Which Last Gen Trends Will Continue into the Next Gen… and Which Should Die?

Games, Movies, Banter

Which Last Gen Trends Will Continue into the Next Gen… and Which Should Die?

January 21, 2014 Blog Featured 2

The PS4 And Xbox One are out and available after a couple months of scarcity. We’re in a New Year and new generation so it is time to reflect on the old and look forward to the new. As we move on to new systems, let’s take a look at what trends emerged this past console generation and consider if they will continue as we go further into a new era of gaming. We’ll also consider if some trends are better left in the past.

Trend: Twists in the Story and “Shocking” Endings

Storytelling has become a huge aspect of what makes a game good during this console generation. Games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and The Last of Us have won game of the year awards based on their ability to tell an engaging (and in their case shockingly similar) story. Bioshock was an early example of how a good twist in the story could make a narrative and game much more memorable. It has now gotten to the point that a gamer expects some sort of betrayal or redefinition of the story partway through every game they play. A simple tale of the protagonist overcoming clearly defined adversity doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. You can’t play a modern story-driven game without expecting the other shoe to drop at some point.

Will it Survive in the Next Gen?

 My guess is that it will. As stories get more complex, more complex technology should only enable developers to create more dramatic shifts in narratives. This idea is hot but may not last the whole generation. GTA5, considered the last great game of the old generation, has bucked this trend a bit by basically creating a story that is straightforward and relatively light in tone with the possibility for a traditional happy ending. Could this be an indicator that gamers are getting sick of the twists?

Should it Survive in the Next Gen? 

Yes and no. These twists and unexpected endings used to be so exciting because they were different and unexpected. If every story has a twist, then they all lose a bit of their impact. For example, when playing The Last of Us, did anyone expect that meeting the Fireflies would end well? The ending had an impact but wasn’t as surprising as it could have been given the current climate of stories in gaming. Surprising, engaging stories should be a huge part of gaming going forward, but some games have to realize that their story doesn’t need betrayal and redefinition to be good. Some games need to keep the simple point A to point B story structure, if for no other reason than to keep us honest for the twisty stories.

Trend: Zombies and Apocalypses Everywhere

I already mentioned The Last of Us and the Walking Dead as two games that were highly lauded this generation that also happen to have very similar subject matter. Zombie apocalypses are extremely hot right now and it is hard to see the infection ending any time soon.

Apocalyptic settings lend themselves well to gaming. They not only allow for foreboding dilapidated locales, but they also encourage that scrounging and looting gameplay that is surprisingly addictive and satisfying.

Zombies are even more ubiquitous than apocalypses. Even apocalyptic games like Fallout that aren’t necessarily about zombies still feature an incarnation of the undead (feral ghouls). Zombies even show up in franchises where they don’t make any sense like Call of duty or Red Dead Redemption. There’s even a zombie mode in Injustice. Whether they’re terrorizing the wasteland, a shopping mall, either of the two surrogate father-daughter duos, or just fighting plants, zombies were everywhere during this past generation.

Will it Survive in the Next Gen? 

Yes, zombies will not be shambling out of gaming any time soon. The zombie trend is hot in other media as well as in games right now and one of the first Next Gen titles was a Dead Rising 3, a game dedicated entirely to zombies. Even the Wii U launched with Zombie U last year. Zombies will continue to be one of gaming’s go to enemies for the foreseeable future.

Should it Survive in the Next Gen?

Not to this extent. I’ve had just about enough of zombies at this point. They’ll always have a place in gaming but I would prefer them to stick to their survival horror roots and not invade other genres. Far too often zombies are used in games because it is an easily justifiable way to make mutilating enemies OK and they also obviously use brain-dead AI. It doesn’t take much thought or creativity to have an enemy simply walk straight towards the player. That is pretty much all zombies do in games. It often ends up simply not being fun to fight them. Their overuse has also made them considerably less scary than they used to be. Only games with very strong stories like the Walking Dead do a good job of conveying just how horrifying losing a loved one to zombification can be. Zombie games can be good but there is a real need to weed out the tedium that comes with fighting waves of brain dead enemies and gratuitous uses of zombies in gaming.

Trend: The Death of Local Multiplayer/the Proliferation of Online Multiplayer

This last generation saw most gamers gain access to internet connections which allowed for some truly unique multiplayer experiences. Halo games were epic online and Call of Duty became one of the most profitable franchises in gaming history because of its online multiplayer. Soon online multiplayer expanded beyond shooters into sports games, racing games, and even some unexpected places like the action franchises Assassin’s Creed and more recently Batman Arkham Origins.

As developers focused more on putting online components in their games, they started to neglect the idea of local mutliplayer. Split screen has become a relic of the past for most shooters, despite the increased size and fidelity of the average TV screen. The online profile system has lead to awkward situations where separate profiles are needed to play a local multiplayer game on one system. With the exception of the Wii’s party-oriented games, this last generation has put the multiplayer focus firmly in the online arena.

