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)

How I’m Exploring Video Games Like I Did When I Was A Kid

From the time I was old enough to click a mouse or hold a controller I’ve been playing video games. Freddie the Fish, Scooby Doo, Yoshi, Ratchet and Clank, Tony Hawk, Portal Runner, all of the Dragon Age and Mass Effect games were some I especially loved. I narrowed my focus down to open world RPGs because I enjoy everything about those games. I went through a phase when I was in middle school when I did not play video games very often, so I didn’t go through that exploratory stage where I tried many different types of games. After playing different genres of video games that either my parents would give me or my brother would let me borrow I just stopped playing games. When I picked a controller back up it was out of a desire to connect to something again (hard times and such), and I just so happened to pick up my brother’s copy of Dragon Age 2 and I just played it. That was the beginning of my affinity for both BioWare and RPGs, and I did not try other genres after that. I skipped a whole period of discovery!

As of recently, I have decided to play games I might not necessarily pick out as “my type of game”. My roommate has shown me Harvest Moon and Pikmin, which I has never even heard of. I’ve watched people on Youtube play other types of games as well. For instance, Seananners playing King of the Kill and Prop Hunt, Markiplier playing Resident Evil 7 and Soma, and GassyMexican playing Until Dawn. It’s just as fun for me to watch someone play a game, especially when I myself do not have the funds or time to play as many games as I would like. Shooters are the next genre on my list. Don’t get me wrong. I still play RPGs regularly and I’m stoked for Mass Effect Andromeda; however, I feel like I need to explore this world of games that I love so much. I’m playing Gears of War right now. I’m not that great even on casual, but I’m liking it. I think starting with Gears of War instead of Halo or Call of Duty or something of that ilk has helped because everyone seems to be so freaking awesome at those games. It made me feel like I couldn’t and shouldn’t play them because I’m not good. I’ve figured out that it’s alright to be horrible at a game. It’s not a competition when you’re playing for fun. Also, new worlds and stories are possible to be a part of in different genres. I was under the impression that to get new ideas and stories I had to play RPGs. Each genre has pros and cons for everyone and they differ for each individual, but it’s fun to expand ones horizons and play or watch other games. Maybe you’ll find something else you love.

Let me know which games you’re playing in the comments below!

-Sabrina Arnold (iwouldliketonerd)

How Can Video Games Be Environmentally Sustainable?

Here are some ideas on how the video game industry could be more environmentally sustainable.

In my innovation class today we went around the room and presented two innovative ideas. After six people presented, the class would vote on their favorite idea. Even though several presentations involved sustainable technologies, people tended to vote for the ideas that would help them save time or money. I’d like to think that here in Portland, OR we would be thinking more about how to be environmentally friendly, but nothing is more persuasive than saving money.

For the past few years I have pondered how video games or the video game industry itself could be more sustainable. Games like Dragon Age, Fallout, Mass Effect, and Skyrim are some of my favorites and I aspire to work in some way, shape, or form with games in the future. However, after taking several classes on sustainability I have struggled with how I would be alright with working for a sector that has seemingly done nothing to become environmentally friendly. If initiatives exist out there then I would love to hear about them, because I cannot find anything substantial. Having said that, I do recognize that some companies are trying to promote a more sustainable world in-game. I want something more real world though. I began to think about video game developers and companies could create positive environmental changes.

With this is mind I continued on with my life. Perhaps companies could create incentives for employees to volunteer or materials needed to manufacture video games and consoles could be collected in a way that would be more environmentally friendly. I personally don’t have the know how, the experience, or the power to be able to implement these possible solutions. Nor, do I have the knowledge of the industry to make an informed decision on whether or not it would be financially possible for a video game company to go out of its way to do better. All companies should do this, but for some it is not feasible. Through all of these garbled, partially constructed ideas I remembered that people like to save money.

