Well, E3 has come and gone, announcements have been made and with one or two exceptions, everyone had a pretty good idea what to expect this year. While I’m obviously interested in what the game industry releases in the next 8 months, I thought it would be fun to think about gaming’s next generation. These ideas might require advancements in technology, be licensing and logistical nightmares or just plain old bad ideas, but I thought it might be an interesting exercise anyway. So, join me if you will, for what I feel are 15 games that just NEED to not only happen, but be so awesome that they advance the genres they represent.
– First and foremost on my mind, and I think a lot of others, is Half-Life 3. The Half-Life series is so important both technologically and historically for gaming that HL3 needs to happen, and happen sometime in the next couple years. I’m not urging Valve to rush it. Please, by all means, take your time. What I am saying is that given the time they put into development and given the rich history of quality from that franchise, if HL3 is anything short of perfect it’ll be a crushing defeat.
What needs to happen is the next technology upgrade beyond the Source Engine. Source is great, don’t get me wrong. I nearly wet my pants when I saw the tech demos back in the day, but that’s just it, since then other companies have developed technology like the Frostbite Engine and the Crytek Engines. Source 2 needs to simply blow people away. The realism (the direction they seem to be heading) needs to be damn near creepy. The next engine jump, coupled with the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite scientist make this a win-win for everyone.
– Battlefield 3 is inevitable. It is happening according to EA and Dice via press conference tidbits. What BF3 needs to be is a combination of the Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises. That might sound weird but think about it for a minute. They have in the Frostbite Engine (Bad Company 1 & 2) the capability of rendering characters and environments in very high detail.
What Bad Company is missing is the expansive levels and vehicle combat. Yes, I know there are vehicles in BF:BC, both single player and multiplayer, but they didn’t feel refined to the level they were in Battlefield 2. In BF2, they were a major game component and not a tacked on addition. Bad Company could have been totally vehicle free and still been a success, the vehicles were secondary. It’s time to combine the two into a super Battlefield experience. So, take the Battlefield concept of scale and add in the Call of Duty / Modern Warfare gameplay mechanics and you could have a real advantage in the next round. The thing that the Call of Duty games got so perfectly right are all the little things. Matchmaking, weapon unlocks, things like that. Things the Battlefield franchise has been criticized for. No one want to have to play for 5000 hours to unlock a new gun in BF, but getting to level 60 in a reasonable amount of time in CoD is within reach. A smooth, creamy blend of the two would be the ultimate in war gaming. That of course leads me to…
– Modern Warfare 2 IS happening. It’s coming out in November, which is why I won’t spend much time on it. This is one dream that’s getting realized. What my hope and future thoughts are however, are for the continuation of the franchise long into old age. What MW2, or perhaps MW3, could do is the inverse of what I suggested for Battlefield. Start to expand a little. We all know the CoD games as fairly self contained. Rail shooters if you will. You go from point A to point B to point C, in order. What if that model was a little more flexible. I’m not saying skip B & C and head strait for Z, but what if you’re given multiple objectives on a larger battlefield and you need to choose? What if stopping a tank in one area means another area is hit by artillery? What if stopping the artillery instead leads to the town being flattened by the tank? Expanding the battlefield and having real and lasting consequences for your choices could be what the franchise needs to continue to stay fresh. Also, literally expanding the battlefield and introducing things like vehicles, airdrops, artillery, etc, could also add to the game in terms of size. Alternatively, the game mechanics could stay exactly the same as they are, but the field gets bigger. Imagine the glory and chaos of CoD but with 64-72 players instead of 20. That would probably require an advance in both gaming networks as well as higher broadband connections, but it’s totally within the realm of possibilities.
– Yeah, you read that correctly. I know, I know, there are games (CoD5) that feature Zombie Nazis, but not entire games! But what about Wolfenstein you ask? Well, the modern version of that series started with zombies and then took a hard left into Doom territory with all sorts of weird shit. I’m talking about an entire game, based on those bonus levels in CoD:World at War. CoD + Zombies + Horde mode + dozens of levels = huge win. I’m not a hard man to please, I just want guns, zombies and a multitude of bad ass levels to shoot them in. I’m not talking about 3 or 4 like the bonus levels now, I’m talking 15-20 levels, just like Gears 2, of zombie stomping fun. I don’t care if there’s a single player story or not, I’ll find people to play with if need be. There’s nothing more fun that shooting zombies, or nazis, or the combination of the two.
– Ninja, the game. I played Assassin’s Creed. I played Thief. They’ve come the closest so far, but nothing has ever captured the full-on awesome that a playing Ninja game could entail. I don’t want some Ninja Gaiden experience either. No, I want Assassin’s Creed, in the dark, with a katana and bow and arrows. You could climb walls, do crazy acrobatics on rooftops, all that good stuff, but completely unseen and unheard. The ultimate creep/stealth game. Set it in ancient Japan, set it in some non-descript far East land of make-believe, set it in modern day Tokyo, it doesn’t really matter. I want total badass ninjas at my command, now. Someone out there make it happen.
