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HD Was a Practice Generation

On 03/06/2013 at 12:31 AM by jjindie

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I'm going to try to avoid ranting and raving and getting mad as hell about game cancellations or delays, like Dead Space 4 and Star Wars 1313.  Not because that's my style or that's my personality, the calm and collected journalistically-minded writer, rather just the opposite.  I'm an editorial guy, and hardly a journalist at all, since I don't get paid for anything.  It was Jesse Miller's turn to lose his shit over the state of the gaming industry.  Now it's my turn to be cool, use my experience in Japan to contrast his view, and maybe hope to show that the next gaming generation, PS4 and Xbox 720, should be better than the last.  Becuase I believe the first HD generation was a practice generation.

I can rattle off more names of so-called AAA games that were delayed or cancelled for this generation than any other.  The Last Guardian, Versus 13, Six Days in Fallujah, Star Wars 1313 = likely cancelled.  Bioshock Infinite, GTA V, the Last of US = noticably delayed.  Maybe it's just because these are the games of the here and now, and I'd truly have to do some research and work hard and shit as a writer to see if previous generations had similar problems with development cycles.  Game delays and cancellations of previous generations didn't matter as much because companies could survive and there were enough games in the marketplace to keep things competitive.  That's not true with the first HD generation of AAA titles.  This is the one and done generation, as in 38 Studios and Big Huge Games' Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

There were a few companies that hardly attempted to join the HD generation, most of them Japanese.  Take a look at Wikepedia for a list of Atlus developed games for the PS3 and you'll find one.  They published a few others, but the development team responisble for Shin Megami Tensei made only one game for the first HD era, Catherine.  Their staple franchises like the Strange Journey series, Persona 3 & 4, and their remkaes migrated away from HD over to handhelds.  There are plenty of Persona 5 rumors, but so far no details.

Sega also took some of their games that started out on HD and moved them onto handhelds.  The original Valkyria Chronicles was a PS3 exclusive but all of its sequels ended up on handhelds.  Sega published a whole whack load of games for the HD era, here's a great list, but most of them were not developed in house.  Actually that list does appear fairly vast and comprehensive, so maybe Sega did join the HD era more than othes, but mostly as a publisher.  And keep in mind, some of those games were Xbox Live and PSN downloadable HD updates and re-releases.  Jet Set Radio.  Crazy Taxi.

If this was the one and done generation, it was also the rehash and re-release generation.  Metal Gear Solid 3 HD, Peacewalker HD.  Okami HD.  Ico and Shadow of the Colussus HD.  I'm really cherry-picking here, but some sort of pattern is definitely developing.  Like I said, this generation was a practice generation, even for Hideo Kojima!

Even the developers and producers described Catherine as Atlus's practice project for the HD era.  Here's a great snippet from an interview with Katsura Hashino, director for Catherine and much of the Megaten and Persona series.  (Wohoo!  I actually get to link out to!  Who knows how long that will last!?!)

“If we were going to make an RPG on an HD console, though, then we had no idea how many years that would’ve wound up taking. Instead, we wanted to shift gears in our minds and produce a new genre of game for this new hardware."

And that game was Catherine, a practice game.

There's quite a list of developers with projects rumored to be in the works for PS4.  I'll link out to Attack of the Fanboy's list.  Take that with a gain of salt.  I'll link out to IGN as well (cold shakes, cold shakes!) who seem to have Atlus listed as one of the developers with a game in the works for PS4.  Take that with two grains of salt.

But if any of this turns out to be true, especially the IGN info, and these companies actually manage to complete at least one game for next gen, then it appears more companies will have finally joined the HD era.  Let's hope developers like Atlus got enough practice with Catherine.  And big bitch publishers like Electronic Arts stop pushing all the risk to the developers, as I think Jesse was trying to get at.  Here's hoping.  (Guess who published Kingdoms of Amalur = EA!)



Matt Snee Staff Writer

03/06/2013 at 04:13 AM

hey man good blog!  I never really thought of it that way.  It has been a strange generation, that's for sure....  I do have hopes though that the future is bright for gaming.

It is interesting that Atlus skipped a generation. Pretty bizarre actually.  

