What is "next-gen" gaming?

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  • Monstro 17 Jun 2013 12:26:38 23 posts
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    [Brief disclaimer - I'm aware that there's a discussion or two on next-gen consoles; but this is a more general topic about next-gen gaming]

    I've been reading a lot lately about next-gen games. Obviously - 80% of the gaming press is harping on about the XBone and PS4 (and quite rightly). Partly inspired by Rich Stanton's article, I've suggested that the new consoles won't represent truly next-generation gaming, but indie games might.

    But since writing that, I've been thinking. What do we even mean by next-generation? Is it simply a hardware cycle for major consoles? Or can we identify major shifts in gameplay trends and mark those as generations? For example, Gears of War totally defined how to make a cover-based third-person shooter. Shooting games haven't been the same since. Of course, there are other influences on modern shooters: Halo's recharging health and the demise of health-packs, for example. Those trends seem to apply across different hardware and, graphics aside, I think modern shooters play very differently to those developed ten years ago. We've seen a generational leap in the way we shoot aliens in the face, and that shift has little or nothing to do with the underlying hardware.

    So I don't think the definition of "next-gen" should be limited to console releases, but should apply across gaming as an art-form. I'd be really interested to read what other generational shifts in gameplay EG readers can identify, and whether those are hardware driven or not.

    I think gameplay innovation is more important than hardware evolution. Of course, there's scope for game-changing hardware - like Valve's Biometrics or Oculus Rift. But even then, the hardware's only as good as the software. Games themselves need to innovate. Will we see revolutionary AI that transforms the single-player experience? Will we see new levels of immersion and interaction? Will we see better stories, or more meaningful emotional journeys?

    The indie game scene is doing some really interesting stuff (I wrote about that, too), and I think that's where real next-generation gaming will come from.

    What do EG readers expect from next-gen gaming? What sort of experiences would they like to be having in three year's time, for example?

    Edited by Monstro at 12:29:42 17-06-2013
  • drip 17 Jun 2013 12:51:40 4,608 posts
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    Monstro wrote:

    We've seen a generational leap in the way we shoot aliens in the face, and that shift has little or nothing to do with the underlying hardware.
    I disagree in that modern shooters have become much more cinematic, which was possible mainly thanks to faster hardware, with more realistic visuals, and all the fancy effects.

    From what I've seen on this E3, I have the impression that many games are moving to open-world environments now, which current-gen struggled with, mostly due to the lack of RAM, I guess. I'm certainly happy about this.

    Indie games on consoles were introduced by this gen and its online stores, and most of them are hardly pushing current-gen hardware limits already, so the only question imo is going to be how much of a difference Sony's "embracing" indie devs will make.

    Other than that, I think we'll have to wait until something new happens we maybe didn't expect.
  • dominalien 17 Jun 2013 12:53:49 7,030 posts
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    Yes, better graphics, not much else.

    Oh, and "appealing to a broader audience". Never forget that.

    PSN: DonOsito

  • Monstro 17 Jun 2013 13:06:35 23 posts
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    @DrStrangelove Certainly the appearance of shooters has become more cinematic. That's a trend which has applied as far as RPGs (Mass Effect) and turn-based strategy (XCOM). Where games once borrowed heavily from books, now they borrow heavily from cinema. And I certainly agree that that's largely a technology driven change.

    But I'm not sure that has much bearing on gameplay. Has it made stories any better? Perhaps they're a little more excitingly told. Has it changed core mechanics? Perhaps headshots are a little more exciting. I don't think the dramatisation of games is a generational leap. But maybe I'm wrong.

    I do agree that there's a trend towards open-world environments - that's evident in the current gen, and will likely increase. More ram, more memory, and larger development teams help that. But open world games have very different pacing and story potential towards more linear games. I was overwhelmed and distracted by Arkham City, could barely play it. So on a personal note, I hope the industry doesn't lean too far that way!
  • Deleted user 17 June 2013 13:11:46
    I think in the coming generation it will about how real-time lighting and shadows can make worlds more immersive. That combined with much better textures. Even on MK8 on the WiiU you can see how improved textures and lighting make a difference over this gen.