– Bourne Splinter – The new Splinter Cell Conviction comes out this year and already has me drooling. I think they’ve addressed a number of my concerns regarding the game play from what I’ve seen from E3 videos, so this suggestion might be a moot point at the moment, but somehow Sam Fischer needs to be MORE of a badass. Jason Bourne, by comparison, needs a good video game. With the depth and complexity of the Bourne material it still amazes me to this day that it hasn’t been fully realized in game form. They came close last year but it really deteriorated into a button mashing free for all. Jason Bourne is a thinker. He intuitively knows how to deal with situations. Sam Fischer is a techno gadget freak that likes to hang upside down like spider man and shoot people with silenced weapons. I want both. I want Sam Fischer the badass and/or Jason Bourne the ultimate silent killer (until he’s confronted and then also a totally badass). I think Ubisoft might be going that direction with the new Splinter Cell game, but only time will tell. This one might actually happen.
– Starwars: The Old Republic – NOT as an MMO. I know Lucas and Bioware all all excited as hell about launching a big MMO. I couldn’t give a rats ass. I don’t want an MMO, I want the next KotoR. I would love to see a massive scale single player effort along the same lines. The Force Unleashed from last year was enjoyable, but the world they’re going for in TOR seems much more fun. What I would really like is a Mass Effect meets StarWars universe. The Mass Effect gameplay mechanics (half RPG, half FPS) with the creativity of the combined Lucas and Bioware studios. It could be awesome. Instead they’ve decided to go MMO with it, which means that you won’t have crazy awesome Jedi’s as your character, at least not until level 70. No, you’ll spend the first month or so of your game running around backwater planets beating up space chickens for experience points. Or running trade routes delivering space crack to Huts. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Yeah, me neither. Give me a first person mega-story like Mass Effect and I’d buy back into the SW universe in a heart beat.
– SimCiv… or CivSimy, or whatever you want to call it. Let’s get this strait from the beginning. Civ is about creating, maintaining and managing and entire empire throughout history. SimCity is a slice out of time to plan a city and a city alone. What we need is a combination of the two. I personally lean more towards the Civ camp on this one, so I’ll come at it from that angle. Civ 5 would be a perfect way to introduce a new high-res engine that could be a bit less cartoony, and while keeping the core Civ experience, extend the city maintenance aspects. Once you have your civilization going pretty well, wouldn’t it be cool to dive down into one of your cities and decide where the library goes, where the armory should be, things like that? The happiness level of your citizens and thus the productivity of the city as a whole could be affected, positively or negatively, by the structure of your city. All this could be of course set on “auto pilot” if the player chose, letting the game arrange the cities as needed. What would also be a fun addition would be the God aspects of SimCity. The disasters, the fires, the volcanoes, that sort of thing. The early game Populous (also created by Sid) had aspects of this in that you could, every once in a while, unleash total chaos against the computers settlements and they, in turn, could do the same to you. Think of the possibilities. You could set off an earthquake in the heart of another Civ before you marched your troops in to take out the stragglers. Or, by comparison, you could let it rain over a barren desert and create lush grasslands for the entire continent. Both ways would be moral choices that would result in either Military or Humanitarian wins.
– Mass Effect Space Combat – The weakest part of Mass Effect (besides the effing elevators) was that the “space exploration” part of the game was so pathetically boring that I tried to do as little of it as possible. I went to my certain world that had missions on them, took a spin around the universe and called it a day. What if, instead of jumping from one system to the next, you could get distress calls, missions, beacons, trade missions, etc, from areas of space itself. Oh no, another ship is being attacked! Commander Shepard and the Normandy to the rescue. That of course leads to space or ship-to-ship combat. A couple photon torpedoes here, a couple of laser blasts there, and suddenly traveling from one planet to the next is interesting and exciting. I’m not saying it needs to be an entire thing, but a little variety never hurt anyone.
– Syndicate Squad FPS – Here’s an oldie but a goodie. Syndicate, the original, from 1993 was a one of my favorite games growing up. The main thrust of the game was that you were a corporation and as the player you were in charge of a team of special agents. Your missions ranged from killing bad guys, taking out rival company presidents, buildings or supplies, to stealing money and capturing citizens. You were basically a black-ops death squad with a corporate expense account. I’ve recently learned that Starbreeze Studios (the guys who made the fairly successful and very well received Riddick games) have been tasked to make a modern interpretation of the series. Here’s how I could see this going down. You want to keep all the aspects and espionage that made it great, so you keep the whole plot and back-story pretty much intact. You update the gameplay to be more or less like the recent Rainbow Six games, only, instead of being good guys, you’re very very bad. You keep the whole “squad” combat mechanic, make it dark, futuristic and cyberpunk and you’ve got a solid game. I would play a dark version of Rainbow Six in a heartbeat.
