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What is Next-Gen?

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the toaster-oven-console-action dept.

Games 75

Rosethorn writes "IGN's Sci-Fi Brain has a weekly column covering relevant topics in video games as they relate to science fiction. This week TK-422 defines what it takes to create a 'next-generation' gaming experience. He examines some innovative games from the past, and looks at where innovation will come from in the future." From the article: "Contrary to popular belief, the ability to create more realistic and lifelike graphical environments doesn't always count as innovation. Next-generation graphics should not just rely on a console's or PC's ability to render better visuals. Next-generation graphics should permit players to become completely immersed in the universe that the developers have created for them."

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Silly question... (3, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738051)

Next gen is when I can afford it (~ $100 USD). :P

Re:Silly question... (1)

j3rryh (909483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738082)

I can even see paying 2 bills, which means i'm stuck w/ current gen til revolution drops. -j3rry

Re:Silly question... (1)

kosh_mdh (669644) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740913)

how can the reader arbitrarilly discard graphical inovation as not inovation??? Yet then argue that creating ever larger gaming environments IS inovation. The logic of that is severely flawed since expansive environments is part of the graphics system anyway. I dont see any real connection between inovation and console generations...invoatation just happens in the games...then every few years a console is upgraded to include new inovations, then these are exploited. i dont see how that leads to any definition of nextgen. Plus, how exactly do you measure inovation ... especially since theres a screaming error since GOLDENEYE did Halos inovation long ago on a console much older...does that mean the n64 is at the same generation as an xbox???? obviously not...so theres no connection between GAME inovation and generations of console. CONSOLE inovation is seperate, however.

Re:Silly question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14742466)

a more expansive level is more inovative than a more realistic one if all your doing is throwing pollygons at it. a more expansive world doesn't mean bigger, it means more interactive as well. for example: you have high deff lighting in counterstrike. its the same game... thats not innovation. however, you have Gery's mod... it completely changes the limits of what your gaming experence is at that point. THAT'S inovaition
I would like to sign off by pointing attention to Nentindo's Innovate Or Die aditude.

Um.... (0, Redundant)

scythe000 (564836) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738059)

The X-Box 360?

DNF (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738061)

Duke Nukem Forever is next-gen. Always will...

six years ago... (4, Insightful)

scenestar (828656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738089)

The ps2 was considered next-gen.

Next-gen is nothing but a fsckin buzzword.

Re:six years ago... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14738314)

Exactly.

Next-Gen is not something that we obtain or experience. You don't play a next-gen console. You play today's console. It's just a placeholder label for x+1 iteration of gaming systems and games where x is our current generation of said systems and games.

Asking someone 'what does next-gen mean to you?' or 'what do you think of next-gen graphics?' is like asking them 'what does next year mean to you? What do you think of next year's weather?'

The whole of the summary's paragraph is meaningless waffle that sounds like a corporate mission statement.

Re:six years ago... (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 8 years ago | (#14743191)

It's just a placeholder label for x+1 iteration of gaming systems and games where x is our current generation of said systems and games.

I completely agree with you, that is the deffinition of next generation. It is nothing wrong per se. Say, Xbox360 is the next generation console of Xbox, and PS3 will be the next gen. of Ps2 and Revo of GC. The interesting bit is which of the three consoles will be *better*.

Better does not mean "will have more polygons or pixels per inch*, it means which one will be more enjoyable overall.

Next-generation graphics should permit players to become completely immersed in the universe that the developers have created for them.

Next generation graphics can be whatever the next generation developer wants. Almost all the game studios are focusing on number of displayable pixels or number of polygons per second. I think there is another factor which only Nintendo (and few other game devs) has considered. This is the refinment on the response of the characters. This may be considered as how many motion animation does a character has but it goes farther than that.

I remember when a game of Zelda for the gamecube was being developed and Miyamoto said they were going to use cell shading technology, a lot of people said that it was ugly and whatnot. One magazine stated that using cell shading will allow Nintendo to create *more expressive* characters, so you would be able to see a more vivid and expressive Link.

From this, we can compare for example, a GTA game with Zelda. In GTA you will have the wanna-be human like people pushing all the juice from the the system to mimic real persons, instead a game like Zelda which do not care about "lifelike" graphics would make cartoon characters but make them *feel* more real with all their details.

I just saw a Mario Advance preview (on Digg) and, although the game is just a side scroller with cartoon like graphics, Mario seems more alive than lots of other characters from other "next gen" games (for example, the King Kong xbox360 game I played in a ToysRUs where Kong and the Dinosaurs felt not really alive).

That will *really* increase game details, I would love to see that implemented on RPGs as it would open new possilibites of playability (what about being able to see or even *feel* the mood of other players / NPCs?)

Re:six years ago... (1)

Castar (67188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14746461)

I don't think it's insightful to say that what was once next-generation isn't anymore. That's like saying "Man, in 1910, 1950 was considered the future!" It might blow your mind if you're high, but it quickly stops being deep when you come down.

Six years ago, the PS2 was the next generation of gaming consoles. That's not marketing hype, that's just a tautology. Once the PS3 has come out, it will be the current generation, the PS2 will be last-generation, and the PS4 will be next-generation. That's just the way linear time works.

It's a trap! (3, Insightful)

jclast (888957) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738116)

Next-generation graphics should permit players to become completely immersed in the universe that the developers have created for them.

So next-gen gaming is all about whether I have a good enough imagination to become immersed in a game?

Attention /. reader! You are being led astray! The true next generation is the Super Nintendo Entertainment System! It has games in which you will become immersed! Final Fantasy IV! Final Fantasy VI! Chrono Trigger! Abandon your XBOX 360s! The next generation of games technology isn't about technology at all!

