With the new generation of home consoles just over the horizon, I’ve been having a think about some of the less headline-grabbing features that I might want from a new machine. Some serious, some likely and some that will doubtless end up consigned to my big list of things that have disappointed me, along with the English national football team and every new flavour of energy drink that promises so much but ends up tasting faintly of drain cleaner and regret.
Maybe you could let us know what features you want in the comments? Be serious, make silly jokes. It’s Friday, let yourself go. Take your trousers off and type in your pants. Unless you work with children, of course. This isn’t the BBC in the 1970s, you know.
No More Progress Bars – This generation has been blighted by progress bars. Firmware updates, patches, installs and syncing with servers all prompt a little groan now every time I see one. I know some of you are probably thinking that it’s not a big deal but when you have very limited time to play games, you don’t want to spend a significant portion of that staring at a screen that implies the thing wasn’t quite finished when you bought it.
Happily, both Microsoft and Sony have said their consoles will feature background downloads so much of this stuff should be well hidden from view.
- Faster Boot Up Times – It’s 2013, my laptop, tablet and smartphone all come on instantly when I want them and ninety per cent of games and apps take no more than a few seconds to start up. It’s no longer acceptable to have seven slowly cross-fading screens that throw up engine names, the Havok logo and warnings about not switching off while the game is saving. I don’t care, just let me shoot people in the balls.
- More Reasonable Digital Distribution – £59.99 is not a price for a digitally distributed game. Okay, so your old-world retail partners are shitting their beds in fear that we’re all about to stop buying discs from them but don’t make us responsible for cleaning their sheets. [drop]There’s no consumer-friendly excuse to jack up the price of your ones and zeroes. There are no manufacturing costs, no distribution costs and the cost of the delivery system is negligible. Lower the price and the convenience of having them on my hard disk becomes even more tempting. I will buy more games directly from you, and you won’t have to share that income with a retailer. You will make more money. Do it.
- New Release Peace of Mind – This is an odd one because I’m essentially asking that platform holders don’t give me free things. PlayStation Plus is amazing and the half-assed Xbox 360 attempt at a similar thing has a lot of potential, if they commit their other buttock to it on the new console. But it has an odd side effect. I buy new games from the PSN within a week or two of launch, I spend the following week or two worrying that I’ve wasted my £15 and I’m about to be given a free version on PlayStation Plus. Guarantee that a new release won’t be given away free until six months after release and save me from my unreasonable neurosis.
- FIFA Can Remember My Language Selection – I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I don’t begrudge the couple of kilobytes of hard disk space it would take up to save my selection. I know that it might not be a big deal to most but I’m unreasonably enraged every time FIFA gives me that 15 frames-per-second fluttering Union Flag and makes me reconfirm that I still speak English. There won’t ever be a time when I say to myself “You know what, Big P, give yourself a bit of an exotic treat: let’s have the menus in French. It’ll be like you’re on holiday!” You can even store that selection in the cloud, if that makes you feel better.
More Graphics – Look, I don’t really know how these things work but if I’m going to stroll into a shop and put twenty crisp twenty pound notes on the counter, I want the new thing I plug into my TV to look appreciably better than the old thing I used to plug in into my TV. I want wispy smoke, sparkly water and faces that look more facey. I want explosions that leave me feeling a little bit of a tingle.
If you hide all your extra graphical power in barely noticeable lighting simulations that only apply to reflections in puddles then you might have a very interesting fifteen second segment in your developer diary video on YouTube but I will find you and I will cut you. We’ll see who gets more attention in the press then, mister!
[drop2]A Demo That Features A Running Dinosaur – This was the best thing about the PlayStation when that odd little grey rectangle was launched. It looked easily as good as anything in Jurassic Park and you could make it open its mouth and everything.
Actually, while we’re on the subject, there’s a dearth of videogames featuring dinosaurs now. Back on the original PlayStation there were dinos in every third game but these days it’s all Zombies here and lens flare there. More teeth, please.
- The Absence of Multiplayer Modes – I know you’re all going to think I’m an anti-social misanthrope for saying this (and you’d be right) but I honestly have nothing against popular multiplayer games (except the people that exist within them). What I mean with this entry to the list is that we could probably do without the me-too multiplayer modes that are pushed into every second tier release. You know: the ones that are functionally empty within three weeks. Take that development time and pour it into making an extra half an hour of excitement in the single player side of your game. Or just making prettier explosions or something.
More Varied Games – I want my next generation consoles to be more like my PC. I want the big budget blockbusters, of course, but I also want the quirky little experimental indie games. That seems fairly safe bet, given how keen Sony and Microsoft are to fawn over independent developers.
But what about strategy games? Management games? Proper sim games? I want SimCity and Total War and Football Manager all on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. We’ve got motion controls, voice controls, touch pads, USB or Bluetooth keyboards and mice. If I could play Total War from the comfort of my own bed, I may never need to put on pants at all. Surely that’s the real goal of next generation console hardware, to limit the requirement for pants?
- Even More Graphics – What? I know we’ve kind of had this one before but the first time it appeared, it was popular so I’ve written this one as a sequel. That’s not lazy, it’s giving my customers what they want and that’s something we’re almost certainly going to see a lot of on next generation consoles. Think yourself lucky, you might have just got an HD re-release.