There's a lot of ideas that come to mind when someone asks what you want out of next-gen games: more realistic graphics, games at a locked 60fps, better online networking, maybe even solid state drives for faster loading. All these are fine and good, but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for something a bit deeper, something a bit harder to quantify. What do I want out of next-gen games? I want the impossible.
The impossible, or maybe the unexpected is more apt. Whatever the case, that's what would push my buttons going into a new generation of consoles. I want experiences that obviously couldn't be done on old-gen hardware. Not just from a graphical perspective, that's a bit like putting fancy icing on the same chocolate birthday cake you have every year. I want something new, something exciting, something that I can look at and say "Wow, I could never play a game like this on my 360." Perhaps the best way to illustrate what I want out of the next console cycle is by going over my favorite breakthroughs of the current one.
Assassin's Creed floored me with its gorgeous landscapes and realistic crowd animations when it released. It's hard to forget the first time you climbed to the top of the tallest building in a city and marveled at the view of the entire town before you. We've come a long way from the green clouds of the N64. The fluid movement in and around crowds is an equally impressive feat Assassin's Creed has built up as a staple of the series. It was the realization of a technology I'd heard about when the PS3 was released but never believed could be real. That's the key element to a next-gen game, I believe. New consoles should be crafting experiences that sound like tech demo unrealities all the way until you have the game home in your living room.
Skyrim set what may be the highest bar ever for realizing a complete, functional world on a console. There may be no other game to date that rivals its setting's cohesion. Every home feels lived in, character travels with a purpose, and inch of the landscape has something worth exploring. No matter how much you see of Skyrim, there seems to be more waiting to be discovered. Living in this virtual world is an adventure, one that felt unimaginable just one console cycle ago. We need game worlds so well realized we couldn't imagine them today.
Storytelling reached a media milestone with the development of the Mass Effect series. There may not be a single universe I'm more attached to than this one and it's because the story feels uniquely my own, and my relationship to the characters means something to me. If Liara or Garrus have an opinion on a mission or my actions, I actually want to hear it. In fact, most times I actively pursue it. Future games must push these ideas further and create characters that are real, genuine, and opinionated. We need characters that are reacting and interacting with us throughout the story.
These are just 3 of an innumerable amount of current-gen games bringing us what once felt like the impossible. What do I want out of next-gen games? I want to be taken to worlds I never dreamed existed. I want to face battles I never fathomed could take place. I want to handle relationships I never expected to have. Quite simply, I want the impossible.
Oh, and Pokemon Snap on the WiiU. But that goes without saying.