Sony is a company with a checkered history of controller innovation. Sure they hit a sweet spot with the basic original PS1 controller which just felt right in your hands, but the biggest tech additions to that model (analog sticks and vibration) were lifted from the successful innovations of the N64. Even then they were so unsure regarding the whole “Analog” thing, that the original model of that controller had a button that allowed you to disable it, and the first game to require the sticks didn’t come to the PS1 until 1999.
Also, as the SixAxis proved, when it comes to home brewed innovations the folks at Sony lag behind. It would seem they are really vested in changing that image with the PS4 controller, which may maintain the timeless structure of the Dual Shock model, but introduces a miniature touch area, a share button of somewhat ambiguous specific functionality, and LED lights on top similar to those on the PS Move.
While the true test of these features won’t really be applicable until developers have had a year or so to play around with it and explore their full benefits, the folks behind “Thief 4” have provided a small preview of what we can expect from this new controller, specifically as it relates to the LED bar which in the case of “Thief” will remain dark when your character is hidden, and light gradually as you become more and more exposed. They’ve also noted that the touchpad will be used for enhanced menu navigation, and the more accurate motion sensors allow them to incorporate bow aiming mechanics into it, as well as a motion controlled dash option.
They also spoke of incorporating a mechanic that would allow you to blow onto a controller to blow out candles, but that it might be removed if it is “too gimmicky.”
Granted this isn’t game changing stuff, but it does remind me of the first time I played “Tiger Woods” on the PS2, and noticed how the enhanced graphics actually allowed me to better read the course at a glance, thus improving the gameplay through a cosmetic upgrade. It’s a little touch to be sure, but its an interesting first step towards what appears to be a new day for Sony controller integration and innovation.
Though gamescon isn’t typically known for being a flashy spectacle of triple A games (that would be E3), it still has to be considered odd that on a day marked as the next major battle between Sony and Microsoft, the focus was instead on indie games.
Both companies devoted large parts of their presentation time to how the new consoles will handle indie games, with Microsoft’s approach being the bigger deal simply because no one had any idea exactly how the Xbox One would be releasing indie games, after some ominous announcements regarding their stance on the topic.
Long story short, anyone interested in developing indie games for the Xbox One needs to register with Microsoft to do so, and get their approval. If you get that approval, they provide you with the development kits to get started, which for an indie developer is a pretty big deal.
While the system will be limited at first, the idea is to use the feedback of these regulated developers to help build a system that will ideally let anyone who owns and Xbox One make games for it. The exact hows, whens, and whys of this transition remain something of a mystery, but developers who’ve already been working with the system seem excited about the potential of it, so even though the average gamer may have no idea what the hell any of this means, they apparently can expect some good games out of it.
Sony on the other hand has been continuing their keep it simple policy, and just seem to be inviting every major indie game of recent memory to be a part of the PS4. Highlights include “Rouge Legacy,” “The Binding of Issac,” and the upcoming “Hotline Miami 2.” It’s an approach that may lack ingenuity, but you have to appreciate its ability to be clearly explained in a few sentences.
Ultimately though it’s still too early to tell which of the two will be claim victory in the indie arms race, but it’s becoming more and more clear that indies are gaining some serious muscle in the gaming world, and the time has never been better to be a programmer or designer with a little means and the right idea.
Naturally that means the obvious winner would be the gamers who get to reap the benefits this movement towards encouraging original concepts in and encouraging fresh talent brings. So…yay us.
Next-gen gaming is a strange animal in its early days, as often times the best the last generation has to offer comes out right before (as we are very much seeing this year) whereas developers are still trying to get their footing when it comes to developing for the new systems, and as such don’t always produce experiences that truly exhibit the power and potential of these new machines.
There are exceptions of course (“Soulcalibur,” “Halo,” and “Mario 64” jump to mind) but more than often, the above conundrum tends to be the case.
My impressions of the pending next-gen fell in line with that problem, as while certain games shown certainly look to be incredible on their own full merits, in terms of graphical capabilities, I didn’t see anything from E3 or elsewhere that gave us a true visual idea of what we can expect.
However, it turns out that may have been the result of having to view blurry, second hand versions of all the footage, as Eurogamer has the 60FPS HD version of the “Metal Gear Solid 5” trailer, and it looks absolutely incredible.
Unfortunately the video is too high quality to be uploaded properly, but by proceeding here (or here for the 720p version) you can view it in all of its glory. Just know that it takes some respectable performance power to run them uninterrupted.
Now obviously some of the footage is from cinematics, and therefore not trustworthy when it comes to representing quality. However, the parts that are clearly gameplay show a level of detail and clarity that is simply not possible on this generation of console hardware. Looking at only the gameplay sections, you could make the reasonable argument that MGS5 is the most technically impressive game of all time.