Will it Survive in the Next Gen?

Smart money says yes, but not without some caveats. All the next gen systems are designed to be always online, even if Sony tells you otherwise. The online profile system encourages online multiplayer over local multiplayer for logistical reasons. Microsoft talks about cloud computing and its huge serves when talking about next gen gaming, envisioning a shared online gamescape in the cloud with little to no lag.

The one bastion of hope for local multiplayer is the new focus on second screens. All the next gen systems somehow support the use of a second screen through the use of tablets, the Vita, or the Wii U’s gamepad controller. A local second screen obviously can lead to many interesting local multiplayer scenarios.

Should it Survive in the next Gen?

I would love this trend to be reversed a bit. We’ve seen several franchises try and shoehorn needless online aspects into their games in recent years. Bioshock 2 and the Assassin’s Creed franchise come immediately to mind. Also the assumptions that everyone is always going to have a smooth functional internet connection and that games’ servers will be able to handle large amounts of traffic are dubious to say the least. We saw real disasters in online gaming with the launches of GTA Online and Sim City. Online multiplayer can be great, but it is hard to guarantee that it will actually work at any given time. Also, online gaming is usually all about playing against strangers which is fine until you inevitably encounter the uglier side of semi-anonymous humanity in whatever game you play.

Local multiplayer is still my preferred way to play with friends. Even with private matches and party chat, it simply is not the same as sitting next to friends and gaming in the same room. Most gamers have fond memories of sharing some drinks, food, and insults with friends during local multiplayer sessions. Bigger HD TVs and stronger systems mean that split-screen should be more viable than ever, not a thing of the past. We even have extra screens now for all our next gen systems. If developers are willing to put the work in, there’s no reason why local multiplayer can’t experience something of a Renaissance this next console generation.

 

Trend: Everything is Brown Gray

Military shooters set in war torn desert locales. Apocalyptic wastelands. Gears of War. As graphical fidelity has increased, a desire for gritty, grainy, visual presentation became popular. Some graphical artists actually went as far as to put a grain filter over their entire game. These games were set in desolate settings, and this lack of color helped convey a certain hopelessness in the environment.

Will it Survive in the Next Gen?

It seems this trend may have finally run its course. Franchises that were always stuck in the gray and brown like Call of Duty have made an effort in recent years to include more colorful settings. Gears of War remains ugly but there’s hope that the next gen version of that franchise might add more visual variety to its color pallet. It seems for the most part that developers started noticing this trend and tackled it head on. Some games will always strive to be gritty and realistic, but most developers know enough to alter the aesthetics of their games to avoid the monotony of the visual diarrhea that is constant gray and brown.

Should it Survive in the Next Gen?

Obviously we’ve had enough intentionally ugly environments. The overabundance of gray and brown has made Mario and Sonic games, which aren’t exactly new in their presentation, seem refreshing. The new systems are going to be capable of showing off some beautiful environments and it would be a shame is developers choose to show off the new processing power by making the most detailed brown and gray buildings and characters possible.

Trend: The Japanese Game Companies’ Fall From Grace

There was a time when all serious video games came from Japan. This last generation saw many of the industry’s most respected Japanese companies make major missteps and lose fan support. Capcom has come under constant scrutiny for its shelving of Megaman, its Ultimate editions, and its increasingly less scary, more-action oriented Resident Evil games. Square Enix has effectively ruined its Final Fantasy series with lackluster releases and strange delays. Even when they have a success with the Tomb Raider reboot, their over ambitious sales predictions make them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Even Nintendo has seen some for the worse losses that they’ve ever experienced this year as the Wii U has sold exceptionally poorly and seems to have already lost third party support.

Meanwhile, Western developers like EA, 2K, Rockstar, Bethesda, and Activision have all great success in the past generation.

Will it Survive in the Next Gen?

While Western developers will continue to dominate the Western market, Japanese developers have a chance to make a comeback. There is a sweeping anti-Microsoft, anti-EA and pro Sony sentiment in the gaming community right now and that may translate to renewed interest in Japanese style games.

Additionally, Nintendo will start releasing their first party games, which will sell systems and games. Nintendo will be fine.

Should it Survive in the Next Gen?

Japanese developers are important for the industry and should never go away but these companies need to realize that the landscape of the industry has hanged and if they want to remain relevant they need to adapt more than it seems that they have in the last generation. I like that Western games have come to the forefront of gaming now, but there ideally should be a mix between Western and Eastern games. The positive part of this trend is how well Western developers have stepped up, but we still need good Japanese platformers and RPGs to mix with Western shooters and open world games.

Any other trends that you think should survive or die as we go into the next generation? Leave a comment with a trend and explain what you think should happen to it.