Monday Musings: Which areas should developers focus on for next-gen games?

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The Wii U kicked off the eighth generation of consoles in November last year and recent rumours point to Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen systems being introduced before the end of 2013. With great power comes great responsibility so a question I’ve been mulling over lately is which areas should be the focus for developers making games for next-gen hardware.

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After careful consideration of what I believe to be the best games of this generation coupled with the rumoured specs of the next PlayStation and Xbox, I’ve arrived at the following sixth points that developers should pay close attention to when creating games for next-gen systems:

Explore the potential of non-linear co-op narratives

Imagine playing a co-op game where you and your partner both had to make conversation choices and decisions that resulted in a wide range of consequences for both of you. This type of non-linear narrative involving two or more players would certainly be a challenge to create but pulling it off successfully could birth an exciting new genre that would showcase the amazing potential of videogames as interactive entertainment.

Use death as an effective gameplay device

Too many games released during the seventh console generation are littered with checkpoints that make dying nothing more than a minor inconvenience. If you want a player to feel more engaged with what is happening around them in a game’s world then you need to make death matter. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls both do this brilliantly and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch deducts 10% off your in-game bank balance whenever you choose to continue rather than start from your last save. By penalising players for being careless you teach them to respect and engage with the gameplay systems of a particular title.

Focus on higher frame rates and eliminate screen tearing

The current console generation has been disappointing as far as frame rates are concerned. Very few games run at more than 30 frames per second and there have been plenty of games that have been compromised by major slowdown (e.g. Dark Souls) or screen-tear. Higher frame rates result in smoother visuals and less controller lag so stable frame rates of 60fps or more for next-gen games is a must as far as I’m concerned.

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition Screenshot 3

Introduce new and exciting gameplay

There’s a biblical saying that there’s nothing new under the sun but this definitely doesn’t apply to videogames. My favourite games are the ones that make me commend the developer’s ingenuity in creating ‘clever’ gameplay moments that I haven’t seen before. Super Mario Galaxy is an example of a game that has plenty of these types of moments and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is another. Sometimes the best titles take an established gameplay mechanic and reforge it in the fire of a developer’s creativity, and this often proves to be just as effective as coming up with a brand new concept.

Focus on player interactivity and non-linear narratives

The aspect of videogames that sets it apart from other forms of entertainment is its interactivity so why is it that so many modern games make you feel like a non-participant. Quick-time events, spectacular set-pieces and well-choreographed cut-scenes can be effective if used sparingly but gameplay should always be the main focus. Games like Fable promised unparalleled player interactivity but did they really live up to their bold promises? Player interactivity and non-linear narratives go hand in hand since a non-linear narrative is essentially one you can interact with through your in-game choices. It will be fascinating to see what The Witcher 3 can bring to the table in this regard since its predecessor already offered an impressively non-linear experience.

The Witcher 3 Screenshot 3

Let us tweak graphical settings on consoles

One of the advantages of playing games on a PC is that you can tweak your graphical settings to suit your preferences. I would like to see these types of options implemented in next-gen games so we can have more control over how our games look and run. For instance, perhaps a next-gen game runs at 30fps at 1080p and 60fps at 720p. Given this choice, I would opt for the 60fps mode as I play on a 32-inch TV where there’s not a huge visual difference between 1080p and 720p.

Which areas do you think developers should focus on when creating next-gen games? Let us know in the comments.