Warning, I’ve compiled a slightly philippic list of Game Developer Conference 2009 requests just below. This is me being intentionally surly, selfish, and entirely self-indulgent as the hype engine spools up quicker than one of Galactica’s FTL drives in the series opener “33.”
So without further ado, the five things I’d most like to see at GDC 2009…
Sony’s oft rumored PS3 price drop. I’ll see my prediction and raise (or to be more accurate, lower) it by 100 bucks. In a recession, lacking the exclusive stranglehold the PS2 enjoyed on series like Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy, the PS3’s future near-term success is pronouncedly price-dependent. So price-dependent, in fact, that even if majors like God of War III and Heavy Rain turned out to be The Most Important Games Ever Made, they’ll be lucky to make a dent. Sure, the Xbox 360 costs more when add all the extras and compare specs apple-to-apples, but any sales guru’s going to agree: A $200 Xbox 360 Arcade falls inside the stratum of “impulse buy,” while a $400 PS3 most definitely does not.
Less self-indulgent frippery from the self-important games crowd. Right, we know some of you Tom Wolfe wannabes love to loathe those template-tastic mainstream games sites that steal your thunder, that the so-called ‘7-9’ scoring scale you made up in your head is perfidious and everyone’s guilty of pandering save you, that “games journalism” is in fact an oxymoron you’d only touch with hand sanitizer and a roll of toilet paper, that you’d rather be spelunking for racial improprieties in certain games than playing them, and that your answer to the 24 hour news hole is to write embarrassing slice-of-life vignettes about your personal life. More analysis this year please, less about the bag of cheesy poofs you ate while playing the Alan Wake demo, crashing Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed 2 party, or shaking hands with Hideo Kojima.
Confirmation that Mass Effect 2 will actually be a role-playing game. Mass Effect wasn’t. Hey, no problem, just rebrand yourself an adventure with action elements and statistical window dressing and you’re golden, no? Maybe. Even then, Mass Effect was frequently monotonous. How many of you (fans included — be honest!) really looked forward to popping into some massive new area, knowing you had hours of wandering and chit-chatting and “Tell me about…” dialogue loops ahead before the next major plot dish or action sequence? I’m all for dense narratives and dramatic character arcs, but off the nauseatingly contrived talky rails, please. And if you’re going to toss optional areas in to explore this time, put some meat on those bones. Venturing off-path to chart the peripheral planets in Mass Effect’s “galactic” play-scape was like loading random levels in some forgettable last-century game.
Games for traditional/enthusiast/hardcore/whatever gamers from Nintendo. Oh I know, all those copies of Wii Play and Wii Fit and Super Mario Galaxy that Nintendo released (what, eons ago?) are being picked up and played by a whole new crop of gamers. Power to them, but speaking for my jaded self, I probably flip on the Wii a couple times a year anymore. That’s how often Nintendo and/or the glut of third party parasi–I mean publishers have released games that were either carefully designed or mechanically intriguing (or frankly just quality) enough to capture my attention. Of course Nintendo should ignore me if I’m part of a permanently dwindling snobbish sales demographic, but for the sake of those of you that agree with me, i.e. more traditional gamers, I truly hope that’s not the case.
For Sony and Microsoft to zip the sales sniping and focus on their lineups. There’s nothing new about competitive corporate pugilism, just as there’s nothing special about the mud Microsoft and Sony periodically fling at each other. That said, I’m sick of it. You’re probably sick of it. It’s low fruit for the press (present company included) and the monthly numbers-churn tells us very little that’s actually bankable. I realize selling has everything to do with image-making, and I realize image-making is largely about saying whatever you can get away with, i.e. spinning extremely complex data and sales algorithmic formulae into jazzed up press blurbs. But I’m as weary as you of hearing about units sales and attach rates in lieu of insightful discussions about platform services and game features. I’m also bored to tears with the constant and frequently cruel wrangling between consumers over game systems. Gamers should be saluting each other, whatever their platform. Be grateful there’s still a games industry to salute, given the seriousness of the economic downturn.
That’s it. If you want something with less rant-factor, GamePro has a “16 Things We Want to See” list up that covers most of the big stuff. And I promise to happy-up as soon as the convention’s in full swing. My expectations may be sky high, but what you’re not seeing are two pairs of fingers crossed to white-knuckled for GDC 2009 to turn a few of the above diatribes on their head.
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