And we are now well into the next generation of video games. But while the graphics have changed, and the loading times have decreased, and the finances and time required to make games has skyrocketed a lot of corners are still being cut.
I recently tried to play Flatout Ultimate Carnage with a friend. I’d been telling him about this slicker, grittier version of Burnout and we were both looking forward to it. Oh, wait, no splitscreen multiplayer.
That’s right. A game that does XBox Live multiplayer to the nth degree (8 players) doesn’t allow a couple of buddies to kill some time on the one console. So we ended up playing Burnout: Revenge instead.
As a result of my disappointment at this, and the desperately cut-down Unreal Tournament 3 (which was in many peoples’ opinion, steps backward in gameplay from Unreal Tournament 2004), and many other instances of glaring omissions that I’ve seen in games lately, I’ve drafted the following manifesto for games to be considered “next-gen” in what actually matters: the gameplay and usability.
1) Games which offer “Deathmatch”, “Team Deathmatch”, “Capture the Flag”, and “Last Man Standing” game modes have to include other game modes as well to offer a variety of gameplay – too many games are offering these four as the bare minimum. Other popular ones include Assault, Conquest, Assassination, and Mutation (UT 2004).
2) Flexibility in multiplayer. These may include (the following are examples, not specifics) an optional regenerate health setting, an friendly fire setting (including friendly fire modifiers such as 50% of damage), an optional penalty for winning players, etc.
3) Games must offer an offline Instant Action mode. Too many gamers don’t have online access either temporarily or permanently to not allow this. S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl, one of my favourite games of recent times, has this problem.
4) Games that include blood should include a “no blood” feature, regardless of age rating.
5) Missions in story or campaign driven game modes shouldn’t be simply “walk from A to B then back to A”, even if this is disguised as “fetch x for y”.
Interface and accessibility:
6) Plenty of gamers are deaf or play with the sound off. All in-game speech must have subtitles.
7) All subtitles and onscreen text must be clearly legible on Standard Definition televisions, widescreen or otherwise. This includes making sure that the text is on screen for long enough! A lot of people found Dead Rising’s missions difficult to complete to play well because mission critical instructions were given in unreadable text.
8 ) Loading screens should have something interesting for the player to watch, read, or do, as well as clearly showing the relative amount left to load.
9) Games that offer online multiplayer have to provide it in such a way that an inexperienced and spoilt child can set it up without a tantrum.
10) Console games that allow network multiplayer modes must allow splitscreen multiplayer modes to either the same amount or the maximum amount offered by the console.
Are you getting annoyed with next-gen games not being up to par? Anything you think should be added to the manifesto?
john@inx-gaming CO UK