Also, interestingly enough, the pursuit of 60 FPS has been around since the original Playsation days, but never became the industry standard for all releases due in large part to the rise of HD gaming making it more difficult, and somewhat less necessary. The team behind “MGS5” want to make it standard for their game though, which may indicate a shift in the rest of the industry is soon to follow in terms of AAA releases, and if so will only increase the amount of eye candy available for gamers in the years to come.
The winds of gaming are constantly shifting and changing, but whether it be the next generation bearing down on us, or the inevitable just happening to be occurring, it seems quite a few changes seem to happening at once when it comes to actual gameplay.
For our purposes, let’s call them trends.
Like any other medium, gaming is susceptible to trends now and then, but unlike, say, the world of fashion where they often pass by with such speed as to go unnoticed, trends in gaming tend to stay quite some time. If you’re looking for what to expect out of video games as we enter a new generation then, look no further than these five trends, which will soon dominate the industry.
5. Tablet and Smartphone Interactivity
Maybe the Wii U isn’t so farfetched after all, as supporters for using smartphone and tablet features with their games are a growing crowd.
This is most obvious through the Xbox One’s features, which make it clear Microsoft intends to use every entertainment avenue available to enhance the function of their system, however, this is also visible in individual titles like “Watch Dogs” and “The Division,” which are not only promising, but show some exciting and creative tablet support features as well.
It’s a growing tech world out there, and video games seem to be recognizing that as they head into a new generation.
4. Games Get Harder
This is more a notion of where we are going to be in a year from now, more than an idea with a host of tangible examples, but games are slowly getting harder.
Call it the “Dark Souls” effect, but suddenly it seems like even the normal modes of titles are presenting more of a challenge than they did just a few years ago. Whether it be in last year’s surprise hit “XCOM,” or this year’s GOTY leader “The Last of Us,” single player games are creeping closer to the 15 hour, or more, completion mark that was rare in even more recent major releases.
The only downside here is that this could lead to a greater emphasis in the freemium model as companies charge to help gamers get ahead. As long as some personal restraint is shown from gamer’s end though, this is a good thing.
3. Shooters Are Here to Stay
The shooter genre (the majority of which are of the FPS variety) represented the dominate game type of this last generation and, if this year’s E3 is any indication, that isn’t changing anytime soon.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as many of these shooters represented the best games of the show. Titles like “Titanfall,” “Destiny,” and “Killzone: Shadow Fall” all garnered well deserved attention, and show that FPS’s are not only still kicking, but have plenty of life left in them.
If you’re really down about this though, just know that plenty of developers on both the indie scene and elsewhere are coming up with a plethora of original ideas, seemingly to combat this movement. However, that’s just all the more evidence the shooter is still king.
2. Color Comes Back
In an effort to present a “maturity” of sorts, many games from the previous generation used muted tones of grey, black, and brown and little else. While it got the bleak mood across well enough, it also led to every game looking the same.
But between “Bioshock Infinite’s” bright and creative world of Columbia, “Far Cry: Blood Dragon’s” neon tints, and several titles at E3, it looks like the sun is slowly breaking through the grey, and color is being highlighted once more in the gaming world. Even “Killzone,” the poster child of the grey palate, seems to be integrating reds, blues, and more into its next title, serving as a harbinger of sort for the movement.
Maybe not everyone sees it the same way, but this is a promising trend that can only improve creativity.
1. The Apocalypse
Every once in a while a setting dominates gaming. It was WWII, then it was Sci-Fi military worlds, and then of course the last few years have shown a horde of zombie games flood the market.
Now though, it’s the apocalypse that’s primed to dominate the scene. “The Division,” “The Last of Us,” “Mad Max,” “Titanfall,” “Destiny,” and too many more to count all show some sort of view of the world after the one we know now has ended, and they are just the horsemen of this movement that is sure to change the landscape of gaming in a literal way.
Like many other trends, your interpretation may vary on this movement, but it does mean that from now on it’s the end of the world as we know it.
Sure we’ve looked at how the biggest game companies in the world fared at E3, but when you really get down to it, the expo is more about the individual games that will come to define the next year and far, far beyond.
While this year’s E3 may have been no different, it is unique from previous events in that there wasn’t that one game that clearly stood above all, but rather a host of intriguing titles that promise to bring a variety of incredible gaming experiences to this generation and the next.
That may be great for gamers, though not their wallets, but when trying to narrow down such a stacked field to only 10 titles, you open yourself up to a world of disagreement, self doubt, and the feeling that ultimately you forgot something. Nevertheless, through it all, these were the 10 best games on display at E3 2013.
10. Star Wars Battlefront – Ok, ok, this one wasn’t really on display long, and as such we know less about “Star Wars: Battlefront” than any other major game revealed at E3, but what we do know is it’s the unlikely revival of the highly underrated “Star Wars” online multiplayer series made by the same people who have been making some of those exceptional “Battlefield” games of late.