Games have always been about story. Technological generations aren't about immersion, they're about the technology. The machine doesn't make me feel. It does math and pushes it to my TV. Video game designers and writers immerse me in the game, not the console itself.

Re:It's a trap! (3, Insightful)

caffeination (947825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738284)

Games have always been about story.
I'm not flaming. I can tell you just weren't thinking about what you were saying. That you got modded up is slightly more disturbing.... anyway, onto my point, which I will give in list form:
  1. Pong
  2. Space Invaders
  3. Galaga
  4. Every racing game ever made with a few exceptions
  5. Every fighting game ever made
  6. Bishi Bashi
  7. Mario Party & Clones
  8. That's enough list items
I'm fairly sure you're not generalising as much as your words themselves indicate, but then there is your use of the words "videogame writers", which makes me wonder if writers-as-in-authors have actually become that ubiquitous now.

I'm sure we'd both agree, on developing the point further, that the immersion is found mostly in the gameplay, and fun gameplay is not tied to technological advances in the slightest.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

jclast (888957) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738599)

You are correct. In retrospect, 'fun' or 'immersion' would have been better choices.

In my defense, I was trying to be funny, not insightful.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738347)

Games have always been about story

You sir are talking complete and utter shit. RPGs revolve around the story and a good exploration system, where as games like Sonic and Mario have no story at all. Yet are some of the greatest games ever.. So no, games arn't about story (only the latest generation of gamers would think such crap). Games are about 1 thing, a very simple thing which I shall point out on it's own line so you can clearly see it.

HAVING FUN.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738435)

True, but to many of us a decent story helps that out. Even back on the original NES, I found games with a story, even a silly one like Ninja Gaiden, much more compelling than those without.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738590)

It very much depends on the game. Some suit a story while others a story just gets in the way. Arcade games for example don't suit a story at all, where as very few RPGs could live without one.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738660)

I disagree- I prefer even my arcade games with a story. If they don't come with one, I make up bullshit ones of my own.

Re:It's a trap! (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738918)

I prefer even my arcade games with a story. If they don't come with one, I make up bullshit ones of my own.

Interesting. What story did you come up with for Tetris? Or did you strongly prefer Dr. Mario?

Re:It's a trap! (1)

AlexMax2742 (602517) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738750)

Wrong. I've gotten hundreds more hours out of my old copy of Doom 2 than I have with pretty much any other game. Still play it to this day. A good story might contribute to an RPG, but who says that run and gun shoot-em-ups or arcade 'get a higher score' games aren't good games?

Eye of the Beholder (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738129)

Next-generation graphics should permit players to become completely immersed in the universe that the developers have created for them

Well, a well designed text MUD could qualify by this definition. Different things float different peoples' boats. In some ways, text adventures have an advantage... energy can be put into building a world, with the user supplying the graphics (imagination).

Re:Eye of the Beholder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14738195)

Mod parent down. He is a known troll.

Re:Eye of the Beholder (1)

Taboam (950588) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740589)

you may be able to build a world with a text adventure but theres no pace eg: Mario has encountered a goomba do you want to A.jump over it B.jump on it C.run into it IMO it takes about 2 generations of gaming to perfect that generations advantage eg: basic gameplay, all the first gaming systems, 2D graphics, with the nes graphics things look better and more attention has to be put into artwork snes reached the pinnacle of 2D gaming, any 2D game since hasent been much different to what you could do on the snes, 3D gaming, 64/playstation games are 3D but still limited and chunky - dreamcast/PS2/Cube/Xbox 3D graphics are smooth and the 3D genres have been perfected. Next-gen the only differnce performance will make is for large online games like battlefield 2 and online games have already been perfeted by PC gaming which is why im going to go with PC gaming and the Nintendo revolution.

Halo -- what about Goldeneye? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14738137)

From TFA: "Gameplay innovation could range from the original Halo's ability to create a playable first shooter experience on a console controller."

It's been a while for me (and I'm basically a PC gamer)...but what about Goldeneye? iirc, that was a pretty "playable" experience for a lot of people. Maybe they mean the total package (and I still think Goldeneye was at least as good--Halo's main bonus here was online play, sort of), but when they elaborate down below:

"Innovation: Console friendly controls for FPS games."

Goldeneye was pretty sweet in this department...

Maybe I'm just a jaded PC gamer who thinks Halo is oversold.

Re:Halo -- what about Goldeneye? (1)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738510)

Step 1: Set a console with Goldeneye and a console with Halo side by side.

Step 2: Empty your mind of rosey nostalgia.

Step 3: Play each game for and hour, and see how much you like Goldeneye.

I did basically that same thing once and it was scary.

Goldeneye's greatness lives in our fond memories, not in the actual reality of the game.

Re:Halo -- what about Goldeneye? (1)

AlexMax2742 (602517) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738784)

Rose-tinted glasses. After playing Halo I couldn't go back to Goldeneye.

1. FPS issues. Hard to accurately hit someone at 2FPS with millions of explosions going on.
2. Ridiculous objectives in single player that required wandering around in a single level for hours until you found where that one objective was. It was OK on agent, but if nobody had told me about how to complete some of the other objectives on a greater difficulty level I would have never gotten it.
3. Straferunning. Straferunning is great when you are allowed the reaction time to hit something going that fast. Unfortuniatly, goldeneye's FPS problems combined with the system designed for you to stand still in order to get any accuracy, and it was just harder than hell to hit anyone.

Re:Halo -- what about Goldeneye? (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738935)

Straferunning is great when you are allowed the reaction time to hit something going that fast. Unfortuniatly, goldeneye's FPS problems combined with the system designed for you to stand still in order to get any accuracy

You were supposed to switch the game's control style to Solitaire (left stick aim, C-buttons move), a style that Turok originated on the N64. It ends up just like southpaw mode on a modern ps2/xbox FPS.

Re:Halo -- what about Goldeneye? (2, Insightful)

Jacius (701825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14739347)

Slow framerates are not relevant to the discussion of innovative controls, nor are your own difficulties in finding objectives. Your third point has some modicum of merit, but you seem to forget that the N64 controller had only one control stick, while the Xbox had two; it would be impossible for Goldeneye to control both movement and aiming with control sticks... using only one controller. (I will also point out that, with some skill, a player could use the C buttons to aim while moving with pretty good results, certainly good enough for those situations where you must run and shoot at people above/below you.)

But, seeing as how Rareware not only anticipated but delivered a two-stick control scheme (using two N64 controllers, one per hand) for a first-person shooter 4 years before Halo, I don't see how Halo can support any sort of claim to innovation in controls in that regard. Progress or refinement, possibly, but not innovation. Even Goldeneye is not so much innovative as it is a predictable successor to Turok.

Re:Halo -- what about Goldeneye? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14746453)

it would be impossible for Goldeneye to control both movement and aiming with control sticks

PC keyboard-and-mouse first-person shooters have analog control only for aiming, not for movement.

Re:Halo -- what about Goldeneye? (1)

dyslexicbunny (940925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744074)

No no no...

1) You are comparing two seperate consoles here with years of performance between them. Obviously, the new console will perform better. Besides, with all those explosions, you aren't shooting. You're trying to dodge them while still throwing mines, grenades, etc..

2) Besides not explaining that the bungie cord was not an actual item (contrary to the instruction manual), the objectives were not difficult to figure out if you read the mission briefings. The game also should tell you where to place items or what you are looking for.

3) I never had any problems. I suppose if all you did was play with auto-aim and then went without it, you might. I routinely played without it and still had no real problem with it. You also weren't supposed to use the R-button unless you were using the sniper rifle. If you'd played through the game completely (all cheats and 007 Agent), you could aim with the C buttons. Other controller settings also allowed for it.

You really didn't even argue his point until point three. The real test would be to play Halo or Goldeneye with each controller and decide. However, I don't believe we will be able to do that.

Re:Halo -- what about Goldeneye? (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740096)

Innovation: Console friendly controls for FPS games.

Don't forget Turok.

Next Generation (4, Insightful)

dch24 (904899) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738200)

From the article: Gameplay innovation could range from the original Halo's ability to create a playable first shooter experience on a console controller, to the creation of completely new genres such as the first RTS, FPS, or RPG.

2001: Halo is released (XBOX)
Innovation: Console friendly controls for FPS games.

Okay, I'm not trying to start a flamewar here, but I wasn't that impressed by Halo's controls. Now, Splinter Cell on the other hand, had innovation in the way the controller was used. But "Console friendly controls"? 007 Goldeneye for N64 was a console friendly first person shooter. It doesn't matter whether you judge it by number of units sold, or that Goldeneye became the game packaged with the N64... Clearly, it was a Console Friendly FPS.

Am I just missing something? Did somebody discover that Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-A-B-A-B-Sele ct-Start worked in Halo? Because otherwise, I'm really confused...

Re:Next Generation (1)

jchenx (267053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738473)

Yeah, I agree. Halo was NOT the first popular FPS game for consoles. Now, Goldeneye may not have had the best controls, but it did the best with what it had (only 1 analog stick). But you can't say that it wasn't popular or not a success, since it very much was. (That said, I'm a PC FPS player at heart, and nothing matches keyboard+mouse)

Now, I can see someone arguing that Halo 2 was more innovative, because it brought in the notion of quickmatching, ranking systems, etc. to the console. Even PC FPS titles were still stuck in the server list mentality. However, it's still a bit debatable since many folks have issues with that multiplayer model as well.

Re:Next Generation (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738832)

Basically, the innovation in Halo's controls was auto-aim. The game subtly nudges your crosshair toward enemies as you move it, compensating for the lack of precision that comes from using a gamepad.

Re:Next Generation (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14739052)

Basically, the innovation in Halo's controls was auto-aim.

Goldeneye on Agent and Secret Agent had auto aim.

Re:Next Generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14739123)

Halo's true innovation was managing to pick a platform that virtually devoid of anything worth playing.

Unless you are someone who lives and dies for 'teh shine' effect, Halo:

1) Had an shockingly weak graphics engine - other than'teh shine' of course
2) A dreadfully boring story - amazing since it was from the same company that made Marathon
3) Had monotonous levels - You pretty much just run/drive straight through the game almost entirely on a rail
4) Retarded AI - Wow, dodging...

I guess if you were sitting there with an xbox with Halo and nothing else to play you would start believing the game was amazing. Certainly better than admitting to yourself that you were an idiot for buying a system with nothing worth playing or mostly just pc ports.

With how bad Halo 2 turned out to be, it should be clear why the small group of people who bought 360s are downplaying Halo 3's importance and are trying to find a replacement as the Big 360 Game to look forward to.

Re:Next Generation (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 8 years ago | (#14739186)

Ah. My mistake, then.. I never played much Goldeneye.

Either way, the innovation in Halo's controls is greatly overstated. Quake 3 Arena on PS2 had the same control scheme. More than anything, the popularity of Halo on consoles just proves that people can get used to any remotely usable control scheme with enough practice.

Definitely not graphics (3, Interesting)

ardor (673957) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738219)

Graphics reached a "good enough" point. The next major breakthrough is likely to be real-time raytracing and/or real-time global illumination. Also, animation still sucks. Completely believable animation with real-time reactions to environmental changes and to player actions is still far off (it involves physics and AI too).

An example: A guard patrols an area. You are hidden behind a wall, waiting for the right moment to sneak past the guard to the room's other side. Then, you accidentally hit a bucket. The guard hears the sound, and runs to investigate it. No problem so far, this can be done with premodeled animation sequences (walking, standing, running...)

But then there is a rock on the ground. The guard hits it with his left foot. What happens? In real life, the guard would fall down. Now this is quite hard since the animation has to change in real-time. It involves physics (rock shape, amount of force, collision location...) and AI (since the animation has to change in a convincing manner, and this is achieved by letting an AI decide what to do next). This further leads to letting the guard stand up, checking himself if there are serious injuries etc. None of this is even remotely possible today.

So, you want next-gen with "next-gen" being purely technical? Look for advanced animation.

Re:Definitely not graphics at all (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738269)

I'd agree. at this point, it's not the graphics, the droplets of water spattering on the ground. instead, it's the feel, the sound, the realistic physics of stubbed toes when my troll kicks the castle wall and his right foot moves a little bit less and jerks from pain.

Or the slower reaction as my character gets tired or wounded. the involuntary camera pitch from the head nod when my sleep meter is almost empty and I haven't moved while I wait in ambush.

The involuntary jerk when the cannonball hits next to me, or the tree almost hits me. The shudder of the ground on my camera view, and the slight tilt from the impact wave.

now, that's next gen.

Re:Definitely not graphics at all (1)

ardor (673957) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738313)

Correct. Ironically, FEAR impressed me most with sequences like these, and NOT with its graphics (being a 3d-graphics-coding hobbyist apparently saturates). I found it quite impressive to be blown out of through the shattered window when a really big explosion incinerated the building I was walking in. Or the nuclear reactor meltdown, which causes a HUGE atomic explosion, everything gets really bright, and in the distant, the shockwave can be seen, nearing and smashing everything in its way..... really awesome, and does NOT need an expensive card. (Well, FEAR does, but such animations don't.)

Re:Definitely not graphics (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738920)

It's quite possible to get physical realism for the NPCs. The hard part is physical realism for the player characters. You have such limited control over the character that if it is running in a physically realistic simulation, it has to be nearly autonomous.

Re:Definitely not graphics (2, Funny)

earthbound kid (859282) | more than 8 years ago | (#14739716)

I'd be happy if they'd just solve the damn clipping problem.

"Hey, check it out, King Kong's arm is sort of going into the wall. He must be a g-g-g-ghoooooost!"

Re:Definitely not graphics (1)

cluke (30394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14742804)

I dunno, stuff like Half Life 2 and any other game with rag-doll physics seem to be getting pretty close to this, so saying it is not even "remotely possible" is a bit off. AI is still pretty lame, I grant you that, but having a guard stub his toe on a rock is more than possible.

Light bloom (2, Funny)

caffeination (947825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738229)

something awful [somethingawful.com] satirised the "next-gen" gaming attitude beautifully a few days ago, with this work of art:

After almost a combined man-hour of intense research with our Vice President's grandson, Steve, we have discovered the only two things modern gamers really care about: Motion blur and light bloom. And believe us, we have those two things in spades.

Content (2, Funny)

elrick_the_brave (160509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738256)

It's obvious. The next-gen is the ability to replicate not just visual reality but all senses.. including the sense that you ARE in a real world. I.E. Matrix.. everything reflects the real world down to if a body dies.. it goes back into the food chain.

That is a real world simulator. Heck.. we can't even simulate real world weather.
I guess we'll stick with trying to get a life!

What is next-gen? (2, Funny)

goodenoughnickname (874664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738267)

Why, $60 games of course.

Better stories, conflicting motivations, yes (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738305)

Bigger worlds, better artificial intelligence, more expansive storylines, more things to do, and better ways to play - these are aspects that will expand the scope of games and bring them into this "next-generation."

I'd agree with the article that better multi-character story plots and reaction gradients from alterable characteristics/reactions would help. Characters being both good-natured and helpful, but willing to sell you out to save their little sister from the gallows or for a lot of the local currency, that would make it more next-gen. Having characters react based on your personal history - and sometimes forget or ignore things - yup.

Not sure about bigger worlds though. Richer, more complex, deeper worlds - sure.

Sigh, Thank Microsoft And The Xbox 360 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14738348)

Let's see...

Microsoft has to pull their console from the market early due to the ridiculously expensive to produce hardware leading them to have to rush a new console out the door that is weak and doesn't produce visuals any better than current gen games outside of the higher resolution.

And we get these sky is falling and people screaming about diminishing returns.

Guys, just wait for E3. Next gen begins there. Trust me, I've been seeing the early PS3 and Revolution stuff that will be demoed. We are going to look back at these silly articles in a few months like we do with bell bottom jeans and mood rings.

Next gen graphics and gameplay are right on schedule for this year. Don't worry.

Next gen is... (1)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738445)

When you spend more time writing out the gameplay mechanics and storyboarding a great plot with as many choices given to the gamer as possible, all while giving them a beautiful engine and ultra-realistic physics. An equally or more important part is making sure the controls are accessible. Almost every game out there that's worth playing has 15 buttons to memorize, a less than fun experience for people new to gaming. Nintendo is, of course, on the right path with an intuitive interface with the Revolution. The more intuitive and naturally fun, the better and much more profitable.

