[Gamasutra continues its 2010 year-end lists by setting its gaze forward instead of backward, looking at titles that are already lighting up the 2011 release calendar, from L.A. Noire to The Last Guardian. Previously: Top 5 Trends, Top 5 Major Industry Events, Top 5 Surprises, Top 5 Disappointments, and Top 5 Controversies
Sitting in the middle of the holiday deluge at the end of a year as chock full of quality releases as 2010, it may seem silly to even think about looking ahead to next year's crop of titles.
Yet the game industry stubbornly refuses to stop progressing, and players seem eager to dig in to some of gaming's upcoming courses before they've even finished looking at what's on their current plate.
Aside from the obvious sequels and updates to the biggest-selling franchises of the last few years, there are a few titles that stand out as the most intriguing and mysterious blips on the 2011 radar.
Here are just a few of them, and why we and so many like us can't wait to get our hands on them.
Despite a development history that stretches back to 2004, very little was publicly known about this crime drama until relatively recently.
Even after a March preview in Game Informer magazine revealed the 1940s Los Angeles murder mystery would feature a cast of 300 characters speaking over 2,000 pages of dialogue, publisher Rockstar Games maintained its standard aura of media silence.
But that silence is beginning to crack, with the game's first trailer
showing off the innovative motion-capture process
from partner Depth Analysis that creates full 3D models directly from captured performances.
That revolutionary technology is being put towards a game where interrogating suspects and examining clues carefully matters just as much, if not more, than shooting bad guys, and where conversations that would be cut scenes in most games can end up being pivotal gameplay moments.
It's quite a departure from a publisher known more for do-as-you-please sandbox titles -- and for project head Brendan McNamara, whose last release, The Getaway
, was a more straightforward cops-and-robbers shoot-fest. Still, it's a departure that has many looking eagerly to the game's planned Spring 2011 release.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
After six straight years of attempts to beat World of Warcraft
on its own MMO turf, some have despaired that the king of the genre will ever be taken down. That doesn't include EA, though, which has plowed a record amount of money
into developing BioWare's first massively multiplayer title.
Being a BioWare title, it's perhaps not a surprise that developing individual storylines is a focus for the game's 12 full-time writers.
In-game choices will reportedly affect branching personal tales and give a concrete shape to what can often seem like pointless, stat-padding fetch quests in other MMOs. A fluid class system promises to do away with the need to find specific players to fill certain roles as well, letting players change their in-game job along with their mood.
Though the game's current release window of "fiscal 2012"
does extend a bit past 2011, there are already a lot of breathless fans hoping the game manages to hit the earlier part of that window.
Thatgamecompany's Jenova Chen may have officially unveiled Journey
back at E3 2010, but it was only last week we got our first glimpse
of the game in motion, a glimpse that featured a desolate, sandy world with a lone, robe-clad protagonist.
The controls are reportedly equally desolate, limited to a jump button and a shout command, the latter of which is your only mode of interaction with the other players joining you in the online-enabled title. When thatgamecompany's designers talk about the game
, they tend to use lofty language about emotional connection and meaningful interaction without getting in to many specifics about what you actually do
in the game.
Such fuzzy gameplay information, and an even fuzzier release date of "2011," might not seem like much to serve as a basis for a highly anticipated title. But after the elegant, genre-busting beauty of thatgamecompany's flOw
, the company's projects get the benefit of the doubt.
After its release in 2007, the original Portal
quickly went from being an afterthought addition to Valve's jam-packed The Orange Box
release to being an over-referenced cornerstone of nerd culture. Now that "The cake is a lie," "Still Alive' and the Weighted Companion Cube have had some time to go from clever to tired to kitsch and back again, Portal
's tightly constructed first-person puzzle gameplay and interwoven story have stood on their own as a new classic.
Valve has taken its time crafting the sequel into something much grander than the brilliant-but-short experience of the original (which was based on student project Narbacular Drop
The company has kept anticipation high with a slow but steady drip of demos, trailers and information regarding the game, stressing the title's new co-operative mode and a helpfully British spherical artificial intelligence guide Wheatley. More open environments and new gameplay elements like propulsion gel promise to expand the original game's variety of puzzles as well.
Though a two-month delay
has pushed this long-anticipated title's release back to April, the fact that the game has a firm release date at all makes it one of the least hard-to-wait-for games on this list.
The Last Guardian
Team Ico has attracted an inordinate amount of attention for a developer with only two games under its belt, but the wide-open expanses, beautiful art direction and largely context-free adventure gameplay of the PS2's Ico
and Shadow of the Colossus
have earned the gaming world's attention, and an HD re-release
on the PS3, as well.
So it's not that surprising that so many are excited about The Last Guardian
despite nothing more than a couple of trailers showing a tunic-clad boy traipsing around and clambering on top of a giant dog/bird/dragon thing without apparent direction. The sheer emotional weight wrought from these spare video trailers shows that, if you have the art direction down, sometimes the actual gameplay can seem like a secondary consideration.
The game is currently loosely targeted for a Q4 2011 release, but don't be surprised if that timing slips back even further as the team perfects its vision. With over five years now since Shadow of the Colossus
' release, the team is obviously willing to take its time on this one.
Other anticipated 2011 titles: Dead Space 2, Infamous 2, Dragon Age 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3
, the sequel to that other game you liked.