There are several stages to my gadget-lust when anything new comes out, and console launches are no exception. We have already passed Indifference and Disdain, progressed into Intrigue, and we are now crossing the border into Self-Entitled Rabidity. With this in mind, please accept these frothy demands for the next generation of consoles:
Second Screen Done Right
The Wii U seems to have the advantage (at the moment) with a much larger screen and an integrated experience. That being said, the Wii U hasn’t had very many games period, much less games that really utilize the Gamepad’s full potential (although LEGO City Undercover‘s use of it is fantastic along with, well, every other part of that game).
Microsoft’s hopes for the second screen are with its SmartGlass software, which can install on all sorts of smartphones and tablets. This is either the most brilliant thing or the worst idea I have ever heard. If it works, they just pulled off a major coup at minimal cost using hardware people already own. That being said, I think this is going to work great on Apple devices and the Android experience is going to be pretty rocky for awhile (and I’m a big green Androidhead). Networking stuff between different versions of Android and different hardware has been a difficult thing for developers thus far, though it has gotten better in recent years. I personally have yet to get SmartGlass to work reliably, and I have a Galaxy Nexus (a “developer phone” designed to be a reliable development target for apps). I am hopeful but not particularly confident at this point.
The PS4′s seems to be splitting the difference — its second screen experience will be both on the little screen on the new DualShock 4 controller and through its Vita handheld. The Vita never sold particularly well to start with, and I suspect most people are going to be approximately as thrilled with a $250 accessory to do second screen as I am (which, is to say unthrilled). Even so, this likely means they’ll have the ability to tune the experience to a select few device types, and may yet deliver the best experience (even if nobody uses it).
Whatever form it takes, it’s here I see the most potential for innovation in gameplay — for videogames in general. The second screen opens up all sorts of user interface options, freeing up the big screen for the good stuff. You can augment the content on the big screen, like LEGO City Undercover‘s Criminal Scan feature. You can finally have board games on a console involving any sort of game mechanic like *gasp* having cards that are secret in a local multiplayer game. That’s right. It’s 2013 and we can finally play video poker correctly.
I reaaaalllly hope they use this to its full potential, and not like the bolted-on waggle controls a lot of Wii games had last gen.
Interfaces That Don’t Feel Like I’m Using A Computer From 1998
Seriously, now. When I bought my 360, it had the old “Blades” dashboard, and everything worked all nice and buttery smooth. These days, there’s lag when I do anything and half the UI animations stutter. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that there’s a dozen little windows all opening up their own network connections to feed me personalized content (including videos). Netflix on my 360 is almost unusably laggy, just to move between the rows of categorized movies. Naturally, it makes sense to automatically try to load a stream for every movie you select for more than a half second.
It certainly sounds like Microsoft in particular is stepping up its UI game for the XBone, though some think it’s all smoke and mirrors. To my knowledge, we haven’t seen PS4 UI footage in the wild yet, but this video makes me very confident that it’s trying to be freaking Flipboard and will run terribly despite running on a machine far more powerful than an iPad.
Put simply, if the Wii U winds up with the snappiest user interface this gen, I will weep.
No &*#(@&*$# Free-To-Play
I’m sure this one will be unpopular and I will not be getting my wish. Half my gaming group loves them some free-to-play. Me, I’m irritated when a web browser shows me a banner ad and I’m really irritated when my Xbox does. If my possible future XBone starts nagging me to buy 500 Butterwhistles for $9.99 to keep playing a game, I’m going to go nuts.
(That being said, I’ve really been enjoying Card Hunter lately. But I will require a True Resurrection before I spend a dime on Pizza.)
Mature Motion Controls
Yes, I know that sounds really risque. We gotta pull in the pageviews somehow. I am talking about something much different, though I’m sure some developers will inevitably make that a reality (please, for the love of Pelor, don’t tell us about them in the comments).
What I really want to see is motion control games that aren’t a novelty one-trick pony or a tech demo.
Mostly, I want martial arts games where you need to do actual martially artsy stuff to win, like blocking punches and kicks with real blocking techniques, targeting specific areas on opponents, and realistic dodging. There have been a few games that dipped their toes in this area, but none that I’m aware of got more complex than interpreting a gross body movement as an upper attack or a block, etc. I want to see an opening in a guard and target ribs. I want physics that cause the opponent to react as if I had just caused his ribs to do untoward things.
Lastly, if we don’t get a good lightsaber combat game this gen. We’ve got two systems from the past gen that even have controllers that are shaped like lightsaber hilts, and yet all we got was this. You screw this up again, Disney, and I QUIT. FOREVER*.
* until next gen, because I need this
I think I heard Microsoft promise this was coming with the XBox One “Day One” edition. I’m just going to stick to my guns here in case it’s true.