It wouldn't hurt for the graphics and physics engines to be made beforehand and sold to the company making the new game; the time has come when every game developer cannot afford to spend half its time writing out ultra-intricate physics and rendering engines for each game before making textures and models and THEN writing in the gameplay.

Re:Next gen is... (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740514)

It wouldn't hurt for the graphics and physics engines to be made beforehand and sold to the company making the new game; the time has come when every game developer cannot afford to spend half its time writing out ultra-intricate physics and rendering engines for each game before making textures and models and THEN writing in the gameplay.

Which is why most PS3 FPS are scheduled to use the Unreal 3 engine...

My own opinion - ya its nice when a dev company has the time, money, and dedication to put out graphics and physics engines like in FEAR, BF2, or whatever your favorite ass kickin game engine is. However, like the parent post said, if all companies spent such time on proprietary gpaphics and physics engines, we'd be missing out on ALOT of good FPS storylines...

Next Gen Ideals vs. Reality (3, Interesting)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738479)

"NextGen" sadly - whatever we might hope - doesn't mean anything other than a quantum step in graphics power.

The author identifies three categories:
1) Gameplay.
2) Scope.
3) Graphics.

I'll use a simple question: If you added the feature to a game from say the early 90s, would you suddenly call it NextGen?

Gameplay
So we're playing Doom on the SNES. The author claims a great control scheme is what makes it work. Would adding Halo's controls to SNES Doom make it NextGen? I'm guessing most people would laugh at the idea.

Scope
The author says NextGen games should be bigger. Anyone remember Ultima 7? That thing was freaking huge. Morrowind was also huge. Both are from previous generations. Both are bigger than anything seen on future consoles, even in previews, with the exception of Oblivion. Take a small Ultima type game. Give it a massive game world with lots of cool things to do, you don't get NextGen Ultima, you get Ultima 7.

Graphics
Take a fairly typical console racer. Give it 720p graphics and nothing much else. That gets called NextGen pretty quickly. Take a basic beat-em-up and add 720p graphics, again, NextGen.

We may want Next Gen to mean quantum increases across the board. We may feel a true "Next Gen" game should step up its game in every field not just shiny stuff. They're a whole bunch of nice ideals but the sad truth is, we're judged by our actions and our actions have us simply calling a quantum increase in graphics "NextGen" because it's the only thing that really needs the next generation of systems to be possible.

Better music, better gameplay, bigger worlds, longer playtimes, [basic] physics systems, improved AI, better control schemes... These are all great things but none of them require the next generation of system - most of them can be done on the system before last (PS1) or even earlier.

About the only thing that requires the next generation of systems are prettier visuals. It may feel empty, it may not suit our ideals, but, truth is, that's all NextGen really is.

The only reason people question the "NextGen"ishness of some 360 launch titles is because, as with any new system, many of the launch titles are so inefficient they really aren't that quantum step up from the old one.

Re:Next Gen Ideals vs. Reality (1)

The Turmanator (880562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738646)

There have been, however, important developments that come from the increase in processor and graphics power. I mean, wasn't Mario 64 the immersive, exciting next gen game it was due to the sudden addition of a third dimension? I suppose advances like that have been few and far between lately, but doesn't the addition of online play increase the scope of a game? The internet on a console still seems next gen to me, since I don't have an Xbox. Taking your racing examples: if you gave the original Mario Kart or Gran Turismo the modern graphics, they would still not be next gen, since it wouldn't surpass our current expectations of what a game should have. The next gen is something that hasn't been necessarily been seen and done before, whether that be gawking at the greater detail of the graphics, wondering at new advances in gameplay, enjoying new and accessible control schemes, or just being taken in by a gimmic. It's all connected to something shiny and cutting edge--it's why they sell so many of the new ones, and why they aren't still selling Ataris and SNES.

Re:Next Gen Ideals vs. Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14738894)

"The only reason people question the "NextGen"ishness of some 360 launch titles is because, as with any new system, many of the launch titles are so inefficient they really aren't that quantum step up from the old one."

Ahhh yes, the 'not using all the cores' or 'teh scarry world of multi-core programming' Xbox fans all seem to have seized on as their primary damage control/rationalization for the shitty 360 graphics.

PS. you should learn what a 'quantum step' is before you try to use it in a sentence again...

Re:Next Gen Ideals vs. Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14740858)

We may want Next Gen to mean quantum increases across the board. We may feel a true "Next Gen" game should step up its game in every field not just shiny stuff. They're a whole bunch of nice ideals but the sad truth is, we're judged by our actions and our actions have us simply calling a quantum increase in graphics "NextGen" because it's the only thing that really needs the next generation of systems to be possible.

A quantum is generally pretty small.

Better Physical Modelling increases possibilities (2, Interesting)

LoveMe2Times (416048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738689)

I'm going to make a broad generalization here, so bear with me. There are basically two types of games:

1) Abstract, pattern, or board type games. Puzzle games, party games, and non-game-games.
2) Stylized simulations of various kinds. Simulated driving, sports, fighting/combat, and so forth. Even fantastical worlds have kind of implied rules that are being simulated.

For type #1, since there's no pseudo real world to simulate, designers are free to make up their own rules, and convincing physics or human-like AI aren't so important. Additionally, good graphics tend to be irrelevant to these types of games. As a result, there's almost no such thing as a "next-gen" puzzle game, because pretty much any puzzle game that gets made could have been done on previous-gen hardware. One exception might be TetriSphere.

