Things Next-gen could learn from last-gen.

ron-jeremy-marioSure, this generation of gaming is super, hi-tech, futurey, and gosh darn amazing isn’t it?  Of course it is, that’s what happens in with the progression of technology.  it gets more and more amazing and scary at the same time. (That kind of scary where you wonder when it will just take over…. ya know?)  But following along with this new exciting generation, I’ve noticed myself looking back at my older consoles, most the time in a nostalgic fondness, but sometimes it’s in trying to find out what features that where in my original xbox or playstation 2 might be hiding in my new fangled 360 or Ps3 such as….
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Backward Compatibility.


Remember when the Playstation 2 came out, and they advertised the hell out of the fact that it was going to be able to play Ps1 games?.  Guess what? it still does, the Slim still does.  The 1st set of Playstation 3’s allowed this as well, but as newer and newer models started coming out, backward compatibility became more and more elusive.  The original 20gb and 60gb actually had the hardware that the Playstation 2 had.  which, probably cost a pretty penny, and when the playstation 3 wasn’t selling very well, it seemed reasonable to cut that part out, which they did, and replaced it with a couple chips that only emulated what the Ps2 could do, what went from nearly 100% Backwards compatibility with all Ps2 games became %70-95 percent (when upgraded online.)  still not bad, and far cheaper to manufacture.  These models where the “original” 40gb and 80gb.  Then Sony stopped manufacturing those models and started making only an 80gb model that had NO backward compatibility…all other models being released now have no BC for the ps2.  This move baffles me.  Sure, Sony isn’t making any cash from your Ps3 purchase or you playing old ps2 games.  But, at the time, they weren’t making any money on people NOT buying there extremely limited pool of decent ps3 games.  it was a kick in the junk to there loyal customer base.

Microsofts attempt at backwards compatibility was, at first, was a nice gesture, and really didn’t move from that.  for the first couple of years after the release of the 360 they released updates that included a healthy number of original xbox game support, as time went on these updates grew farther and farther apart with less games, and less interesting games.  Until they flat out stopped in 2007 it seems (Microsoft BC List.) Many games are emulated slowly, with graphical errors, or FUN DESTROYING ERRORS!!  Take Need for Speed: Underground 2 for instants, you can NOT play 2 player splitscreen.  you can on the original xbox, but when you select splitscreen and get the game going, the splitscreen is completely wrong.  the top players screen is shrunk, but the stretched to fill both screens, and the bottom player is left being able to drive, but unable to see past the top players renderings.  I wish there was a screenshot up on the net somewhere… but I guess I’ll just have to show you myself.

img_0117The little black boxes are Raindrops that aren’t being rendered properly.

While problems like this aren’t the norm, it’s still a nuisance and should have been tested more thoroughly before being released.  on one hand I commend Microsoft for trying to get some backwards support in there, but then I see some of the results and I get annoyed, then I look back at Sony’s attempt and how nearly ALL of the vast library of original Playstation games worked on the Ps2 and I get this feeling that, with the original Xbox’s, comparably thin library and all we get is a handful of “emulated” versions?.. hmmm, not cool.

Nintendo… in terms of being backwards compatible.  Has done brilliantly.  Supporting consoles that they didn’t even release such as the TurboGrafix016, Neo Geo, Genesis, etc.  let alone there systems of past.  NES, SNES, N64.  it’s really kind of amazing.  But then on the flip side.  They are re-charging you to play all these games.  I’m not really cool with that, I still HAVE my original copy of Zelda and Ecco the Dolphin, couldn’t I get some sort of code that allows me to download these for free?.. since I have the originals?.. like, I send them the original UPC or serial number to verify?. that would rock.

SplitScreen!

Goldeneyes epic 4-player splitscreen! *sniffle* you are missed

This section hit close to home recently, like… today!.  upon reading the recent review that IGN.com did of Ghostbusters.  It stuck me a bit when I read only details about online multi-player, so I went searching and found that this game will not support Splitscreen!.  of all the features that are SORELY missing from this generation of gaming, I’m the most perplexed and aggravated that splitscreen has fallen to the wayside.  I get single player games, it’s fine.  but if a game is multiplayer, marketed as multiplayer and is NOT an MMO then, for the love of god, why is splitscreen missing?.  “Game too graphically intense” is a crap excuse as the Ps2 wasn’t a warhorse, and when 2 player was enabled it would render less and drop the texture detail, which is what all multiplayer games should have to do in order to squeeze in splitscreen.

This first really got to me when I decided to put in DiRT for me and a friend to play, only to realize there is no splitscreen, from then on, the majority of “multiplayer” games do not have this feature.  Motorstorm (although the sequel has Split.) Crackdown, Ghostbusters, Burnout Paradise, GriD, Grand Theft Auto 4 (I get this, but still GTA:SA had split screen.)  just to name a few from my library.  When splitscreen is supported, it’s not as good as it should be.  Resident Evil 5 (screen is split, shrunk, and skewed for…whatever reason!.) and Left 4 Dead (only 2 player splitscreen for a 4-player co-op?…really?!)  Even Franchises that where notorious for there splitscreen gameplay such as Rachet and Clank had there “local 2 player” option omitted.

I think I get why there removing it, at least, why the big boys aren’t forcing the splitscreen as Nintendo Wii games seem to keep there multiplayer for the most part.  Profit margins.  if you have 1 copy of a game and 2 people playing it.. Why, that’s someone who is in essence…pirating!.  they should buy there own damned copy!.  Game development is getting more and more expensive, I’m guessing to recoup as much money as they can they just don’t really want splitscreen around.  just drop in online and make everyone by a copy right?  Ghostbusters for the Wii HAS splitscreen, so.. why doesn’t the 360 or Ps3 version? because they have online?  that’s no excuse to REMOVE something that nearly all games had in the last generation.