    Also being watched whilst masturbating.
  • drip 17 Jun 2013 13:28:18 4,608 posts
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    Monstro wrote:

    But I'm not sure that has much bearing on gameplay. Has it made stories any better? Perhaps they're a little more excitingly told. Has it changed core mechanics? Perhaps headshots are a little more exciting. I don't think the dramatisation of games is a generational leap. But maybe I'm wrong.
    I do think it has affected gameplay, and I'm not saying it's good. There's more cutscenes, interactive cutscenes, QTE's, extreme on-railness in many shooters, etc. The more they relied on cinematic qualities, the less most relied on solid gameplay. Imo the latter lost importance because the cinematic stuff was easier able to distract from the actual game.

    Whatever the "actual game" is, because movies seem to be an integral part to many games now. The lines have blurred.

    Edited by DrStrangelove at 13:31:37 17-06-2013
  • Monstro 17 Jun 2013 17:02:49 23 posts
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    @DrStrangelove Good point! You're quite right - cinematic games DO play differently to non-cinematic ones. More often than not, anyway.

    Totally agree, though, that a more cinematic experience isn't necessarily a better one. There's value in highly cinematic games, but I hope the future of gaming has more up its sleeve than that.

    That's one of the benefits of the indie community - being like a film isn't an option with their budgetary constraints, which means they usually focus on gameplay innovation. Well, that or just re-make their childhood favourites...
  • beastmaster 17 Jun 2013 17:06:45 11,806 posts
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    Old PC gaming tech :-)

    The Resident Evil films. I'm one of the reasons they keep making them.

  • Dirtbox 17 Jun 2013 17:12:15 78,845 posts
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    Tighter control over Investor's IPs and greater profits.

    +1 / Like / Tweet this post

  • RobTheBuilder 17 Jun 2013 17:30:09 6,521 posts
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    Dirtbox wrote:
    Tighter control over Investor's IPs and greater profits.
    Actually I'd clarify it as:

    Higher profits per game, but less games sold = lower profits
  • drip 17 Jun 2013 17:57:20 4,608 posts
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    Monstro wrote:

    Totally agree, though, that a more cinematic experience isn't necessarily a better one.
    I hate it personally, for me it's one of the worst developments in gaming at all. It's great if some games have great stories and intriguing cinematics, but imo the best shooters were so good because they didn't care about anything but what's the greatest fun to play.

    Also, thanks to being more like movies, and aiming more at home cinema casual players, games have become flatter imo, more on-rails, more forgiving (bullet sponge, recharging health, slow-mo, etc.), and slower. Slower probably mainly because gamepads have become the standard controller, which disabled the much faster mouse aiming from the days when the PC was the platform to play FPS games on.
  • LeoliansBro 17 Jun 2013 17:59:17 44,746 posts
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    Well, given the 'gen' refers to consoles, I think we could have stopped this at gray's comment 5 hours ago.

    LB, you really are a massive geek.

  • Monstro 17 Jun 2013 19:01:02 23 posts
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    @LeoliansBro That's a boringly narrow definition, though.

    Still, if there's anything which can herald a tangible change in the way we play, consume and even develop games; surely it's the release of two new major hardware (and indeed software) platforms. And I maintain that it's reasonable to equate a new console generation and a new gaming generation to the same thing.

    Besides, I've already discovered one cynical crank in the shape of DrStrangeLove. Who knows who else could creep out of the woodwork?
  • Stockings 17 Jun 2013 19:19:10 1,104 posts
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    The original FEAR had revolutionary AI, but no FPS has had as good since.
    Maybe great AI is too hard to program even on next gen or whatever gen.
  • RobTheBuilder 17 Jun 2013 19:20:35 6,521 posts
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    @DrStrangelove those cinematic aims also drag costs of production up with (in most cases) no improvement, and often a major damage to the game experience
  • Monstro 17 Jun 2013 21:55:20 23 posts
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    @Stockings The original FEAR pretended to have good AI. Lovely bit of sleight of hand from Monolith - make players think your AI is very good, and people will react as if it's as good as they think. In fact, all that clever flank-and-retreat stuff was a few very basic metrics communicated to the player through radio broadcasts. But we nought it, myself included.