However, for simulation type games, the drastic changes come from increases in the fidelity of the simulation. Since perfect simulation is impossible, we're stuck with a mixture of scripted/canned behaviors that cover a wide array of interactions along with actual simulation. So a primary driving force in making these games feel "next-gen" is migrating an entire category of functionality from scripts into simulation. Doing this requires more horsepower, thus next-gen hardware, and makes the game seem qualitatively different because player freedom has increased.

I think a basic development that has to happen soon is a move towards more realtime skeletal animation. I think it's practically criminal that new games being made today still have characters get hung up on the slightest corners of objects. Getting "stuck" on a crate is ridiculous, or a doorframe or a rock or anything. You need to appropriately account for momentum and have skeletal animation to realistically show the effect on the character, so you can stumble, bump, trip, twist etc. Deformable environments need to be common place, with decent collision/impact calculations (I've never played Red Faction, so I don't know how good of a job it did). Elements in the environment need to react properly to extreme heat or cold. You can come up with an almost endless laundry list of these things.

These types of things will give players more freedom and more convincingly immersive games. You could then make Sequel 127 and have it seem fresh and distinct, as the play experience will be unlike what came before. But then you'll need something else by the time you hit Sequel 130. But for right now, there are plenty of REALLY OBVIOUS things that need to be done, but don't seem to be chased very much. Of course, that's because these things are *hard* while improving graphics is easy...

Re:Better Physical Modelling increases possibiliti (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740547)

As to Red Faction - a good lot of enemy movements were scripted, yes, but the Geomod (destructable environments that you mentioned) kicked ass, you could roughly carve out a ramp/stairs out of a wall and get to odd ass places. Red Faction 2 however, was *very* sadly dissapointing - AI was improved yes, though 75% of it was still scripted, and worse yet than scripted AI was what it did to Geomod. In Red Faction 1, you could carve 20 feet into a cave wall - in Red Faction 2 (I only played the PS2 version of that one) you could only geomod very select parts of the world, namely 6 inch thick brick walls, limiting you to pretty much just making makeshift doors.

Re:Better Physical Modelling increases possibiliti (1)

LoveMe2Times (416048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740652)

Yes, I remember reading that the sequel kinda screwed the pooch. I've always wanted to play the first one though. Just not much time for games these days :( It's just so damn annoying that rocket launchers will not harm a flimsy wooden door in the slightest, nooooo, you have to find the right key or passcard or whatever. Bleh.

Next gen is... (2, Interesting)

Sathias (884801) | more than 8 years ago | (#14738990)

... when the first time you boot up a game your jaw hits the floor at how much better the game is than the ones you currently play. As far as FPS games go (which have the most instant visceral effect) Doom did that to me, so did Quake 1, the next one to do that was Half-Life during the sequence where the portal opens into the alien world and everything goes to shit. Far-Cry was probably the next one that did that to me when you come out of the caves and see that massive view distance for the first time. I have a feeling that Oblivion will be the next one that has that effect on me.

Next Question (1)

KaiEl (680059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14739002)

This is Next Gen [next-gen.biz]

Next gen emulates prev gen (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14739172)

I don't know what makes a game next gen, but I know what makes a console next gen.

A next gen console can run a prev gen console emulator.

Re:Next gen emulates prev gen (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740877)

Or make the old games work through compatible hardware?

Re:Next gen emulates prev gen (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14741662)

No, that's really not the same thing. What I meant is that you know your in the next gen when you got so much more power that you can emulate prev gen, emulating making it more power hungry than just being backwards compatible.

Not a very well researched list (2, Interesting)

atomicstrawberry (955148) | more than 8 years ago | (#14739240)

While it's true that most of the supposed 'innovative' gameplay entries listed are the games which are often credited with these innovations, most of them aren't the true innovators. Others did it first, and they've simply given it a bit of spit and polish, and been able to exploit newer technologies.

It's already been pointed out that Halo was hardly the first playable FPS on a console - while not quite as polished in control (mainly due to the controller design, IMO) as Halo, Perfect Dark and Goldeneye both did it earlier. If anything, Halo could be seen as polishing refining the ground that Goldeneye really innovated in.

Half Life was not the first FPS to integrate a decent story with the gameplay. Marathon did that nearly five years earlier, and System Shock beat them as well. Depending on whether you class it as a FPS, you could even argue that Pathways into Darkness did it even earlier.

Resident Evil didn't really tread any new ground that hadn't been gone over in Alone in the Dark (which was a better game, in my opinion).

Did Mario 64 really innovate that much? It's certainly a hallmark title with fantastic gameplay, but the point of this article was supposed to be *innovative* gameplay, not highly-polished gameplay that other games had done beforehand. Hell, Doom listed as being innovative because it was a FPS? What happened to Wolfenstein 3D? Doom is a great game, but again, it refines on the innovation provided by earlier games.

This is not to say that refining existing game ideas into new games is a bad thing or anything - far from it, it's how games have always developed. If you're going to start listing off the games that were truly innovative and created a lasting impression on whole generations of games to come, then you should be listing the ones that did it first, not the first ones to gain mainstream approval for it.

