The past years have been good for real-time 3D. The technology has become more accessible and more powerful. This has allowed many people to experiment with the medium, which lead to interesting experiences and stimulated creativity throughout the games industry.
The Next Generation of hardware threatens to put an end to this.
Why? Because rather than making the technology easier to use for normal people in small numbers, Next Gen makes it easier for the machines to crunch larger amounts of numbers, faster. So the humans need to keep up.
I’m not a fan of the current aesthetic per se but the results are impressive so far. It’s not just a matter of more polygons, but also simply of more stuff (large quantities of objects that are all different) and extreme polish. Everything is shiny in Next Gen…
And while all of this may not exactly be beautiful, it does put the bar a lot higher for everybody else. There is absolutely no way that an independent game developer can create anything even remotely next gen. They just don’t have the man power, money or time for this. As result they will be -and are- returning to, or sticking with, old technology. 2D Scrolling games are already making a come-back. Not to mention all the other retro-inclinations and -fads.
Some of these might be interesting in creative terms in and of themselves. But retro is not exactly where you want the avant garde to be!… The level of polish that a big company can achieve with next gen hardware turns the medium of realtime 3D into something that is only accessible for the rich and conservative. And that’s a shame. Not just for a wasted technology but also for the games industry itself which will bleed to death without lively experimentation.