And you know what? That’s all we need. Get excited people, because this is really happening.
9. Rain - I’m a fan of unique concepts in games, because even if things don’t completely work out, you’re left with something that stands apart at the least.
In that spirit, “Rain” is already a success of some sort, as its invisible protagonist illuminated solely by the falling rain provided one of the more original visuals of the entire show, and promises to refresh the age old ideas of puzzles and platforming by building everything else around that design. “Rain” could very well be the next indie darling for the PS3 and gamers everywhere.
8. Sonic Lost Worlds - Of all the unlikely possibilities that could of occurred at E3, the biggest one that came true would have to be…well probably the return of “Battlefront.”
But right after that would be a Sonic game being the highlight of Nintendo’s showing. Sonic has had a rough fifteen years in terms of quality games, but “Sonic Lost Worlds” looks to erase that long dry spell in a big way. Sure it may take a design idea or two from “Mario Galaxy,” but with gameplay that fast and exciting, no Sonic fan (or soon to be Sonic fan) is likely to balk.
7. Evil Within – Ask any horror gaming fan what the problem with the genre is today, and they’ll likely tell you it’s the action heavy focus made popular by the revolutionary “Resident Evil 4.”
While many have promised to buck the trend, the very real gameplay shown of “Evil Within” looks to actually be doing just that. It takes all of the aspects required of a good horror game (a mix of scares, great environment, and crafty production) and builds it around an enticing story that looks to be ready to make good on that whole scaring the beejesus out of you thing gaming has been lacking of late.
6. Beyond Two Souls - We’ve known the next game from the developers of “Heavy Rain” was going to be a cinematic journey for some time now, but after the extended preview at E3 2013, it’s still clear we don’t have a grasp of exactly what it is.
While some are worried by the action heavy trailer, if Quantic Dreams can combine the subtle storytelling and literary quality character interactions of “Heavy Rain” with the surprisingly interesting action we saw in “Beyond’s” E3 preview, “Beyond Two Souls” could be much more than anyone was expecting, and make a serious game of the year run in one of the most stacked years in recent memory.
5. Titanfall - While no one is going to try to pretend the Xbox One had a great showing at E3, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t individual highlights during their presentation, particularly in the exclusives department.
Of those, “Titanfall” made the most noise, and with good reason. It’s combination of first person shooter and mech combat gameplay shown in a highly cinematic fashion (and set to some great music), was one of the more visceral reveals of the show, and even has gamers who’ve already sworn off the Xbox One keeping close tabs on it.
4. Destiny - While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Bungie a one trick pony, the developer hasn’t had much reason to veer from “Halo” in the last decade or so and flex their creative muscles.
With “Destiny” they appear to be making up for lost time by introducing some intriguing new ideas into the genre they re-shaped with “Halo” (console first person shooters), and have so far displayed a game that may be promising a lot, but continues to look better with every minute of gameplay shown. Should they be able to make good on their ideas, this could very well be the premier FPS franchise of the next generation.
3. The Division – Some games can generate hype by just breaking down their pedigree. “The Division,” an open world, online team based, post-apocalyptic shooter RPG, set in the ruins of New York, is one of those games.
But if buzzwords and genres alone don’t convince you, then surely its extended gameplay demonstration will, as it shows a massive online shooter in the style of an apocalyptic “Arma II” with enticing futuristic features like tablet support, but still based upon the classic idea that shooting with friends is fun. This is an incredibly ambitious idea that may soon quickly grow a rabid fanbase and move some consoles.
2. The Witcher 3 - The team behind the “Witcher” series seem to have their brains firing on a different level, as their ability to craft a massive RPG story composed of smaller moments, and built on a foundation of unique combat and gameplay has quickly turned the franchise into a runaway cult hit for hardcore RPG fans across all platforms.
With the “Witcher 3” it appears the team is looking to expand that fanbase by crafting a more accessible, but no less brilliant, masterpiece. While it takes some cues from competitors here and there, the “Witcher 3” is promising a unique open world experience with truly dynamic scenarios and environments that doesn’t sacrifice any of the gameplay that made the franchise what it is. At an E3 filled with the phrase “Next-Gen,” this looks to be one title that truly encompasses the idea.
1. Watch Dogs - “Watch Dogs” wasn’t just the surprise of E3 2012 because it was an unannounced original concept from a high profile developer, but because of just how good it looked even in its early stages.
A year later and not much has changed. Just when “Watch Dogs” looks to have shown all of its tricks, another gameplay demonstration comes out, and we are left to realize that there is not only more than meets the eye to Ubisoft’s next big thing, but that it all seems to be coming together to form something as creative as it is polished.
Even if “Watch Dogs” fails to live up to its lofty hype, it could be no worse than an incredibly entertaining game. As of now though, it appears to be much more than that, and the best game of E3 2013 to boot.