In terms of next-gen gameplay innovations, the truth of the matter is that games have always employed an evolutionary model. They started very simple, and as time went on some new ideas (mutations) came in, making new varieties of game. Some types of games died out, and others thrived. Complexity increased and increased. In games, as in genetics, as the complexity increases, the amount of impact that a single mutation (idea) can have on the overall product is reduced. What I'm attempting to say is that back at the dawn of gaming, new ideas could be pretty simple (for example, adding a high scores table) but a single, simple idea could make a huge impact on the game. A lot of us gamers have been gaming for a long time now, and we've watched the complexity increase. There's a sizeable number of people who decry the current state of games and the supposed lack of innovation, but I can't help wondering whether it's just that simple innovations aren't going to be as obvious any more. We point to the big changes that went on ten years ago (or more) and note all the huge innovations, and are expecting that the same huge jumps should still be happening at the same rate now. It's just not going to happen any more, unless the actual hardware undergoes a paradigm shift. What we're going to see, I think, is more combining and refining of existing ideas. There will still be great games, and there will still be awful games. There is no single special quality or qualities that somehow makes a game 'next-gen'.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that the games which will later be accepted as being 'next gen' will be whatever makes the publishers the most money.

Re:Not a very well researched list (1)

russellh (547685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740309)

Hell, Doom listed as being innovative because it was a FPS? What happened to Wolfenstein 3D? Doom is a great game, but again, it refines on the innovation provided by earlier games.

Doom is the game that really started the game hardware upgrade cycle. At the time, it was therefore a truly next-gen game. You wanted to buy the biggest, baddest hardware you could afford just to play Doom. You upgraded just to play Doom.

Re:Not a very well researched list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14740317)

Fucking clueless x86 pc clowns.

We hitting a ceiling on video games? (1)

British (51765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14739944)

There was talk of hitting limits on processor speed.

Wonder if the same thing can be applied to video games.

Yes, Super Mario Brothers was a big step up from pong, or anything atari 2600.

Sure, Super Mario 64 was a big step up from super mario bros.

But when I tried Tony Hawk for the xbox360, it just looked like a cleaner crisper display(it was on an HDTV) version of Tony Hawk for my PS2.

Yeah, so, um, were gonna play hundreds of dollars for slightly crisper, probably more detailed graphics, but no revolution in gameplay?

I actually hope for another video game crash. Let the cycle of life happen("gotham must die!"). I'm not seeing the leaps and bounds video game consols are making as much now compared to 2 years ago. C'mon let's see more dud consoles that will be collector items in 10 years!

That, and I could buy a bunch of PS2 titles for cheap. It seems any time I visit a video game store I discover yet ANOTHER tv show or movie ported to a video game. C'mon Bad Boys? Predator(a version where you are the predator and just kill people ala the 2nd movie).

Re:We hitting a ceiling on video games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14740145)

"But when I tried Tony Hawk for the xbox360, it just looked like a cleaner crisper display(it was on an HDTV) version of Tony Hawk for my PS2."

Gee, could that be because outside of supporting higher resolution and some pixel colouring capabilities, ie. 'teh shine', the Xbox 360 isn't a next gen console.

Try your rant again when the two actual next gen consoles are release in a few months.

Re:We hitting a ceiling on video games? (1)

rohlfinator (888775) | more than 8 years ago | (#14743288)

Do you really think Tony Hawk for the PS3 will be that much different?

Let's face it, there are just some games and genres that don't need to be "next-gen". Dead or Alive 4 is basically DOA 3 with more polygons and shaders. Gran Turismo 5 probably will have very similar gameplay to GT4. Smash Bros. Revolution will most likely be a game that could have been designed for the GameCube.

A lot of genres are starting to hit a region of diminishing returns, at least in hardware requirements. Hardware improvements aren't significantly affecting gameplay anymore. Nearly every new third-person adventure game uses the classic Zelda64 model of gameplay. 3D racing games have been relatively unchanged since the early PS1. Most sports games have the same gameplay as they did last generation.

Like a few people have already pointed out, this next generation is primarily about graphics. Yes, one could argue that the Cell processor will be able to handle bigger terrain, advanced AI, more onscreen enemies, etc., but the games that truly need those features will be few and far between. 95% of "next-gen" games will be graphically enhanced current-gen games.

That is, unless the Nintendo Revolution lives up to its name...

Innovative isn't. (1)

slaida1 (412260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740249)

"Contrary to popular belief, the ability to create more realistic and lifelike graphical environments doesn't always count as innovation.

Who's popular belief would that be, marketing drones'? Inventing wheel was innovative, inventing firemaking was innovative, etc. It seems that these days everything that's applauded as innovative, isn't.

So wrong (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740263)

> 2001: Halo is released (XBOX)
> Innovation: Console friendly controls for FPS games.

As many said before, Goldeneye for N64

> 1998: Half Life (PC)
> Innovations: Seamless integration of Story and Gameplay in a FPS, Enemy A.I.

Maybe one of these:
- 1996: Marathon 2: Durandal
- 1995: Dark Forces ...

> 1996: Resident Evil (PSOne)
> Innovation: Established the Survival-Horror genre.

1992: Alone in the Dark (PC)

It may not have established the genre, but establishment for something that already exists doesn't mean innovation.

> 1996: Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
> Innovation: Helped establish the 3-D platformer genre.

Helped? So what game was the real inovator?

> 1993: Doom (PC)
> Innovations: First Person Shooter; LAN based Multiplayer gaming; user created mods.

Afaik Doom wasn't created to be mod friendly. So it didn't inovate on that point. And what about Wolfenstein 3D released in 1992, wasn't that an FPS?

