Friday, March 15, 2013
PS4 First Impression & The Future of Gaming
On Wednesday February 20th Sony officially announced the Playstation 4. I think it came as no surprise since so much talk had been going on about it, especially since they previously stated "Big announcement on February 20th!" What else would it be? The Move 2 or something? Anyway, so it has been announced but my feelings are mixed. Not because of the hardware itself (looks like it'll do some pretty cool stuff) but where I am in my life and what I already have with gaming, not to mention where gaming seems to be going.
Growing up I was far more interested in the future of gaming more than the present and past of gaming. Slowly over the years that interest has transitioned and now I'm far more interested in catching up on what I missed out on over the years. Actually, right now a lot of my focus is on the Sega Dreamcast cause it is my all time favorite console and am disappointed in myself that I once got rid of it. I am now not only catching up with the many many games I missed out on there but also rebuilding my previous collection I had on that console among other consoles. Also with the introduction of digital downloads on classic titles through PSN, Virtual Console, and GOG I am rebuilding and building a collection I used to have and now will have through these services. Recently PSN had a sale on Final Fantasy games. I walked away from that sale purchasing Final Fantasy I, II, V, VI, and VIII. On top of the fact that I already have VII and IX, which alone could cover me for the rest of the year for gaming. But those aren't the only cases. I got a PSN gift card for Christmas and bought other classics such as Silent Hill, Arc the Lad I and II, and Xenogears. On top of this I've got a couple of Wii games I'm yet to finish up. But lastly the biggest one is PC gaming. Since getting a new laptop a little over a year ago that can actually play games (I used to have a mac) I took advantage of the services available. Since then I have used these services to pick up some older games I want to re-visit, such as the Myst franchise, and Duke Nukem 1, 2, and 3D. And then to pick up some older games I never got to before, such as Phantasmagoria and Theme Hospital. Also the Steam outlet has given me an affordable passage into the modern age of PC gaming. Through that I've picked up titles like Portal 1 and 2, Alice Madness Returns, Borderlands, Bioshock 1 and 2, and the list goes on. Frankly if I listed all of my games I currently own that would be quite a list so I'll get a move on.
That previous paragraph is enough for me to not worry about the Playstation 4 for at least quite some time. If I wanted to (or had the will power) I could make a promise to myself to play through all the games I currently own or any of the games I get in the future before I can pick up a Playstation 4. Essentially literally running out of games to play because I've done everything. Now by that time there will probably already be a new version with all the kinks worked out and at a lowered price, too! Or Playstation 5 will be on the horizon considering how many games I currently have and how long some of them are (I'm somewhat scared of the day I dedicate myself to The Witcher). But I think a part of it is age. I'm not saying I've grown out of video games (I don't know if I ever will). I still play video games almost every day if I have the time. That's the key word, if. If I don't have enough time to play what I've already invested my money in why would I buy a whole new console to add onto that pile? I at least need to lower the number of games I have left to finish. Not only that but I'm at a time in my life where I can't easily afford to drop anywhere from $400-$600 at launch on a new console plus a game or two. Don't get me wrong, I am definitely interested. Playstation is the only company I truly follow anymore in the console wars (I could care less about Wii-U but would still buy it before the XBox 720 or whatever the hell they're going to call it). I just don't have as much time as I used to like the rest of you to get excited about and enjoy a new console like this one. Now time and money isn't the only factor. I definitely have some commentary on the direction gaming is going, too, and in a way it is making me less excited about the future than anything else.
I really hope I don't come off as a bitter old man where all he thinks about is, "Back in my day you see we had [insert something old here] and we liked it that way." I am still very interested in new games that came out and are coming out. When the God of War Ascension demo came out I played through that and I was blown away by it. Not only that but I am very excited to see what Watch Dogs has going for it cause it looks like it may be really innovative. Really the only difference between the gamer in me now and the gamer in me back in the day is time and money. I ironically have more money I could spend on games if I wished but I don't have the time to play them. The exact opposite of when I was a kid of course. This is not a unique problem with this hobby as you can figure. My interest is still very much there, however I have chosen to not involve myself as much because I know I can't afford a lot of them and won't have the time, either, so I try and concentrate on specific titles instead. Did you see the word try in there? This is why I rarely buy anything on day 1 anymore. Actually, I think the last game I did buy on day 1 was Star Wars The Force Unleashed back in late 2008. This is also why I cancelled my Playstation Magazine subscription a couple years ago after 10+ years of subscribing. No sense getting excited and tempted for games I can't always afford or have the time to play. If I don't have the time I may as well wait for the price drop so I can get the same game, only later, but for anywhere from half to a quarter the original price. I pinch many pennies and it has worked out for me. It's how I obtained a movie collection of around 700 on a super tight budget. I know where to look and how to shop for these things.
