hin up, face forward, Jeffrey Schiller begins the New Year thinking on how to improve video gaming.
How many times have you completed a game, only to be treated to a seven-second finale, and twenty-five minutes of credits? Perhaps nothing can live up to the sometimes 80-plus-hour quests we go on with our characters, but is it too much to ask for an ending-to-credit ratio that isn't so skewed? Not every game can go the easy route, Ã la Left 4 Dead, and just give you a stats rundown, but that's probably the most enjoyable game ending of the year, for me.
Variety in Sports
Sports games aren't what they used to be. Growing up, we had numerous companies battling year after year, for each sport's video game supremacy. We had the NBA Live, but we also had Shootout, Jam, In the Zone, Courtside, and as early as 2004, we had NBA Inside Drive. I don't know what happened (perhaps EA signing an exclusive deal with the NFL), but sports games haven't been the same since the next generation of gaming has come along. I guess companies aren't as willing to release unlicensed sports games, but that's not an excuse when they can create their own licenses (Ã la EA's Mutant League series). Games like Backbreaker, the new Skate, and perhaps UFC 2009 will bring some variety back to sports gaming.
Free Downloadable Content
Possibly the most underhanded gaming industry development of the last few years, DLC is taking over the console marketplace. Every time you make a gaming purchase now, you have to wonder how much extra you'll be paying online to get the full experience. Things as small as character skins, clothing, and recolors go for upwards of a dollar a piece online. I'm all for the updating of a game through online means, but I'm not for gamers being taken advantage of. Releasing new maps within the month of a game's release (looking at you Epic), and charging an extra ten dollars is (bringing the owners of the limited edition up to eighty dollars), is ridiculous. These downloads divide the community of each game into people who have the new maps, and people who don't have the new maps, which is just another con in this near-scam. Give us more free DLC, you know we're good for it.
With all the new interactive features coming out with Xbox's NXE, and PS3's Home, in-game spectating should be a no-brainer. Say you're waiting for your friend to finish up a portion of a campaign, while you sit at the matchmaking screen, alone. What I'm asking for is the option to go watch my friend jam his campaign. Clearly, you'd have to be running the same game as your friend, but it'd still beat the heck out of sitting at the menu screen, waiting. Synching up with your friends' parties would be much easier, if you could kill that extra ten minutes cheering your friend on from the sidelines of his game.
This past year was a big year for gaming, but nearly all the best-of lists you read will feature a majority of sequels. Games like Gears of War 2, Fable II, Fallout 3, Soul Caliber IV, Grand Theft Auto IV, Rock Band 2, Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Banjo-Kazooie: N&B, Prince of Persia, Madden 2009 are all sequels that try to improve on a proven formula. It feels like the majority of original releases come from online downloading services. Games like Braid, PixelJunk Eden and PixelJunk Monsters, and Castle Crashers stole the hearts of millions, but were still smaller experiences in the scope of gaming. I'm hoping Alan Wake is the masterpiece it wants to be, and more big studios go out on limbs for possible classics (and new franchises).