Wednesday, October 28, 2009

EXP Podcast #49: Next Gen Genetics

Our console generation is getting old, and there doesn't seem to be a new model in our immediate future. So what is going to happen to those "Next Gen" games we are perpetually looking forward to? According to Luke Plunkett of Kotaku, we might be short on innovative wonders for awhile. This week, Scott and I delve into Plunkett's somewhat controversial piece. Join us while we discuss generational shifts, ideal zombie numbers, creative spaces, sea mammals, and the evolution of game design. As always, we love to hear your thoughts in our email or the comments section below. Check out the show notes for Luke's original article; it is well worth reading.

Discussion Starters:

- What makes a truly "next gen" game? Or is this a frivolous distinction?
- What advancements most open up a creative space for developers to implement bold innovations?
- Is the evolution of games better characterized by fundamentally different eras or gradual iterations on common ideas?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 28 min 23 sec
- "Where Are All the 'Next Gen' Games?" by Luke Plunkett, via Kotaku
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. Somehow I think that the whole discussion about innovation and next gen is kind of misleading.

    I mean just compare the way we look at games on the one side and books/films etc on the other: Why do we always tend to expect something new and "has never been done before" from games whereas we never critizise boooks or movies in a way of saying: Hey, I won't read this book, because it's just like all the other books and doesn't do anything new.

    I wonder if we might have to (at least eventually) get used to the idea that someday there will be a point in the evolution of games where pretty much everything has already been done a few times.

    I'm not an expert on literature or anything but I get the impression that this point has already been reached in other media over the last couple of decades, whereas we in the gaming scene have been getting kind of used to the idea that there is something completely mindblowing every few years.

    From a gameplay perspective we might have already reached this point. Of course now there's motion controls and stuff but look at the software that uses it. Honestly, in no possible way can I see Wii Sports even close to being next gen. It's fucking baseball with N64 graphics for god's sake...but maybe thats just the stupid "hardcore" gamer in me speaking ;)

    I guess my point is(if there is any) that we should maybe focus on what a game actually does instead of focussing on what is so terribly innovative or not about it. I'm just tired of Nintendo claiming the innovation title, while delivering white plastic with games for grandmas.(WiiFit, seriously guys, wtf?) But again maybe thats just me.

    So here's two things that I personally want to see in future games:

    1)AI. It's already metioned in the article, that AI couldn't keeps up with graphics in the last couple of years: The results are retard enemies and AI comrades in pretty much every game. Plus there is still a lot to do in regard to interacting with NPCs.

    2)Integrating narrative elements.
    I think we still have a long way to go from the "shoot everything that's on screen and proceed to the next one" or even more general "press a specific button at the right time to get the best possible result" designs that have been dominating games since the beginning.
    In other words: I want more just visiting my girlfriend in her new apartment scenes like in The Darkness ;)

  2. Hi Christian,

    I think your point about novelty is great. You're completely right: so rarely do I watch a film and think to myself "Wow, those cameras must be out of date." Perhaps we do this with games because of their historical kinship with computers?

    However, this line of reasoning may actually serve to undercut your point about Wii Sports: the game does little to wow us from a technical perspective. Instead, its interface literally changes the way we play a game that is identical to its predecessors in terms of mechanics and dynamics.

    I also hear that one of those dumb Rabid Rabit games has a mode where you sit on the Wii Balance board and use your butt to control the action. If that's not the future, I don't know what is! ;-)

  3. This is just a technical point- Although this is podcast #49, the file name at the libsyn feed lists it as #48 - specifically "EXP_Podcast_48_-_Next_Gen_Genetics.mp3"

    Since there is a genuine episode 48, it's a little confusing. Episode 48 is "EXP_Podcast_48_-_Kotick.mp3"

    I imagine this isn't something that you can make changes to afterward, but I thought I'd point it out in case anyone gets confused.

    Fortunately, this is the only such instance that I've come across in the 2+ years of your podcasts. I just finished downloading the last few missing episodes.

    By the way, I've been delighted with the show and it's been a pleasure to gradually work my way through the back catalogue of podcasts. I've only done this with a few podcast series (The Brainy Gamer, Out of the Game, The Bike Show, and RadioLab). Thank you for creating such a consistently enjoyable and thought provoking show.