Friday, 5 December 2008

A History of Videogames : Part 3

Now the recent history of videogames has been full of changes, in technology and in console dominance. With the Launch of the PS2 in 2000 Sony continued to push forward their dominance that fought hard to win with the PSone, and they succeeded once again. With new polished visuals and the move to DVD Technology Sony once again showed the future path that future consoles would follow… at least in the most part. This new technology lead to more cinematic titles moving to the forefront of the games industry, and this was lead by “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty”. This game took the Hollywood blockbuster style and showed the world that games could be more engrossing, more powerful and better produced than most movies. This style went on to influence later ‘Interactive Movie’ style games such as “Fahrenheit” and “Max Payne”(although the film could learn a thing or two from the game… like how to be good…). The main that DVD Technology allowed for the first time was the ability to constantly stream large amounts of data rather fast and allow games to present large open worlds for the first time without slowdown or clipping issue. The game that showed us all this was possible was Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto 3”. This game revolutionised gaming as we know it giving us for the first time a fully inhabited living city the player could freely roam around and do as they wished outside the constraints of the main story, this came to be known as ‘Sand-Box’ gaming. This premise would culminate with “GTA: San Andreas” where the player was able to move around an entire State at will without any restrictions or boundary’s (excluding the giant ocean that surrounds it). It still holds the record for the largest in game world generated on a console that didn’t require loading times for moving from place to place.

All the fun didn’t just belong to Sony, Microsoft introduced themselves into the console market with the ‘XBOX’ and the stage was set for the third console war. Xbox presented mainstream titles and a new selection of exclusive games that Sony weren’t able to produce and thus were able to reach a new audience. Xbox became known as the gamers console with the Play station focusing on selling any game they could to anyone who would by them (this lead to some of the more horrible games in recent history… Crazy frog racer I’m Pointing at you…) where as Microsoft limited there catalogue and focused on spending more time on making key games for certain demographics and this lead to better quality of games with far better visual presentation. To counter the ‘Metal Gear Solid’ licence that was exclusive to Sony, UbiSoft built “Splinter Cell”, a stealth espionage game that was set in a more realistic setting than metal gear and was enhanced buy real time lighting, amazing enemy AI and movable materials such as curtains and drapes. This was a great showcase for what the Xbox was capable of. The best story based game of this was the now cult classic “Knights of the Old Republic”. It was another great game that helped push the Xbox forward and showed a lot of people that heavy story games were here to stay. Its massive world, great cat of character and fantastic story were praised by fans and critics all over the world even to the point where many consider the game to be the best Star Wars story of its entire expanded universe series of books and comics that have been produced over the Last 30 years. The makers of this game, ‘BioWare’ would later set out to show us that this type of story based game-play would work in a game that didn’t have to rely on the Star Wars fans, this experiment would lead to ‘Mass Effect’ on the Xbox 360.

This for me shows the direction the games industry is heading, back in the eighties and early nineties story based games were the some of the most popular games on the systems as the world could be large and story’s long, but the graphics weren’t up to high standards so they didn’t take up much room on the cartridges they were sold on. As tech advanced, graphics became better but the medium of which to sore this information hadn’t could up so story games visuals got butter but the stories shorter to compensate the medium they were sold on. This lead to companies focusing one simpler games such as sports titles and beat-um ups to carry the people’s desire for more games to play and this lead to story games falling out of favour with audiences. With the advent of DVD and now the key Driving force Blu-Ray, story games can have fantastic visuals but are now also able to be much longer and more in-depth as they used to be. Games such as ‘Metal Gear Solid 4’ and the yet to be released ‘Heavy Rain’ are giving us the long, in-depth playing experiences that a few years ago just weren’t possible, and as a whole will push the industry forward. As budgets grow to their highest levels ever, games companies can I’ll afford to make, simple poor quality games that are too short or have bad game-play as the money they would lose from a poor selling game could devastate them finically. This has been evident recently in the news with ‘Midway’ who had huge success in the nineties being sold off for less than one million pounds after money lost on poor games. I think that this way of making games maybe more risky and time consuming but the quality of the finished product we are getting now is second to none and poor 3rd party titles will disappear into the mist. Where this will take us in the next generation of consoles I’m not sure, I have a feeling as World of Warcraft have showed us and ‘Knights of the Republic’ will show us upon its release is that the future will be online. Xbox have laid the groundwork for making multiplayer online on consoles a main part of the everyday use of a console, along with the interactive services it provides on its dashboard. If this means that in the future if we play the future GTA:5 title, the cities we are driving around in may very well be populated with other players around the world and in war games such as call of duty, rather than having NPC soldiers in you platoon as your enemy, they may be players on the other side of the world fighting with you. I think that the future of games will rely on more on the gamers who play them to inhabit these in-game worlds and create the experiences for each other, either way the new era will be something very special.

No comments: