Is it Next Gen yet?

videogames8thgen

One benefit of this big life shift I’m still finding myself digging through; I’ve jumped into the deep end of the new console generation.  Aside from the 3DS and a few select releases I could pick up on last gen’s consoles, I’ve been mostly ignoring the immediate past of video games, but I’ve had to adapt to life on the second floor by replacing my old, massive CRT TV with something I could actually lift up the stairs, and now that I had a tv that could accept the signal and enough credit card rewards to get a new console for virtually free, things just lined up.  It was like God had decided that he’d been putting me through some rough times, so he’d toss me a PS4 and call it even.

For the first time in a good long while, I’ve actually been looking at the games that’ve been coming out.  Playing newly released games.  I’m in the now of videogames.  Well, at least as far as Fallout 4 reaches.  Aside from that, don’t have much of a collection.  Anyways, I’m paying attention to new releases for the first time, and I’ve not really been finding what I expected.  I’ve been through a few generation handovers in my day.  I remember, how the games are, I remember the wonder and adjustment of actually being able to do new things in your games.  Sure, every console has made better looking games, and that’s been the big selling point, but visuals only take you so far.  Where the new console generations have truly excelled is by offering the power to create new types of games, new gaming experiences.

And they’ve all had games ready within the first couple months to really highlight that.  The 32/64 bit era had Mario 64 lead the charge by making the third dimension work, and work fluidly, for the first time in a long while, followed by Final Fantasy 7 demonstrate the cinematic and storytelling potential newly available to the medium. The PlayCubeBox era had a couple of games you could point to for this, but for me, it was Pikmin, which showcased the console’s ability to compute numerous actors in a wide area, keeping the span and amount of moving parts in its RAM going in a way that was not even thought of in the last generation.  Last gen brought us both the Wii, with Rayman Raving Rabids and WarioWare: Smooth Moves bringing to light all the potential uses of the Wiimote, and the PS360, where the Xbox’s Dead Rising demonstrated the new generation’s power in being able to process and compute so many independent parts of a game in much the same way Pikmin did a generation ago.

For this generation, even after two years, I’m not sure what games we have to lean on, that truly demonstrates the new consoles’ capabilities over the old.  WiiU aside.  There’s plenty I’ve seen that takes advantage of the WiiU’s capabilities, to the point that I was rather torn as to which console to pick up.  There’s a lot of games to show the new levels of detail available with the PS4 and Xbox One, which is nothing short of impressive, but as I said, visuals only go so far in creating an experience.  I haven’t seen a lot of the new generation’s games yet, and there’s still plenty for me to consider before making any sort of judgement, but still, I find myself wondering if we truly needed a new console generation.  Visuals aside, have the new machines really expanded the tools available for developers, or could these games just as easily have ended up on last gen’s consoles?

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6 responses to “Is it Next Gen yet?

  1. For a while, there were demonstrable differences between each generation, but there was bound to be a point where the technology plateaus. As it stands, if we haven’t reached that saturation point, we’re pretty close. It’s because the new leap, while somewhat impressive from a technological standpoint, doesn’t afford new styles of gameplay, or if it does, then those who have the technology have yet to utilize it to its full potential. Compare to say, the leap from 2D to 3D in the mid-nineties, which proved to be one of the most significant revolutions in the medium’s history.

    It doesn’t help that, at some point in the 2010s, the AAA industry completely lost it. This new console generation has seen the cessation of many beloved franchises and the talent leaving due to the publishers’ (or even their own company’s) increasingly draconian policies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know that we’ll be treated to more masterpieces in the future. It’s just that there’s a distinct possibility that a majority of the creative works will be emerging from the indie scene or sources that are often overlooked within the AAA industry. It might be like what happened to the music industry in the nineties when indie acts started getting all the critical acclaim in favor of mainstream pop artists – a trend that continued into the next two decades.

    • That’s a really succinct way of saying it. We’ve definitely been seeing diminishing returns in advances in video games hardware for a good long while now. I’m sure you’ve seen this picture before, but it does an excellent job of illustrating just how difficult it is for new graphics technology, even as hugely powerful as it’s getting, to make a huge difference in visuals. There’s only so much difference you can make with more polygons and resolutions alone. And that’s what we’re running into here. No mistake, the new games are gorgeous, but developers need to be able to stretch in more than just graphics to truly improve in the new console generation.

      As far as I can tell, the new consoles are able to process a lot more details and fit in more objects in their visuals, and that seems to be what devs are really taking flight on, now. That’s definitely one way to work around the polygon ceiling and actually deliver better looking games. If you can’t make things any smoother, getting them more detailed is certainly another valid way to make things look good. That’s got to be incredibly expensive to build, however, and I’m not sure the financial reward is matching the increase in labor here. I worry that the AAA industry is going to be even less sustainable than it was before. Which is one of the reasons it’s so good that the indies are becoming such a large presence, because otherwise, it would not be fun times as the AAA sector had to reset itself.

      I’ve been playing Yakuza 5 on the PS3 lately. A last gen game. A very good looking last gen game. What I’ve seen so far of the current gen do not look all that far a step above it. In fact, Yakuza 5 actively looks better than many of the Remasters and Definitive Editions I’ve seen. So there’s not that far to go with visuals alone. It’ll take some creativity to really use the potential in these new consoles, and as you touched on, that’s probably more to be found in the indies and small publishers than in the ever-troubled AAA industry.

  2. One thing I can commend the new systems on is that they handle patches/downloads better. It’s less cumbersome than with the last gen systems. Gaming wise I agree that we haven’t seen much aside from flashier graphics.

    • That’s really good to know. That was always one of the things that really irritated me about last gen’s consoles, where every time I wanted to buy something digitally or occasionally when I picked up something new, I’d have to just sit on my thumbs for an hour while it updated before it’d let me actually play the game I was buying.

      Hey, given that you’ve been playing on the console for a while, would you have any recommendations for the PS4 outside of Disgaea, Bloodborne, Tales of the Borderlands, and Until Dawn, eg the ones you’ve already highly rated?

      • Dunno. I don’t own that many PS4 games and you have just listed off all my faves 🙂 If you don’t mind shorter titles I also enjoyed Transformers and Dust an Elysian Tale. This year should be good for the system if Persona 5 comes out.

      • Don’t think I haven’t been hotly anticipating that. If you see any missing persons reports on me about the time Persona 5 comes out, well, you can probably figure out where I’ll be then.

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