I also seem to enjoy video games somewhat more than even when I was younger. Cause you see, in many senses video games have gotten so much better. They're bigger than ever, they look better than ever, there is so much variety these days, and there is a better chance that obscure imports will be coming our way. Back in the day I would have never imagined getting titles like Catherine or Tokyo Jungle or Katamari Damacy if it weren't for the direction the market has gone, and download services are only helping in that respect. Also we'll probably never have to worry about something similar that happened with Final Fantasy when the games were first being released. To the few of you that made it this far and don't know what I'm talking about, Square released Final Fantasy 1, 4, and 6 initially but labelled them as 1, 2, and 3. We wouldn't get 2, 3, and 5 until years later after 7 was released in the late 90s. Now I'm sure things like this may still be happening but not on as huge of a franchise. Also with the internet I'm sure fans of said franchise would make it very, VERY aware to the publishers.
Outside of the marketing side of things since games are bigger than ever and look better than ever. We don't have to deal with clunky visuals as much anymore. 3D is now well polished and doesn't require trick 3D ala Duke 3D or Doom by using sprites. Also with polygons the characters no longer look like a hunk of square blocks put together (Virtua Fighter) or sausage links (Metal Gear Solid). Granted a lot of these problems were somewhat fixed by the early 2000s, but it still keeps on looking and feeling better year by year, giving bigger and better variety.
Another thing I love about modern gaming is the console itself. I love the fact that on my PS3 I can play my games, movies, do streaming, and even store photos and music if I wanted to. And this is all in one box. Honestly the only time I ever use anything other than my PS3 for movies or games is if I want to play a Wii or Dreamcast game, or watch a movie in the bedroom where we have a separate DVD player. Game consoles have essentially because home computers but with specific limited purposes. All I can say is that I love this because of everything they do now. As much as I love having a physical copy of a game, it is so convenient (and sometimes cheaper) to have a bunch of digital download games on my PS3 hard drive instead of my shelf so I can make more room for my DVDs (Those I always get the physical copy of). I can just throw on the system, click on the game in the specific folder it's organized under, and boom I'm off an running. Also no worries about the disc not playing, too! Then in terms of price that's where the real charm is. With the Final Fantasy games I picked up recently, granted they were on sale, but even at their original prices it is less than tracking down the original discs. An even better deal came up not too long ago on an old PS1 game, Persona 2. The price for the digital copy is $10, the original disc is very rare and can go as high as $50, $60, or maybe even higher in value (In some instances as high as $100!). So buying it this way is a steal. A game I do plan on picking up eventually (probably will pretty soon).
Frankly I think in many respects that gaming is better than ever and in time I imagine the Playstation 3 will go down as one of my favorite consoles of all time.
However as expected I definitely have some concerns over the direction of gaming in the near future. One of my first thoughts is the social networking and other related online aspects and how it seems to be forced upon instead of made an option.
Being someone that only really uses the internet on his PS3 to download games and stream movies I know I'm not the best person to talk to about this. Based on what I've heard the PS3 does have a pretty terrible online setup when it comes to tracking down friends or pulling together games. The closest experience I have to this is playing through many games of Warhawk and even that was all me jumping in on games in progress. I never hosted one. On the flipside I've heard that XBox Live is pretty incredible in what it does for online, but again since I don't really do online it's hard for me to care. But what I keep noticing is more and more games having a much more present online experience. Is this good? I would say so to those who are interested in it. However I feel like it's presenting itself is in games where it doesn't need to be present. At least as a default.
One game that comes to mind is Tokyo Jungle. A game I've talked about a few times including my full on review from a few months back. That game somewhere along the way decided that it needed to be connected to the internet at all times despite the fact that it's a single player game. Every time I boot up the game I need to scroll through a terms of agreement thing to say yes to. Not a big deal, only takes a few extra seconds. But then whenever I play through survival mode it does something that's an even bigger pain. Whenever I die in survival mode it goes to another screen to count up my score. First off it takes a bit too long for it to go through this process, then when I continue to the next screen it feels the need to connect me to the leaderboard to see that my score is in 17,000th place that day/week, which follows up with me needed to exit out of that screen before I can start up another game. I guess I just don't know why it automatically has the leaderboard come up and forces you to go to it whenever you lose in survival mode. Why not just have an extra menu that you can go to when you want to see how you've done? You know, for the people that actually care! I know I don't because no matter how good I am at a game there will always be someone who is ten thousand times better than I am.
