Dream a Little Dream With Me
I might as well put a cap on the week of Xbox One with another post. If you’re tired of reading about the Xbox One, well, please accept my sincerest apologies. Here’s what comes up when you type “extremely interesting articles” and hit the ol’ I’m Feeling Lucky button on Google. Maybe there’s something there that will tide you over until Xbox X-Citement 2013 dies down. The first article on there when I checked it was about mole rats, so, that’s a plus, right?
So the general consensus from our lovely Schmamily on the Xbox One appears to be “meh.” Everyone was underwhelmed, with the one bastion of hope being Corey, who (if I am summarizing his position correctly) was just less “meh” than everyone else, though he feels everyone would be of equal “meh” with him if they had entered the announcement with proper expectations.
Full disclosure: I have no expectations for the Xbox One. I also have very little opinion on it because I didn’t watch the reveal. There were certainly items discussed in the post-reveal press conference that will make me a hard no on the system if Sony doesn’t reciprocate with similar bullshit; namely, having bad peripherals be required, allowing game developers to use the cloud as part of a game’s core processing [re: Sim City fiasco] and having to connect to the internet daily. (I’ve routinely taken my PS3 on vacations with me where I have no internet connection, and I plan on continuing to blow off steam by having game getaways with very little connection to the rest of the world.) When the dust settles, because I am brand loyal and have found their predecessors more enjoyable than the Xbox and 360, I will most likely end up with a PS4 and (now that there’s been a price drop) a Wii-U.
I’m not making my mind up now, though, and I won’t be following press releases or E3 presentations to try to. I’m going to do what I do with all consoles; wait until I can get my hands on one to test out for free, evaluate it, see how the game exclusives are panning out and then invest. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo (if they get their marketing act together) are going to hype the shit out of these consoles from now until launch and then for years after that. And everything they say is going to be melodramatic, over-sensational, pie-in-the-sky promises that buying their system will give you a revolutionary game experience, cure you of all illnesses, triple your IQ and get you a blowjob from Lauren Cohan.
Those companies have every right to do that. If they didn’t make outlandish claims and try their best at showmanship then their marketing departments should be fired. But if you use some discernment it won’t take you long to realize that most of this is best ignored until you can just see footage of real gameplay, or of the special features in action. The new systems will not deliver on the promises their makers are giving. They just won’t. When have they ever? There will be awesome things about them, but they won’t be quite as awesome as the guy on stage promises you they will be.
Corey’s comments about expectations did get me thinking though. Obviously we all want these consoles to deliver something; otherwise we wouldn’t have any expectations to be let down on. The question is: what is that something? Every gamer’s dream console would be slightly different than the next. So here’s what would be included for me if a console were to suddenly part the clouds and descend to Earth in a ray of heavenly light. I found that my desires are relatively simple, and that I’m going to care much more about what software developer partnerships the console manufactures make than what hardware they drop. Maybe all of these features would suck for you. If so, tell me what yours would look like in the comments!
- Focus on Local Multiplayer – I’ve mentioned this before, and I know I’m not in the majority opinion here, but I really dislike playing online. I’ll do it when it’s the only option to play with my friends, but I’d spend so much more time gaming if there were more good, 4-player local games available. I’ve never raged more than when my friends and I bought a copy of Left 4 Dead – a game that has four in the fucking title, a cover featuring a zombie holding up four fingers and four main characters – and discovered that we couldn’t play with 4 people unless we had two consoles and two copies of the game. These aren’t NES games; all the modern consoles support more than two controllers at once – use them. Of course, this is more of a developer issue than a console issue, but as long as the next-gen of consoles are apparently going to be invading my living room with all their other pointless shit then at least show me that you’re dedicated to helping me have friends in that living room with me. Rechargeable controllers are great, but give me a cord long enough that I don’t have to sit three feet from the console if all my controllers are in use and one dies on us. Show me that you’re going to provide some IPs that feature Four Swords Adventure type action where multiple people can play with no split screen. And speaking of split screen:
- Let Me Split Four Screens Over Two TVs – This is essentially Point A, subsection 1, but I’m calling it out because it’s the one true local multiplayer innovation I could think of. As long as new consoles are going to connect to phones, PCs, ceiling fans, toasters, etc.; how about the option to stream four split screens over two TVs? Games could even utilize this as part of their game features – say we get a game where one or two players control parts of the map by activating traps as other players scale a tower or whatever; the screens could always be split across the TVs so that the players with more control have their own monitor.
- Platform for Indie Developers and the Modding Community – Corey has discussed before that apparently Sony will be courting indie developers more while Microsoft appears to be making them less of a priority. Well, that’s a point for Sony’s corner. I actually rarely play indie games now, but more and more on the horizon keep piquing my interest, and as I grow older my budget keeps tightening and I’m being able to afford less AAA games. I’d also like if consoles had some tools to allow players to create mods (I’m not at all sure of the feasibility of that, but this is a dream console, after all). There’s been tons of mods that I would have loved to play with but haven’t been able to because I game primarily on consoles. People with too much time on their hands create some awesome stuff; give me access to it and I’ll give you my money.
