Playing together in the world of tomorrow…
Lewis Anderson doesn’t know much, but he does know if you don’t like people you’re going to have to find a new pastime.
So, the Internet, then. It’s pretty bloody good, really, isn’t it? I remember dreaming of the future when I was younger, rapturously picturing the far-off days full of road trips in hover-cars and space-gang laser battles. It’s a constant source of depression for me that reality hasn’t quite aligned with my childhood dreams.
To be frank, though, sometimes it does feel like the future I dreamed of is actually here. Thanks to how connected we all are in this modern age, we can communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time we want. We carry little gizmos in our pockets that give us instant access to a huge amount of information that waits to be used or abused at our whim. I doubt George Orwell would have had such bleak visions if he had known that, on one glorious day in the future, people would order Pizza Hut through Everquest II. The future is now, ladies and gentlemen.
Talking about a revolution
The Internet revolution, having transformed our everyday lives, has had a massive effect on the world of videogames. Gone are the days of games going gold and being forgotten post-release; the expectation nowadays from videogame producers is a fluid cycle of nurture. Starting with an invite-only beta and gradually proceeding through a string of release dates, patches and additional content, the life cycle of modern games only truly ends once a sequel has been announced, at which point the cycle begins anew.
Take World of Warcraft. Patches are trialled before being unleashed, and players leap at the chance to play on beta servers. What happens on those servers dictates how Blizzard tweaks the update. By forming a back and forth relationship with the player, they make improvements to the game naturally and with the overall playerbase in mind, theoretically creating the best game possible. Theoretically.
Where once developers were only able to judge how to improve a game from reviews and sales figures, now they can tap in to their prospective communities during the production of a game. Dredging comments and statistics from the flood of data that their fanbase provides during the production cycle enlightens them to their fans’ desires and helps them produce the most ideal game possible. Make the game your fans want to play, and it’ll be more of a commercial success. Its a win-win situation.
Possibly. But not always. There’s a danger with anything involving user feedback that the final product becomes watered down. What was exciting about the initial vision of a project is lost by trying to appeal to as many people as possible, resulting in a lowest-common-denominator product that doesn’t engage anyone.
The way technology is progressing, it looks like as though videogames will follow suit, with a decline in isolated singleplayer gaming. It’s easy to feel sentimental about the loss of a genre. I genuinely miss the early point-and-click adventures, and it’s kind of sad having to accept games like that just wouldn’t work today and are, for all intents and purposes, dead. Although they didn’t actually die. They evolved. And we got Grim Fandango. So it can’t be all bad.
And in the spirit of evolution, there’s Demon’s Souls for the PS3. Annoyingly yet to be released in Europe, it’s an action game in the style of old-school RPGs, but with a twist. While playing alone, you’ll most likely come across areas stained with blood. These bloodstains are left by other players whose luck ran out during their own singleplayer adventure, their deaths serving as a warning for what lies ahead of you. You can also leave messages for other players on how to deal with whatever challenge is nearby, so while you’re playing the game by yourself, in effect you’re actually interacting with everyone else who’s playing too. That’s evolution, right there.
So games are gradually moving away from being single entities to organic platforms of entertainment, and there’s bound to be a few things sacrificed along the way. As long as we can order pizza through them, I doubt there’ll be many complaints.