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.
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 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)