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2009, We Demand Of Thee

Pic courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

So this is the new year. Do you feel any different? When thinking about what 2009 holds, I want to think slightly beyond the many exciting games we’re looking forward to and get a bit more thematic. On what journey should gaming take us in the following year?

2008, despite containing a ton of great games, felt a bit of a filler year in terms of progress. 2007 felt so huge probably purely thanks to Portal, and the impact that had on our expectations of gaming. But did it have an impact on last year? I’m not sure it did, beyond a few games making references to it (World of Goo Sacred 2 to name the first that springs to mind). Will the last year of the decade see us beginning to define what the twenty-teens will be about?

The question really becomes about: what do you want to see games do this year? You know, developers read this site – post your thoughts below and they might get read by the right people. Let’s inspire them. So here’s a few thoughts I’ve had:

– Let’s start with Portal. Like so many interesting games, Portal was released to a cry of prophecies, forecasting the short-form game as an option for major publishers. But unless you count Mirror’s Edge’s five hour main game (and I’m betting EA would rather you didn’t), this hasn’t come to pass. Certainly indie games have clocked in at similar lengths, and similar prices, but we’ve not seen a major publisher commission themselves, or hire a dev team, to try and create something in a similar bracket. This is something I would love to see, despite being very aware of the stack of issues that come with it. Would Valve have been able to create Portal without bundling it in the Orange Box? Now they could, certainly, but how would it have been received if it weren’t riding on the back of hugely anticipated games like TF2 and Episode 2? Sometimes I think it could have. The point of a big publisher is they’ve got big advertising budgets, so it wouldn’t be a case of word-of-mouth sales. Why aren’t we seeing Ubisoft, EA, and so on creating novella games to a public that has proven they’re interested?

– I’m worried about the FPS. I’ve been worried about it for years now. I think it’s the most under-served genre on the PC, and the one most likely to be poop. Long ago the adventure game reached stagnancy because it stopped reinventing itself, and started photocopying. It’s never recovered, obviously. I believe the FPS is deeply in the same mire, and 2009 must be the year of its reinvention? What should that be? I dunno – I’m the bastard who writes about them later. That’s the developers’ challenge. But I’m fairly sure the answer isn’t “RPG elements”.

– Voice acting. Come on now, that’s enough. Developers, you must employ a voice director. It’s not enough to cast and give them lines in isolation. Sure, it takes a lot more work, but if there’s someone in the room making sure the standard is above a primary school play, and ensuring the intonations make sense, your games will seem so much better. It strikes me as very odd that few companies would be happy to ship a game with a glaringly obvious graphical glitch, but nearly all don’t seem to care if the lines are read out incorrectly. Not any more in 2009.

– I want 2009 to be the year of the comedy game. Brutal Legend is a good sign. So let’s have some laughs this year. But things have been a bit po-faced for a while now. It must be remembered, funny games need comedy writers. Hire them.

– Virtual reality hyper masks. No, I’m lying.

So what are your wishes/demands?

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John Walker


One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I tried to leave, but they won't let me. If anyone reads this, please send help.

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