A minor problem compared to other things. And by other things I mean a big problem. I think you might be able to see where this is going. That's right, Diablo III. I've never been a fan of the franchise but I know it's story as of late fairly well. You see, Blizzard is one of the biggest PC gaming developers on the freaking planet. They have roughly the same number of franchises as Nintendo does where they keep on cranking out more into those over and over again and they still seem to shit into a golden toiled and eat breakfast with a diamond spoon. Also it had been over a decade not counting expansions since the last Diablo came out so this has been highly anticipated. Now despite all this, on the night it was released, Diablo III had so much activity going on online that the servers crashed and many people couldn't even play the game for some time (in gamer time a few hours may as well be a few weeks). But beyond that initial crash there was still a lot of trouble with handling everyone who was going online to play. You wanna know why this was such a huge issue and why not everyone could play even by themselves? The game required you to be connected to the internet even to play the single player game. I've heard there's some social aspect to the single player mode but I just find it a bit odd to the need to be online no matter what. It seems like there should at least be a function where they don't need to be online since stuff like this can happen. Why is it so necessary? What's the point? Why not make a mode that IS single player? For more information on this in a more recent example look up the newest Sim City.
I guess that's one of the biggest beefs I have with current and the future of gaming. The social aspect. I have no problems with it being present but I feel like it's being pushed onto gamers all over the board when they may not necessarily want it. I don't know about you but I tend to play video games as an escape. It's where my introverted side comes alive. I can't really say I even play two player games with people in the same room much anymore, and if I do it's something like Wii Sports or the occasional bout in Marvel vs Capcom 2 when I have a friend over. And again, I'm not against multi-player or social networking in games. I just wish that there was an easier option to avoid them for a better experience for the loners in gaming. This is why I don't play MMORPGs (and yes I have tried a couple, they're not for me). I prefer taking on the adventure by myself. It brings the scope into my experience and makes me really feel like the hero. When I anywhere from a few other adventurers all the way up to a whole city's worth of adventurers along with me I don't really feel like I'm the hero, I feel like a sidekick. It kills the sense of excitement and adventure to someone like me. In those games I feel like I'm trying to be the life of the party at a party I wasn't invited to where I don't know anybody. So that's pretty much the reason I don't play MMOs, that and because I don't feel a strong sense of story with them. Just feels like a series of fetch quests and grinding upon grinding with no closure. I like closure. That's why I wasn't exactly excited when I found out there will be more Metal Gear Solid games. Just doesn't feel necessary. But maybe I'll pull that rant up in a future post.
No there is a partial element of this MMO feel in an excellent PS3 exclusive, Demon's Souls, a single player action RPG. The game connects to the network because there is a small element of social networking within the game. There isn't multiplayer or anything like that. What this game has is more along the lines of tips and warnings. Players can drop messages in areas that may prove to be a bit difficult for someone who doesn't know what's coming up. This can be helpful but the game is so difficult you'll probably just learn on your own anyway. Also, when you get to an area where another player died it shows their death animation. Again suggesting what is coming. These hints and warnings help to a point but I never felt that it was enough of a game changer that I couldn't live without it. I would actually prefer they weren't there or I had more of an option against them because it goes back to the MMO reasons for not enjoying parts of a game. It gives me that sense that I'm not the one in power here. I love that game but I can't stand the online elements. It feels so unnecessary. If I want tips I'll go to the internet. My laptop is usually near me when playing games.
Now I know not every gaming company is jumping on board with social interactions, or feel as strongly about it. Nintendo seems to enjoy it to a point but from what I've heard makes it incredibly difficult to use on the Wii, Wii-U, and the DS and 3DS. Something with friend codes or what not? I don't know. The only online I've done is checking out their online shop for digital downloads. It just feels that everything is slowly migrating toward online. Just don't think it is something that is necessary to be required.
Okay, this is going to sound like I'm a bitter old man but remember when a game console was just a game console? Sounds like I'm contradicting myself because I was just singing a lot of praise for what the PS3 does and how much I like to make out with it because of it. But there's a sense of enjoyment and simplicity when I put in a cartridge or disc, pop on the power button, and there's the game. No long startup, no updates, no dashboard to deal with initially (unless you want/need to for some consoles), no need to get connected online, and especially no DLC to get the full experience! The game was all there and it was ready for you right off the bat. The last console I believe was true blue to this method was the Sega Dreamcast. It had no extra bells and whistles outside a pretty badass memory card. It played games and the games it had, had it's features right there on the disc. Nothing else to it other than that. Yes it did have online but that was mostly for Phantasy Star Online and other select games.
Maybe I'm just tired of going through long processes just to play a game. Whenever I want to play something on my PS3, whether it's a modern or retro game, there's a process. First I need to power on the console. I wait for it to load up. Then I navigate over to the game I want to play and hit start. But that's not always it. If I'm playing a modern game I may need to log in online first. Then the unskippable screens with the names of the 18 developers and distributors have to come up for you to see. Then the game loads up to the menu unless there's an unskippable opening video for the game. Now I realize that was a bit of an exaggeration but there are games out there that do have similar experiences. One game in particular that comes to mind is Metal Gear Solid 4. One of the best games on the PS3 but it has it's issues with loading and getting to the gameplay. It's far from "pick up and play." As a matter of fact you'll be waiting for a while when you first start playing the game. First there's the initial startup of the PS3 followed by selecting the game in the XMB. Then you may encounter an update for the game so that could take anywhere from a couple minutes to quite a few depending on your connection or the size of the update. After that the game does the initial installment (never mind the full install or the installment at the beginning of each chapter, depending on how you proceed) and that takes around 8-10 minutes. Then you start up the game. The opening is pretty long as with the other cutscenes in this game. There is minor interactivity in the opening but basically from the time you put in the disc for the first time to the moment you start actually playing the game as it is supposed to be presented is around 30 minutes or more (all estimated times).
