: Opinion Exchange: What Does 'Next-Gen' Mean?

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Opinion Exchange: What Does 'Next-Gen' Mean?

It is the subject not of interesting debate but of sneers and dismissal.

When a new generation comes along it brings with it the inevitable question: “What will the games be like?” This question has always been valid because history tells us that with each generation a leap is taken.

I saw Colecovision usurped by Atari, then NES eclipsed by SNES, the emergence of various 32-bit systems like Playstation and Saturn, I experienced with sheer awe the magic of Mario 64 on Nintendo 64. Playstation 2 games left PS1 games in the dust. Finally, the PS3/360 generation brought HD graphics, physics, and logical gameplay steps into the mix. What could possibly be next?

That's where things are kind of stuck in my opinion. When a critic or gamer makes note that the current games (admittedly quite early-gen ones) aren't showing anything “next-gen” in their productions, the gamers who are enjoying said title tend to fire back with protestations that that concept is so nebulous that it means nothing. If that isn't their problem, it is to suggest in some way that we have progressed as far as we are going to go and gameplay cannot be further innovated or refined.

Personally I disagree with these ideas since I'm always seeing room for improvement. I was hoping for something “next-gen” about inFamous: Second Son and while I'm loving the game it seems mostly to be a visual update of the previous games with a few alterations and no progress in key areas that were ripe for improvement.

What did I want that would have made me more impressed? Well that comes down to the question of what you or I consider to be “next-gen” doesn't it? As it happens many of us are playing Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD and I think that is a great place to start. Final Fantasy has always been a barometer for generational change. From 2D sprites to 3D models to 3D worlds to new cinematic wonders, if you want to see what generational change is, it's all right there in the series. Youtube the games if you aren't familiar. There is a striking, giant change between Final Fantasies VII-IX and X. Suddenly we had voice acting, moving lips, 3D maps instead of pre-rendered areas, dramatic cut-scenes, character models more than twice as impressive, much better special effects, et al.

Looking at “next-gen” through that lens, I generally consider the term to be indicative of what the games will be capable of that they previously were not. What is this system allowing that was impossible before? I also like to consider the refinement of growing pains. Are the cameras not as nuts? Are the physics better tuned? How has the AI gotten better? Are there fewer animation goof-ups? Are there new aspects to the gameplay that enrich it? Is the virtual physical world reacting properly (or at all) to my actions?

I think Second Son addresses a few of the pains that the series has had in the past, but ultimately it seems that it could have all been done on PS3 with less glamorous graphics. That doesn't seem too next-gen. That's not an attack against the game, it just means I don't believe we've seen new things that developers weren't capable of before. Though that Orbital Drop might just qualify :) Those are my thoughts, but many will disagree and I invite further discussion on all matters of opinion.

Specifically, we'd like to know what you think qualifies as “next-gen” gaming on the PS4 or Xbox One. Are better graphics good enough? Do you want to see some more experiments in creative gameplay? Are you expecting the soft world physics of The Order: 1886 to wow you?

What can these new systems do to convince you that they aren't just allowing a marginal upgrade from the previous ones?

4/3/2014 David D. Nelson

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (18 posts)

Thursday, April 03, 2014 @ 10:10:15 PM

There are a ton of things I'd like to see in future games. Character animations for instance - if you come upon an obstacle, your character should naturally move over it in a realistic manner. You come up to a fence, he climbs over it. You shouldn't have to push a button to trigger a silly jumping animation. If you run into a wall, your character should stop, not continue running in place. If you're running and you turn, it shouldn't be like your character is on a turntable; he should plant a foot and send himself off in a different direction. Idle poses should have a ton of variety to them, etc.

In an RPG, I'd really like to see NPC's that don't repeat the same two lines of dialogue over and over a thousand times. If you go into a town, the people there should lead actual lives and if you watch them, you should be able to observe this. I'd like to see enemies that that don't rush you when they've got a baseball bat and you've got a shotgun. I'd like to see groups of enemies hide and wait for you to walk right into the middle of them before they attack.

I could go on and on about every aspect of gameplay but I don't want to write an entire book.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014 @ 10:53:03 PM

That's a lot of good stuff, specifically I like your first paragraph. I feel like I'm the only one who thinks it's outdated and problematic for my characters to just run against walls forever, hit invisible ones, turn on a dime, platform with the same animation, etc.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014 @ 10:20:58 PM

PS4 in the house for me this day!
(sorry had to) ...
idk next-gen just pretty much means the reset of a cycle with supposedly more capabilities.
what devs do with that from there is up to them.
gamers just sorta expect that their was something more the devs always wanted to do but couldn't because of hardware constraints.

-that's it. never coming back =p

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Thursday, April 03, 2014 @ 10:53:29 PM


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Friday, April 04, 2014 @ 6:16:48 AM

Hey Temjin,
Been missing ya, man!

