Don Daglow of Stormfront Studios spoke at today's GC Developers Conference on the subject of an oft-abused descriptor, rhetorically asking the question "What is next-gen?" Daglow's definition may differ from the conventional explanation, which is, essentially, the next iteration in a hardware cycle. The founder of Stormfront, whose resume spans at career at Intellivision as game director and one of the original producers at EA, tackled the definition in a number of divergent ways, declaring the hardcore contentious GameCube Turbo (aka Wii) a next-gen gaming system.
While the name may not be immediately familiar, Daglow and Stormfront have developed a number of higher profile games and well-known licensed titles—games like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the original Neverwinter Nights, Madden NFL and NASCAR titles.Although Daglow conceded that sometimes "next-gen" unfortunately meant the size of one's marketing budget, he defined the generational shift from a hardware point as "any platform that upon its introduction dramatically changes a players view of the potential for interactive entertainment." He spun stories of the next-gen leap at Intellivision where, prior to that console, developers dreamt of machines that could display 32 colours, properly capturing their artistic visions.
The same mostly held true for software but he noted that "unlike hardware, next-gen software is usually recognised in hindsight, not in advance."
Daglow chose a number of hardware platforms and less than original titles as hallmarks of next-gen releases. As the Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION 3 meet the hardware requirements that don't "hold developers back", he considers the casual-friendly Wii as next-gen, despite its underperforming hardware specs, mostly for its input device.
Games like Sim City, Guitar Hero, Geometry Wars and World of Warcraft are also worthy of the "next-gen" moniker. He called out Guitar Hero for its focus on in-person social multiplayer and Bizarre Creations' Geometry Wars as it "provide old games can be new again" but I suspect some of that had to do with its runaway Xbox Live Arcade success.
Perhaps the most distressing moment of Daglow's speech was his Oreo analogy. He worried of store shelves filled with not just a package of Oreo cookies, but shelves chock full of Oreos, Oreo Double Stuf, Mint Oreo, Reduced Fat Oreo, Chocolate-filled Oreo and, well, you get the idea. He lamented the missing presence of non-Oreo cookies from grocery store shelves. "Somebody went away," he said with a touch of developer nostalgia "Somebody has disappeared."
Of the handful of keynotes we sat in on today, Daglow's was the one of the most packed and one of the most warmly received. Regardless of what you think of his company's games, let's hope he and his team don't become just another variation on the Oreo cookie.