Again I am obviously exaggerating some of this but as a whole this is true. The games that are the quickest and easiest to boot up are the actual retro games, meaning either the original discs of, or the roms of Playstation games from back in the day. That's because these are unchanged unlike some of the "proper" re-released that are optimized for playback specifically on an HDTV. Lots of times there are specific developers that will re-work it. Whereas the rom are just that. Roms. Sony went back into their archives and released those roms back onto the network allowing for download. When I boot up my digital copy of Jet Moto it is literally the same thing if I had the original disc that came out back in 1995. On the flipside when I boot up a game on my Dreamcast I pop in the disc, hit the power button, I can choose to sit through or skip the opening logo, and then it's maybe a few skipable developer/publisher screens and then I'm pretty much right at the main menu. It's a quick and easy process and it's something I've got to say I miss. Is it nostalgia? Probably, yeah. But gaming was like this for three decades before consoles became a combination of things instead of just a gaming console.
One thing I realized recently that has me less excited than usual has to do with how the new consoles are being put together. It always seemed from generation to generation there was some sort of big upgrade or big reason to get excited for a new console. Granted for many years that was something as simple as better graphics and sound, but there was usually enough of a difference to set the previous one apart. Take the Playstation for example. First console is a pretty standard console. It plays disc based games in 2D and 3D environments and it also plays regular music CDs. Not much else to say about it besides the actual games that were released for it. Then came the Playstation 2. The PS2 had far superior graphics (if you were still counting bits then it had 4 times as many), better sound, and new technologies that go beyond what was previously not possible within a game such as expanded worlds. Also the console itself had a better user interface, would play old PS1 games with a smoothing feature to make them look better, and the console would also play DVDs. Then the PS3 came along. The PS3 offered graphics and sound beyond anything the gaming world has seen before. It also expanded what it can do because not only it can play PS3 games but also PS1, PS2 (for the early models), and a library of downloadable games from the PSN. It also offered a blu-ray player, multi-media options that include storing music, photos, movies, and even a download and rental service for movies among many other apps that would come along later that I would never use except Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. Basically each generation offered something leaps and bounds new when compared to the previous generation. Each time we thought "What else could they possibly do?" there was something else added. Granted those things weren't always gaming related but they were features none the less. As I stated before I primarily use my PS3 for most of my entertainment needs. But when I look at the new consoles that have come out or are coming out I can't help but feel underwhelmed.
The reason why I feel underwhelmed is because I feel like a lot of the new consoles are selling based entirely on a single gimmick added into essentially the same/similar console as before. Take Nintendo for example. They are pretty notorious for re-releasing the same console in multiple version. How many versions of the DS have there been? Standard, XL, DSi, etc. But when they released the 3DS it was marketed as a whole new console. But when I look at it, it feels more like the jump that was made from Game Boy to Game Boy Color. In other words I feel like the 3DS is more of a DS 1.5 (Now with 3D!) in the same way the Game Boy Color felt like Game Boy 1.5 (Now with color!). Yes there are new games that are exclusives to this new version, but I feel like it's not enough to really call it a new console, just a new version of the same thing with some tweaks. Staying on track with Nintendo I feel this is pretty similar with the Wii-U. When I look at that console I pretty much see the Wii with HD outputs and an iPad attachment. I'm sure there will be elements that will effect the gaming experience because of their new gimmick, but that's what it feels like, a gimmick. It's like a new console is banking on a peripheral. Granted it always takes time for a console to get on it's feet and utilize their updates to the best of their abilities, but again the new consoles don't feel that new at least from what I've seen and played. Just new boxes that support new controllers or gimmicks.
I guess it's no surprise that it went in this direction where the new releases felt more like new computers being released. Technically speaking there's all kinds of new chips and bits under the hood, but the overall execution feels very similar to most of the world and very recognizable to what they've seen before minus the new controller or 33333DDDDD! I came to realize something similar to this when I was asked what the best choice would be for a person to buy a home gaming console (not portable. I don't know much about those). My reaction was always to suggest a Wii if they wanted to get something on a budget or the person I spoke to had kids. But then when it came to a "hardcore" gaming console it was a matter of which exclusives said person would want more. I'm of course biased toward Sony but when it came down to it the question would be, "Do you like Halo or Uncharted more?" "Gears of War or God of War?" "Kinect or Move?" And even then they may still look so similar to the average gamer so it's hard to tell from person to person outside of telling them what my personal preference is and why.