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Friday, April 04, 2014 @ 10:59:47 AM

thanks guys =)
yah, I was a bit of an over sensitive idiot on the day of the … "incident" =p

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Thursday, April 03, 2014 @ 10:34:46 PM

Well if you were expecting that kind of dramatic generational jump differences you were simply expecting way too much from the type of hardware that the PS4 (or Xb1) provides.

If you know computer hardware it's just simple specs, the PS4 is a low to mid-range gaming PC, and Xb1 a low-end gaming PC. So it's fairly simple to see what type of performance you can expect just by looking at current PC games with similar or slightly better hardware.

CPU & GPU speeds simply haven't improved at the same rate in the last several years, because they are already very powerful so there's only so much more they can improve now...

Really, even looking at what you would be able to do with super high-end PC GPU hardware you would still be looking at mostly graphical improvements since even with the PS3 gen there isn't a whole lot gameplay wise for example that it's not able to do that more powerful hardware is.

The type of stuff that JackCB is mentioning for example while it would be nice improvements are things that could easily be done on the PS3 hardware wise, it's just timewise very costly which would increase the already sky-high production costs even more, so that's why we're not likely to see stuff like that...

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Thursday, April 03, 2014 @ 10:55:10 PM

I bet some of that shows up in Uncharted games, and I bet it feels "next-gen".

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Friday, April 04, 2014 @ 12:59:00 AM

Gotta say, I'm with Crabba on this. Last gen ended prematurely, leaving the PS3 with a good size of untapped power left. All because we wanted to see more pixels on our TV screens and 3rd party dev's weren't willing to fully comprehend the PS3's arch.

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Friday, April 04, 2014 @ 11:26:50 AM

Glad I read the comments first because I was just about to comment the same idea.

I'm pretty close with my wife's family. She has 3 cousins on her mom's side. 2 of them (twins) are both electrical engineers. One lives here in the same city as us, and the other is in Iowa. The third works for Google in California.

According to them, GPUs haven't been jumping at the same rate they used to. It's why 5+ year old graphics cards, like my GTX460 can still barely eek out high settings on the newest games. (Not usually max, though). They said we're basically starting to reach the peak of what silicon is capable of.

There's lots of research into Carbon Nanotubes which will be the new silicon, likely. Theoretically, they will be many times faster. We just haven't been able to harness it effectively. (Speed of light is kidna quick, I'm told. :p ) As a side note of interest, Sony is heavily invested into other companies doing R&D in it. (This kind of Sony activity is why they are profitable despite posting losses on their homefront. They have always had LOADS of R&D investments.)

Anyways, this is sort of my re-telling of what they were saying. In short, this gen you can expect faster computing. So, they can handle quite a few more computations at once and faster, but graphically, it won't be as big of a leap as past generations have shown.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014 @ 11:05:44 PM

One thing I'd really like to see is more real effects of choices in those games that use it. Last gen all you had to do was play the game again with different decisions to see how all choices tend to lead to the same outcome anyway. Bioware had big problems with this. Even Heavy Rain felt linear at times while it tried to stay on track, but imagine something like that with vastly different outcomes and tons more scenarios.

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Lawless SXE
Thursday, April 03, 2014 @ 11:29:09 PM

For me, it's tactility. It's the ability to be in control of more. As the PS3 generation wore on, we saw more and more developers incorporating scenes into their gameplay that would have been left for cinematics in the past (Uncharted 3's burning château is a perfect example), and I think that that kind of thing can really be pushed going forward. The number of times that you see characters doing bad-a*s things in cutscenes, only to be reduced to a rather bland set of mechanics when control is returned is kinda disappointing.

Seeing as you mentioned Final Fantasy, World, I just want to say that XV looks to be doing this, based off the gameplay that I've seen. The things that Noctis can be seen doing, in gameplay, is pretty much exactly what we saw his doing in the earliest cinematics from the game. Teleporting, fighting with telekinetically controlled weapons, just pure awesome.

So, basically, more verbs.

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Friday, April 04, 2014 @ 4:06:35 AM

id like a next gen website that doesnt shove titanfall game down ya throat every flaming time you go on there.as for next gen gaming...id like no pop up...ever..a whole world where different types of games all co exist in one...id like real gamers develope the consoles instead of some suits out to bleed the market dry..(im talking upcoming cloud computing fees in the future)...games that dont crash ..(black loading screens for example)....rubber banding being a thing of the past....global fibre connections for all...

