One of the announcements at the PS4 unveiling that I’ve seen get little media coverage is that it will follow in the footsteps of the DS, PSP, 3DS and Vita by supporting suspend/resume across all games. I suspect the reason for the muted response is simply that people don’t realise what a useful feature it is, and I think it’ll be hard to go back once we’ve got used to it.
Strangely, this is a feature that became dear to me immediately before Sony’s announcement, when the reveal of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team led me to dig out the first game on my beloved Game Boy Micro. Years of snapping shut whatever iteration of the DS I’m currently playing has made partaking of an RPG on a handheld without it feel less practical, more difficult to fit into snatched moments of gameplay. As excellent as they are, the ports of the 16-bit Final Fantasy games with their requirement of seeking out save points in towns and dungeons just aren’t designed with modern gaming habits in mind.
Even with my increased willingness to play a long-form game when sat down in front of the TV, finding a suitable place to stop playing feels like it takes annoying liberties with my time, making it impossible to drop out at a moment’s notice without losing progress. Other media don’t do it. Most DVD players remember the position you left off if you switch off during the movie, and TV habits are now built around pausing live TV and resuming recordings where you last stopped them. And now games won’t either.
I’ve seen it written elsewhere that the PS4’s respect for its users’ limited gaming time is its best feature, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s an area where the PS3, with its 20-minute firmware updates, mandatory installations and 500MB patches that lock you out while they download, failed spectacularly, and it’s great to see Sony learning from its mistakes. It’s going one better, not even making downloading the whole game a requirement before you start playing. It never made sense to me that you couldn’t start playing the first level until you’d downloaded the final one, which you might not need for 20+ hours, and now a system’s been designed around fixing that oversight.
While the games were fairly uninspiring at this point – I can’t be the only one who laughed at how they followed Killzone 4, inFamous 3 and a racing game with a speech about “creative risks” – full credit to Sony for the design of the system. The PlayStation 4 looks friendly both to develop for and to play on, with genuinely innovative features that make me, not entirely liking the move away from dedicated gaming systems, want to jump in.
Your move, Microsoft. How many ads are you going to cram onto the dashboard this time?