    Not that FEAR had bad AI. It was a great game with really charged combat. And to be fair, it was one of very few games to make AI a headline feature. If only more titles tried it!
  • PazJohnMitch 17 Jun 2013 23:29:31 8,617 posts
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    Deleted user wrote:

    Also being watched whilst masturbating.
    Not only will MS watch they will undoubtedly record it!
  • Deleted user 17 June 2013 23:32:02
    What is next gen
    baby don't hurt me
    don't hurt me
    no more
  • Khanivor 17 Jun 2013 23:32:45 41,121 posts
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    Without the capabilities of new hardware you don't have a generational shift, just a maturing.
  • Monstro 18 Jun 2013 08:53:30 23 posts
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    @PazJohnMitch And then sell it on, presumably (with full DRM protection, of course)
  • Monstro 18 Jun 2013 08:57:05 23 posts
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    @Khanivor That doesn't have to be true. Software technology - like Havoc Physics or procedural animation - can lead to a generational shift in games, too, and often on current-gen hardware.

    I believe that new AI, new genres and new story-telling techniques will be the hallmarks of next-generation gaming. Not fancy new boxes.

    EDIT: oops, somehow posted a duplicate and a really silly typo...

    Edited by Monstro at 09:37:48 18-06-2013
  • Monstro 18 Jun 2013 08:57:05 23 posts
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    Post deleted
  • Stockings 18 Jun 2013 09:03:51 1,104 posts
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    Pffff better AI I wish.
    Stealth games have had the same horrible AI since their inception, and you say FEAR conned us in to thinking it was great AI, but why haven't other FPS games conned us as well?
    That's why I think great AI must be a programming problem rather that a tech problem, surely people could have made great AI on PS3/360 and the PC ?

    Edited by Stockings at 09:05:14 18-06-2013
  • LeoliansBro 18 Jun 2013 09:09:05 44,746 posts
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    This is a broken premise, isn't it? The OP is really asking 'what do we expect next from gaming?' and has got tangled up in the idea that 'next gen' refers to something other than generations of consoles.

    LB, you really are a massive geek.

  • drip 18 Jun 2013 09:13:33 4,608 posts
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    imho AI hasn't evolved a lot since Half-Life 1. It's just that no one seems to bother. Quite the contrary, they make zombie games so that they don't need any AI to speak of at all.

    Funny enough, I think Doom's pretty primitive AI works rather well. Its random nature means that in those labyrinthian maps it can be quite unpredictable when and where you'll encounter those enemies that are walking around trying to find you. And that's my problem with most AI's, they're so fucking predictable.
  • UncleLou Moderator 18 Jun 2013 09:16:53 35,800 posts
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    Monstro wrote:
    @Stockings The original FEAR pretended to have good AI.
    What is the difference between good AI and AI that just pretends to be good? AI as we know it is a pretence in the first place.

    Mandatory pdf

    Edited by UncleLou at 09:18:27 18-06-2013
  • Rodney 18 Jun 2013 09:20:00 1,918 posts
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    Monstro wrote:
    @Stockings The original FEAR pretended to have good AI. Lovely bit of sleight of hand from Monolith - make players think your AI is very good, and people will react as if it's as good as they think. In fact, all that clever flank-and-retreat stuff was a few very basic metrics communicated to the player through radio broadcasts. But we nought it, myself included.

    Not that FEAR had bad AI. It was a great game with really charged combat. And to be fair, it was one of few games to make AI a headline feature. If only more titles tried it!
    All AI is smoke and mirrors, no?

    until they create artificial consciousness, AI will always just be a load of scripts and IF / THEN statements, that's what AI is. If it fools you into thinking it is real intelligence then its good AI by definition

    Edited by Rodney at 09:22:21 18-06-2013
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