Photo shop: GDC debuts the next generation

Thursday, 28th March 2013 14:29 GMT By Patrick Garratt

GDC 2013 shrugged off the despondency of recent years with the first true next-gen games and glimpses of photo-realism. We have every reason to be excited about the future, says Patrick Garratt.

For the first time in years there’s an air of genuine, positive excitement surrounding the next wave of games. The industry, if GDC 2013 is anything to go by, is looking to the future.

GDC 2013 was a good show. Recent years at the San Franciscan event have oscillated between sufferance and moribundity, with a lack of next generational aspiration lending headlines to red herrings such as OnLive and Move. An unspoken fear has grown that the top-flight games trade is doomed, lost in a shrinking maze of current console tech. We’ve had Nintendo moaning, Sony promising there’s life in PS3 yet, and grumpy indies, bricked up to starve in walled gardens, sticking their noses in the air and snotting themselves off to planet PC. David Cage tried to lift spirits with Kara last year, but even the French artist’s PS3 wizards can only make six year-old tech wow to a degree. It’s all been a bit gloomy, to be frank.

But 2013 was happyhappyfunfun. This year’s show gave us a real glimpse of the next generation both in terms of tech and dev structure, with photo-realism emerging as a trend. DICE and KojiPro dominated headlines with BF4 and MSG5, demonstrating a startling step-up in visuals and flashing a fat finger at the doomsayers. Yes, the next generation will be expensive, but there are developers and publishers with the vision to lead. Watching the games industry recently has been like a parent willing a troublesome teenager to get out of bed, stop whining, stop smoking weed every day and actually do something. GDC 2013 showed the transition from adolescent malcontent to career achiever is almost complete. Games can make it. It isn’t over yet.

EA and Konami weren’t the only GDC exhibitors to make a statement of next-gen intent. Activision, too, was keen to shout about what’s to come, showing next-stage real-time face tech. We’re on the cusp of a new level of interactive experience and people will pay to be involved. There will be sighs of relief from many after this week.

Indies gogo

Photo-realism wasn’t the only future indicator at GDC this year. The rise of the “AAA indie,” coupled with the next-gen showings and a relaxing of console submission processes, gave a strong hint at how games are going to be made and sold in the next generation.

Journey swept the board at the GDC Choice Awards, and Telltale beat Mass Effect 3 and Dishonored to the narrative prize with The Walking Dead. Independence is possible for mid-sized teams in the top tier, but only if they ditch the disc and embrace new models. The development and publishing businesses have been disrupted, but if you want to stand on the shoulders of giants it’s unlikely you’re going to be doing it from your bedroom.

The next-gen power-players are emerging as hyper-creative studios with major backing, whether they’re “indie” or not. Thatgamecompany, Mojang and Telltale have great momentum, but, just like KojiPro, DICE, Quantic Dream, Rockstar North, BioWare and Infinity Ward, they’re serious business. The games they’re making are a world away from IGF headliners FTL and Cart Life.

Sony’s confirmation that it’s to radically alter its indie submission process with PS4, potentially growing a PSN more akin to the App Store, indicates that next-gen content is going to be made up of triple-A, discless double-A (whether it’s funded by first-party, third-party or Kickstarter) and small-team indie. As one publishing exec told me recently, “In general, next-gen console will be the premium experience; PC will be F2P and indie; and mobile will always be mobile.”

GDC 2013 adds credence to the prediction. Irrespective of the future, though, the headlines you’re going to be remembering from San Francisco’s creative love-in this year are all about faces, and how close to photographs the next generation will make them. The answer, apparently, is very. For the first time in years there’s an air of genuine, positive excitement surrounding the next wave of games. The industry, if GDC 2013 is anything to go by, is looking to the future.

Now. Where’s the invite to that Xbox event?



  1. The_Red

    Strangely optimistic article. It is a good read but I don’t think GDC was that promising. Battlefield 4 felt beyond boring and cliched while others were simple tech demos.
    MGS5 was nice though but then again, I may be biased.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. manamana

    As long as the gameplay, AI, corridors, hand-holding and lack of depth aren’t evolving in games, there is little to be exited beyond graphic porn …

    #2 2 years ago
  3. yeoung

    Dynamically brancing narratives would be nice. It’s a lot easier to make some nice shaders and lighting effects, and the systems don’t necessarily have to be next-gen, yet there is a disturbingly small amount of games that feature branching narrative.


