Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hardware vs Software

So I was reflecting with a friend this morning on the general news that came out of E3 this past week. I thought "Hey! This is the perfect sort of thing to put on my nearly empty blog!" So here it goes.

A growing trend, if not already established maxim, is that hardware is taking precedence over most everything else in gaming. It seems the experience of a game is quickly taking a back seat to the raw capabilities of systems. I'm frustrated in seeing machines come out with these crazy attributes, with games trying to play catch up to use them. Shouldn't the hardware adapt to the experience designers are trying to create with their games? For example, the 3DS. It had it's revolutionary 3d abilities....but I haven't heard of a game yet that truly takes advantage of them. There's no game mechanic that screams "I need to be done in 3d!" properly. What's the purpose? It still just feels like a gimmick to move hardware. 3D for the sake of 3D is weak, and rather uncharacteristic of Nintendo. I've always been a fan of the company's work but since they've put all this emphasis on revolutionary hardware, their games have suffered. As my friend pointed out, Epic Mickey was a step in the right direction for Wii games. Nintendo needs more than a Zelda rehash every 5 years (and I love Zelda). I want a good reason for forking over as much cash as I need to for a new device. I don't know about others, but some extra processing power isn't the incentive I need in a game system. Games have become slaves to the system their trying to sell, instead of being the innovative, compelling experience they can be in themselves.
Microsoft seems to be the closest to the right path, just with the very nature of the Kinect and how games are integrated with it. Unlike 3d graphics, a mechanic like body movement seems to have more practical uses. It's still early though, and game designers are still learning how to best put that to use. Feels like we're taking a step back in order to hopefully sprint forward with what we learn. The next Fable project (The Journey) comes to mind. If you're not familiar with Fable, in the past the player as experienced the world from a 3rd person perspective as you explore the world and fight baddies. Now, as I understand it, the character is controlled entirely with the kinect from a 1st pov. You traverse the world from horseback/carriage, snapping the reins and leaning to move.....but you're stuck on the road. No more traversing over open fields or looking behind those trees for that silver key? There's a trade off in the immersion. Waving your arms to cast magic might make more people become more invested in the game experience....but i'd just feel silly. And in order to do that, gamers have to give up the immersive experience of exploration in a series known for it's increasingly rich worlds.
Now I'm not trying to be negative or tell the experienced pro's how to do their job, I'm just pointing out observances and concerns. I miss when games practically sold themselves because of the .....*Gasp* play! Adding motion or 3d to a mediocre game doesn't make it must play.
So to summarize: Hardware advancements are annoying me. There's little point in updating specs until they invest time in game play, that's where the innovation has to be. Stop updating mechanical capabilities and trying to make games to match them, it should be the other way around. But that's just my perspective.

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