Kapzer's Realm

I’m Afraid You May Have Consolitis

This is a repost of a previous article written.

With the persistence of the current generation and promises from the likes of Microsoft and Sony that their current generation platforms will have a ten year cycle, it comes to question if games are being held back by conforming to the current standards.  Let’s face it – video games seem to have reached a plateau where technical specifications have been similar for several years.  It can be said that the real issue here is whether or not games are being hindered by developers conforming to said plateau.

The argument here is different depending on which perspective is being analysed.  The general consumer would claim that there being a set standard for games is not a bad thing at all, since the priority of the consumer is the monetary effect this would have on them.  With consoles having such a major effect on development standards, consumers would declare that they are spending less money overall due to only needing to buy one platform.  Whether they buy a console, or prefer to play on the PC, they would say that they have no need to upgrade hardware.  New hardware is always available when it comes to the PC, but with consoles having a lack of hardware upgrades it is apparent that consumers feel like the winners.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule in those consumers that like to play on more than one platform for reasons such as exclusives, or preference in certain genres on different platforms.  One such example would be individuals that prefer to play their first person shooters on the PC, and alongside this group of people are those that consider the PC as their platform of choice.  PC gamers, despite whatever opinions you may have of them, are the core driving force in advancing games technically.  This is due to the virtually limitless technology available to the PC platform.  With new components available regularly, PC gaming usually attempts to push the boundaries of what can be done within games via the use of new technologies.

In the perspective of the PC crowd, game developers have generally been disappointing.  They believe that developers have begun to create games with consoles in mind, rather than developing for the PC as the native platform.  For some genres such as role playing games and driving games it is understandable for console controls and gameplay to be preferred over PC gameplay, but the argument is that for the likes of first person shooters or strategy titles it is the PC that should be developed for first and foremost.  There are accusations that developers are more interested in developing for the larger crowd and after higher sales, therefore concentrating on console development rather than utilising the newer technologies available that go beyond the capabilities of consoles.

Examples of the argument are the upcoming titles Crysis 2 from Crytek and Battlefield 3 from DiCE.  After the release of the multiplayer demo on the Xbox 360 first, and then the PC, there are opinions that the PC demo feels like a port of the Xbox 360 version.  There are accusations that after Crysis and Crysis Warhead, released exclusively for the PC, Crytek’s decision to make Crysis 2 a multiplatform title with a streamlined user interface was not favoured by the PC audience.  They feel that Crysis 2 has been “dumbed down” in order to play better on consoles, sacrificing the complexity they introduced in the original Crysis, a game designed with PC gamers as the sole audience.

The Urban Jungle of Crysis 2

The PC crowd are concerned that DiCE will pull a similar move with Battlefield 3, which is the first title in the main Battlefield series since Battlefield 2, in between which there were three console-focused titles in Battlefield 2: Modern Combat and the two Battlefield: Bad Company games.  Unlike the previous PC exclusive prime Battlefield titles, Battlefield 3 is being developed for the PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.  It’s due to this, and the last few titles that came out before it, that is making PC gamers anxious about DiCE’s direction with the title.  This is in spite of the fact that DiCE have already announced that the PC will be getting special treatment compared to the console versions of the game.

Battlefield 3 in DiCE’s Frostbite 2 Engine

With one audience being in favour of the gaming plateau, and one very much against it, the opinions of the consumers are distinctly split into two.  However, the opinion of those that are involved with the games industry every day must be considered.  The perspective of game critics and developers cannot be ignored in such a debate.  There are possible advantages as well as disadvantages to having a plateau in games.  It can be thought that gearing a title for a multi-platform release means that all formats need to be of the same or similar quality, with no one format being distinctly better than any other.  This could lead to limiting a certain version of the game that could have more content or more depth in gameplay via use of a technology that is not possible on other formats.  However, this would sometimes explain why platform exclusives exist; simply because one platform is more capable than another.

On the other hand, it can also be argued that creating a title of similar quality on all platforms gives the title equality, so that the consumer may purchase the game on their platform of preference, and not feel like they are losing out buy not buying the game on another platform.  However, at present platform manufacturers incentivise consumers to buy the game on their respective format through marketing or offering extra or exclusive content.  This results in the game not being the same on all platforms, meaning consumers would prefer one platform over another.

Some would say that the argument of technical advancement and utilisation of new technologies versus equality and cheaper gaming for consumers is completely irrelevant.  The so called “limits” in current generation technology has not stopped developers from being creative nor has it stopped them from pushing the technology as far as they possibly can.  For this point, Crysis 2 is a perfect example.  Crytek’s CryEngine 3 makes the game look graphically better than anything before it and that is by exploiting the hardware at hand and building an efficient engine to produce quality not seen in the past.  This is the case for both PC and consoles; the game looks just as good, if not better than Crysis, and looks better than any other console title to date.

Crytek’s Beautiful CryEngine 3

Game designers would be adamant that limits in technology do not stifle creativity.  More than five years into the current generation new games and IPs that introduce unique features are still being created.  Whether this is the use of a unique art style like in Borderlands, distinctive game mechanics like in Split/Second, or even completely unique titles like runaway indie hit Minecraft.  There are many more examples of games that utilise current generation technology and still manage to introduce new things to gamers, proving that no matter which platform is being developed for, creativity is not dead in this postmodernist generation.

It can be said that despite the differing opinions from various components of the games industry, developers continue to innovate and deliver new experiences for consumers.  Even though technology continues to advance and new processes and tools become available for use, developers are still managing to explore the current standard and keep pushing to use the full extent of the technology’s capability.  Therefore, it can be said that even with “consolitis” being evident, it in no way hinders the ability of game developers to provide new and intriguing experiences.

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