As gamers finally settle into the New Year, developers must reflect on the good and bad of 2008 to continue to push forward their games into new avenues of entertainment and technology. Having spoken to several talented individuals over the past few months, we have been able to discuss with them their favorite next-generation video games and the future of technology for the games industry.
Speaking with the Studio Director of Blazing Lizard, Chris Stockman, he couldn’t help himself from falling in love with Metal Gear Solid 4 and its entertaining cut scenes.
“I thoroughly enjoyed Metal Gear Solid 4. I personally thought it was the best one out of the franchise. The production values were through the roof and I had a blast playing through it. I’m not the one who shies away from long cut scenes since as long as they are entertaining me then I don’t mind,” said Stockman.
Outside of Metal Gear Solid 4, Rock Band 2 has caught the eye of a few developers.
Ben Bishop, producer of NHL 2K9, reflects that “I can play the game Rock Band 2 with my wife, my mom and dad tried it out. I just like how it brings everybody in. Anybody can play it on the easy level and it’s not that hard to jump in and have a good time with.”
Being able to pick up and play at any moment may be one of its best features, but as the Studio Head of Midway Games – Los Angeles Scot Lane stated, Rock Band 2 is purely a “great party game!”
Bishop wasn’t only high on Harmonix’s Rock Band 2 though, he also found much love for Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series.
“I really appreciate where they have taken the series. It’s a little bit different than other soccer games. I think it’s a very great simulation game too and I appreciate that since I’m a sports developer. It’s a game that I pick up as soon as I can get it every year. It’s one of my favorites for a long time,” said Bishop.
When Todd Coleman, director of the PC game Wizard101, was questioned what his favorite next-generation video game was, he didn’t hesitate at mentioning Capcom’s Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure for the Nintendo Wii.
“A total sleeper hit, but the level of polish and the detail put into the puzzles are really worth trying. If you haven’t tried it or even heard of it, I heartily recommend it,” said Coleman.
When discussing the future of video games, in terms of technology, each developer had their own personal take on what lies ahead.
“You’re still going to see media such as blu-rays and DVDs and see that aspect in stores. But as memory gets cheaper, you’re going to see consoles focus on digital distribution,” said Stockman.
With Xbox Live, WiiWare, Steam and PlayStation Network going taking off to new heights, Stockman sees full retail games, such as the PSN offering of Warhawk, becoming a regular occurrence. Stockman firmly believes that it’s “really going to pick up because it prevents piracy.”
When asked about having a physical copy in comparison to a game stored on a hard drive, Stockman stated “I download my music and burn my own CDs. Who really buy CDs anymore? I truly don’t...it’s going to take awhile and it won’t be immediate but the future is digital.”
On the other hand, Bishop believes that online gaming is just taking off and with his teams full online franchise modes and 6 vs. 6 online matches, online is one thing this generation has improved significantly.
“Getting a more human element involved -- I’m hoping that’s what we see in the future. It’s a whole different experience playing against a human as opposed the computer. So if we keep going down this road more, we can definitely open up more avenues of play and offer something different,” said Bishop.
Even then, with Eastern developers – such as Konami owned Kojima Productions – looking to make their games more Western friendly, Lane said, “More companies will be going down the shared technology path.”
Lastly, in relation to gaming taking a route towards true entertainment in light of Nintendo Wii’s global success, Coleman said “I think if the Wii and Guitar Hero taught us anything, it’s that the future of gaming is entertainment value, not just raw technology for the sake of pushing pixels,” he said.
Outside of his belief that games are pure entertainment, Coleman said he’s looking forward to, “more immersion in MMOs, more use of traditional storytelling tools (like camera movement, voiceover, etc) to give me more of a sense of “story” while I’m in the world.”
He further said, “I’m also excited by the continued mass market acceptance for these things, and hopeful that it will lead to more companies willing to take some risks on their game mechanics.”
The New Year just kicked off, but if the future is as bright as what these developers describe, gamers will be in for a real treat in 2009.