I think that's why I'm still waiting for the PS4 to have something come out that really impresses me. From what I can tell it feels like another PS3 upgrade and this was pretty well backed up when I saw the first screenshots of the user interface. It looked very similar in style and execution of what is currently on the PS3. Don't fix what isn't broken I guess. But if the investment of a new console is being proposed I want it to have something that will sell me on spending that much all at once outside of backwards compatibility and exclusive titles. I've got more than enough games to last me for a long time so I don't see any reason to get a PS4 right away outside of keeping up with the Joneses. And if they are trying to sell me on exclusive games they'll really have to sell me. I've already got my favorite gaming console of all time, the Sega Dreamcast, and am working on building up my library for that console. Something that isn't nearly as expensive (for the most part). Also I'm not strong into the online experience nor do I feel it's necessary to share my experiences online when I'm playing single player outside of my reviews in this. Outside of trophies of course, I'm addicted to collecting those little fuckers. Currently working on getting the platinum trophy in God of War III! I also don't find it hard to live without certain games. The reason why is because either I know I'll be able to get it later for cheaper (Assassin's Creed 3, God of War Ascension) or I don't find the investment into the console just to get said game is worth it in the end. Someone can put a lot of money into something just so they can play both Halo and Killzone.
Now I have watched the press conference to announce the PS4. I admit when I first started working on this post I had not seen it yet. But I downloaded it so I could see it and judge everything properly. I will admit a lot of what I heard and saw was pretty cool. I think it's really neat that there's going to be cross-play between the PS4 and the Vita for (they claim) every PS4 game. I think it's cool that there's a hibernation feature where you can essentially pause your game when powering down the console, and then start back up where you left off when you come back to it later (all without having to keep the console on the entire time). That would be really convenient if something came up last second and I don't have to say "Let me get to the next save point first" (Although that's rarely said anymore with the auto-save feature in place.) I also think it's really cool that they're improving on the move controller cause it did have a bumpy start and I would like to see that peripheral succeed. I once intended to get it but after it was released I saw little reason to. But if they can keep some of these promises for the Move I may have to reconsider. Then lastly I will say that the visuals are pretty incredible. They showed that closeup of the old man's face and I couldn't believe how good it looked. Also a couple of the other trailers did have that look and feel that a CG movie has. It was really impressive. But of course... I have some beef.
I've come to realize that game companies and politicians have a lot in common. They're both campaigning for you to choose them. In order to make that decision they're making a lot of promises to you on what their game console/term in office will be like. Now since we're not living in a time where it's actually present we can't say for sure. It's all a matter of taking their word for it. Too many times have I been disappointed by details of these promises for a new game or console that it really is hard for me to spend a ton of money on it before I get a proper assessment. There have been and still are games I would buy day 1 if I had the money. God of War Ascension is one that comes to mind. If I had the additional cash I would have no problem buying that game, full price, right now, cause I know it can keep it's promises and the demo lived up to a lot of good promises and then some. I also would consider doing the same with The Last of Us or Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut. On one hand The Last of Us looks like something pretty incredible, and then Deadly Premonition is technically a re-release but from what I've heard it's so bizarre and out there that it would be right up my alley. However many many many games are promised every year and many of them bring disappointment in the end. Most recent example of this is Aliens: Colonel Marines. Apparently it had been a long time coming of a game and people were really anticipating it. Then when it came out it had nothing but scathing reviews. Was I surprised? Not really. From an outsider's perspective who knew hardly anything on it looked at it and didn't feel like it would live up to the supposed amazing promises it was making.
I guess what I'm trying to say here is this. Sony can and has been making plenty of promises for their future that frankly look pretty amazing. There are some inherit problems, though. One being that launches are never that smooth. Each console usually has a clunky start because the market has limited choices in games and many of those games may have/were issued out quickly to make the launch so they're not as well put together as they could be. Lots of times there's only one or two go to games right off the bat. I know the PS3 launch was a bit rough because the games they had available weren't all that stellar. A couple of the first games I had for my PS3 (I got it the February following launch, it had been out 4 months) included Def Jam Icon and Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire. While both looked really good at the time and had a handfull of good ideas but their execution was mediocre at best. What I should have picked up was Resistance but I didn't get that til later on. Basically when the PS3 launched the few good titles in my personal opinion included Resistance (as I previously stated), Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Tony Hawk's Project 8. Everything else was either garbage or not noteworthy enough. But even with these "top 3" I didn't feel any of them were exceptional titles. I always felt Resistance was overrated, Marvel Ultimate Alliance was fun enough and the same goes with Tony Hawk's Project 8. However the last two weren't really made to optimize the console because it was also created with ports for last gen consoles as well. I distinctly remember seein both PS2 and PS3 copies of some of the same games.
