Why No One Will be Looking at the NGP’s Biggest Feature
It is kind of funny that the PSP gets the superior games of the franchises it inherited but gets snubbed in terms of actual game sales. But it does make sense. The PS2′s swan song was God of War II, praised for its graphics and gameplay, and released after the PS3′s launch just six months prior. It shows how developers can grow over the course of a console life, as it’s being demonstrated with the PS3 even now. No one thought something like the GOWII would have ever been possible back in 2000 when the PS2 released, but seven years is a long time to practice on a particular platform. As the PSP seems to be an extension of the PS2, it’s perfectly understandable that we are seeing better, more improved PS2 franchises on the portable system. Take my example of Kingdom Hearts earlier. It looks identical, if not better than Kingdom Hearts II from 2006, and plays much better too. But why was Birth by Sleep made on the PSP and not the PS3? Because making AAA titles on HD consoles is hard. It takes scores, if not hundreds of people on teams to make huge titles, and even larger budgets. They’re just too hard to maintain. It’s why Final Fantasy XIII was so radically different from previous installments. Tetsuya Nomura said, while HD consoles are certainly powerful, it’s just too much work to create the vast towns and inhabitants of older generations. The PSP, by its very nature, isn’t capable of such intricate detail, so the developers can create similar gameplay experiences to what we’ve come to expect. It’s much more feasible to create games with a (relatively) smaller team on a familiar platform, to keep budgets small and quality high.
So what does this all have to do with the NGP? Not just that it has a touchscreen. Like I said, those are inescapable now. Two touchscreens would just be obnoxious, but the pad on the BACK is what really sets the NGP apart from any handheld gaming device before. Mobile and casual gaming has taken the entire world by storm, so the front screen is pretty obvious. Games like Epic Citadel, that were originally exclusive to the iOS are now NGP friendly, as well as keeping that dual thumbstick approach for other types of gaming. It’s why something small like Little Deviants, demoed along with the NGP’s reveal, actually has me more excited than seeing an Uncharted gaming running on the new device. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nathan Drake as much as the next guy, and its touch controls are obviously a new take on the franchise, but those seem like an add-on to me. Uncharted, Killzone, Resistance are all examples of the old mindset of game design. I’m sure they will be fantastic games, but merely bringing old console games onto a new handheld is not the way to create a must-have product. That’s what the PSP taught us, no? Find new ways to incorporate that rear touchpad to create truly exclusive content. It’s the same reason PS3 exclusives having Blu-Ray and Move functionality cannot be emulated, or merely even imitated on other consoles. It’s those unique experiences and design choices to create compelling games exclusively on one device that will move NGP sales from “acceptable” to “exceptional.”
So you’re probably asking yourself, “If you’re so smart then big shot, what kind of games do you want to see on the NGP then? The ones that are entirely unique, instead of having another Uncharted game?” It’s pretty simple really. I have no idea. I’m not a game designer. I want to be a game developer some day, and implement the design choices created by some other visionary mind. But I challenge you to think of something as well. Do you have a good idea? Is it adding touch controls to your favorite franchise? That’s still the same problem. Instead of tacking on these new controls, games have to be built from the ground up revolving around new mechanics to truly be effective. Forgive me, as I know this is a PlayStation-centric website, but this same philosophy is what I believe would carry Microsoft’s Kinect far as well. I like the Kinect, it’s truly some incredible technology. I like Move more, but if unofficial mods across the internet have shown us anything, it’s that Kinect has enormous untapped potential. Game designers are, and players, are stuck in the same type of mindset when it comes to those controller-less games as well. Kinect’s current lineup is made up of minigame compilations, exercise tutorials, or buggy shovelware, or even all of the above. It’s suffering from the same problem that the DS did at the start – developers are thinking of ways to adapt current technology to traditional gameplay methods, and it’s just wasting everyone’s time. I saw someone create a Kinect hack for the PC version of Dead Space 2, mapping all motions from the game to their real-life counterparts, or as close as it could be. And you know what? It looked terrible. It didn’t look fun at all. Sure it worked, but you can’t just tack on an entirely new control scheme to an existing model and just expect it to function as original intended. It’s cumbersome and annoying.
So I say to you current, and future developers: please take your time. You said the NGP was a “dream come true” after Sony put in everything that you wanted in a device. I implore you to not take the easy way out. Sure, a few PlayStation Network ports here and there would be fine, and I only wonder what you could do if you want to release one of your games simultaneously on the 3DS and NGP. The NGP is a fantastic piece of technology. But the thing is, it’s only a tool. It is only as powerful and, dare I say, “magical” as your wildest dreams. Take chances, play the high risks, and dare to innovate. I have no idea what you can do with such a piece of hardware, and chances are you don’t know yet either. But we gamers DO know what we want. We don’t want the same old thing.
And it’s all because of that little touchpad on the back.
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