like your usual platformer, but, if you actually see it, you find that it has many cool concepts, from its "bizarre" story, to its time controlling skills. Then we have LBP, a game that will allow us to create levels (for 1-4 users), monsters, bosses, and even link levels and add a story behind them. Was anything similar seen on Consoles before? Yes. Was it actually user friendly? No. Games as RPG Maker and the like offered you the possibility of creating your things, but they either lacked customization options, or a simple interface that allowed us to express our mind with no trouble.
- Graphics have to be all amazing: There is one thing that we have lost. This one thing did not hurted last gen games, but apparently, for the media in the West countries, graphics have turned into the most important factor in a game score. What am I meaning? Games as Crysis got their scores from their beautiful graphics, yes, Crysis graphics, and effects are unrivalled, but the game has no personality. It feels like more of the same, and offers nothing actually new. All the superpowers granted by the Nano suits appeared in previous games, and the openness is not that great, considering that objectives are lineal as hell. But thats not my point. What Im going is, games as the recently released Disgaea 3 are suffering from this tendency. There is no actual need of changing the graphics, they are games, and the most important thing should be gameplay (Though I normally prefer story over gameplay). Games as Disgaea will continue to suffer from this, until one day, everything is back to 1 (yep, quoting Big Boss :D). We will never go back to zero, but we can go back to 1, in terms of reviews.
- Online mode as a must: If there is one thing that can kill many games, then thats the inclusion of online modes. For one hand, the dedication that is lost from the Single Player mode due to the inclusion of the mode, but we also have games being destroyed and cancelled due to the lack of such mode. This is not the future of gaming, yes, some games can be made to have online, but there is no need to force the mode into every game. If not, we will get things as GTA4 online mode which are completely tacked on. What happened to the lasting sp experiences? Also, online gave ways to user milking, with map packs, extra weapons, etc. In some games, such extra content (especially for games that usually work only on consoles) is not a bad thing, lets say that Square Enix releases a paid patch for Final Fantasy XIII that includes the extras of their international editions, that is something actually usefull, because, they would most likely charge less for it, but also, the gamer would not have to have 2 copies of the game.
But other games, as Call of Duty 4, Warhawk, Halo 3, etc, should not charge for their packs, or wait a little bit and realease them as a pack. In this place, I have to save Warhawk from the list, as they actually do that, along with the new booster pack, they include the bundle, which saves you a lot, lot of money.
- New Generation, Cheaper or equally priced games: Now this is something most here are either too young to understand, or just too stupid. Prices have increased, and its not just the oil price. As a country evolves, and grows, its workforce becomes stronger. It gets paid better, and buys more thanks to that. Because of that, developers start to charge more for their work, which in turn increases the price of the game. But that is not alone, then we have the dev-cycle. In order to keep with today standards, some companies take their time to clean the game. This does not means that after many years you will release a master piece. Mediocre games are made in a matter of months, good games normally take 1, 1.5 years at most, and great games take from 2-5 years to make (consider that such games spend a lot of time in the developing table). As previously mentioned, a long dev-cycle is not necessary implying a great game, as well as a short dev-cycle a mediocre one. But in general looks, its that way.
- Consoles are onlyfor gaming: This could be the most "pro-Sony" point of the whole blog, but its actually something that I consider as the best thing, this new gen has brought us. Consoles are not just gaming places anymore, yes, as PCs are mostly working places, consoles are still gaming places. But, times are moving, the market is evolving, and so that you dont stay back in time, you have to move ahead of the others, and go with the flow. Adding many extra features is not a bad choice for a new gen console. Not having them is a bad idea. Just look at how many times MS had to change their offers in the 360 adapting to things Sony either included or announced.
This is because such things are actually sought by us, the market, even if you say "I dont give a flying rat poo", the market speaks otherwise. The first thing we have to understand, (something that most of us went through when we entered in the university for the first time) is that you are nothing. You alone are worth nothing, not even your ideas. The only way to make yourself somebody, is to be able to affect something. In this case; sales. Companies move depending on what the market wants. Thats why companies do what they do. It is when they dont listen to their market that errors are commited.
The market this time said they wanted more features in their console, Sony and MS are delivering such things. And Im loving it. Now we dont have tosit on a chair to watch our series episodes or movies in the PC, we can do so in our living rooms, or our own rooms. We can even navigate the internet, connect to other computers to share content, and even chat through our consoles whithout being tied to computers. This is the biggest advancement of this gen.
Hope you all like it, will see you soon, or so I say :D