Why I'm Disappointed With Next Gen Gaming - Part 2 - Article

By Zach Frimpong, April 9, 2014
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I recently published an article expressing my concerns and disappointment with the new generation of consoles, which garnered a lot of mixed opinions in the comments section. I stand by the idea that everybody should be able to express their opinion and accept the inevitability of people disagreeing with them; it's natural for people to have opinions which differ from your own. However, when reading through the comments, I got the impression that some people may have misunderstood me and that others were more focused on the background of the person expressing the opinions rather than what was said.

Because of this, I feel it is necessary to attempt to clarify some of my points - to explain what I was trying to get across in the original article and address some of the criticisms levelled at myself, my arguments, and the article as a whole. This is going to be a much longer article and I urge you to read it until the end because, who knows, we might be able to agree.

First, I'd like to touch on the hardware of the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U, which I feel needs to be detailed in order for you to understand many of my concerns. Some people claimed I don't really understand game or hardware development, but I'd like to rebut that. Most developers know how to code for PC. PCs run on x86 architecture. In previous generations, the consoles all ran on unique architecture so it took much longer for developers to really wrap their minds around the hardware and squeeze the power out of the consoles. This is why we can see a dramatic increase in graphical fidelity between a launch game like Perfect Dark Zero compared to Halo 4 - put simply, optimising for unique architecture is much harder and takes up more time. The PS3 ran on the Cell architecture, which was a nightmare to develop for, and the Xbox 360 and Wii ran on Power PC architecture.

With the exception of the Wii U, both the PS4 and Xbox One run on x86 architecture, and while there are certain technical differences, they're essentially very similar to PCs, which is the platform most developers are accustomed to. When developers are given a platform that runs on familiar architecture, they're going to be able to tap the power of the hardware they're working with much faster than in previous console generations due to their prior knowledge and expertise with the code. Back in 2007, we weren't seeing the full potential of the Xbox 360 or PS3 because developers had to learn the hardware.

This time, the learning curve isn't nearly as substantial. This is why I am concerned about the longevity of these consoles. It's not going to be long before we see these consoles being completely maxed out, so saying that games are going to greatly improve in their graphical fidelity, performance, or innovation (as they have, quite substantially, in every other generation) over the course of this generation is not necessarily the case. Yes, there will be a small increase in graphical fidelity and performance over the next year as developers continue to optimise their games, but this is ultimately the best we're really going to get with these new consoles.

Just to be clear: I don't really care that much about realistic graphics. Art style is a different story, but graphics themselves are low on my spectrum of importance when it comes to a video game. Gameplay usually comes first, with the exception of story driven games or interactive narratives. When I was expressing my concerns with the horsepower of the new consoles, I wasn't doing so with graphics at the forefront of my mind. The main problem for me personally comes with the framerate increase (or lack thereof) that new hardware allows developers to bring to bear in larger, more immersive worlds, and unfortunately we haven't really seen any new releases strive for this. Some people thought it was somewhat stupid of me to expect innovations with hardware, which just blows my mind since they should go hand in hand.

No, the reason I expressed my concern with the hardware is mainly because these consoles aren't powerhouses. Every other console generation, the consoles were up there competing with gaming PCs. This generation, you can build a $700 gaming PC that will blow these consoles out of the water when it comes to hardware, optimised or not. So considering that these consoles aren't that powerful and the architecture is easy to code for, the jump that we've seen is likely to be the best we're going to get this generation when it comes to framerates, AI, or larger worlds, and I don't know about you, but I think that is a really disappointing prospect. It's simply not going to be a wait and see situation with the hardware like every other generation.

A lot of arguments were levelled at me personally, stating that I was moronic and gullible for purchasing a new console. I feel that's a ridiculous thing to say. If I met someone who bought a Wii U just to play The Wonderful 101, even if I don't really have an interest in playing that game, I should be able to acknowledge the quality of the title, and it doesn't make their decision stupid or mean they're deserving of their disappointment when the number of games they want to play begins to dry up after a few months. Gamers should stick together and fight for better quality and more content in games, not turn on each other and call others stupid for their preferences.

I'm a big fan of the Infamous franchise and wanted to play Infamous: Second Son, which is a key reason why I bought a PS4. In my eyes Second Son is - disappointingly - the weakest entry in the series. Does that make me gullible because I bought a console to play a game I was really looking forward to? I hope that most people would say no, because at the end of the day, games sell systems.

The final point I want to make has to do with standards and expectations. A lot of people brought up the point that it's only been six months since this generation started and that I shouldn't say anything about it yet. Firstly, that's wrong. This generation started in 2012 with the Wii U, which is still part of this generation of consoles. Aside from that, I get it. it's been only about six months since the PS4 and Xbox One launched, but I don't think it's unfair of me to have an expectation of a certain number of quality games to be released within that time period, and given how good a lot of these games look to be - only to ultimately let us down - can you at least understand my cynical standpoint? With the exception of the previous generation, there have been exceptionally good games to play at the launches of new consoles. Halo, Super Mario 64 and Super Smash Bros Melee are just a few examples, and even with the Xbox 360, Call of Duty 2 was a great launch game. 

I know consoles have long life spans and better games will eventually come. However, I still thought it was necessary to express my opinion on this generation because I don't like settling, and it's something gamers are beginning to do more and more frequently. The idea that we should just accept that it's 'just a launch year', that the good games will come later, and that we should just put up with it is just not a good mindset to have because it really hasn't happened before, and even if this was the case every console generation, we shouldn't lower our expectations and just accept it. If microtransactions become such common practice in retail games that people just began to accept it and demonise those who speak out about it, that doesn't make it any less wrong for them to be implemented. The same applies to lackluster launch games. Even if it's happened every generation prior, that doesn't mean we should just accept it and it doesn't make someone over privileged if they actually want more for the money they paid.

Hopefully, I've addressed some of the arguments levelled at the initial article. I can see where I may not have been clear enough, but that was the goal of this response. If you still disagree with me, that's perfectly fine. I'll just be happy knowing you disagree with me while understanding what point I was initially trying to make. I still believe there is hope for this generation of consoles, but given the pretty disappointing launch line ups, I'm currently in a wait and see mindset. Hopefully, upcoming games like Watch Dogs, Mario Kart 8 and Destiny will be able to prove me wrong. 

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