    #3 2 years ago
  4. Mjorh

    all we hearing these days are about graphic stuff while Gaming industry needs innovaton …

    #4 2 years ago
  5. No_PUDding

    It is positive and it should be.

    Everyone that is still trying to play games how they used to, and not embracing the new ways of finding, purchasing and playing games is doing themselves a disservice.

    I am not saying you have to pick up a Wii Mote, enjoy dancing with a Kinect or go blow £50 on microtransactions. But you have got to try these things out.

    It’s not 2004 again, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t good experiences anymore.

    It’s exciting because tech is reaching a photorealistic ceiling, and the only thing that can improve after that is the games themselves.

    All these scary emerging things will find their feet and be employed successfully this coming generation.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. manamana

    I see two main paths for the next years:
    1. Indies and small studios with great ideas and innovative gameplay on relatively small budgets.
    2. Big companies with hundreds of employees, big budgets, same old gameplay and shiny marketing campaigns.

    1 will have the possibilities of going multiplat and smartphones/tablets, while 2 will be on PC/PS4/Xbox3 only with some kind of accompanying marketing stuff on mobile OS.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. ManuOtaku

    I compare this with the picture i mean real photos with paintings situation, i love paintings, but real photos not so much,and in games is the same, i like games looking like games, were one of the aspects is the artistic focus, which makes the games look the way they are, if games start to look like real life things, i think i will not like it as much, i like the way the videogames diffirintiate themselves for the real thing, for me it is one of the appeals of it, please dont get rid of it.

    Also there is the other thing, recently tomb raider needs to sell 10 millions to be profitable, imagine if this game was photo relistic, then it would need to sell 20 millions perhaps, that will do more harm that good IMHO.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. No_PUDding

    I agree!

    I hope the simpler hardware, easier cert processes and loan dev-kits or a PS4 SDK, will path the future pretty nicely.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. buyme218

    input this URL:

    ( h t t p : // w w w . b u y 2 m e . u s / )

    you can find many cheap and high stuff



    #9 2 years ago
  10. DarkElfa

    I’m rarely impressed by a video demo, but that impressed me. until I noticed the irregularities between the lips.

    Like Vile, he should have kept his mouth shut.


    #10 2 years ago
  11. DarkElfa

    Lets hope.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Digital Bamboo

    I’m (slightly and retroactively) offended by the implication that smoking weed every day makes a person lazy. I’ve known a great many creative, hard-working, and active people who were every day tokers, and the notion that anyone who does so is devoid of ambition is nothing more than a common stereotype; not unlike the stereotypical gamer.

    It all comes down to individual choices. Are there lazy people who smoke weed? Most definitely. But there’s a lot of other different kinds of people too.

    I realize that Patrick set it up as a “troublesome…[whiny]” teenager and therefore may not have actually been suggesting any of this at all, but I was just a bit disappointed because I feel, to some degree, the stereotypes of stoner and gamer are somewhat intertwined.

    Anyhow, nice article.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. TD_Monstrous69

    Great read, Pat. The next gen looks to be almost everything I thought it’d be and I’d hope it to be, and couldn’t be more excited for it. Though personally, would’ve liked to see some more new IP’s when the first next gen system was unveiled, but I guess that’s what E3′s for.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Hussar

    Don’t expect advanced narratives, great gameplay etc. Right now, in my opinion, this industry is even more focusing on the main selling point for teens and immature people – graphics. The real excitement is declining. Game devs doesn’t care to hire good storywriters. Why?

    All of them earn much better money in movie and book industries (for the same amount of effort). Period.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. RocknRolla

    Remove this ugly looking chick from the page for facks sake!! I am tired of seing her every time I get in here 4 days in a row now she is really disgusting..

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Hunam

    You are a strange and terrible person.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. blackdreamhunk

    lol too funny

    #17 2 years ago
  18. RocknRolla

    when are they gonna remove this motherfucking artile? it has been up on the wall for a whole fucking week now! remove this, makes me wanna puke that disgusting chick on the picture..

    #18 2 years ago

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