Now in terms of launches it wasn't just Playstation who was cured with a rough launch. For example, outside of Halo do you even remember what games launched with the original XBox? And of those how many of them were any good? Chances are very few and even less on that second question. In that same era the PS2 basically had The Bouncer, Fatavision, and SSX. Going back a generation or two then it's not much different. Yes the N64 had Super Mario 64 but other than that they had very very few titles available. The Dreamcast on the other hand had a pretty strong list of launch titles including Sonic Adventure, Marvel VS Capcom, Soul Caliber, and House of the Dead 2, but that's an exception to the fad. All in all I can guarantee you no matter what console you look up will have a pretty weak set of titles available on day 1. This is what makes day 1 so underwhelming and why I'm choosing to wait around a little longer. I truly believe the PS4 will do great things like the PS3 did. I just think it'll take some time. You know, like every other console that has ever been released (minus the Dreamcast. That Sommbitch was incredible right out the door and only got better!).
Again I think part of this is age but also lack of interest in some of the tech advancements as of late. As I'm sure many people can agree, we've come about as far as we can with graphics for the time being. All the advancements of that have been pretty subtle as of the last 5-6 years. So having new consoles or games that feature something we've never seen before isn't as present as I feel it used to be. Biggest example from the past would be the transition from a strictly 2D sprite world to 3D polygon gaming. That completely changed everything because it gave the gaming industry a whole new world to work with that was far less limited. Then as 3D grew it just kept looking better and better. But that's because it was so drastically different it was noticeable, making it more impact-full But these days graphics don't seem to matter as much as they used to (not that they ever should have because it's all in the gameplay). Part of this is due to independent developers and Nintendo's game plan. Games from every level of expertise seems to be coming out these days from your neighbors garage all the way up to mega AAA games. So many games will have less impressive visuals and other tech but may still be entertaining enough to hit the market and make money. And heck, some of the most popular and most played games in the world have not so top level visuals (Angry Birds and Minecraft for example). Then when Nintendo chose to stick with a much simpler visual style and tech for the Wii for the purposes of making it a cheaper console that made many people forget about graphics as they just enjoyed the games that came out. Visuals haven't mattered in a long time and I can't imagine it being much of a concern over the coming years.
In terms of other tech advancements I am very uninterested. I've played around with a 3DS a few times and whenever I put the 3D on I would barely play before turning it off. I can see how it would benefit for certain parts of certain games, otherwise it just feels like a way to sell more consoles. 3D is something that hasn't excited me since I was a kid. And even then it wore off fast. I also don't like how it's recently been a thing in movies, too, but that's a whole other rant. Although I would probably get crucified because I would be making an argument against 3D in film but I still haven't seen what is apparently the holy grail of 3D, Avatar.
Another tech advancement that I have had little to no interest lately is touch screens. I realize it is very futuristic in concept as we've all seen them in sci-fi movies growing up. However I still feel it is a very flawed technology. Before I continue I would like to point out that I do have an iPhone. I love the living hell outta it but it is not without it's problems. But the only games I play for it are ones fit for it. The most "hardcore" game I've played on it and enjoyed is Final Fantasy II. I've tried other "hardcore" games on it and thought they were shit. And the port of GTA3, while fun in concept, was poor in execution. Anyway, touch screens. Maybe this is one reason why I never got into the DS. I like my controllers to be like my games, movies, etc, compact into one definite package that gives you everything you need and no extra bullshit that frustrates you along the way. So the idea of playing through a DS game where I know at some point I'm gonna have to jumble with a stylis to play the game properly is a pain to me. I get annoyed enough when I have to keep tossing around my wiimote when I play Cooking Mama and Super Paper Mario. This is also why I was pretty underwhelmed by the PS Vita. I'm always up for supporting Sony but I felt they tried to focus in on the touch screen way too much. But they took a step forward by having touch technology on the front AND the back. Just seems way too excessive use of the tech and make games more jumbled than intuitive.
