The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
Well, to rebound from my darker, previous entry, I figured
it would be a good time to finish up on of my older unfinished blogs on some of
the reasons why I’m looking forward to the next generational leap in console gaming.
However, despite all the excitement surrounding Sony’s and Microsoft’s new
systems, there are still many gamers out there who are not excited for, and in
some cases angrily against, the arrival of these new systems.
The biggest argument I continue to see used against the
arrival of newer console hardware is that the graphical leap will not be that
great between this generation and the next and games look good enough already. Many
point to games that already look amazing (Heavy Rain, Battlefield 3, Gears of
War 3) while others point to games that don’t require top-of-the-line graphics
to be fun (Minecraft, Journey, Fez).
I’ll be the first to admit that we have seen some amazingly displays of
graphical prowess and gameplay over the past several years. Even on
seven-year-old consoles, Halo 4 has managed to look downright mind-blowing and
the upcoming Last of Us is looking to show us what the power of the PS3 is
The problem is that in order for these games to look as good
as they do, developers have to make sacrifices in other areas. Heavy Rain did
not have a very large world, and Halo 4 never has very many enemies on the
screen at one time. Even the most expansive areas in Halo 4 are not anywhere
near a game like Skyrim. Speaking of Skyrim, in order for the game to build
such a large and immersive world they had to resort to so many
smoke-and-mirrors coding practices that both console versions of the games are
bugged to hell (and almost unplayable on the PS3); bugs that aren’t nearly as
apparent on the PC version of the game. Speaking of PC versions being
incomparably better, it wouldn’t be right for me to not bring up Battlefield 3.
Not only was the destruction of the game toned down so that consoles could run
the game, the console versions themselves suffered great hits to draw distance (how
far the game renders objects) as well as a very limited player count. In a game
that is advertised to be an epic combat experience, the console versions of BF3
were stuck to a third of the number of players compared to what the PC offered;
24 players compared to 64. The difference became even more apparent when DICE decreased
the player count to 16 on consoles just to be able to run the Close-Quarters
DLC expansion. The Armored Kill DLC that followed is simply unplayable as there
aren’t enough players to neither balance out nor take advantage of the
vehicle-heavy maps. The Xbox version of Minecraft is nowhere near being called
a graphically intensive game, yet it is still hampered severely from being on
such an old system. The world is a limited-size grid instead of infinitely
expanding, and getting more than four players together in a single world causes
severe performance drops in areas loading as your travel. I could go on, but if
you haven’t gotten my point by now then you should probably just stop reading
Games that come out on our current generation consoles are
compromised versions of what they could be. They are shells of what we want.
They are broken.
New consoles won’t fix this problem entirely, but the influx
of more powerful technology will bring much relief to the pressure surrounding
the industry. Here are a few things that next-gen systems will allow developers
to do more of without them simply adding more polygons.
It’s Not a Small
World After All
Skyrim is a pretty big place. Have you been there?
Definitely worth a visit as it is an impressive sight to behold. However
despite its size the game can feel amazingly small. Maybe it’s because the
largest cities only have a dozen or so residents living there. Maybe it’s because
the largest battles almost never involve more than ten characters at once.
Maybe it’s because so much of the world is empty aside from the occasional
wildlife. Maybe it’s because you can’t bring a friend in with you. Maybe it’s
because every room, house, and dungeon is hidden behind a loading screen. For
me, it’s actually a combination of all of them. The compromises Bethesda needed
to make in order to display such a large world with such an interesting AI
routine end up making a game both amazingly huge and yet so annoyingly small.
Next-gen systems will allow developers to not only make
larger worlds for us to explore, they will be able to fill the worlds we
already traverse with so much more life and believability. It is not so much
about having a bigger world so much as it is about having a better one.
NPCs with College
While many gamers will consider NPCs in a video game already
look pretty enough, I don’t think there are many that will disagree when I say
that most NPCs (allied and enemy alike) in a video game are about as smart as a
ham sandwich on rye. While there are exceptions to the rule, there are far more
examples of the Artificial Intelligence running most gaming NPCs being done
horribly wrong. Yes, much of it comes down to the talent of programmers behind
it and the resources used behind them, but the hardware we currently have
greatly limits where AI can grow. Far Cry 3 is a great example of the limits of
hardware. The original Far Cry was an amazing looking game, but most people
would not consider it to be an open world; you could see far, but your actual path
was pretty small and linear. However the enemies you faced were pretty smart.
