What the next generation of video games needs to succeed

playstation 4 controller

Clifford Unchained – 4th and Inches for Sony

My biggest thing about this “Next Next Gen” is that the biggest winner will be the one who has several things going for them:

  • The games. It’s all about the games.
  • The ecosystem. Apple knows that Itunes and the App store are a HUGE factor in their success.
  • The ability to remain adaptable in a fast moving world. Fast title updates from developers. The “Minecraft test.” If the hardware is great and the system sound then the biggest deciding factor will be how much each console creator allows the community to take over in an organic fashion. It sounds like the Sharing feature is a great step. The next one? Indie games, mods, user levels…you know, the things that the PC is so darned good at.

This is exactly how the next generation console war will be won. Consoles can no longer rely solely on their first and third party games to “win the war.” Robust game libraries are a must, of course, but they must be combined with robust media ecosystems and more PC-like interaction models. Sony is certainly attempting to do this with the PlayStation 4.

Take the Xbox 360, which has remained the best selling console on a month-to-month basis for well over a year now. The Xbox is more than just a game console. It is a brand associated with media, from music to movies to games. Games and the operating system are updated on a frequent basis, in a fashion not so dissimilar from the PC updates consumers have come to expect. As a result of this evolution of the Xbox, Microsoft stands on a much stronger foundation than its competitors moving into the next generation.

Best games of E3: The Last of Us

This is the post-apocalyptic game we’ve been waiting for.

If it wasn’t clear already, Naughty Dog can take any genre of video game and set a new standard for other companies to live up to. Platforming? Yup. Action-adventure? Done that. With The Last of Us, they’re taking the survival action-adventure formula and turning it on its head. 

The footage shown has everything we have wanted from the genre. There’s the sidekick who reacts realistically to player actions and actually helps out in a fight when needed and stays out of the way when she isn’t. There’s scavenging for materials and an item system that forces the player to make quick decisions. And then, there’s the combat.

If you haven’t seen the trailer I linked to, it’s brutal. Joel (the protagonist) smashes enemies faces into nearby surfaces, wrestles weapons out of their hands, and sets them on fire with Molotov cocktails. Hell, I cringed at the end when he shot the downed enemy in the face at point-blank range. This isn’t like your average first-person shooter, where players mow down waves of enemies with little emotional impact. These deaths are all dramatic, and carry weight to them, as they should. 

What Naughty Dog is expressing is the survival-of-the-fittest nature of the end of the world. There wouldn’t be enough guns and ammunition laying around for every conflict to go down as a major firefight. Instead, conflicts would be one-on-one as survivors compete for resources. And according to IGN, they didn’t just stop there when it comes to showing off the reality of the situation: players will have to scavenge supplies from those who couldn’t find it in them to make it through such a tragic scenario. That’s deep for an action game. 

I do have a few thoughts on the gameplay. First, according to that IGN article I linked to above, there will in fact be multiple ways to approach any given encounter. This is excellent news, as gamers who prefer stealth and distraction will feel just as at home with the game as those who like to run-and-gun. Second, I have to wonder whether the physical encounters with enemies are quick-time events or fought using contextually-aware buttons. I’m hoping it’s the latter, as the trailer doesn’t make it clear. Given the freedom suggested by the IGN article, it seems that players will be controlling the fighting, which makes the trailer all the more impressive.