But that brings me to the most recent example, the Wii-U. Now I haven't played much of the Wii-U outside of an in-store demo and that was Rayman Origins so it wasn't a fair assessment of the technology. I guess the part that gets me is the fact that people are now essentially willing to play games with a controller the size of an iPad in their lap (heck, it pretty much is an iPad with the Nintendo logo. I'm pretty sure if Apple and Nintendo paired up they'd conquer the world). This blows my mind because in the past the idea of a large controller was a big pain. I don't know if you remember this or not but the XBox released a smaller version of their controller after the first one was found to be too big by the mass markets. And it was, it was HUGE by comparison. I guess it was a good pairing with their 90 ton gaming console. So since large controllers have been a problem in the past I just wonder how well this one will do. I realize there's room for innovation (whether it is necessary or worthwhile is left up to question) but I feel it is a hard sell. Also, I wonder how much Nintendo is banking on the same families that bought and have been playing around with the Wii and DS over the years. I mean, yeah, everyone and their grandmother (literally) has a Wii and DS these days. But I just don't see the Wii-U having as much of a wide appeal. I don't even see it having a ton of appeal with the actual gamers in the gaming market, either, outside of Nintendo fan boys. I don't see it as something that will sell the console to a new market, either. A lot of people would just rather play on their iPads that they already have instead of buying a whole new console that is hooked up to their TV, as opposed to on the go. Besides, many people who bought the Wii have treated it like a $200 virtual bowling game. Cause outside of that there were still plenty of games that didn't make big sales despite the number of consoles out there. Besides that I look at the console and it seems like just such a cumbersome experience. Not to mention you'd probably get whiplash by going up and down between screens or get confused because of what is happening between the two.
There are two primary reasons why I only think of touch screen as a novelty for a home console controller and how I will (probably) never get into it outside of my iPhone:
1. No matter what you're doing you're obstructing the screen.
Now I don't know how much your hands are but mine are pretty big. When I'm playing a game on my iPhone the screen is already pretty small so sometimes I have to pinch and expand to take a closer look. But then when I start touching the screen here's a big glimpse of my hand getting in the way of everything that's happening in the game. Granted the games I play on my iPhone aren't terribly intense but in some instances it can be a problem. When I play Angry Birds it's not an issue because that game you can take your time with. But I also have Tapper (a remake of Root Beer Tapper essentially). If you haven't played it here's a clip of the original game it is based on. For the iPhone version just imagine it with updated graphics and exotic locations. It's an old school style arcade game where the game never really ends. It just keeps getting harder and harder until you die (Just like real life, harde-har-har, sick of that joke). Now the iPhone version does have a definite end because there are different levels at different bars, but the intense difficulty still builds with each level. When I'm trying so serve drinks to all these people rushing in it only makes it more difficult when I have to navigate around my hand as I'm trying to get to the right line at the right bar. It gets less fun and more annoying. Still wish I had my own cabinet of the original game. Been searching for that for a long time. This isn't the only example, though. I had some similar difficulties while playing through Duke Nukem 3D on my phone. But come to think of it that was a clunky transfer (THAT DIDN'T INCLUDE ALL THE LEVELS!) anyway so part of that game's problem was with how it played.
I get why a touch screen is handy because you don't have to worry about using the cursor or joystick on the controller to get to a certain area, or even a mouse. You can just move your hand over and tap. Nice, quick, simple, easy to do. But I feel this brings more problems than it solves. In the end touch screen is a novelty that makes us think of the sci-fi movies we watched as a kid. Pretty sure one of the main reason touch screen even exists is because of this novelty. I don't feel it provides much of an advancement in technology outside of something really cool to play around with. Okay, before I start getting a tech speech I will say this. It is handy having one screen account for multiple buttons that don't need to be installed making for a sleeker device. Recently the church I go to replaced their boiler. I got to see it up close and what was previously a machine covered in buttons and a minimal screen has been upgraded to one screen that is a touch screen. It does provide convenience to what would otherwise be very clunky to work with, so I do find benefit in touch screen that way. Still I feel a machine would work so much easier with something like an arrow key or a mouse. So much more definite especially since, as I've stated, you can't always see what you're doing because your hand is covering it and to add onto that because it isn't always the most responsive.
2. You have to be actually looking at the touch screen to see what you're doing.
This one primarily applies to gaming on a home console with a touch screen as a controller. One thing that makes a person good with their hand eye coordination is muscle memory. So using this skill that makes a person good at a game and ready to do quick reflexes at the drop of a hat is knowing what buttons to push and when. Now to get there you need to know what to do without looking. How do you know this? You can feel where they are. This is my biggest problem with introducing touch screens into modern gaming that isn't portable. I guess with portable since it's all there in your hands you can take it or leave it, but when you bring it to a medium that requires you to concentrate on the screen and not the controller visually then there's a problem. You can't actually feel what button you're pushing and every game would have a potentially different set up. Like a more futuristic version of the Jaguar controller (I love obscure references). The first example that comes to mind for potential trouble is obviously on the Wii-U. I remember hearing that there's a port of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on the console. Now the game pad does have actual buttons which can be used for moves but I also remember hearing there will be touch screen options for moves as well. What a cheat and what a problem is what I thought to myself. A cheat because I heard it was a quick button to perform special moves, eliminating any sort of skill in the process. And a problem because a game like that can incredibly heated in battle where every step can count. If you've got people fumbling with their U-Pad to hit that special move when you're fighting Heihachi even on an easier difficulty I can imagine that will cause some losses in battle. Modern games have made it easier and easier to win in video games whether that was by lowering the difficulty, holding your hand the entire way, or by literally allowing you to buy your way to the end. But now we've got fighting games fighting for us. One of the last truly skill based games that didn't hold your hand and now it's being made easier, well, unless you want to play with a controller 3 times the size of a normal one (Yes I know that is just one example but it could be a start).