Super Step Contributing Writer

03/06/2013 at 05:31 AM

I'm not going to pretend to be well-versed in the business side of video games, but it's funny how a blog needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and a more official site like IGN with two. lol


03/06/2013 at 10:30 AM

Good blog, you raise an interesting point. I really hope next gen we see more developers taking chances but I worry that the cost of development will lead to more of the same... I don't need every game to blow my mind with its graphical power as long as it plays great


03/06/2013 at 08:31 PM

I always wondered how and why budgets got so much bigger.  Bethesda figured out that they didn't need famous and expensive actors, like Patrick Stewart, voicing all their characters.  They went a different direction with Skyrim, and seemingly used the same voice actor with the same accent for all characters, but the idea was sound.  Just hire talent, not names. BioWare got it right with Mass Effect.  Has anyone ever heard of Mark Meer?  Hardly, he was an improv comic and career voice actor.  And the voice of Commander Shepard!

We need AAA ideas, not AAA budgets!


03/06/2013 at 12:20 PM

A lot of the reason why so many Japanese companies skipped the HD generation is because the HD consoles failed to sell very well in Japan. The PS3 crawls along at a steady pace, while the 360, despite being a bigger Japanese success than the old Xbox, is all but dead. I guarantee you that if the PS3 had been as big of a hit in Japan as the PS1 and PS2 that Japanese companies would have been out in force in the HD generation.

That said, some Japanese companies did well in the HD generation. In particular, Namco has been very active this generation and, thanks to some strategic acquisitions, has grown into one of the world's largest game publishers. They did four console Tales games and a number of other HD RPGs, and published outside works like Ni no Kuni and Dark Souls. And From Software has risen from obscurity to stardom on the backs of the Souls games.


03/06/2013 at 08:39 PM

And poor Atlus.  They published From Software's Demon's Souls in North America, but passed on Dark Souls.  We can pretty much say they skipped a generation for that reason alone.


03/06/2013 at 10:23 PM

In the case of Demon's Souls, Atlus saw an opportunity for the game after Sony passed on selling it in the US. Once that game became a success, there was no way a small publisher like Atlus could have hoped to outbid a megapublisher like Namco.

Atlus did a lot of publishing work on the HD consoles for other small publishers, stuff like Spectral Force 3, Operation Darkness, and the Game of Thrones video game. Their in-house work, however, was devoted to handhelds, but I think Atlus has made a solid reputation for itself this generation. It was an almost completely unknown publisher until the final years of the PS2. Hopefully Catherine's relative success will encourage them to develop more on the PS4.


03/07/2013 at 05:27 AM

The Game of Thrones game, for that reason alone we can say Atlus skipped a generation.

Also, did you play the Japanese version of Catherine?  I did.  It wasn't fun.


03/06/2013 at 03:32 PM

That was a good read. You can thank the PS3 for the failure of this gen. The industry is still based on the Japanese marketshare, since the majority of the companies originated and are based there. Most developers agreed that the PS3 was a nightmare to program for. Plus the publishers agreed that the PS3 was very expensive to release games on. With Microsoft's failure to identify and brand over there, is it really any surprise that the Wii became such a blockbuster? Not to mention that the shift of gamers to handhelds over there is what prompted cheaper and more mobile games.


03/06/2013 at 08:54 PM

"Most developers agreed that the PS3 was a nightmare to program for."

I challenge this statement.  It often seems to be common knowledge or a common theme or excuse on which to blame all the problems of the first HD generation, especially PS3's.  But how?  And why?  I have yet to see any quotes from developers on how PS3 was more difficult to program for than Xbox 360.

I don't doubt its truthiness, just need some examples and evidence.


03/06/2013 at 10:18 PM

The PS2 was considered difficult to program for. But since it was so popular, game designers sucked it up and developed for it, and they got pretty damn good at it after a couple of years. They even figured out how to compensate for the PS2's lack of built-in antialiasing. If the PS3 had the same kind of huge popularity edge over the 360 as the PS2, again as I've noted above, developers would have been more willing to find ways.

One of the most commonly cited problems developers had with the PS3 was its memory structure. The PS3 has 256MB of RAM and 256 MB of VRAM, while the 360 has 512MB of RAM. A lot of developers, including John Carmack of Id Software, felt the 360's RAM was much more flexible since it could be allocated as they saw fit for the game or the graphics. On the PS3, if you needed more than 256MB of RAM, you were SOL as you couldn't borrow from the VRAM. Obviously, a lot of developers got a good grasp of the PS3 and made some amazing games for it, but a lot of multiplatform developers optimized for the 360 and left the PS3 version as an afterthought.


03/07/2013 at 05:38 AM

Nice to see some knowledgeable people on here with decent answers to questions and posting thoughtful comments.  All I get on Attack of the Fanboy is, "cause PS3 sux muthafukkah!"   

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