The direction of core gaming
Aside from the major graphical improvements we’ve already seen in games like Star Wars 1313 and Watch Dogs, expect those same visually impressive games to be broader in scale and scope.
Graphics seems like such a stale direction for core gaming to be heading in.
The iPad and other mobile devices are already offering graphical capabilities that can stand in for core gaming at a pinch, and as they’re improving faster (Due to diminishing returns on processing power at the top level) that’s going to be a losing battle for consoles and the PC.
What I suspect the iPad and smart phones can’t provide is both complex graphics AND game mechanics. While you see a lot of visually impressive titles on mobile devices, most of them are still simple in execution.
Having watched the E3 presentations for Star Wars 1313, Watch Dogs, and The Last of Us, there’s something all three have in common: They’ve got impressive graphics and set pieces, but they’re relatively simple in execution.
What I’d like to see is processing power used for more dynamic AI and emergent game play. Naughty Dog has said that their E3 demo of The Last of Us wasn’t scripted, but I doubt the scene where Ellie throws a brick at an adversary is entirely dynamic.
The same is true of the scene where Watch Dogs’ main character causes a car crash just at the right moment to trap his target, towards the end of the demo. This reeks of scripting, and every time I see a scene like this I roll my eyes. It’s no longer surprising or enjoyable when events like this occur in video games.
So why not cut back on the graphics and scale down the game world? Why not use the extra processing power the next generation will potentially afford developers to instead create exciting and surprising sandboxes that are capable of capturing the player because they have no idea what will happen next?
And no, I’m not talking about sandboxes a la Grand Theft Auto. You don’t need an entire city to be able to give a game an input and be shocked by its output. Why not create a first person shooter that is linear in level design but allows the player to carve a hundred different paths through the enemy lines? Making explosions prettier doesn’t change the fact that you know when they’ll happen the next time you run through the level.