What if console manufacturers like PlayStation and Xbox no longer created a new console every few years. After the new ones come out it seems to make past models obsolete. Which means that entire consoles are discarded or just sit collecting dust while the new console is played. It becomes a cycle of throwing out the old one to replace it with the new, and even if you keep the old console they are usually replaced by the new one after they finally breakdown. If you’d like to know more about this then I recommend looking up planned obsolescence. I get it, companies need to continue to make money, so they couldn’t create one console and have that be it. The way technology is progressing that console would be replaced with new tech within a couple years. We need to rethink how consoles are made. Here’s my proposition: don’t replace entire consoles. Instead, Xbox and PlayStation could continue to develop parts of the console, and sell each piece in separate parts. If you own a console and the battery decides to die, just purchase a new battery pack instead of throwing out the entire system. It saves materials and money, but companies would still continue to make a profit. When technology makes another leap the pieces needed to upgrade the console could be sold and the owner could just replace the parts. Bam! New and improved graphics without having to buy an expensive console.

Again, I could be completely unaware of why this idea would not work. If it was a success though it could not only reduce waste but save people a lot of money. And who doesn’t enjoy savings? Let me know your thoughts! I’d love to hear them.

-Sabrina Arnold (iwouldliketonerd)

Why You Should Take a Look at Resident Evil 7.

The 7th installation has changed the Resident Evil brand for better; here’s how.

Mutated zombies, incessant gore, non-stop action, and Umbrella Corporation are what comes to my mind when I think of Resident Evil. I’m a fan of the movies because of my love of anything zombie-ish. Resident Evil incorporated the idea that zombies were created by a mega company that was planning on making a profit off of selling the antidote after releasing the zombie virus. I don’t know about you, but that’s quite a difference from the usual concept of the ‘we don’t know why zombies exist’ story. I love the concept, but for some reason the video games never attracted my attention. I love rpgs and story-telling, so the hyper-action packed, hack and slash theme of the Resident Evil games were never interesting to me. Then I watched Markiplier play Resident Evil 7.

At first the game wasn’t on my radar, but some of my friends were talking about how great it was. Naturally, I had to check it out. I was expecting something akin to the past Resident Evil games, but what I watched was entirely different. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard turned out to be a thrilling survival horror game complete with a full fledged story and ever shifting environment. I won’t spoil anything, so those of you who haven’t played or watched someone play the game won’t be upset. The opening scene sets the tone perfectly: you play as Ethan, a man who goes in search of his wife who has been missing for three years. He receives an email from her asking him to come get her, and the audience sees a video clip that foreshadows that rescue mission going very, very wrong. The game does an amazing job of keeping the player in the dark, and placing tidbits of information throughout the whole game. Each section of the game brought about a situation or a new environment that would continually change the game. The main mechanics of the game never changed- you hid, fought, and searched for supplies and clues. However, the environment would shift in ways that were noticeable and purposefully heightened our sense of danger. The stakes felt like they were getting higher and higher as the game went on.

Soon after I began watching, I got my roommates to view the play through with me because it’s more fun to be scared with other people. And were we scared! The game employed jump scares, suspense, amazingly intense fighting mechanics, and creepy characters (voice actors- be praised). Resident Evil 7 kept us guessing the entire time. We found ourselves debating over what was happening within the game even when we weren’t watching it. Now, we’ve created a joke, “You’re doing better than Ethan,” when we’re having stressful days. The story and gameplay were not only scary in the sense that it made us jump, but it also freaked us out in a way that stayed with you even after you turned off the TV. It was creepy ad thought-provoking.

All in all, I’m excited about where this franchise is going. Many avenues have been opened for the continuation of Resident Evil. The 7th game ended with some questions answered, and many more to hopefully be fleshed out in the next installment. I’m surprised to say that I am eagerly waiting for Resident Evil 8 to come out. I’m in suspense, which is exactly what Biohazard capitalized on.

-Sabrina Arnold (iwouldliketonerd)

Why Everyone Should Know Edward Gorey.

