The Future of Video Games

Virtual and Augmented Reality

One of the newest advances in video game technology has been virtual reality (VR). Virtual reality provides three-dimensional images that appear to be life-sized, and the ability to track the user’s motions and eye movement. For example, let’s say someone is playing a game where the objective is to defend a castle with a bow and arrow. Instead of using a controller and watching the game on a screen, the player puts on a headset over their eyes and uses handheld remotes to play. When the player turns their head they can see more of their environment like in real life, and if they duck then their perspective changes in the game to mimic that movement. The remotes can be used to move the character through the game and interact with this very real-looking environment. The concept of VR can be found throughout the history of video games beginning with Sega Master System 3D glasses in the 80s. Several attempts at virtual reality gaming failed, but the most recent attempt by Oculus and Project Morpheus seems to be gaining ground. This is the first time VR has had enough popularity and backing to be successful. The cost of virtual reality is expensive. However, similar to other technologies, the price will come down once the components and products become more accessible. The future of video games may lie in nanotech VR, which would put the user’s brain within the digital world of the game. Right now though, the next step would be virtual reality “caves”, which would be an area designed for playing VR games. A similar technology is called Augmented Reality, which places digital image overlays to one’s actual environment. Snapchat is one way to use this technology, but developers might soon use smart phone screens or wearable headsets to create games using augmented reality.

Artificial Intelligence

The next technological advance in the video game world is artificial intelligence (AI). Simple AI is already used in video games for developing non-player character (NPC) personality, quest tracking and developing, and now NPC fighting and learning in more advanced AI. A great example of video game developers using the simple AI is within the soon to be released game, Chronicles of Elyria. When someone creates a character in this massive multi-player online game (MMO) they remain in-game until that character dies. In other words, even when the character is not being played they continue to be present in the game world and are supported by AI scripts. It’s a simple AI program so players have to choose which behaviors their characters play out when the player is not gaming. Another AI program creates quests within the game world. Instead of every player being able to go to an NPC who gives each player the same quest, once the quest has been done by a player it is no longer available for others. Depending on what players do in the world different quests could be generated in reaction to player actions. More advanced AI is be developed to give enemies and NPCs the ability to “learn”. Usually enemies in games have preset actions, but with this advanced AI enemies can analyze the player’s actions and fight in a way that would be akin to playing chess with a computer. The enemy learns the player’s fighting style and adjusts accordingly to fight back. Artificial intelligence is very difficult to develop and many game developers do not take the time to do so; however, like virtual reality, the technology might be easier to come by after the components are created.

Spatial OS

Spatial OS is another technology that might change the way video games are created and processed. This innovation has more to do with online games. Usually online games/worlds are processed and stored on a single server, which only has space for so much of the online world and tends to have slow loading times. It also makes development of the video game slower. The new Spatial OS system is a cloud-based platform that uses multiple servers to process an online game. Utilizing many servers allows for power to be reorganized and provides space for bigger, more seamless worlds. Instead of having to wait for an area to load, the players can continue to explore and play without wait times or issues pertaining too many players online. In fact, Chronicles of Elyria is one of the first games to integrate Spatial OS. This is one version of cloud gaming, which aims to make games as available as movies or music.

 

Eventually it will be clear which of these future technologies will be successful and which will fail. Many events and discoveries can influence which will become mainstream. Whatever happens though, this is an exciting time for video games. This industry is definitely not stagnating. People continue to put time into researching and creating innovations for video games, which suggests that video games, in whatever form they morph into, will be around for a while.

-Sabrina Arnold (iwouldliketonerd)

My Reaction: Mass Effect Andromeda

The first thirteen minutes of Mass Effect: Andromeda has been released, and oh how beautiful it is! I’ve written about my hopes for the newest addition to the series before, and we are able to actually see the first chunk of the game. I just watched the video and it was such a smart move for BioWare to release this “sneak peak”. It did not give much away at all in terms of the storyline; however, it reveled enough to keep me guessing.

The main reason why I’m so excited is because of those freaking graphics! Human faces can be difficult to replicate in video games, and I’m impressed by how human those characters look and react. You know that face you might make when something strange happens and you make eye contact with someone else and they also have no idea what’s going on and you make that face that is kind of like an elongated frown? The Asari doctor in the video actually makes that face! I’m not sure if I made any sense with that sentence, but if you watch the video you can see what I mean!

Another great change is the conversation wheel. For those of you who have played one or all of the first three Mass Effect games, you can understand my initial appreciation for an upgrade to the wheel. It no longer categorizes responses into ‘Paragon’ or ‘Renegade’, but instead as emotional, logical, casual, or professional. I love this. I will no longer have to be stuck between playing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ character. Instead I can choose to respond in a way that reflects the type of personality my character has. For someone who appreciates character development and story I feel the decision to change the wheel was a very smart one.

Next up for discussion are the existing relationships between characters that the introduction reveals. Especially how your character’s father reacts to you. It definitely sets the stage for possible hardships in the future, like how is my character going to deal with their father’s apparent scorn. And what will happen if that father ends up dying on the first mission, which is how I think your character becomes the Pathfinder themselves. It also seems your character knows a couple of the possible party members already, and those relationships give the player a sense of continued story. In other words, these characters have a past and the present in the game cannot be disconnected from the implied lives that these characters have lived.

After watching the video a second time I am more excited about playing Andromeda than ever before. What are your thoughts on this video or the game in general? Leave me a comment below!

-Sabrina Arnold (iwouldliketonerd)