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Friday, April 04, 2014 @ 5:58:18 AM

theres only 1 rule, it MUST be creative and inventive, a wow we have never seen that before!
not sigh here we go its another ps3 game with a shinier coat of paint.
and thats whats so disappointing about next gen consoles so far, everythings been a last gen game with a shinier coat of paint.
you have to remember we have had SEVEN long years of last gen systems, that has meant we have had a long freaking time, much longer than normal, interacting with the same machines, and that means interacting with allot of the same experiences for so long.
new generations always come in, are needed, to bring some freshness into the industry, to lift off the shackels and say to developers oh you know that really cool idea you had but couldent do it?
well now you can!
not oh you know that idea you had for your last game, well now you can redo it but better!
next gen is NOT about BETTER, its about new, its about wow ive never seen that before!
its about surprising people and giving them a experience they have never seen.

thats what made watch dogs so tantalizing.
open world? big woop seen it a million times!
the rouge tough guy? big deal seen it a million times!
the graphics wow it looks incredible! eh that only lasts for so long before you get use to it.
hey wait a minute, hacking?
a city that is completely built on security, built on cameras, built on the invasion of privacy?
how bang up to date and in tune with society is that!?
its funny and quite pathetic that the ONLY TRUE next gen game really is not a next gen game at all, its a CROSS generation game!
and that perfectly demonstrates how publishers are strangling the industry.
constantly churning out yesterdays game but updated, or the very rare instance we do get a truly next gen game, its tied and restricted because oh we have to have it on last gen consoles too otherwise were losing $$$$$ and we cant do that, heaven forbid!

another thing that does help a game FEEL next gen is again something we NEVER saw in the previous generation.
one thing that really impressed me with infamous second son is actually the AI.
its funny because the AI is patheticly stupid at times, constantly running into walls, falling down, standing with their back turned to me as i pipe shot after shot into them.
but on the other hand you have the DUP who will not engage you unless you display your powers which i thought was really cool.
in most games your shot on sight, everyone knows what you look like, and there is zero chance anyone looks like you.
SS though is grounded in reality which is a nice change, the DUP will not attack you until you display your powers.
you can stand on a DUP vehicle and they ignore you, use your thrusters, or shoot in the air, use any of your powers and they pounce into action.
thats what next gen is all about, offering us a experience we have not seen on previous gen.
or even when you get the platinum delsin spurts out well you and me have been through allot together, but you know what? its now officially OVER!
which other game has the in game character congratulate you after you obtain the plat?
yea its something small and silly, but its that attention to detail, that really impresses.
as the great marco pierre white once said, perfection is all the things done really well.
its always the little things, the simple silly who gives a rats a$$ things, that always make people say WOW!
thats what next gen is, as kaz said at CES this year, BRING BACK THE WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Friday, April 04, 2014 @ 5:10:34 PM

I think we're tying ourselves in knots a little here. First thing to remember is that videogames, at the end of the day, rely on code. Little ones and zeros being sent through processes. Both new consoles have oodles more potential to process oodles more code (ten times, more or less), so on a purely "looking behind the curtain at what's happening", next gen is using those extra cycles and new hardware abilities to process that code/move that data, and we're well and truly seeing that in the likes of KZ:SF and Infamous:SS. Even the cross-gen titles are shifting more resources in their current-gen iterations as they fill up those shader pipelines.

The thing that's getting people tied up in knots is that people recognise different things at a different level. I'm loving the level of visual fidelity (KZ:SF is better looking than anything my comfortably mid-range gaming PC can crank out), and that's the main improvement we're seeing at the moment, but there's also things like the active skybox in MGS:GZ on PS4 (which isn't available on other versions) - the PS4 is capable of more processing, and it's being used. Same with Watch Dogs and AC4 and environmental simulation.

As long as those extra cycles are being used to deliver something we couldn't have last gen, then it's "next(current)-gen".

There's definitely a step up when I switch the two in terms of basic experience as well, which is always a big plus for me. That new controller is the bomb :).

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Friday, April 04, 2014 @ 8:39:53 PM

well how that i have some time i'd like to say that i think that the order may be the first "real" next-gen game and i mean infamous from what i've heard is really gud and i think the next-gen part of the game is the partical effects and the big SFX stuff yeah thats the next-gen. but yeah like u say it's not all next-geney if that makes sense so yeah thats my take

happy gaming =)

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Saturday, April 05, 2014 @ 3:22:20 AM

I am not sure what next gen means since our next gen is using hardware from 2011. My 2 year old laptop outperforms my ps4 in gaming. Everything runs better and looks better on my laptop so I struggle with calling it next gen.

I love my ps4, but next gen is a hype term.

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Monday, April 07, 2014 @ 3:36:03 PM

Yeah I mean just look at 1080p has been standard gaming resolution in PC gaming for several years, and now so-called "next-gen" consoles are already having problems reaching 1080p resolutions, at least the PS4 can reach it most of the time unlike the xbox 1...

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