Don’t know who Edward Gorey is? Don’t worry, this article has everything you should know.

On my journey to Vancouver, B.C. last year I discovered the author and artist; Edward Gorey. I had not known about his works before the trip, but it has haunted and inspired me since. During a trip to a local market in Vancouver my friends and I happened upon a small paper shop. In it one could buy calendars, postcards, regular cards, books, and more. I was not planning on buying anything, but a small booklet of postcards caught my eye. It was a collection of several “monsters” that Gorey had drawn in his books. Some were wonderfully dark or mischievously cute, but each was weirdly thought-provoking.

Generally, he writes books that seem perfect for a child; however, they have some adult undertones. A Smithsonian article speaks to the surrealism of Gorey’s art. Even though I have only had the pleasure of seeing and reading some of his work I have noticed that many of his characters speak to the suffering and hard ships of life. One character in particular is an almost adorable penguin-like creature that shows up in Gorey’s book The Doubtful Guest. I have yet to find anything that suggests the meaning of this “monster” because Gorey was careful not to explain his works. I believe that the penguin creature personifies depression. You can read the book for yourself here. The story may be about the father figure’s sudden depression and how the family deals with it. The last page of the story depicts the creature sitting near the family closest to the father, who is the only one who has a cloud of shadow around his head.

Another “monster” from the postcards is a raven that warns, “Beware of this and that” in The Epileptic Bicycle. Now, I have yet to read the book, so perhaps my interpretation is off. However, from seeing that image on one of my postcards, it reminds me of the small and large hazards of daily life. If we’re going to use riding a bicycle as an example then let’s look at the dangers. You have to be weary of falling off the bike or running into something. You have to watch for bumps, people, cars, holes, trees, and many other objects in your way. You also have to be ready if your bike breaks while you’re riding it. The bike could be a symbol for your life and all of the things that could go wrong with it are the obstacles in it. You can maintain your bike and be careful and the bike will ride smoothly, or you could be risky and maybe open up new avenues to travel down. Anyway, there are so many metaphors for that image.

Then again, maybe Gorey wanted everyone to see something different within his works. Either way, his art and words have struck a chord in me, and I don’t believe I’ll be forgetting his “monsters” anytime soon. Edward Gorey is unfortunately no longer creating these pieces of art after his passing in 2000, but you can (and I definitely will) buy his books in the form of Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Again.

I’d love to hear what you think of Edward Gorey. Leave me a comment below!

-Sabrina Arnold (iwouldliketonerd)

Things to Know for Your First D&D Campaign

Here’s what I learned during my first Dungeon Master Experience.

Becoming a Dungeon Master for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign can seem pretty daunting, so as a first-timer here is what I have learned so far:

Organization is key

If you’re not organized then the campaign will be spent looking for that rule that you think exists instead of exploring the world you’ve laid out for them. Having notes on locations, npcs, and quick rules helps a lot. Your players will ask questions and you should be prepared to answer them. Tonight I had a Tabaxi ranger questioning an herbalists about how a specific illness was transmitted. Then a player wanted to insight check someone else and, as a DM, you have to know what rolls the person being scrutinized has to make to try to contest that check. Some people can sit down at a table with minimal preparation and improvise everything, which is seriously impressive, but I know that I have to be organized to present the story in a way that doesn’t pause the game all the time.

Improvisation will always happen

The players will almost never do what you expect and a DM can’t create and remember every single detail of a story before it plays out. You have to leave a lot of it open and have a general idea of how things work or how characters act and what they know. It’s the most challenging part, but it also keeps things so interesting. It’s what keeps D&D from being monotonous. Embrace the improvisation!

There’s a story and your players will break it

For weeks I had molded and repeatedly altered a story that I thought would be easy to follow and have twists and turns that made it fun for the characters. They did not do what I thought they would. Let’s just say that my main villain hiding in plain sight was ousted by a Half-Orc paladin using their Divine Sense in that short span of time the villain was around. That’s how my fiend was found out, and I won’t get to do that elaborate and dramatic reveal that I had planned down the line. And that’s the beauty of a game like D&D because the players aren’t being railroaded down a certain linear path.

