Top Ten Gaming Innovations of 2013
Best of 2013: Games

Despite the arrival of the PS4 and Xbox One, gaming’s had a slower year in terms of game revolutionizing innovations. The new systems essentially offer more of the same, with several games released in 2013 adhering to past control and storytelling schemata. However, some moves in the gaming marketplace stand out as downright brilliant, pushing the gaming medium to grounds never seen before. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 2013 Top ten gaming Innovations of 2013:

10. Completely Recreating Final Fantasy XIV in A Realm Reborn

It’s rare for Squareenix to get a game so incredibly wrong. But it’s even rarer for a gaming company to admit they got it so incredibly wrong. When Final Fantasy XIV was initially released back in 2010, it was an incredibly boring trudgefest with overly complicated interfaces, shoddy storylines, and questionable gameplay mechanics (a feature that gave gamers less experience points the longer they played the game. In other words, the game discouraged players from playing the game). Instead of packing their bags and leaving the project behind though, Squareenix took a huge risk and recreated the game from scratch, using player input to guide their new direction. The result was a massively improved game heralded by almost every review website, not just for A Realm Reborn’s new polish, but Squareenix’s ability to step back, admit their mistake, and correct it for the better of their fans.

9. WiiU Gamepad used as Pause Menu Screens

Nintendo has created a niche in the market as the younger generation system designed around gimmicky mechanics, like motion via Wii-mote, or microphone commands. When the WiiU was announced it seemed like more of the same—a gamepad with a separate window screen that would actually churn out video games with little depth and more “place the controller over here to reveal X to continue”. Initially, it was exactly that. The first WiiU games coming out of the gate weren’t quite sure how to properly utilize the second screen; some opting for the aforementioned feature and others opting for providing different camera perspectives that were ultimately nothing more than graphical flourish. This year though, the WiiU games took a definitive stance in what it wanted the gamepad to achieve: continuous gameplay by offering Pause Menu Screens directly on the gamepad itself. This simple innovation opened up TONS of opportunities for Nintendo, including new multiplayer avenues and non-stop gameplay that even hardcore gamers could appreciate.

8. GTAV: Characters live on without you

Grand Theft Auto V’s selling mechanic is the ability to instantly swap between three protagonists regardless of timing or action. This is most prevalent during heist missions, where you can choose to swap between Franklin driving the getaway car, Michael shooting from the passenger window, and Trevor (who somehow got a helicopter wearing a dress??) providing air support. However, the hidden facet behind this mechanic was what was truly innovative—when you aren’t controlling the other two characters, they don’t simply wait for you. While you’re chasing a stolen vehicle during the Franklin-only mission, Michael may be visiting a strip club halfway through his own mission, and Trevor may be out blowing shit up with a rocket launcher for funsies. This innovation truly led to a more realistic, cutthroat world where time, events, even main characters wouldn’t wait up for you. Not to mention it left the players in some hilarious mid-switch scenarios (again, rocket launching for funsies).

7. Reviving Older Zelda Games

Every game in the Zelda franchise is timeless. The gameplay, storylines, and characters are some of the best in gaming history, and continue to remain enjoyable to play through to this day……except for one thing: the aging graphics. Technology is the only facet that holds back outside parties from experience the full breadth of the Zelda franchise, something that Nintendo cleverly picked up on this year with a bevvy of Zelda revivals for their WiiU and 3DS systems. The Ocarina of Time 3D remake, Windwaker HD remake, and Link Between Worlds (not technically a remake but a rehash of an old world) games once again breathed life into Zelda’s most iconic games, leaving younger gaming newcomers, the target market for Nintendo, a chance to experience the magic for the first time, while giving an acknowledging nod to loyal fans all in one swoop.

6. Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC: The Party

How in the world do you account for over 10,000 possible variables in a storyline? You end that storyline with a KICKASS PARTY!! As silly as it seems, Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC simultaneously conquered its player-chooses-the-story dilemmas while giving their fans exactly what they want. The amount of variables that went into your party opened the way for scenes to play out differently for each player. In one game, you could have Jack and Miranda finally admit to their sexual tension, while in another you could have Jack getting hammered while giving a toast to her long past rival. You could see Wrex and Grunt finally putting an end to the long debate over who’s stronger, James and Ashley awkwardly flirting while Shepard’s nearby, or Tali blacking out and getting way too many tattoos. All of these events amounted to blatant fan service that was eaten up by fans and critics alike, because it managed to effectively consider player’s past choices and present them in love letter fashion to their fans.

5. Bringing Diablo III to Home Consoles

Diablo III was a fantastic PC game with plenty of gameplay headaches that prevented it from being one of the all time greats. It wasn’t completely out there that the game was a PC exclusive: the game’s developer was Blizzard, a company renowned for making PC classics like World of Warcraft and the Starcraft series. However, unlike it’s previous games Diablo III was less of an RPG point-and-click experience and more of a reactive action hybrid, a quality Blizzard correctly identified as one more fitting for home consoles with control sticks. The result was the decision to port their first game in over 12 years to Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Xbox360, and boy did it not disappoint. Gone were the gameplay problems of old, with the traditional point-and-click interface replaced with direct control of your character’s movement via the left stick and other interface snafu’s replaced with streamlined, less complicated menus. These changes resulted in more responsive and engaging combat, and an overall more exciting game to play.

4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons uses 1 controller for 2 characters

Brothers has a simple premise: get two brothers to their end destination. The means for getting the two brothers there, though, is what’s truly brilliant, as 1 player is forced to simultaneously control both brothers on one controller. As the left side controls one brother, the right side controls the other, leading to several puzzle solving innovations never seen before. The cooperative experience between 2 players was forced into a single player experience, which not only provided unique gameplay but highlighted the idea driving the plot: that the two brothers are one, and without the other, the brothers are nothing.

3. Pokemon X & Y Friend Safari

Pokemon knows what it’s doing. It’s got a formula down that would make the Fast and the Furious and Land Before Time series jealous that it adheres to no matter what the situation. The only component truly missing in Pokemon was a vast community to experience the game with, something the latest iteration of Pokemon corrected with Pokemon X & Y’s Friend Safari. Sure, there were several games before this in which you could connect to other players to trade Pokemon and battle, but never before was there a system where you HAD to interact with other players to achieve the most success. The Friend Safari offers you the strongest Pokemon with the best IVs available in the game, provided you have friends registered on your 3DS. The more friends you have, the more Pokemon you have available to capture in the safari. The Friend Safari forces together a Pokemon community, and provides the franchise its sorely missing link in a very clever fashion.

2. Beyond: Two souls- Recognizable Actors in Motion Capture

Using actors in motion capture has been a video game practice for a while now, but never before has such huge names been used. Jodie and Nathan, two lead characters in Beyond: Two Souls were acted by Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe respectively, a seemingly “Hollywood” decision with more merit than it seems. Whereas big name grabs for roles can be construed negatively for movies, it is a necessity for sparking interest in video games, particularly in audiences who don’t frequently play. Several non-gamers purchased Beyond: Two Souls as “that Ellen Page video game” before foraying further into the medium. Utilizing well known actors in video games cleverly opened up the market without overly hindering the actual game itself, as Page and Dafoe’s performances, while incredible, did not overshadow the game itself.

1. Remote Play between the Playstation4 and Playstation Vita

Playstation has always been the McDonald’s of the video gaming world, consistently coming up with clever game developing strategies that place it ahead of competitors Nintendo and Microsoft. The decision to involve Remote Play between its two current flagship systems, the PS4 and PS Vita is no different, because it brilliantly compelled buyers to purchase both systems WHILE offering product qualities that go beyond what its other competitors offer. The handheld gaming system PS Vita can act like a controller for the PS4, exactly how the WiiU’s separate screen Gamepad works, ON TOP OF being its own separate system with it’s own lineup of video games. This system synergy actively compels the market to buy not only playstation products over their competition, but BOTH playstation products over their competition, and for that, Sony gets the nod for earning the Top Gaming Innovation of 2013.

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