Duel Shock: Next-gen

Watch_Dogs was a standout title at E3

Redartifice: Hello and welcome once again to Duel Shock, where I and a doubles partner look at a current topic in gaming. This time, we’re looking at a very current topic: the next generation of games! Joining me this time is the grand master of HYPE, NotoriousR. We’re starting this discussion in the week of E3, and in fact the day after the Sony conference which certainly wowed me. This week has also held the Xbox One presentation, which received mixed reviews, and the Nintendo Direct conference, which showed quite a few games but played it fairly safe (more Mario Kart, more Smash Brothers). NotoriousR, now we’ve seen all three big players, what caught your attention?

NotoriousR: So to start off, I don’t own a Nintendo console and don’t have a childhood associated with them. Consequently, the Wii U and 3DS don’t really capture my attention, so I haven’t watched the Nintendo Direct Conference.

In terms of Microsoft’s E3 Showing: Only Quantum Break has me vaguely interested. The new Insomniac shooter was announced with a CG trailer and looks very colourful and fun, but after Overstrike and a few lackluster Ratchet and Clank games, I’m not exploding with hype. Yet. Titanfall didn’t really capture my attention, I’m not exactly overly fond of run-and-gun multiplayer shooters (normally because I’m terrible). Finally, Metal Gear Solid V looked *stunning* but that’s also a cross-gen-multiplat game. So overall, I have no compelling reason to be interested in the Xbone.

Sony’s E3 conference started out crap with the obligatory “Buy a vita! We can also do television!” but then they got into the gamessssss. Really, really loving the indie focus PS4 is building up. I’m sure a lot of these indie games will be on Steam, but I prefer playing games on a console where I can sit back on my couch and relax. So I am super hyped for Transistor (Bastion was my 2011 GOTY), and keen for many other games like Octodad and Rain. Beyond Two Souls is something I’m also really excited for. What about you?

Redartifice: I watched a couple of the trailers from the Nintendo Direct conference, and the feel I kind of got was of them playing it pretty safe. I reckon at this point, Nintendo have a base and they play to it- people who will buy Smash Bros and Mario Kart each generation. Cool, I guess, and the series have iterated and improved, but nothing super-revolutionary. That said, the idea of a hand-held Smash Bros game is pretty cool, I just wonder why Nintendo didn’t do it a generation ago!

Microsoft were always going to have a tough time with the internet being geared against them the way it is, but I thought they did squib it a bit. There were some good points (Quantum Break is conceptually pretty interesting) and the media side of it could be pretty cool, but there was nothing that really got my attention.

Apart from Metal Gear Solid V, but that was always going to.

I think Sony had a really good showing- they managed to show off some cool new games and put indies front and centre as a point of difference. The last few years, Sony has really focused on pushing indie games and it is nice to see smaller titles so prominent. That said, I imagine there’s a good commercial reason for it- with so many big titles now cross-platform, being able to outlay a relatively small amount of money to get indie exclusives will keep people on the platform.

So I’m excited to see what the games on the next-generation will be, but I’d like to ask you about the technologies and concepts we’re seeing. First off, we’re seeing a graphical bump in titles (though I didn’t spot bokeh)- I thought the PS3 stuff looked really good, but most of the big titles really showed a new level of polish. Do you think we’ll see the graphics continually improving, or does it become diminishing returns after a time?

It’s the little things…

NotoriousR: Whilst I do love me my bokeh (it was in Watch_Dogs and The Division), I think graphics are going to plateau a bit. The leap from PS2 to PS3 was massive as it was SD to HD, but the leap from PS3 to PS4 is good, but not mind-blowing. Graphics will definitely improve, but I personally think more subtle and nuanced things will really help bring the game to life. The animation of a closing a door as you crawl past it, little splashes as you walk through a puddle, much more detailed facial animation to get all the EMOTION. Now that consoles have 8GB of memory to work with, I am also hoping for much bigger and more detailed worlds to explore, worlds that are more alive with NPCs (as opposed to an open world with the same 5 NPCs saying the same 4 lines of dialogue).