Be open with your players

Before my campaign I had a chat with my players about what they wanted in a D&D game and some things to remember. We discussed how everyone wanted to roleplay and how sometimes things can get tense during a game, so just keep in mind that people are playing as a character and those emotions may be vastly different from how they feel about you as a real person. For example, the Tabaxi and a Lizardfolk player got along surprisingly well; whereas, the Half-Orc was not a fan of the Tabaxi. The feeling was mutual and they got in an argument, in character mind you, and were completely fine after the game ended. Allow for that tension and resistance in your game because it makes the game feel more real, but check in with your players to make sure all is well afterward.

Have fun

Honestly the purpose of Dungeons and Dragons is to have fun. Both the DM and the players get to stretch their creative muscles and everyone shares this world that is theirs. It’s a special place, really.

I’m very excited to continue my campaign and see what happens. I know I have so much more to learn as both a player and a DM. Let me know what you’ve learned during your campaigns below!

-Sabrina Arnold (iwouldliketonerd)

Tarot Cards: A Fun Way to Look Inward

Despite how you may feel about tarot cards, they are a fun source for self-reflection. Here is why I believe that.

Tarot cards have been around quite a long time. During the mid-15th century they were regular playing cards, but eventually the decks were used to divine the past, present, and future. I myself am not sold on the mystical nature of tarot cards; however, I do find them to be a valuable way to analyze oneself. Carl Jung, one of Freud’s students for a time, firmly believed that introspection was important in finding happiness, but he drew mandalas instead of tarot cards. It’s my belief that people should not look inward all the time, but keeping an eye on how your own actions and behaviors affect you and others can help immensely when it comes to maintaining mental health.

Surprisingly, it’s easy to use tarot cards. A lot of decks come with booklets that tell you what each card means. They’re usually separated into the major and minor arcana and the minor ones are further split into four different groups. I discovered these beautiful cat tarot cards that make me so happy, which includes fire, sea, earth, and wind for the minor arcana. Each of the smaller groups have a specific vibe, like fire is more concerned with disruptions and fighting;whereas, earth is focused on harmony and nature. Each set is different though and I have my eye on those critical role cards when the artist finishes.

Once you have your deck you choose a spread that you want, and each spread can have different meanings. The internet is chock full of tarot card spreads if your booklet does not have any that interest you. My personal favorite is the classic Celtic Cross, which allows you to look at a specific situation instead of a generalized look at the future. At times the cards get spooky and are perfect for the situation in question, but that is due to the vagueness of the cards. Even though the divinity of tarot cards are questioned, you can take the vague meanings of the cards and use them to think about what is bothering you, why, and how you can fix it. I feel that it is easier for me to analyze myself if I have some prompts given to me, which makes tarot cards perfect. Tarot cards also give me an excuse to just sit and think, which can sometimes be difficult if you have a million things to do that week…or month.

Even if you don’t use tarot cards, I encourage you to find your own way of looking inward. Inside yourself is where that tangle of emotions lies and it’s helpful to take a breather and begin to undo those knots and understand what is and is not working for you right now. Let me know how you self-analyze down in the comments below!

My New Findings on the Intricacies of Cats

My roommate recently received a kitten. Here are some new things I have learned about cats.

A few weeks ago my roommates and I welcomed a new addition to our household: Sid Vicious the kitten. I admit there is a special place in my heart for cats. This is a love that began when I was born after I came home to a house belonging to two cats. When I have lost cats in my life then very soon a new one would show up, so I’m pretty much hooked on cats. You can imagine my surprise when I am still learning about new behaviors and attitudes that cats possess. Soon after owning a pet you realize that each animal has their own personality and mannerisms. My first cats, Boppy and Noodle, were pretty lethargic and loving. Luke and Leia-nardo (we found out she was a he after we named him) were independent and adventurous always exploring the forest in my Dad’s back yard; however, Leia-nardo acted more distant. Kit-tea is sneaky and thinks he’s the king of the castle. Like I said, I’m not a rookie when it comes to owning cats.

