Harrison sees the future lying with games that involve the player more, and pack some kind of social interactivity over and above puzzle solving, racing, fighting rabid zombies and blowing each other’s heads off at long range. In short, ‘fenced-in gaming’ is going to be in the minority, according to Big Phil. He has got previous stakes in the user-created content as well. Back in the days when he was head of Sony Worldwide studios, Harrison placed the concept at the center of PS3’s strategy going forward. He suggested we think of it not in terms “of maps, but in terms of behaviours, environments, physics, rules – all the tools that you could want, but in a very consumer-friendly way.” Back then he was raving on about the game Second Life: “That’s a very powerful metaphor for where we’re going.” That’s not to say that the end is nigh. For starters, broadband has yet to be widely available in some markets, and plenty of other developers disagree with his ‘fenced-in’ notion anyway. Ubisoft, itself on a mission to make some of its key games more accessible, has already come out and said the reverse.
Above: Second Life has brought tons of non-gamers into the fold with its user-generated world
Ben Mattes, producer of the delicious-looking new Prince of Persia says that there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet. He believes that there isn’t the demand for community-based gaming claimed by people like Harrison. Gamers still want to be wowed and immersed in worlds they could not have imagined. In short, he says, they still want to pay their hard-earned cash to be whisked away by a game thought up by somebody else.
In five years’ time, you could feasibly be buying a set of tools on a disc which let you build your own game. A bit like LittleBigPlanet, only less colourful or cool. But that’s then. This is now. At the moment we have a fascinating diversity of choice entering into our games. The user-generated content boom is just gearing up to explode, and some developers will whole-heartedly embrace it – possibly to the detriment of more traditional games – while others will stick to what they’ve done before. One thing's for sure, things will never be the same again and an avalanche of original user-generated content is on its way.
Others will take the idea of social gaming in entirely new directions. But it’s safe to say that Killzone 2’s single-player campaign isn’t about to be ripped out any time soon and replaced with cut-out-and-keep Helghast characters. This next year is going to be a brilliant one for sheer diversity; for you deciding how you play your games – enjoy it before it starts to polarise.
Jul 1, 2008