I am excited for the new things devs can do graphically, but as long as it’s not just better looking people I can shoot in the face (Call of duty trying to convince me that forearm hairs will increase my immersion and the experience isn’t the way I things to go). I’m hoping that with the popularity of indie games, the ease of Unity and its asset store as well as Sony making it simple to publish on the PS4/Vita, we’re going to get a lot more breadth in terms of games that we can play.

I also hope that AAAAA devs (or however many A’s they’re up to) can branch off and make smaller more focused and polished games. I enjoyed Tomb Raider, but what I really would’ve loved is an open world/island game where you mainly struggle to survive/hunt animals. The number of enemy human interactions you have are limited to what you can count on one hand, and it makes each encounter that much more brutal and darker. VERY EARLY TOMB RAIDER SPOILERS Definitely deals with the ludonarrative dissonance of being disgusted at her first kill then mowing down 10 guys in the next 5 minutes. Obviously this kind of game would never be greenlit as a AAA retail game, but if it was a smaller 2-3 hour $20 downloadable game? Yes please.

Also, Oculus Rift. Enough said.

What about you, what do you want from next-gen?

Redartifice: I agree that we’ll see some more subtle tricks in the animation, especially as more and more games move to motion captured scenes. It’s always nice in a game when you notice the “little touches,” and I think the emotional capture in the next generation will only improve. I also hope that the next generation gives us more fully-realised worlds to play in- not just NPCs, but living environments.

I think we’ll see Multiple-A devs move toward smaller titles in-between big ones, as I think the costs of developing big game after big game will become unsustainable for all but a few (Your Call of Duties and Assassins Creeds). This will hopefully lead to new and experimental IPs or twists on existing ones- that Tomb Raider survival game sounds pretty good to me!

What I really want to see from some next generation games is some more complex and mature stories. I had my spray during E3 week about the immaturity in Ryse among others but I really want to see game creators using the more complex tools available to them to tell different stories, not just on rails shoot bad guy tales.

A man can dream.

Could this be the button that defines the next console generation?

Interestingly, all three major consoles placed an emphasis on sharing this generation, with the PS4 controller even having a “share” button. I like the idea of gaming being a shared experience, and I think there’s a market for it (livestreams and gameplay videos growing ever more popular). I also think there’s a smart sales strategy behind it- if you see your mate enjoying Drive Club or Titanfall, you’re more likely to grab a copy for yourself- but I’m keen to hear your take on it. Will you want to broadcast your gaming? Would your friends playing a game incentivise you to grab it too?

NotoriousR: The ‘share’ button is interesting. Firstly, social media: eh. Not really in any rush to post on FB or twitter about how I got X trophy or Y achievement. But the idea of streaming/easily recording and saving footage is kind of interesting to me. Quite often there have been plays that were pretty rad (I took out an entire enemy side using one Sawed off shotgun blast in the Gears 3 beta), breathtaking views in a game (POST APOCALYPTIC URBAN DECAY) that I want to show someone or show Blaghman various graphics tech in a game. So that part, at least, is pretty cool.

Streaming: I’ve never streamed myself playing games, and I don’t watch many streams of games. I know both consoles will let you start streaming instantly, and that’s something I have no interest in, but I have no real interest in watching gameplay streams over a console, but that may change when I get my hands on it. As you mentioned, if I could watch a friend playing a game that I’m kind of on the fence about, that’d be a pretty cool use of the tech that may help tip me over to buying a game.

Your thoughts?

Redartifice: I’m not sure if it’s a feature I’d use for a public stream, but I might send a link to a mate to say “Hey, look at this” or record a particularly stellar moment that I wanted to share. It’s a nice to have feature for me, not essential. That said, I think streams with commentary would be a pretty cool thing to drop into every now and then. I can see it being used for games still in development too, which will be interesting.