Now if the trend of touch screen controllers continues with gaming this definitely will be a problem. Imagine not having a sense of touch in your fingers and every time you wanted Mario to jump you had to look down to make sure you were hitting A. Or in a more intense situation imagine you're Kratos and you accidentally hit the jump button when you needed to hit attack or grab against a tough boss. It can make all the difference. Because of things like this I don't truly believe there will ever be a 100% full touch screen controller outside of the portable market. Just keep that in mind. But this is another one of those gimmicks that I guarantee will catch on only to create more annoyances with controllers, and therefore forcing features that use it or else it's a waste of space and time. This is why almost every Wii game requires some sort of motion control no matter the type of game. That will now be replaced with/put along side with touch screen controls. It just seems like such a hassle to be constantly looking up and down between the screen and the controller. And since they're not solid buttons you can't always rely on it being the most responsive or you may not always have the best aim in a panic hitting potentially the wrong button more likely than a regular button. It just seems odd that gaming controllers are moving this way since it by nature doesn't respond the way it should. The only way I could see this working is if the screen could provide you with bumps on where to press. But if that were to develop then what would the point be? I just don't get it and think we should stick with standard controllers. Touch screen just feel so fragile and unreliable.
So what does this mean for the PS4? After everything I've said it seems like I don't have hopes at all for the future of gaming. Well I'm always interested in what it will bring out next. If it weren't for that open mind I would have never experienced games like Heavy Rain. I'm also the type that enjoys wacky and out there imports so I think it would be pretty clear I have an open mind for what's to come no matter how different it may be. This is why I keep my eyes on games like Journey and The Last of Us because they set out to do something different. Unlike the COD games that come out every year that basically feel the same. But I still look forward to a certain level of "same" in the new generation because that's comforting. That's why I can't wait to get my hands on God of War Ascension. I've played the demo and yes it is very similar to the previous games. But I can't think of a God of War game I didn't like. I really liked even the PSP games. They were brilliant for what they were. Why wouldn't I enjoy the new one? Sometimes you just know what you like and it's good to stick with that. So I guess I should apologize to the COD fans. If that's what you like then that's cool. It's just not for me. But I guess to sell me on a PS4 there will have to be a good balance of the different and the same to keep me interested.It's just hard to say because there's only so much that we know right now. But from what we do know it's either things I don't care about or can't afford to do.
The social networking aspect where people can jump in my game to help me out is something I wouldn't want. I wouldn't feel like that's me playing the game proper, essentially "cheating" in a way. I'm the type of person who likes to complete it entirely on my own. I do look up walkthroughs if I'm having trouble but then I actually do it myself instead of having someone else do it for me. Then I do think the cross play looks fantastic jumping from console to portable, but I don't have the extra cash to pick up a PS Vita. I'd rather have my PS3 (or 4 one day), build that collection, then also build the collection of my Dreamcast and bring in the occasional title to the Wii as well. I don't necessarily need the on the go gaming cause usually when I'm on the go I'm too preoccupied. Lastly it's not really worth the price to buy a Vita just so I can keep playing when my wife wants to use the big TV to watch Star Trek. I'd rather drop that 250 on something else (Still wouldn't say no to a Vita if someone wants to send it my way, though). Then lastly there are the visuals and the overall use of the hardware. I'm sure some of the tech junkies reading this were going nuts because I barely touched on the actual tech of the console. Here's the thing, that stuff is pretty Greek to me. I just look at what it looks, sounds, and plays like when the disc is spinning and a controller is in my hands. I understand that the hardware appears to yet again be very state of the art. The evidence shows in the game videos presented at the conference. However utilizing that power is something that someone actually needs to be skilled at. Just because a console has the power doesn't mean the games themselves will. I mean, take God of War III for example. I feel this is one of the best looking games on the console. The developers did just about everything they could to make it look great and I still think it does. On that same console is a game called White Knight Chronicles. Not nearly as AAA a game title but when you see the finished product the visuals and feel to the game are very last-gen-like. It just doesn't feel like the game utilized enough power of the console and as a result brought out a lackluster, un-visually appealing game. I still enjoy the game, I'm just trying to point out that just because the game is on the console doesn't mean it's using the power it should be.
In the end it's all a crap shoot. Personally I'm going to take it easy with this one. I'll sit back and see what happens at launch and where the console goes after that. I know for a fact there will be a better edition of the console to come out later and at a lower price. That's the edition I will more than likely be getting. I have already started putting money aside for that and eventually a new, bigger TV to play it on. It'll be some time before I experience this console in my home. Until then I look forward to seeing what it does and can't wait to play the in-store kiosk for a good sampling.