Perhaps (1)

howman (170527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740745)

Perhaps next gen won't be based on a great leap in graphics or in some of the other things that have been mentioned here, but rather on the games ability to change over time based on the users skill. To use a first person shooter game as an example, one ends up fighting the same monsters over and over again in exactly the same way each time you die in order to learn the game patterns until you ultimately reach the final goal. Now perhaps next gen games will see that you are doing better each time you re-live a certain portion of the game and automatically adjust the skill required to pass that level. This is addressed somewhat in the online games where you play against other people and therfore have an unlimited number of patterns, or to be exact, no patters only chaos to master in order to get better.
On the front of games such as racing games, little things bother me. As I love motorcycle games and ride a bike more than I drive a car, I have yet to find a game that mimics the actual head angle and intonation as that in real life. All the bike games I play whip you over at some obsure angle everytime you go into a corner when that does not happen in real life. As to car racing games, I think next gen will be more about realism in feeling. No game, even the fantastic robotic manipulated simulation games here in Japan come close to the real feeling of tar strips, four wheel slides or cornering although some do a decent job of acceleration ad braking. Vanishing point and resolution of distance objects are another drawback to being able to feel immersed in the game. Racing requires you look one or two corners ahead of where you are but in games this is impossible due to the limitation of the monitors or processing power of the graphics.

Re:Perhaps (1)

rohlfinator (888775) | more than 8 years ago | (#14743345)

"Perhaps next gen won't be based on a great leap in graphics or in some of the other things that have been mentioned here, but rather on the games ability to change over time based on the users skill."
That doesn't require next-gen hardware. IIRC, Resident Evil 4 adjusted the gameplay slightly based on the player's performance. Also, God of War provided players with health bonuses after each death, to give them a slightly better chance at victory. I'm sure there are better examples than these, but they illustrate that variable difficulty levels are already possible.

I wouldn't be surprised if certain arcade games from the '80s used some form of this. It's really not very complicated.

The future is DigiScent iSmell! (1)

Keen Anthony (762006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14740977)

No, seriously!

years ago there was this device by DigiScent [slashdot.org] called iSmell [gamasutra.com] that could connect to your computer. By combining a mixture of base scents from a palette, the device could synthesize a number of different scents that would be aerated out. The human olfactory system can recognize far more distinct smells than what iSmell could mix, but DigiScent promised thousands of possible scent combinations.

The product became vaporware sure, but such a technology could increase sensory immersion in video games. It would be fun if different scents could be aerated to match game settings like the smell of a jungle in Splinter Cell. Surely someone at DigiScent imagined synthesizing the smell of gunpowder.

How about games that require players to use different scents during gameplay. For example, in Nintendo's Harvest Moon gamers can buy flowers for some of the game's female characters. One of the games puzzles could be to pick flowers based on scents that would be most pleasing to the recipient. Maybe in a murder mystery game, a player could sniff the scent of perfume and deduct that Ms. Peacock killed Mr. Body in the obvervatory with the new Nintendo controller.

iSmell was discussed at Wired.com [wired.com] too.

Re:The future is DigiScent iSmell! (1)

cluke (30394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14742959)

That sounds rubbish. If you had a system like this, you have crossed the line from simulating something to actually doing it, which is not why we play games.

Games allow you to pretend to do things that you would not necessarily really want to do. You only want to bring realism so far. Even if displays were holographic 3D displays, they still wouldn't be real - there is a line there that can never be crossed, only approached. However, a fighting game that actually punched you in the face, that would have greatly increased realism, but what fun would that be? Similarly with iSmell. You're not going to want the sewer level to genuinely smell of shit, are you?

Might be useful for proper training simulations though.

Re:The future is DigiScent iSmell! (1)

Keen Anthony (762006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745851)

There any many reasons why people play video games; realism has always been one of them. Some gamers are content with smashing the green dots deep within the mysterious red square - I'm one of them, but there are serious gamers that want to push realism as far as technology will make possible. I'm not even talking about the diehard simulationist camp that play games that allow them to pretend to do things they only wish they could do.

I promise you there are gamers that would enjoy a more physical reaction from a boxing game than what a vibrating controller will bring. You are right. There are lines that can never be crossed, but that's only because of technology, and not because gamers put a ceiling on sensory immersion. Downloading the stench of a sewer would indeed suck. Even if iSmell could deliver the goods, game designers and game players would still want to use the technology in a way that satisfies.

Here's an idea I had a few years back that I thought iSmell would be great for, a zombie survival horror game. A device like iSmell could force gamers to rely on more than just audio and visual cues. The game downloading the simulated foul stench of a corpse will warn the gamer he is not alone.

next-gen has always meant next-gen... (1)

moogaloonie (955355) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744663)

Why is everyone trying so hard to re-define the obvious? I remember ColecoVision being advertised as 3rd generation because it was preceded by the 2nd generation (Intellivison, Arcadia etc.) and before that the 1st generation (Atari 2600, Odyssey 2). The first generation refers to the first wave of programmable systems, the ones before that mostly had their games built in. By the time of the NES and Master System, it was unclear what generation had been reached. Was Intellivision II still a 2nd gen system? What about the Atari 5200, and 7800? Since the late 80's the term next-gen has always referred to any console available or under development which is architecturally more advanced than what was previously available in that market. The question shouldn't be what is next-gen, but rather which systems at their launch technically were not. There aren't very many really to consider. The gameGear may have been old SMS technology, but it was certainly next-gen compared to the gameboy. The Atari 5200 and AmigaCD32 were both superior to their intended competitors from the previous gen though both used technology from more expensive computers which had been available for some time. The TurboGrafx/PCEngine is certainly more advanced than the NES, despite an 8-bit processor that was primitive compared to the Genesis/Megadrive which launched at about the same time. Despite this, the NEC system could still display more colours on screen and move larger sprites. The Jaguar, which was in most every way inferior to the 3D0 multiplayer of the same gen as it, was still tremendously more powerful than the SNES/Genesis generation which preceded it.
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