The announcement of a new Mirror’s Edge was a nice surprise

 

One thing I found interesting was the comments that both consoles made about the cloud. Cloud computing is a big thing in business, but it’s not really hit the gaming scene (Sim City doesn’t count). I have to admit the idea of a game pushing complex parts of its simulation to a cloud server is kind of cool, but it does bring to mind all the worries of server availability and lag. I’m also eager to see what Sony’s Gaikai cloud service is like. What do you think? Is the cloud going to be the next big thing for games?

NotoriousR: Cloud is going to be interesting. If Sony/Gaikai can offer the entire PS1/PS2/PS3 library through some level of PS+ (ie PS+ Gold gets you access to everything, PS+ bronze gets you access to all PS1 games and select PS2/3 games) AND the latency is tolerable, that could be *massive*. Could being the keyword. OnLive wasn’t exactly a raging success, and it’s probably because the technology isn’t quite there yet.

Whilst I wasn’t a fan of a lot of Xbox One’s original vision, I did respect that they were looking into the future and were basing their console on what they thought the future held. If a subscription based cloud gaming service thing is where Sony think’s it’ll go, that could be pretty cool. What about you, what do you think the next big thing is that consoles will have 5 years from now?

Redartifice: It’s always really hard to tell what’ll be big, but I’ll look into my crystal ball. I reckon one of the givens is that we’ll see more games with an online component- not necessarily all multiplayer, but online something. Both consoles will have some sort of persistent online stuff that’ll only increase as time goes on.

It’s pretty clear that all three next-gen consoles have second screen strategies (in the case of the Wii U it’s built-in) so I’d expect to see more and more titles integrate tablets and mobile devices as core features. It’s going to be interesting to see what companies do with it, especially with technologies like Google Glasses- imagine having your HUD on Google Glasses and the entire game screen clear of minimaps and the like!

I also think that we will see more and more games use server-side calculations for things. I think we’ll actually see more of what Sim City promised- simulations where a lot of the underlying calculations are performed in places other than your own console.

What do you think?

Ubisoft’s The Division looks fantastic, but how will it work with Tablets?

NotoriousR: Online – Definitely. Asynchronous multiplayer like in Demons Souls, or seamlessly merging single player and multiplayer like in Dark Souls/Watch Dogs/The Division/Destiny is going to be a big thing. Maybe for the better, maybe not, but it’s definitely very interesting. This does of course mean, couch co-op will continue its slow death march, which makes me very sad, but I guess that’s kinda inevitable.

In terms of the power of the cloud, I thought they ‘debunked’ that SimCity was running ‘heavy server side’ calculations? But things like using the cloud to perform matchmaking and easily scale for launch day to the steady trickle of regular games is pretty cool. I don’t see things like AI and lighting being offloaded to the cloud though, the latency just makes it seem unfeasible. I think the cloud will harnessed as I mentioned before, in the form of a streaming service that Sony is doing with Gaikai.

Finally, with the idea of second-screen integrations, I’m deeply cynical, but I think I’m justified to be so as I’ve yet to see a compelling use of tablet and game. The Division had a neat use of it, but if myself and my friends have the PS4/Xbone version, surely we’d just play that instead of being a support class on the iPad? I feel that even the Wii U has yet to produce a game with a compelling reason as to why you need 2 screens (Again, I’ve not been following Nintendo stuff closely, so I may have missed games that use this well).

I honestly have no idea what the future will hold for games, which is part of the reason as to why I’m so excited about next-gen: It’s a whole new ball game that can change in the blink of an eye. I think a big thing will be that Apple or Google enter the game at some point. Whether that be an iTv or the AppleTV starting to support ‘small/mobile’ titles (like an OUYA), I feel it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. What effect will that have? I HAVE NO IDEA BUT I’M EXCITED TO FIND OUT!

What did you think of E3 2013? What are you excited for in the next generation of consoles? HYPE?

I’m forever looking for new partners to step into the Duel Shock ring! Got a burning topic? Just want to muse on your favourite game genre? hit me up on twitter @redartifice

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