- Instantaneous Nacho Creation
- Strong App Lineup – There are some add-ons I would like with my consoles. I was intrigued by the fantasy sports addition in the Xbox One presentation (though, again, I don’t know exactly how it looked because I didn’t watch it) because that would be handy for me; I spend half the time I’m watching a game staring at my phone or laptop to see what’s going on in other games (I’m not going to watch Red Zone to see all my player’s score because I prefer watching the rest of the drive to the actual touchdown in most cases). But that’s not at all enough to be a selling point, and if you’re pushing these kind of things as a major reason to buy your console then my assumption is that I will be saddled with tons of features that I will never use. Instead, show me that you have a good relationship with developers that can deliver solid apps like this that I can pick and choose based on their relevance to my life.
- Engine (and Dedication) To Release some Episodic Content – This is another that is more on developers than the console manufacturers, per se, but the consoles can implement some strategies to show that this is something we might see on their consoles. Even if its something as simple as having Steam integration with the console (or, hell, just creating a separate menu in PSN, XBL and the Wii Store) where we might get some episodic games. They’ve already done this with games like The Walking Dead, so this isn’t a revolutionary idea/software/anything, but I’d like to see a console where a good chunk of the games are released episodically. I like the idea of games moving into episodes for a lot of reasons – it’s much easier to sit down and play an episode than a full length game, I don’t have to pay full price for an entire story arc if I try the first episode and find it uninteresting, it creates an impetus for developers to craft interesting stories to prevent me from doing that, and there is less wait time between new installments (personally, I usually find myself with a huge stack of games to catch up on because I don’t have the time for all of them, but getting them in short bursts would probably help with the log-jam.)
- Something innovative – This one’s vague because I don’t know what they could come up with. But show me that you’re at least trying. Sure, it doesn’t always work out, but I can’t think of an experiment that absolutely sunk a console (unless maybe you count Virtual Boy). Sony lost money on development when the six axis feature was never put to good use, but people just stopped putting it in games when it was clear it was a dud and the PS3 kept going on other merits. Maybe companies develop something on their on, maybe they start working with the Occulus Rift guys… I don’t know. Just show me something (and then actually use it well – that one’s for Nintendo at the moment).
- No Social Media Connection – I’m sure there are lots of people who love being able to share trophies and whatnot on Facebook, or love the connectivity feature of having random people’s drawings pop up on the Wii-U. I hate all of that. If I don’t have friends over, then I want to sit alone and play through some games. I don’t want shit popping up on my screens, I don’t want to deal with constant reminders that I could be playing with someone, I just want to play a game. I put a lot of time into LittleBigPlanet until I was playing one day and some people I didn’t know randomly popped into the level I was on. That was enough to turn me off of the game. I’m socially awkward in real life and I’m consistent when it comes to my online persona; leave me the hell alone!
- Less Emphasis on Graphics – It’s not that I don’t like great graphics; I would prefer the Wii-U to have PS4/Xbox One level graphics. But the Wii lagged behind the PS3 and Xbox 360, yet I spend more time playing Smash Brothers, Mario Kart and Mario Party than any games on the other two systems, because Nintendo delivers games that are fun to play (especially with other people). Since this is a “dream console,” I suppose I could just say that I want near Uncanny Valleydom, but I make this point here just to say that graphics aren’t a priority for me. If the game is fun, I’ll play it. There are games on the N64, PS1, PS2, Xbox, etc. that still hold up aesthetically today because the developers figured out how to work with the system. Give me interesting game play and story lines; graphics are a nice cherry on top. If I wanted the best graphics I’d maintain a gaming PC. And speaking of PCs:
- Just play fucking games – (No, not fucking games, Josh and Patrick.) All I want my console to do is play games. The more crap you add onto the console, the higher the possibility of something going wrong. The reason I switched from PC gaming to mostly consoles is because I like the ease of just putting a game in and knowing it will work because it’s designed specifically for the hardware that I have.
- No DRM Bullshit – This is a dream, after all. Attention manufacturers: if you require me to have an internet connection at any point during my single player experience, I’m out. The music industry has gone through their own DRM nightmares, and I hate the entitled nature of the torrent pirates on the internet when it comes to music/games, but there are now many music sites that have proven that treating your customers like trustworthy adults is possible.
- Used Games – I’m poor. I’m going to be in school for five more years so I’ll be poor for a while. I can’t pay $60 for everything.
- Don’t Raise the Average Game Price Over $60 – See Games, Used. $60 is pushing it for a lot of purchases, honestly, but there’s a lot of people involved with making a game so I can live with it.
- Don’t Force Failed Peripherals on Me: *cough* Kinect *cough*. If your latest gadget isn’t selling, don’t force me to plug one into my system – actually develop some compelling reasons for me to give a shit about it. If you force me to have it on then there’s a larger likelihood that you’ll force me to use it in a game, and an even greater likelihood that you won’t get my money.
That’s the core of what I want from my next-gen console. Obviously they’ll come with a lot more features than this, but if a console gave me something along this base and then added the rest of their stuff on top, then I’d empty my bank account.