4th and Inches for Sony

So Sony showed their goods and came out swinging last night. The show started slowly and got progressively more interesting as the night went on. I’m not going to do a live blog of it (I already did a smarmy twitter rant for the first hour or so) but I will post some thoughts on what I saw.

My old friends at Epic continued with the sequence/story of their sweet tech demo. Nice to see such destruction happening in the environment. I used to be office mates with one of the guys who is instrumental in putting those demos together and I can imagine the amount of hard work that went into it. The static nature of the current generation of environments has always bothered me. Recent examples such as the new Devil May Cry and the ending of Dead Space 3 have changed that, but at the end of the day, without a unified lighting model and some serious power you’re going to have a lot of pre-baked/faked destruction. Next Next generation (what the fuck are we calling this?) hopefully will change that a bit.

Mark Cerny is a great guy, anyone in the business will attest to this. He’s a vet who is STILL going at it as hard as ever. He’s got that childlike sense of wonder about him, and he was perfect on stage. I wanted to hear what he had to say. He was like an American Molyneux last night with his ability to keep you hanging on every sincere word. That said, while I think the new game “Knack” looks interesting I can’t help but wonder why one would make a younger skewing title such as that for the early cycle of a console when the first buyers are usually the earliest adopters who are the older crowd with the most money. (Perhaps it’s because those early adopters are now in their late 30’s and have kids of their own?)

It looks like Sony has FINALLY fixed their controller. The thumb sticks will now embrace your digits instead of fighting them the entire time. The thing looks SOLID instead of like a cheap knock off controller that would break the second you got frustrated with a God of War quicktime and tossed the damned thing. The small touchscreen is a nice addition, but one has to wonder about the location of it. Might be hard to get to considering where the sticks are.

I’ll be honest…I never “got” Killzone. I always thought the game was visually impressive. The environments and the level design sound, the guns look great and shoot well…but for some reason I never liked the universe that much. It never felt as tangible as a Metal Gear, or a Halo, or a Mario. It just felt like a great looking shooter with “floaty” controls. As I mentioned on Twitter, I think there’s a ton of talent at Guerrilla and I was hoping they’d make a brand new property.

The new Infamous Second Son trailer was extremely exciting. It felt like Watch Dogs Superhero Edition. Very Warren Ellis vibe to the whole thing initially… and then, to have to rest upon the “Infamous” brand bummed me out. Infamous games are fantastic but never seemed to sell as well as they should have and it feels like someone in marketing got nervous launching an all new world so they had to fall back to the Infamous branding. Watch Dogs stole E3 last year partially because it was a whole new “thing” and not “Assassin’s Creed: 2024” edition.

There is never a better time to launch new Intellectual Property in videogames than at a console transition. Gears and Halo “got” this.

Signing Jon Blow’s “The Witness” was a stroke of genius to show that Sony doesn’t just care about guns, cars, and explosions. Jon’s on his own level design wise and I’m looking forward to his new project. It feels fresh and new and exciting.

I like Dave Cage as a developer and as a person but I wish he’d just give us his new game so we can see if he’s backing up all the smack he’s talking at the various events he’s been going to. (I know the irony of a semi-retired developer posting this about someone else who is still shipping products.) I love the types of games Dave and his team do, I’m just happy I’m not making them because they seem like so much work for so many outcomes that many folks may or may not see.

I still don’t care about Move.

My biggest thing about this “Next Next Gen” is that the biggest winner will be the one who has several things going for them:

  • The games. It’s all about the games.
  • The ecosystem. Apple knows that Itunes and the App store are a HUGE factor in their success.
  • The ability to remain adaptable in a fast moving world. Fast title updates from developers. The “Minecraft test.” If the hardware is great and the system sound then the biggest deciding factor will be how much each console creator allows the community to take over in an organic fashion. It sounds like the Sharing feature is a great step. The next one? Indie games, mods, user levels…you know, the things that the PC is so darned good at.

I joke that the amount of people I know in the restaurant business these days is “too damned high” but one of many things I’ve learned from them is that if you have to resort to gimmicks to get people in the door then you’re halfway done already. With that said - Sony: Stop trying to make Vita happen. Even Nintendo included their proprietary screen in the Wii U. We all want a second screen experience but the problem for everyone making these systems is that we already have that second screen in our Apple/Droid products.

I’m just happy to finally see this true “next next gen” war finally start.

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