With the close of the current generation harrowing upon us, and the dawn of a new, soon approaching... We are left to ponder what once was and what soon will be in the realm of video games.
With every new generation, we are assured better visuals, with graphic fidelity far superior to what once was with the previous generation of consoles. We are promised new gameplay possibilities that couldn't have been done in years prior. New ways to play our games through changes to the way we control them. Yet, it seems with every new generation we are always left wanting more. Delusions of grandeur set in, and we soon realize that the promises that were made at the beginning of the new generation were just that, promises. What we actually bought into, was slightly better visuals and larger gameplay spaces… With little change to the way we actually play games. At the beginning of the Xbox 360 generation, we were promised that physics would play a large part in the way we played games from then on out. Yet, there was only one game in the entire span of the Xbox 360's life that used physics in a way that made us think about how we were playing. That game was Red Faction: Guerilla. Which allowed us to realistically take out the supports of buildings that surrounded our enemies, in order to make them crush those that were unfortunate enough to be under them. Buildings would bend and crumble, depending on where we shot them. They wouldn't just fall when we shot them, sometimes it would take minutes for them to give in to the pressure of the roof to the supports below.
This was game changing, now we weren't just shooting enemies in the face and hoping they would die, we were thinking about the surrounding structures and how we could efficiently demolish them to cause the most amount of damage we could at any given time. To not only take down the structures, but also the enemies from within.
So this brings to the forefront, a question that I have at the beginning of every new generation of hardware...
What is the point, if developers aren't going to take advantage of the power within? We are just going to continue to play the same games with a new coat of paint. But nothing is changing in the way we play them. Call of Duty is going to remain Call of Duty... Where we shoot enemies in the face and run around like chickens with their heads cut off, hoping to not have the same fate happen to us. Battlefield 4 promises to change the way we play a first person shooter online. But, is it truth or are they just trying to get us to buy the game, knowing that when it's in our hands it's already too late to have a voice?
I guess my point is, at what point of time do our games start changing into something more than what we've been playing for the past 20 years? Developers constantly say that the next GEN is more than about better visuals, yet they never show it in the gameplay of their games. Is it just because people have grown so content playing what they play, that any sort of change will be thought of as a betrayal to them? Or is it that developers think, gamers are going to buy the games anyways, why put the effort in?
Developers are always comparing the gaming industry to the movie industry, saying that games are closing the gap between the two. Yet how can games close that gap, if they never offer the same experiences that you would get watching a movie? Physics will go a long way into changing the way we play. Gamers can take advantage of their surroundings to accomplish their goals, instead of walking from point a to point B they got point C! D, E and F staring them in the face, that could change the outcome every time. Making the game feel fresh, even months and years after launch.
Is episodic gaming the way to go? Providing gamers with new content every week or every month, allowing the story and gameplay to change with feedback from the gamers to developer? Cliffhanger endings at the end of every episode? Making the player want to play again to see what happens next.
Or is it all in the controller, what a lot of developers will want you to believe. We need to change the controller to change the way people play. This, is a farce. The PlayStation eye and Kinect and the Wii all showed us that change isn't always good. People don't want to physically exert themselves when trying to enjoy a hobby. Even if they did, there is no way to perfectly mimic onscreen actions within a 3-D space. You can't draw peoples attention away from the screen, therefore you limit the way they can play.
I think current control schemes are just fine, and will be for years to come. I think VR headsets are another farce that are very limited and will become more of a pain, than pleasure to most gamers. As console history will tell us, gimmick controllers never worked. Going the entire way back to the Atari 2600.
So, that leads me back to believing that physics are the way to go. It brings real-world flavor into the fictional game worlds and allows gamers to experience the games the way they want to within the limits of developers designs. Visuals can always improve, mimicking the real world or the world that the developer wants to create. But that will never be enough to satisfy gamers urges for more, until the way we play games is changed. Red Faction: Guerilla proved to me that it could be done, even on last GEN consoles. It brought a sense of exploration into the game world simply by introducing physics as a viable alternative to the simple point and shoot gameplay we've become accustomed to. Something so small, added so much to the game.
So, I say to developers: change the way we play the games, not by increasing visual fidelity, but increasing real world physics simulation to allow players to explore different ways to accomplish their goals. The cut and paste gameplay of the past is getting old and things need to change to close that gap you so desperately want to, with movies. Otherwise the industry will become stale and stagnant and gamers will become bored and restless with game after game and sequel after sequel.
Do you remember the crash of the 80s? The exact same thing happened. The industry was overloaded with stale and stagnant gameplay, that gamers simply had enough of. Quantity over quality. Sound familiar?