As the title to this post states, I think that this next title in the silent hunter series will either make or break the genre.
Now we have to be realistic in what the developers can achieve.
Historically, the biggest advance was from SH2 to SH3 with the introduction of crew and dynamic campaign.
SH4 unfortunatly, despite the improved graphics, was SH3 but in the pacific. Lets face it, war under the sea happened enmasse in the atlantic, not pacific.
As such, players (i speak for myself here) really didn't get into the whole feel of "hunter becomes hunted".
Thus finally we come back to SH5 in the atlantic before. If the developers were listening to the fans, this was a step in the right direction.
Now all releases of all the SH games have been buggy and in some cases unplayable out of the box.
We like to request, wish and hope for amazing extras, destroyer command addons etc etc..
Right now we should be praying for a game that comes out finished and in some sort of working condition.
We shouldn't be relying on mods to fix the game. And if this is the case, then I think its in the developers best interest to strongly consider doing a beta test and offering those who have been around the longeset in the MOD DEV community a chance to pitch in (as was seen in EGOSOFT's X2 and X3 games).
This would help the developers in several ways:
1) They would save money and time on testing. seeing as they are a small company, they could focus more time on other features whilst the beta testers squash all those bugs that jump out the box.
2) The community would become involved in the game and more likely to buy a product they had confidence in. The confidence would come from the fact that "one of them" (aka the MODDERS) were having a part in making the game playable.
3) By allowing others to beta test you in effect increase the number of staff you have working on the project. And lets face it, I may be speaking only for myself here, but I would work for free to develop SH5 into a polished gem and so would other modders. Once again, improving time and money spendature on the project.
And now for my realistic prediction on the game:
Based on the videos I've seen, screenshots, trailers, FAQS and forums I think the following:
1) Graphics will be on par with SH4 with maybe a few extra effects added that, to the average gamer, would probably go unnoticed.
2) Dynamic campaign will be there along with the usual crew control, weapon loadout and technology progression through the war.
3) I think that the whole "walking around the ship" feature will be nothing but a gimmick and, even though i've wanted this feature since SH3, I think will ultimatly be a hinderence and will not serve to augment the gameplay and, dare I say it, the experience itself.
4) CPU Specs will be on par with SH4 and maybe allow for Multicore processing, but i'm not holding my breath.
5) Some videos have revealed to me that the game may be somewhat "dumbed down". This day and age PC games (particularly niche market like subsims) are competing with console games etc. As such, SH5 may become more arcade style in control. Unfortunatly it will also be trying to hold onto the simulation feel.
I forsee this to be a disaster as it will be neither here nor there and create an unfinished look to the game (just look at Battlecruiser 3000AD).
With all this in mind, I see two things:
1) The few extra features and "gimmicks", combined with the initial bugs out of the box and the half sim half arcade style will almost certainly bore those hardcore subsimmers out there, if not straight away, eventually.
2) Casual gamers will come along and think, "wow this game looks alright" but immediatly get bored of it because of the simulation elements such as waiting forever for an encounter, no respawning etc... and may deter them away.
I feel that public beta testing may help reduce some of these effects but not entirely.
I also think that a company who develops games in the 21st century for niche market will fail when trying to create a sim game for the arcade generation (despite us many sim fans). Its just simply not economically viable.
My final thoughts are that SHV has to come out of the box on fire, because even if the above elements are true, we cannot be treated to yet again another SH3 game with bugs. This would simply kill all of our hopes for a near future redemption and I'm positivly sure that SH5 will be the last silent hunter. After all this time, effort, mods, forums, bugs and planning, if SH5 is not in some kind of decent shape out of the box, then its GameOver for the developers and this genre.
P.S. Sorry for the grim outlook, I do have hope that we will all be plesantly surprised but as I stated at the beggining, this was a "realistic" interpretation of only current events.
Would like to hear your comments please!