Durability.

I have…many, many systems.  Everything from the original Atari, up to the PS3 and I could make  a very interesting graph that would look a lot like the top of a mushroom with the build quality of the systems in line of year released.  My O.G. Atari’s and Nintendo work still and there decades old, never had to be fixed or replaced  I’ve even dropped a Super Nintendo a couple times and it still plays fine..  Yet, I have had to replace a Gamecube (Discs stopped reading.) An Xbox 2 times (Discs stopped reading, Xbox Live was not available on the replacement model..odd?) A Nintendo Wii (Graphics chip was overheating and causing artifacts.) and an Xbox360 (The infamous Red Ring of Death.)

I get that with the increase in technological marvel there is an increase in something being faulty.  you increase the number of components, transistors, etc. and you increase the likelihood that something will go wrong.  But there is still an amount of quality you should put into your products before releasing them.  Sony, so far, it seems is doing this pretty well, The Ps1 was a pretty solid system and so was the Ps2, both had low mortality rates, I haven’t read much issue with the Ps3 either, Sony has obviously done there homework, ignoring the PSP, which had issues with dead pixels in many screens, stuck “X” buttons and faulty UMD doors.  Sony actually, will not cover a PSP screen under warranty for dead pixels, even if you try to file the same day you bought it.  Aside from the PSP, Sony’s built quality is very high.. and it’s something Microsoft should have taken from them.  The original xbox had many drive issues with multiple different drive models attempting to thwart these problems.  And the Xbox360.. Well, we all know how reliable they are.  With a mortality rate of %33 percent for the originally shipped models.. 1 of 3 360’s fell under the Red Ring of Death (RRoD.)  Which was caused by an ill designed heatsink that didn’t cool the graphics processor well enough, the GPU would overheat to the point of unsoldering itself from the motherboard.  if your 360 was vertical, then the likelihood that it would fall from it’s solder points was more than probable.  Microsoft tried to hide the numbers, write it off as user misuse.  Since the system usually failed after 90-days, it wasn’t under warranty and you where screwed.  MS finally confronted this issue and gave all 360’s after a certain manufacturing date a 3-year warranty for this issue.  After numerous model changes and chip die shrinks, they believe they have fixed this issue.

But, at what point did, us as console gamers, have to check model numbers to make sure our system wasn’t doomed?.. I remember just buying a Nintendo and knowing it would work for years.  I didn’t have to make sure it was a “Jasper” or anything.  I didn’t have to fear sitting my Genesis in a certain way to keep it from toasting.

Ghost and Ghouls!

supg-37Not so much the actual game, but the mechanics behind it.

No, not rallying for a return of Ghouls and Ghosts, even though that would be cool.  But rallying for a stronger return of what it stood for.  crying and screaming in such stress and agony at how impossibly hard that game was!  Have you ever played this game?!. 3 hits, your dead.  Back to the beginning.  And once you think you’ve beaten it? yeah, the princess tells you to go back and do it ALL AGAIN.  only to finally beat it for realz…and be greeted with this screen.  but, it wasn’t the ending per say it was the pride you got from knowing that you have phat skillz.  because this game required them.  Same with Contra, Battletoads, the original TMNT and so many others.

gaming these days in single player has lost that edge in a major way.  That are far too few games that force you to be great.  There are a few exceptions to this.  Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox was a kick you in the nuts experience, but you got that same sense of accomplishment.  Guitar Hero and Rock Band on Expert gives you that feeling.  The return on Megaman brought back that feeling.  But it’s still not enough.  Once the jump to 3D happened, something seemed to be lost on the difficulty of the game.. with more freedom, came easier gameplay, and I for one was saddened by this.  I don’t want to prove I’m good because I got 10g points for getting the “collected all my shit” achievement.  I want credit for defeating contra using only my original 3 lives!

I get why difficulty is being toned down, the gaming market is exploding and has become a bigger money maker than even AAA movie blockbuster releases.  They need to appeal to a much larger audience and making a game super difficult won’t get many sales.  That doesn’t mean I can like it.  So many games completely lack a difficulty option, and when that’s turned up, the only thing that changes is the enemies health and damage.  that’s not really what I want, I would like smarter AI, I want the AI to have a sense of there own mortality and not charge me, because they can now take more bullets to the face then Jesus on Meth.

I remember, as a kid, playing TMNT on the NES and getting so frustrated at the dam!  You have to disarm 15 bombs while swimming in under 5min.  yeah… yeah thats HARDCORE.  I only beat this game 7 years later! when I was 16!.  that is how hard the game was.  last boss hits you once and you FAIL and have to go through the WHOLE last level again before getting another chance at him, I miss those days.  This increased ability to tell a story helped ease these pains, but they still creep up when a  game feels too easy.  with the increasing cost in games as well, I want a challenge.

These are the biggest problems with this generation of gaming that I have, don’t get me wrong.  I’m more amazed then annoyed.  increasing graphics, higher sense of being engrossed in a game, much better sense of community and a greater overall quality of games that are coming out is fantastic.  These are just somethings that seem to have been pushed aside either in the pursuit of technological advance or because some developers are losing there connection to what the aging hardcore want.  Honestly, our voice is being drowned out by the masses of casual gamers with short attention spans and pockets of Ritalin… and mommies money.  The dying breed who played through Lifeforce with a friend and puffed out there chests when beating level 8-3 on Mario Bros.

*sigh*

…Where did I hide my ROM of Battletoads?…

2 thoughts on “Things Next-gen could learn from last-gen.

  1. Well put. It’s sad to watch game manufactures put out less and less games that challenge players like they once did. Soon I’m sure that all games will play themselves much like a decade of Parasite Eve sequels. Sad to think about that.

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