Friday, May 04, 2007

The Future of Games: The Next Gen Experience

Now, following my playing with Crackdown, I have been thinking about where games as a whole are going. It is kind of ironic how, you play a game to interact, yet what amazed me about Crackdown, was that it was full of spontaneous events, like the exploding cars. Now because of the hardware that is inside the 360 and the PS3 I think we are going to see rise to a new way playing games, a new type of games that will encompass all genres and change them dramatically.

I think, one of the things we are going to start to see, if the player is going to become less important. No, that wasn't a typo. I think, because the systems will be able to render better AI, combined with the potential of online, players are going to become part of a whole. Obviously, quite an important part, but games are going to shift to become dynamic films. People game for three reasons, firstly, the play to have fun. Secondly, they play escape from the reality which is their dull life, but thirdly, they do it so they can experience something that they wouldn't be able to do in real life, or if they could, it would have risks (such as join the army). I think, by making the experience more realistic, people will feel more inside, and it is more realistic having proper AI who seem just as human as you.

Another shift I think we are going to see is most games are going to become more open-ended, non-linear and the ability to roam. The hardware is now powerful enough to support truly huge worlds (ref: Oblivion) and still maintain good quality. One of the coolest things I have ever experience in a game, is when you wander in to a fight. This can never be achieved in linear levels, because it is all carefully scripted to "provide the best user experience." If the AI is good enough, the best user experience is one where they can return again and again and it will be different each time. No, this isn't the end of levels, but I think you will be able to walk around between levels, and to enter a level, you would receive the information, and then could drive to the location.

The final thing I think will happen will be far more freedom in how you complete tasks. This has already started to happen in a lot of games, but I think it will become standard, and even more freedom will be granted. The reason this didn't use to happen was because it meant developers would have to script for many more situations. Once again, it comes back to the AI. They will no longer have to script every event, the AI will work out what to do on the fly, This change will bring a new level of immersion to every game.

Lets put all this in a game example. Before, you would select your mission from a list and click go. You would magically be put on the terrain at a set point. So you start to play, you might examine the map, work out your best plan of attack. So you run down the route, only to discover the developer didn't want you to do that and you will find an invisible wall or a rock if you are lucky. So, you do what the developer wants you to do, you practice your headshots, watch the AI do the same thing again and again. After a few tries you succeed. In the new game, you will find the location, arrive from any direction, do the mission whenever you want, maybe you want to try blowing up four cars in a tunnel first, fine. Once you have decided to attempt the mission, you travel to the location, maybe you want to fly there, perhaps use a massive tank. There is no loading screen, the whole game is one continuous mission, the individual goals start when you jump out of your helicopter on top of their base, or at the edge of the map.Then you will work out a plan based on your resources and the terrain and attack. If that fails, you could try again if you made a stupid mistake or go back to the drawing board so to speak, try a different plan, maybe come from the other side, the freedom is yours and the AI will adapt to survive. Maybe you brought a back up squad, you will see them take cover, blind firing. You see them chuck a smoke grenade and charge forward, one of your squad mates shouts at you to come and help, because they don't want to die. You charge through the smoke gun blazing, and you see one of your men fly through the smoke, you cry out in anguish.

That IS the next gen experience, thankyou for reading.

In other news, Mario Strikers, the first WiiConnect24 MP is coming out May 25. Am I going to get it, I don't know, depends on how the controls work I suppose. I went on the original, it was pretty fun, but I can't really see myself actually buying it. Also, I am doing a podcast tomorrow, do make sure you check back here to find out when it is, and of course listen live. Finally, I am going to go see Roving Mars at the IMax tomorrows, for my brothers party, so I'll review that or something when I get back...

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