Even so, I find myself asking friends and searching online when I’m confronted with yet another cat behavior I’m not familiar with. Little Sid is about three months old. Already he’s made new noises and acted in funny ways. I’ve heard cats make all sorts of weird noises before, like the classic meow, purr, trill, and that territorial hissing/yowl that sounds like the cat is dying. Sid has been making small clicking sounds from the back of his throat that I can only compare to a baby velociraptor. Scouring the inter-web I learned that this clicking happens when the cat is either very excited about prey or frustrated that it is unattainable. It happens pretty often too, but this could be happening because he’s a kitten.

Another behavior that has been quite frequent is the chewing of mostly plastic, paper, and cardboard. His favorite toy right now is a small green bucket that he likes to chew and roll around in. In the past my cats have been more interested in soft materials, so I found this to be very different. My research came up with kitten teething! Sid Vicious is right in the middle of the time that kitten teeth, and that means he loves to chew on things he can really sink his teeth into. He won’t get all of his permanent teeth in until he’s about six months old. Perhaps this is Cat 101 and I’m only noticing all of this because he’s the first kitten I’ve been around most of the day. Can we be real though? This darn kitten loves being picked up in the bucket. What kind of cat does that? I love having animals around precisely because it’s so fun. What do your animals do that strange? Let me know in the comments!

-Sabrina (iwouldliketonerd)

What I Want to See From Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect: Andromeda’s release is fast approaching. Here’s what I want to see.

For those of you who know and love Mass Effect, you probably already know that Mass Effect: Andromeda is set to come out Spring 2017. Many speculate that the newest installment of the series will be released on March 23 because that is the date the Mass Effect: Andromeda book is set to be sold. Mass Effect: Andromeda is set in a future where humans and aliens have already been introduced. The game involves your character being cryogenically frozen and sent to find a new home in a different galaxy, Andromeda. I am a huge fan of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, and I have played both series many times over. I’ll admit right from the start that I am biased. This post isn’t about whether or not the game will be good because I believe it will be, but it is about what I want to see from this game.

BioWare’s most recent game, Dragon Age Inquisition, used the new Frostbite 3 engine, which will be used again for Andromeda. That means beautiful graphics and dynamic worlds. Of course, the conversation wheel will be utilized again. The newest gameplay trailer shows the return of trigger actions during certain conversations; however, the game will be moving away from the paragon and renegade designation. I’m hoping that the decisions the player makes really effects the outcome of the game more so than it did in the rest of the series. The trailer speaks of being able to make enemies and allies when exploring planets in the Andromeda galaxy, and I’d like these choices to come into play in a big way throughout the game. Biotics are another aspect of the game that I’m really looking forward to. Basically, some people have the ability to use force-like powers due to nodules implanted in them that contain element zero (a resource in the game). Gameplay shows a biotic shield, which I’m stoked about. I’d like the overall gameplay to continue to improve and since I’m a horrible shot some aiming help from the game is appreciated. Jetpacks have also been placed in Andromeda, so hopefully that means the world environment has some deviation from walking or driving everywhere.

By the time the game is released I’d like to hear a bit more about the actual plot of the game other than exploring. BioWare has said that they want to move away from Captain Shepard’s storyline and that might include the reapers as well. I want a new story that has nothing to do with the reapers, but many people suspect that we might meet the group that built the reapers. It’s an interesting idea, but it would be insane if that group had survived over the unfathomable amount of years the reapers seem to have been around. No, I believe this fourth installment will bring about a fresh story and a whole new set of villains.

What do you guys want to see in Mass Effect: Andromeda? Leave a comment below.

-Sabrina (iwouldliketonerd)