Friday, March 1, 2013

Why the PS4 did not wow you

Are you not entertained?

It happened last week: Sony announced  it's fourth Playstation game console, the Playstation 4. A forgone conclusion, the announcement says that Sony's entry into the 8th generation of consoles will arrive in a few months, will allow players to share their game seamlessly with strangers and friends, will NOT shit over gamers with used PS4 games and WILL shit over gamers expecting to play games from their old PS machines without having to buy new digital incarnations of  them. The reactions have included a lot of mockery and snark that hasn't been seen since...well since the last Sony console release.

Personally, I'm gonna pass, like I did with Playstrations 0 to 3. It's nothing against Sony, I always  just like the other consoles better. Sure, the N64 was a miss, the Dreamcast was a miss, The Xbox had some faults, and the 360 had to be rebought about 8 times. But there's something about Sony's ways I just don't like.

But as for the other people without Anti-Sony supertitions, there might be something else going on. It's a new console, the graphics are really great, and there's some cool games coming for it. What's not to like? Well it's a problem with the way the industry has driven itself forward.

Let us remember the story of cinema, first. Movies used to be, at the very beggining, silent and in Black and white. For the record, this was over 100 years ago. Later still sound was added, and it was a pretty profound change. Later still came color. With sound and color, movies moved ever closer to looking just like real life. The techniques for what was onscreen also evolved, eventually surpassing theater.  By the time the late 1990s arrived, with digital color correction techniques, movies not only looked as real as the hands behind them allowed, but they used those palletes to sell the emotional underscored of the story.

In less than half the time, videogames have advanced at twice the speed. Where the early primitive games where rudimentary shapes that looked like clowns and balls and naked indian women because our imagination allowed, with no sound, we moved to interactive cartoons, and from there to crude poligonal people with painted drumsticks for hands, and yet from that into fully realized computer people gleefully setting the kitchen on fire. But then things stopped getting exponentially larger, because it was impossible.
Hello, Typo!
You see, each succesfull generation has used graphic upgrades as a selling point. This worked when the previous console's graphics looked like cubist paintings come to life, but now there's not that much more to jump. From 360/PS3/Wii to now, developers have been allowed to put onscreen whatever they've wanted. I'm not saying games looked just like real life. I'm saying there aren't any realistic limits. You can have battles with 100's of people onscreen, each with lavish detail. Graphics where the main hook, but now that graphics can't groow that much, people still expect them to. We've grown used to comparisons to Toy Story, Jusrassic Park.

Look at this Unreal 4 tech demo, featuring sweaty Liam Neeson killing Storm Troopers in Sin Cityduring a downpour while smoking a cigarette, and ocassionally turning into The Thing. It's prettier than what we have now, it is, but it's not that huge a leap from today's stuff. But should it be?

Movies can now show whatever they want onscreen, and whatever they can't they add with CGI. So can games. The difference in amount of stubles in hair is not  that much of a big deal. The fields that need to grow now are things like animation. Much like paintings, once the novelty of replicating the real world has faded, I suspect more visually abstract games will start popping up more frequently. PS4 did not wow you, but it's not because it doesn't look great. It does. It's that graphics are becoming less important all the time.

Or maybe you wanted to see the console, I don't know. 


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