Gamescom 2015 was all about power for gamers. Here’s why.
International events like Gamescom are a great way for game creators and those selling games to see what trends are prevalent. The usual mix of free-to-play fare such as Dreadnought, Fable Legends and Gigantic dotted the show in Cologne this year, lending even more credence to the idea that free play has a place at the AAA gaming table. But another trend has emerged that has profound implications for how games are made. Almost every publisher had an open-world game to show.
Open world games are, of course, titles that let you explore a virtual world while giving you a sense of freedom that other games don’t offer. The most famous example is Grand Theft Auto, where players can run over pedestrians instead of playing its many missions. Over the years we’ve seen bigger studios like Ubisoft tackle the genre, with franchises like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed. This year at Gamescom however, the genre seems to have kicked into high gear.
Homefront: The Revolution, Just Cause 3, Fallout 4, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, Scalebound, Mafia 3, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Crackdown, Mad Max, and Xenoblade Chronicles X are just a few of the games that sported an open world. And while the game didn’t boast rich environments to explore, it did have a sense of scale more commonly found in open-world games such as the new Hitman which has over 300 non-playable characters (NPCs) with which to interact.
(Also see: Mafia 3 was released in 2016. Here’s everything you need to know)
These surely won’t be the last games exploring open worlds or a sense of scale that comes close to it. Usually the big selling point of every generation of video games has been the graphics. This is because the leap in terms of technology from one generation to the next has been huge. Whether it’s the transition from the original PlayStation to the PlayStation 2, or the switch from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, better visuals have made games and their consoles an easy sell.
However, it is obvious that we are reaching a plateau in terms of graphics technology. There is so much to do until the quality of a game depends solely on perception rather than objectivism. While differing approaches in terms of art direction help differentiate one game from another, it’s obvious that the costumes and developers seek to add another dimension to make the games appealing to their audience. It’s not just about looking good, it’s also about doing more. And it is possible in an open world.
The approach to open-world gameplay has also been different. Some settled for a soulful familiarity and an atmosphere that existing fans would dream of. This was evident during Bethesda’s presentation of Fallout 4 at Gamescom 2015. While it looked cleaner and played like a game in the Fallout series, it didn’t do anything particularly different. Perhaps due to the fact that the full feature set of the game was detailed at E3 2015.
On the other hand, titles like Scalebound featured an open world coupled with gameplay mechanics that involve summoning a giant dragon to help you defeat a host of enemies in a vibrant setting reminiscent of the RPGs of yesteryear. There seemed to be a very stark difference in how each game was presented, showing unique gameplay mechanics with an open world as a constant.
(Also see: Gamescom 2015 Day 4: Scalebound Fan Demo, PC Mods and Final Fantasy XV)
For some, it was the maturity of the technology, which offered many possibilities.
“For us, it was an opportunity to create an 8-bit-era inspired RPG that was only possible with the technology available on Xbox One,” said JP Kellams, creative producer at PlatinumGames for Scalebound during of a fan demo session. He claims that the studio had the idea for the game before Bayonetta, but it only became feasible now.
As for the other studios, it allows a new breath. One would assume that Homefront: The Revolution’s developer, Deep Silver Dambuster Studios, probably wouldn’t have been allowed to complete the game if it didn’t feature an open world. But there’s no doubt that the open-world genre has gotten a lot of studio attention, thanks in large part to the success of titles like Far Cry 4 and Borderlands 2. From a business perspective, with the success of other titles in the genre, having a chance to capitalize on it and potentially strong play helps.
What does this mean for the industry? This appears to be a statement of intent, to distinguish AAA games on consoles and PC from the free-to-play and mobile game host. And doing so. we won’t be surprised to see more job opportunities. Open-world games require a lot of content, which would ensure that artists, designers, animators, and producers get or keep jobs for a relatively longer period of time due to their long development cycles.
On the other hand, since open-world games are more expensive to build – and therefore more risky – a few high-profile failures could dissuade business leaders from continuing down this path, resorting to more conventional game-centric experiences. story or cinematic gameplay coupled with coin-operated multiplayer. This puts the industry in a precarious position. One that would have interesting ramifications in years to come.
What does this mean for consumers? Well, it gives you the chance to forge your own adventure the way you want.
“Everything we do in the game is systems driven. We wanted there to be a lot of systemic gameplay. We created an emergent system that allows us to populate the world. We don’t know where there’s going to be drones, patrol or sniper, these are all things that our emerging systems populate the world with,” said Fasahat Salim, game designer at Deep Silver Dambuster Studios during a presentation of his upcoming title, Homefront: The Revolution “The player will most likely have a unique experience each time they approach an objective”,
(Also see: Homefront: The Revolution preview is better than its trailer)
And it’s not just Homefront, others like Scalebound and Fallout 4 offer a certain amount of freedom that can lead to situations where your experience of a game is completely different from that of your friends. To the point where no game session is alike. This adds a refreshingly replayable feel. It also means that the same amount of money you spend on a game can, in theory, give you at least two to three times more playtime compared to, say, Call of Duty’s single-player campaign.
All in all, there’s never been a better time to be a gamer, and Gamescom 2015 showed that in spades, simply because games now let you do more, and in any method you choose, showing that it’s all about empowering players.