GameFront 2011: What We Hope To See In Gaming In the Coming Year

Gamers are idealistic about our games; we have to be, or else we would have long ago abandoned this activity we’re ostracized for taking part in. Since we love gaming so much we want to marry it, we often talk about how to make it better. Here is what we hope will improve in the world of gaming in 2011.

Ron Whitaker’s wish:

My big hope is that the success the PC has seen as a gaming platform this year heralds a comeback for the platform overall in 2011. Sure, Starcraft 2, Bad Company 2, and Fallout: New Vegas were huge PC titles, but I would love to see us get back to having games targeted at PC, and (with the exception of Starcraft 2) not ported over from a console release.

There are still a few developers that do this, but the number has dwindled in recent years. It may take a game that can find a middle ground between World of Warcraft and Farmville, but I still think it can happen. God, just think of it: World of Farmville. Kinda gives you the willies, doesn’t it?

Phil Hornshaw’s wish:

More cross-platform compatibility

One of the more interesting things I’ve seen on the mobile gaming front are iPhone and iPad apps that link up with games on other platforms. There are apps out there that let you scour the World of Warcraft auction house, for example, and Ubisoft recently put out an app that links up to users’ Uplay accounts so they can…spend their Uplay points, I guess. I have iPhone apps that let me interact with friends lists for Xbox Live, Playstation Network and Steam, all at once.

And having been paying attention to mobile gaming over the last few months, I’ve been consistently impressed with what’s going on there. Studios big and small are putting out some interesting, innovative games on Apple’s devices at a pace that’s almost staggering. One recent game for the iPad lets you use your iPhone as a controller via Bluetooth or wifi. A poker app I recently ran across turns the iPad into the felt and players’ iPhones into their hole cards.

So here’s what I’d love to see next year: iPhone games that matter to Xbox 360 games. PC first-person shooters that link to Android apps for, I dunno, minigames that have you cleaning your weapons so they do more damage. Apps that let you spectate your friends’ StarCraft games live on your phone (like OnLive’s recent iPad app). And anything that lets you use a touchscreen device as a console controller.

Maybe it’s asking a lot for developers and hardware companies and bitter corporate rivals to be friendly, but I don’t care — this is wish upon a star time, and my wish is that every cool thing I own would do cool things with every other cool thing I own. Microsoft and Sony and Activision and Ubisoft and, hell, just about everybody have various apps in various app stores. How come I can use my iPhone as my PC’s mouse but not to call plays for a Playstation-bound football team? If the industry truly wants to do some new and amazing things with gaming, it shouldn’t bother making players wave their arms at cameras: it should start thinking about finding ways to make gaming a more integrated and ubiquitous part of our lives. All it would take is a little cooperation.

Phil Owen’s wish:

More budget games

One of my favorite games of the year is Deadly Premonition (pictured), a jokey J-horror Xbox 360 and PS3 game that cost $19.99 at retail on release day. It generally is a very ugly game, and the gaming press wasn’t too fond of it, but it cost $20, and so it was the top-selling Xbox 360 game the week it came out. I s–t you not.

We need more of that. It serves two purposes: 1) you give the gamers a f–king break for once, and 2) you’re much more likely to successfully introduce a new IP if it comes a low price point, and if that works and folks like it, you can sell the sequel at full price and people will still buy it because they liked the first one so much. Publishers: you are not required to price every game at $60. You are allowed to strategically price games. A budget game doesn’t have to be $20, of course; the “traditional” budget retail game price for this generation is $40, and any price point between $20 and $60 should be considered.

This doesn’t have to be a regular practice, and it probably should not so you can protect the $60 price point. But as Deadly Premonition — a game nobody knew anything about, really — proved, folks will gobble up things that are cheap.

Mark Burnham’s wishes:

I don’t ever want to see the words “you are overencumbered and cannot run” in 2011. Bethesda, how dare you. That is a down right Jurassic-old gameplay mechanic that should be extinct. Fix it in Skyrim.

A PS3 remake of Final Fantasy VII. At least an announcement. Shut up, this article is about our hopes and dreams. Not our predictions.

No more “thermos collectibles,” by which I mean, needless collectibles with all the importance of pogs. Alan Wake. Looking at you, bud.

Shooters with longer, better single-player campaigns.

Ross Lincoln’s wishes:

Adding to what Ron says, given the huge sales of PC games in 2010, I hope this means that PC gaming comes back in a big way in 2011, and thinking of Civilization V, I’d add I hope this is not at the expense of what makes PC games different from console games. Don’t dumb down games that only work on PC to appeal to an audience who likely doesn’t have a computer they use for gaming anyway. Keep. It. Real.

I’d also like to see, once and for all, the end of save points for anything except deliberately old school games. It was thankfully rare in 2010, but two(ish) high profile games – God of War III and Lost Planet 2 – both inexplicably forced players to fight their way to save points in order to take a damned break. Maybe this wouldn’t have been such a big deal even 2 years ago, but now that almost everything is save-anywhere-when-not-in-mission + auto-saves-constantly, it’s time for that almost to go away. If you make a game for current gen systems and can’t bother utilizing their potential, it’s time to think about switching to Facebook apps.

Finally, absolutely no more movie adaptations, aborted attempted adaptations, or rumors of adaptations of any game that already has a huge story, beloved characters and canon characterizations. The Uncharted Series is already better than most movies; word of their adaptation was bad enough but the fact that David O. Russell appeared to be jettisoning every single thing that is identifiably “Uncharted” was simple absurd (and don’t get me started about casting).

This is doubly true for games that have all of that plus customizability; The Mass Effect movie, for instance, which will undoubtedly suck. Not only because no movie could possibly improve on the already epic story (and very likely, the story will be “streamlined” and dumbed down considerably), but because Hollywood sexism will demand it be about the male Commander Shepherd. That’s a giant middle finger not only to female Mass Effect fans but also to people who know that Female Commander Shepherd’s voice actor is just better, and thus, the game is kinda better playing as her. The fact is, video games are beginning to outsell movies; if we’re talking American movies ONLY, they’re also becoming better storytelling mechanisms. Better to let them grow without douching them up.

Ben Richardson’s wishes:

More new IP. Remember the thrill of discovery you felt the first time you played Mass Effect? When there was a whole galaxy, a whole mythology to explore, full of unfamiliar concepts, ideas, and characters? I want to have that feeling more often. The game industry has a crushing case of sequelitis, stemming from the fact that games are such a big investment. Why risk 50 million to develop a game that may or may not sell, when you can just churn out Military Shooter 4: The Explosioning? While I’m as psyched for Dead Space 2, Portal 2, and Total War: Shogun 2 as the next guy, I’m also intrigued by games like L.A. Noire that are offering something unfamiliar.

I’d like to get a break from zombies. They’ve had a good run, but now its time to move on to something else. I can’t imagine that anyone else is really excited by them now either.

Echoing Ross’ remarks, next year it will be 2011. That means that as soon as I encounter a game with an unskippable cutscene, I will remove it from my Xbox and throw it directly out the window, while demonstrating absolutely no regard for passers-by. Seriously. There is no longer any excuse.

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