If you were discovered they would fan out and hunt you in the jungle and were
capable of being fairly sneaky doing so. Contrast that to Far Cry 3, which was
a true open-world game. However the enemies were not nearly as smart. They have
almost all the intelligence of a bag of bricks, or a bad guy in Call of Duty.
The list of similar compromises includes most of the games that have come out
in the past couple years; a list filled with games sacrificing smarts for some
Next-gen consoles will allow developers to have many more
features than they currently have and still not make the NPC interactions
suffer because of it. Again, it doesn’t need to be a bigger, prettier world. It
just needs to be a better one.
Making Sir Isaac
Newton the Deadliest Sonuvabitch In Spa
If you don’t get the reference, don’t Google it. Get over
yourself and play Mass Effect. Simply put, physics is another place where
developers can expand themselves. There is still too much inconsistency between
games and from within a game itself to completely let this go. Too many games
live in worlds that the player cannot influence. Sure, not every game needs to
give you Battlefield powers to level walls, but why can’t I push a chair aside
if I get stuck? Is rag-doll physics the only way a character can die? How much
cooler of a physics puzzle can we build to unlock this temple? There is still much
room for improvement and it is something that can get better simply by giving
developers more room to work in and more power to do the lifting.
Next-gen systems with more power can very easily allow
developers room to ensure greater uses of their physics engines to provide more
believable worlds as well as new experiences and gameplay mechanics. Not
A Blue Pill
Our consoles are old. At their age it’s not uncommon for
them to experience trouble performing like they used to. These past two years
have shown us that our consoles just don’t have the same…virility they used to.
They need something to help give them back their old pep and…uh…confidence.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing to be done. The hardware is old and limited, and
there’s no amount of console-enhancement pills that can fix that problem.
Instead we need to wave farewell to the old consoles sitting in their lone tubs
near the beach and call up some new stud systems.
Look, games don’t perform like they used to on these
systems. Despite looking better than ever, they’re unable to maintain 30
frames-per-second through the whole game. There is screen tearing aplenty, they
have lesser draw distances, and they are riddled with bugs caused by coding
trying to do too much with the old hardware. I’m frankly tired of playing games
that drop below 20fps at multiple points throughout. I’m tired of the
horrendously long load times followed by delayed texture loading that makes
everything look like a blob of color. I’m just tired of games trying to ask
more than what the consoles can give.
If nothing else, new consoles will allow us to play many of
the same games we do now but perform so much better and more consistently. I
don’t need bigger experiences, I just want better experiences.
What’s Wrong with
Now that’s four pretty big examples of what developers can
do with next-gen video games that have nothing to do with making games LOOK
better. Each example is only asking for games to PLAY better. But really,
what’s wrong with wanting better looking games?
If you have spent any amount of time on the internet
then you’ve probably seen that meme. It’s funny, because it is true. Ask anyone
who works in computer graphics (or any other art form) and they’ll tell you the difference between a
good digital creation and a great one is the amount of detail in it. And
really, the amount of detail to go from one end to the other is not as great as
you think. By adding little bits of detail here and there they will eventually
add up to quite a lot more substance. Take the amazing Watch Dogs demo shown
off at this past E3. The reason it looked so good wasn’t because of some huge
leap in graphical capabilities. It was the way he walked, the fact his whole
coat moved fluidly as one piece and not a conglomeration of shifting textures,
it was the fantastic lighting engine, and the number of particle effects thrown
on the screen. It was several little pieces of detail that all added up to make
something look amazing. I think many of you will be surprised at how amazing
those few extra polygons are.
Well, there are a few reasons on why a more powerful console should get you excited. Hopefully I'll be able to stay on track and offer up more reasons to look forward to these new systems. In the mean time, what are the things you're most excited about with a more powerful console?