XBox 360 – Pure Ugliness
The new XBox is downright, unabashedly ugly. I can only imagine how many man hours of exhaustive thought and revision it took to come up with a hunk of plastic so revolting that I don't really want it anywhere near my home entertainment center.
The first XBox wasn't pretty though by a longshot, but at least it would have fit in with the rest of my equipment. Still, all in all the new Xbox, fake specs like 1 teraflop non-withstanding, looks interesting. The demo video of NBA 2K6 looked incredible. I currently own a PlayStation 2 and have been blown away by the graphics of Gran Tourismo 4. I still play a lot of NBA Live 2004, and it still looks good to me, however when I saw the graphics on the XBox 360, my original assertion of “how much better could it be?” seemed like inane drivel. The light sourcing and shadowing are incredible, almost as good as the current mainstream level of PC gaming. That is an amazing feat as far as I am concerned, modern PC games look fantastic, still I have some questions about the quality of the games being produced.
It seems that the designers are, much like hollywood, concerned more with producing another Madden franchise game, or another “Grand Theft Auto” (as good as they are) instead of breaking out with new game engines and products based on some of the underground game development going on. The graphics and sound keep getting much better, but the problem is that the games just aren't that interesting. I agree with Dvorak that the gaming industry is caught up in a dearth of desire to make interesting titles. DDR was probably one of the first truly innovative titles to come out in this decade, and we haven't seen another one. Sadly when one comes out every big game manufacturer rushes out to copy it as fast as possible, making it difficult for a single game to carve out a niche.
About graphics, Doom 3 remains interesting for about 15 minutes, after which you realize that you are playing the original Doom 3 with really pumped-up graphics and sound. Halo, as fantastic as it is, is still a sort of knock off of Unreal Tournament. The Sims was an interesting concept, but still it was based on existing sim civilization technology. Graphics can only sustain a game for a short time, after which if the game isn't interesting, it just won't float. I still play Mike Tyson Punch Out! and Super Mario Bros. These games are still fun. I was playing Kung-Fu and Tecmo Bowl the other day and remembered why I loved the original Nintendo.
What I would really love to see is an open source console with OSS tools that would allow anyone to make games for it. That way people could get home-brew or professional titles for the system. The company producing the system could make money from the hardware, and then give away the developer tools. Sure it would be a little more expensive than an existing console, but Microsoft put mostly off the shelf parts into its first XBox prototype, and the ultimate XBox product differed little from that proto.
Sony always takes a different approach, and I have high hopes for the PlayStation 3. Even though it is coming out much later than the XBox, this will give Sony some time to gauge the response, and the titles available for the platform. It is always good to be first though, and Microsoft making it in for the holiday shopping season, still I wish someone at Microsoft had spoken up and said, “Phew, we have to do something about how ugly this thing is!” Sure they probably would have had to look for a job, but at least the XBox may have been something people want to show off. Look for the PS3 to be exactly that. I'm going to wait it out, Sony won't let me down.