Published on January 31st, 2013 | by Mat Mckeown0
What Will The Next-Gen Bring?
For those of you that listened to the lovely live Hard Reset podcast on Sunday (If you didn’t you probably should), you may have heard me mention a rumour about new controllers all being released with built in screens.
Now I’m all for next-gen technology adding something new to my already hulking monstrosity of a personnel game center in my bedroom, but there’s something about adding screens to controllers that doesn’t quite hit me in that special digital place. Call me old fashioned but I’m a firm believer in what my loving pa always said to me “Keep it simple stupid”, fewer things attached to my favourite handheld interface means less issues to think about as I blow away the opposition in my current FPS of choice.
“But wait”, I hear you cry, “Surely adding something new to an already perfect piece of plastic in our hands could surely be for our benefit?”
Yes I will admit that sometimes developers can defy belief and churn out something that in concept sounds insane but in practice actually works pretty well, case in point the white brick that is the Wii U controller. This blending of touch screen and analogue controls was arguably at the time leading the forefront in touch screen gaming. This curveball from Nintendo didn’t really take off when first announced at E3 last year, already overshadowed by the horrible memory of the WiiRemotes and their vague directional flail controls, it seemed like this newest piece of kit would put the final nail in Ninty’s coffin.
But ever since its release and subsequent sales of around three million worldwide, it’s pretty much shown that sometimes different can do well. Which is starting to actually change my mind on the whole issue of, newer not always being better.
However it’s when developers take a tried and trusted concept that everyone is used to and start tinkering about with it, either adding or removing pieces not always to the benefit of the console that I start to get a little worried.
For starters, a senior games studio source at Sony has suggested that they are planning to do away with the old faithful and already comfortable Dual Shock controller. So instead they’ll release a pad with biometric sensors on the grips and an LCD touch screen in an attempt to emulate the less than stellar PS Vita. Already I can imagine a rather bulky device that could cause more problems than it solves, but the biometrics does sound interesting. For instance, Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts used biometric feedback to monitor player’s heartbeats to ramp up the fear and intensity of the game, but then again, it may be an issue of sounding better than it actually is.
Although it’s still a closely guarded secret about how the final product will actually look and feel, Sony have made the mistake in the past of redesigning a controller only to fall back on familiar ground again. I mean we all remember the infamous ‘banana pad’ the PS3 was supposed to have.
But it’s not just Sony, Microsoft are getting on the redesign band wagon as rumours are appearing of the next controller featuring motion controls, biometrics and a pair of 3D immersive glasses much like Google’s Project Glass dubbed ‘Fortaleza’ that may also integrate their IllumiRoom gizmo. Even NVIDA, who normally only manufactured graphics cards are getting in on the action with their ‘Project Shield’. A system that consists of only a small screen attached to a bulky controller with built in speakers that make the Wii’s speakers look like cheap knock-offs.
So it seems that when it comes to the next generation of consoles and controllers we will be saying a fond farewell to the old wired or wireless pieces of plastics that nestled so comfortably in our grip as we played our latest digital distraction. I have to say that I’m proud to have been part of a generation that grew up with controllers that were firmly attached to consoles, only consisted of an A and B button and caused a sordid romance with their infamous rumble pack attachments.
But like all old dogs it seems I have to learn a few new tricks and finally accept that the culture of gaming has moved on and we’re no longer confined to the standards of just an ordinary cheap controller attached to our consoles in some fashion. Instead we’ll be seeing newer and possibly larger iterations of old favourites with more fanciful attachments and interfaces. Or possibly a move away from the norm and instead a complete Minority Report style of gaming, where all we need is a pair of glasses and gloves as we play the latest installment of Call of Duty (because that never changes).
At best I think we should be cautious when companies announce they’ll be trying something new, but I will admit the next few years are going to be very interesting indeed.