Just when you think that gaming can’t get any better, bigger or more magically immersive, technology and improved processing power opens up possibilities that capture the imagination. Here are four technologies that will potentially deliver us next generation experiences and next generation games.
Like many tech demos, Microsoft’s HoloLens concept looks nothing short of astonishing – a glimpse into an augmented reality future that we’d all like to live in. The prototype head-mounted computer/display promises high-def holographic computing with Windows 10 and uses powerful processors to overlay the wearer’s view of the world with eerily realistic virtual 3D objects.
It’s the sort of announcement that gets you as excited as the day you first paused a live television broadcast with a DVR, made a Skype call, or first used the original and revolutionary Apple iPhone. As you can see from the photo above, HoloLens has the potential to transform a living room into a Minecraft gameworld – a holographic castle built on the sofa, a cottage on the coffee table.
Imagine the possibilities: being able to walk around a Total War battlefield, viewing it like a giant; or having the ability to craft your own double-bladed axe in 3D for use in a future Dragon Age game. If you haven’t seen the HoloLens presentation, watch it below and dare to dream.
If augmented reality mixes the real world with digital content, then Virtual Reality (VR) is about full digital immersion. Again, seeing is believing. VR isn’t the headache-inducing, low-resolution novelty of yesteryear. The Oculus Rift, with its 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display, points the way towards a future where we will feel like we are inside the game.
What the Oculus Rift has started, the Samsung Gear VR, Sony’s Project Morpheus, the Carl Zeiss VR One and even Google Cardboard will continue. VR has the potential to change the way that we play some games and to give us next-gen, 3D gaming experiences that are more immediate, realistic and truly breathtaking.
Gaming has always pursued better graphics and no sooner had high definition hit the heights of 1920 x 1080 pixels (aka 1080p Full HD), 4K (or Ultra HD) started to be touted as its replacement. While VR might be slow to break out into the mainstream, 4K 3840 x 2160 pixel displays offer a familiar upgrade path for users. If you have a computer with enough grunt, 4K monitors are already available and surprisingly affordable.
Of course, even though this lofty resolution isn’t accessible to 99% of gamers, the game Crysis 3 was recently hacked to run at 8000 x 3333 pixels, tantalising close to an 8K (7680 x 4320) resolution. If that’s not enough of a draw, an Intel-powered gaming PC lets us imagine what playing in 12K might be like with three 4K monitors arranged side-by-side. Read more about it here.
But wait a minute… It’s all too easy to get caught up in more immersive visuals, higher definition graphics, realistic physics engines and dynamic lighting effects. But these don’t necessarily make a game worth playing. Next generation games also need to be smarter, powered by more versatile world building systems and more intelligent AI algorithms.
We’re already starting to see developers thinking beyond simply producing better versions of games that we’ve played before. Procedural generation is using mathematical formulae to build whole galaxies for us to explore in games like Elite: Dangerous and No Man’s Sky, vast playgrounds for gamers to create unique experiences (both single and multiplayer) and to enjoy unparalleled replayability.
Meanwhile, a title like Shadow of Mordor ups the ante for how we think about future game AI. Mordor’s clever Nemesis system ensures that every ugly Uruk you face has its own strengths and weaknesses – the characters remember the player and ultimately change their tactics to battle them.
There’s an argument that you don’t need a HoloLens, VR helmet or 4K visuals to make a next generation game. A good game should be able to impress without those frills, just as a good movie doesn’t need a high definition cut and a stack of Blu-Ray extras. If watching a movie is all about the story, then playing a game is all about the experience. Perhaps, future gaming will embrace all of the technologies mentioned here, using powerful processors to increase immersion and surprise you with new ways to play.