My opinions on five key innovations that should have been introduced with the release of next gen consoles... why aren't these standard already?!!?
I spend a lot of time playing video games and, as such, know exactly what I want when it comes to gaming. When news started leaking about the new wave of consoles, I was giddy with excitement contemplating all the potential innovations and advances we would see. Sadly I was to be disappointed as much of what Id hoped for either wasn't present or was announced and then removed.
As the hardware is all much of a muchness (Nintendo excluded), there were a number of software advances I really thought would make or break a consoles success. Unfortunately it seems none of them adopted any of these advances so, for the most part, we have simply hardware advances and exclusives as the main points of difference between machines once again.
In any case heres a list of all the things Id really hoped to see introduced next-gen maybe well get some of it next time. What do you think? Are these good ideas or should I give up this shit and concentrate on golf?
Link game ownership to the license, not the media
If I buy a disc copy of a game I am, in essence, purchasing the rights to use that software. The model we should be moving towards is one where the license is tied to an account, verified then able to be accessed by any means I choose, like download, disc or cartridge.
In fact just like PC games like Steam do. Say I purchase Half Life 3. The first time I put it in my console or PC the software forces me to go online and register it. Lets say it has a unique key; well call it oh I dont know a CD-Key. This is used to register my game with my XBL, PSN, NC or whatever account the hardware offers. Now Half-Life 3 is linked to my account and a flag set saying that Im authorised to play the game on this hardware using this specific account without further validation.
Furthermore, now that my copy is validated I should be able to download a local copy if I want to play it disc free as well.
In this model that check would be performed and the software validated each time I went to use the disc on a new machine or tried to download another copy. If I lent my disc to a friend the system would perform another check and disallow play as the game was already registered to me. If I want to play the HL3 disc on another console I would need to re-verify my account details to verify my ownership before it allowed the disc to be used on the second console. The key point is that I am able to play or download HL3 on any machine providing I can verify that I am the registered/rightful owner.
The only downside to this model is that, by tying a license to an account, you eliminate used game trading and loaning/borrowing. A way around this could be to allow for people to rescind their license thus allowing another user to register it. There would have to be controls in place to prevent abuse however they could do this quite easily and even, potentially, charge for the privilege. Whilst this additional hurdle would be annoying for many I dont see it as a biggie when offset against the benefits.
Actually there is one other downside I just thought of and it relates to people who have no internet whatsoever. For those people I say offer a telephone service where they can ring up to register/validate their copy. You provide the CD Key, they provide an activation key, you enter that on your machine and voila! your game is tied to your offline account. If you ever go online it just cross references offline data with the online and then operates the same as someone with an online connection.
Were well past time when saved games should be either automatically backed up on-line or the option provided to back them up manually ourselves. Data encryption is strong enough that save sharing is a thing of the past and shouldnt be used as an argument any more.
Some services, like Steam or PSN, do a great job of auto synchronising whilst others (like XBL) offer a more manual service. Whilst they work well most still offer limited space and, in the case of consoles, a lack of versatility. Nintendo dont even offer the service at all instead choosing to tie their saves to a console or cartridge! Same goes for the Vita which is ironic as hand held consoles are the most susceptible for data loss!
So heres what I was hoping for; offer us the ability to choose a method for backing up our saves. Let me choose to auto synchronise with the PlayStation Networks Online Storage, or Xbox Lives Cloud, or Google Drive, Skydrive, Dropbox whatever. Let me then set a schedule for auto save synchronisation or manual movement. Maybe I like the PSN model of synchronising my saves at a set time; perhaps I prefer Steams method of synchronising whenever Im online but not playing a game; or maybe I just want to go in once a week and manually back up my stuff. Whatever the option it should be a choice we make. We spend a lot of time on these games and I dont think its a lot to ask that were able to provide ourselves a little backup. I shouldnt have to worry about my kids playing Luigis Mansion 2 and wiping my saved game or that Fallout 3s save file has taken up all my allocated online storage space!
Cross-platform game licensing
It should not matter whether you choose to play using your PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Mac or Tablet if you purchase a game wouldnt it be great to have the option of a cross platform version? Pay $80 for your Mirrors Edge 2 license then download the game on whatever platform you choose. If a friend is playing on Xbox but you grabbed the Playstation client there should be nothing stopping you from grabbing your Xbox version as well.
The complexities of validating ownership of the license should pale in comparison to the additional revenue each company would earn from the additional game sales for their system.
Cross-platform client apps
This is kind of an expansion on the previous idea but different enough I feel it deserves its own spot. I was REALLY hoping that the new consoles would support the installation of all encompassing clients like Steam, Origin, Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. I dont think its unreasonable for consoles to shift to a more PC type model where clients can be installed and purchases linked accordingly. Then I could, for example, purchase a Steam copy of Team Fortress 2 and play it on any device my Steam client was installed on; Xbox, PlayStation, PC, iPad it shouldnt matter just so long as a hardware compatible version was available. Admittedly it would need to be with Steam specific friends, leaderboards, etc. but why not? The concept has already been proven with games like Portal 2 offering a service on both PS3 and PC simultaneously!
You may argue that organisations like Sony or Microsoft wont go for this as it would affect hardware sales and loosen their hold on their market. Whilst this may be true I still believe its an option worth investigating as it would create a more open and competitive market and allow them increased software sales. Imagine being able to install a PSN app on your Xbox 360 or PC and play games like God of War or Uncharted! Or Gears of War and Halo on your PlayStation 4. I honestly believe the first party software sales this model could generate would outweigh any loss in hardware sales!
Im on a roll with this cross-platform thing, so why stop now? Im amazed we dont have cross platform multiplayer as the norm! Whilst I understand the complexity of client linked friends/servers makes this a little less straightforward I dont see why we cant select an on-line host and view lobbies according to our preferences. So we might choose to play COD: Ghosts on the Activision servers rather than our systems native ones. We then choose a lobby that has PSN and Xbox players only and restrict the input methods to controller only as we dont want KBM awesomeness affecting the game! A more open server system like this should also result in an improved QC over the entire experience.
Once again Portal 2 on PlayStation 3 and PC is a great example of how this worked well. I was able to play the game on my PS3 or PC with anyone from either platform. I could see Steam and PSN friends and earn achievements AND trophies whilst playing! It worked brilliantly!
I had plenty of other ideas as well but they were the main 5 and I was surprised to see they werent adopted. Especially from Microsoft as I thought a Windows 8 / Xbox One cross platform tie in would be a no brainer there! Imagine if Xbox One had adopted all of these concepts whereas PlayStation 4 stuck with the old methods or vice versa. It would certainly make for some strong points of contention between the two!
So what do you think? Are they valid ideas? Good ideas? Bad ideas? What would you like to see or am I so out of touch with what the console gamer wants that all Im saying is rubbish?