– Uncharted Indiana – Recently, the Uncharted and Uncharted 2 games have been making some waves on the PS3 side of the coin and the comparisons to Indiana Jones can’t go unnoticed. Indy, on the other hand, hasn’t had a good video game in, well, ever. It’s time to rectify that. I don’t care if Lucas Arts has to poach some guys from Naughty Dog to get it done, but Indy deserves an adventure game and a spectacular one at that. There’s hardly a more identifiable character in cinema that would be perfectly suited for gaming. Laura Croft was what Indy couldn’t be in video games and eventually made the transition to movies. There’s no reason you couldn’t take a Tomb Raider / Uncharted approach to the game play, add in a little of that famous Lucas Arts humor, and call it a day. Indy could scamper up walls, jump to ledges, whip bad guys in the face and rescue the girl, all while complaining that he’s “getting too old for this shit.” Tone down the Dr. Jones history lessons and turn it into a backstory via cut-scenes and focus the game on the actual adventure parts of the movies and it just might work. Puzzle solving, wise-cracking, hip-breaking fun.
– Total Commander of Supreme Annihilation – If those two screenshots look similar, it’s because they are. The one on the left is from Total Annihilation from 1997 and the one on the right is from Supreme Commander from 2007, both by RTS legend Chris Taylor. Seems Chris has been trying to make and then perfect the same game for the past 12 years. I can’t blame him, Total Annihilation was, in my opinion, the greatest RTS ever made. Supreme Commander is getting pretty close. Hopefully SC2, coming some time next spring, will rectify some of it’s problems. What made the original TA great and what Chris has apparently forgotten is that complexity sometimes doesn’t make things better. TA was very strait forward and if you had never played an RTS game before, you could still have fun with it and be up and running with it with a fairly shallow learning curve. What Supreme Commander did, and what a lot of movie sequels do, is assume that you know everything already and go full tilt into making the next one bigger and better. It’s then, by definition, harder to pick up and simply enjoy. What would make the continuation of the franchise even better is maybe not having tech-trees with 20 levels, maybe don’t have 400 unique units. Chess has 6 types of pieces and it’s the most well played and successful game in history. What if each side has 20 perfectly balanced pieces and the games became less about building weird things and more about the back and forth flow and strategy between players. That would make for some classic RTS gaming, at least in my opinion.
– Real World Driving – I know that doesn’t sound much like fun, but give it a chance. I’m not suggesting we have video games where we sit in traffic for two hours. No, what I’m suggesting is Burnout meets Google Maps. I don’t know how, I don’t know if it’s even possible, but just imagine a driving game that didn’t have “levels” or “tracks”. What if, you could take GPS and map data, from the world, and wrap it in a game engine that would render, maybe not 100% accurately, the roads you could actually drive on. You could delineate things like water, trees, rocks, fields, on top of map data. The game engine would then read the map, decide what kind of terrain it was and render a more generic landscape. So, you couldn’t for example, drive down your street and see YOUR house, but you could drive down the highway, for a real distance, and see a lake where it’s supposed it be, or an intersection with another highway, or something like that. All that map data can’t be that big either. “Streets and Trips” from Microsoft fit onto a CD a couple years ago. An HD-DVD or BluRay disk shouldn’t have any problem with that. Game Engine + Map Data. Genius! Or, if that’s too big a scope, why not just a driving game with real world cities, simplified. I would love to drive around Boston, Burnout style. Now, the streets wouldn’t be exact, but you could get close, include some of the major landmarks, that sort of thing. That is probably a licensing nightmare, to try and get permission to use actual locations, but who knows. Both ideas might be doable some day. We can always dream.
– Real World Zombie Horde – Think Left4Dead on crack. I don’t want two buildings and a subway like in L4D. No, I want entire neighborhoods or even cities, modeled on real life. There is, and I can’t really talk about it because it’s classified (no joke), software out there today, that can take a satellite image, extrapolate what’s a building and what’s not, and then build it to scale and render it as a 3D model/walkthrough. Think about the possibilities of that. You could take a neighborhood, any neighborhood, get an image off Google Earth, and churn out a fully workable 3D model of it. All a level designer would have to do is add items, power-ups, etc, and apply some textures and lighting and poof, instant game level. Wire it up, make it work, throw in some zombies and that would be one hell of a shooter. Take that a step further and include real landmarks. Fighting off a zombie horde from the bleachers at Fenway? Totally doable.
– PopCap Tower Defense – I saved this for last because it’s a little more whimsical. PopCap recently did the “defense” thing with Plants Vs. Zombies and I have to admit, I’m very addicted to it. It’s great fun. PopCap is the one company I know that can take a very basic game play idea and make it unique and fun and put their own twist to it. I was a little disappointed however that they’ve never made a strait up “tower defense” game. By that I mean that the path doesn’t change in PvZ, it’s always a strait line. In typical defense style games, the path can change, level to level, and you can tailor you strategy around that. I would really like to see PopCap take one more shot at the genre and perhaps add their own take to one of my favorite time killers.
There you have it, 15 game ideas that are floating around in my head as “what ifs”. I would love to see some of these happen, perhaps not this generation, but certainly in the next. How about you guys? What games would you love to see updated, re-envisioned or simply come to life?
*All images property of their original owners, with the exception of that fake HL3 screenshot, that’s totally mine.