Difficulty is one thing that seems to have changed a lot these past generations. In an era where a game like Dark Souls is marketed as a hard and challenging game, it’s apparent that the industry standard for game difficulty has softened. Dark Souls maybe isn’t the best example though, as trial & error and dying is very much a central mechanic in that series. My main issue with a lot of games today is that there is too much handholding. In every new FPS I pick up I’m taught how to crouch, vault over cover, and how to perform other tasks that really don’t need an introduction by this point. Whenever you’re supposed to do something that isn’t BLATANTLY obvious (i.e. point and shoot) a prompt pops up on the screen telling me that I need to crouch in order to get into a vent, press this to do that over there, and so on. That’s perfectly fine for newcomers, but more developers should aim to just create a short optional tutorial that covers the basics, and leave in game tutorials for whenever a new gameplay mechanic is introduced. It’s getting a bit tired to be treated as a child when I boot up a game with an 18+ rating.
In my opinion, playing a game, any game, on normal difficulty should still provide somewhat of a challenge. In recent years I find that starting a new game on the hard setting is way more gratifying than breezing through the game on normal. I know that a lot of people play games mostly for the story, and that’s all good, but I think that’s what the easy setting is for. Heck, most games these days aren’t even that difficult on hard once you’ve gotten a feel for the controls and gameplay mechanics. Most games these days are also too generous with checkpoints, which further diminish any sense of danger your character is in. I know that the gaming industry is always growing and games are aimed at a bigger, and often more casual audience, but I’d still like to see some more consideration for us gaming veterans that helped get the industry to where it’s at today.
Let’s talk about unlockable content. Any old school gamer will fondly remember when games rewarded you for being good at them. Once you beat the game, or performed specific tasks within certain levels, you’d unlock new stuff to use in the game. New characters, skins, weapons, additional levels, powers and cheats that served as a fun reward for all your hard work, and entitled you to bragging rights. Sadly, these days most game developers opt for all that stuff to be part of the new dlc trend. I don’t get the same “awww yeah” feeling when I’m playing a game using some bonus content that I scored from pre-ordering it from a specific retailer, or that I paid for in some micro-transaction. Now that everyone’s got their console hooked up to the internet the dlc business model makes a lot of sense, but that’s no excuse for developers to get lazy and drop unlockable in-game content all together.
I’m going to have to name-drop Super Meat Boy here, as it is a new(ish) game that did everything that I’ve talked about so far right. Simply beating the levels could be really hard at times, but for each level there’s a “dark-world” version, providing a way harder version of the same level. There were a lot of unlockable characters that you got for beating special levels, and you could unlock additional worlds after beating the main game (like the ridiculously hard Cotton Alley). Aside from all of this content, the game is one of the best platformers I’ve ever played. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Another thing that is becoming increasingly scarce in games is good split-screen modes. Thankfully there are still many games that do allow for split-screen multiplayer and co-op modes, but there has been a shift towards the online end of the spectrum. That’s all fine and dandy, but there could still be more games that get us together on one couch. I like playing shooters online with friends, but even though I’m playing with friends, I rarely feel like I’m playing WITH friends. This is likely due to the term “multiplayer” meant having some friends over and playing on the same tv-set when I was growing up. When I do have friends over these days and we play something together it usually means we’re playing a sports game, a fighter, or busting out some good old classic. The more recent triple-A titles typically aren’t on the menu.
My final rant topic for now is the lack of new IP’s and the stagnation of popular franchises. Sure there is a lot of growth in the independent sector, where there are plenty of new ideas and sleeper hits. Still, every year the biggest and most anticipated games are the sequels, prequels and reboots. Take 2012 as a prime example. Some of the biggest titles being released were: Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, CoD: Black Ops 2, Max Payne 3, Diablo 3, Twisted Metal, Halo 4, Far Cry 3. Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I’m not saying that sequels and reboots are a bad thing in itself, but when they’re the dominating force in the industry, and don’t change all that much between games, we might want to take a breather and think things over. There are a few sequels I’m looking forward to this year, like GTA V and Bioshock Infinte, but I’m way more excited about the new IP’s that will hopefully bring something new and exciting to the table, like Watchdogs and The Last of Us.
The point of this little article is not to say that the industry is flawed and that the good ol’ days were better. There’s been a lot of change, for the better in many cases, and for worse in other. These are just some of my thoughts as a gamer, on some of the things that I feel could, and should be different. My opinion on what I see going today. I know a lot of people agree with me on some of these things, and if you don’t, I’d love to hear your thoughts. We all have one thing in common; we are gamers, and I think we can all agree that our five cents (or 60 bucks) matter, and we should make our voices heard.