Remember blowing aimlessly into a Nintendo cartridge with all the fervour of a seasoned harmonica player? If gaming technology continues to advance at its current rapid rate, the thought of using a DVD could soon be just as laughable. In order to gauge what we can expect from games manufacturers in the near future, as well as sci-fi fantasies beyond that, we sought out the opinions of a few choice experts…
The visionary game designer behind 2010’s Heavy Rain and new PS3 thriller Beyond: Two Souls
Like a lot of game designers, I’m very interested in the recent breakthrough of 3D helmets, which will give the illusion of a huge 3D screen in your living room, particularly the interlacing of images, so two players wearing two different headsets could see different things on the same screen. I’m also interested in haptic interfaces, creating more readable expressions from CPU characters.
Speaking beyond that, brain control is something achievable for the future – I mean, we already see interesting experiments in labs, such as when scientists send images to the brain of a blind person, enabling them to ‘see’. When this happens on a wider scale there will be no need for controllers any more. Just think about what you want to do on screen and your character will do it.
The revolution I want for video games, however, is content. Most games are based on violence these days, and I’m tired of it. I would like games to be more innovative, to target a more mature audience and broach more meaningful, human topics. Modern day interactivity offers a unique approach for the player by making him an actor rather than a passive watcher, and I’m convinced, with time, we can grow up and give much more than we currently do.
Editor of Official PlayStation Magazine UK
Glance at the internet and you’ll see all manner of space-age designs for PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, or whatever the next generation of consoles end up being called – I’m still hoping someone plumps for Sea Monster 6,000. But the reality is that while a tsunami of change is coming and, with it, download-only set-ups, it’s too early for a disappearance of disc drives.
The continuing rise of Blu-ray is one reason for this. Another, more crucial, factor is that too many countries simply aren’t ready for a download-only (let alone streaming-based) model. Hell, my own fibre-optic connection can be wildly unstable, and I live on the outskirts of Bath, not Botswana. Still, the unstoppable growth of cloud computing means those who never again want to own another piece of physical media will also be catered for. You’ll see huge expansions for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, with a colossal offering of downloadable games both old and new. And also expect pay-to-stream packages from both major publishers – Sony’s $380 million purchase of Gaikai early this year sounded the klaxon in this regard.
And the games? Well, of course they’re going to look better. I saw a phenomenal next-gen demo at [gaming expo] E3 called Agni’s Philosophy in which the characters appeared eerily human – check it out on YouTube.
But more than that, next-gen will be about trying to create truly human AI traits: enemies in shooters who don’t just wander into your line of fire if you wait long enough; drivers in racing games who demonstrate lifelike behaviour and can be pressured into mistakes; footballers who make realistic runs or are angered into reacting to a late lunge or a dig in the ribs. Wayne Rooneys who play like, well, Wayne Rooney. I can’t wait.
Co-founder of Codemasters, and now chief executive of smartphone app developer and publisher Kwalee
Make no mistake about it, devices will continue to miniaturise, graphic displays will continue to get higher in resolution, and these will both be used in a more augmented sense through images eventually beamed onto your retina, helping to bridge the real and virtual world.
In essence this means your emotions will be hooked up to a machine. It’s my belief that we’re on course for an Avatar world of gaming: from remote locations, players will be capable of controlling vehicles, robots, even animals, where most of their senses will be stimulated so they feel like they are really there. Peoples brain patterns in the form of psychological preferences, knowledge, strategies, morals and reactions will be captured and preserved so that, theoretically, you will be able to play with people after their death.
This will also mean that online multiplayer gaming improves, with communities of players competing against each other for all sorts of real-world prizes, and, I hope, improved voice control, which is very accurate for gameplay and also have real-time translation so players speaking different languages will be able to talk to each other while playing.
With mobile devices such as smartphones that people carry around with them they are contactable 24/7. This enables fantastic multiplayer games, where players can interact whenever it is convenient for them. I’d like to see more games where large numbers of players are playing in the same game, so you could have one community playing with another. These could be displayed on all the devices and also giant screens, which would also enable spectators and commentators to join in.
Most games will be multiplayer and new social mechanisms will evolve to find people to play with and against. The biggest improvement will come from the evolving social mechanisms.
Comedian, gamer and author of new book A Billion Jokes: Volume One
I don’t spend my money on clothes or cars. Consoles are the area of life I spoil myself with, partly down to the fact I used to have an Atari 800 while others had Spectrums and Commodore 64s.
Remote gaming isn’t far away. I played Dead Space 2 through a browser once, controlling a computer miles away and, though there was a slight lag, it was great. Plus with 4G and other new bandwidths I’m sure that could be the next big step in gaming.
I’m a social gamer. I like the multiplayer aspect of it – I play Call Of Duty online against my brother James, Justin Theroux and Will Arnett, who’s, annoyingly, an uber-general with loads of medals – so I’d like to see developers improve the time spent waiting for a deathmatch to load. Because it’s lovely to catch up with friends online, but it wears off when they’re repeatedly murdering you.
My favourite title of all-time is Dark Souls, a Japanese action RPG for PS3, which, in many ways, already is the future: all the weapons have a different heft to them, so if you wear a lot of weaponry you struggle to jump, and the strength needed to wield each one is different. You really feel, during a swordfight, as if you’re controlling every single blow. It’s nerdy to say, but it almost becomes second nature. Someone described it as Zelda in hell, which is a neat explanation. The only way the studio could improve it is by making an edition in virtual reality. I’ve got a bit of a semi just thinking about that.
Editor of Official Xbox 360 Magazine
Augmented reality will be the single biggest development in the next few years. We’ve seen it in prototypes from Google and even in the whispered rumours about what will be added to the next Xbox.
We’re approaching the limits of what you can do with a screen and a normal controller, or even motion control, so the next logical step is putting us deeper inside virtual worlds.
Motion control won’t go away but detection needs to improve beyond huffing, puffing and moving around. Games such as Fable: The Journey and The Gunstringer have shown some precise low-effort, motion controls but the next generation of motion tech will get better at things like recognising faces, analysing facial expressions, and reading nuances of body language. Which means the games will be able to do amazing (and in some cases, terrifying) things with that information. Imagine a Silent Hill game that can work out how scared you are and change accordingly.
Beyond that, gaming will become more pervasive. Something that’s not just tied to a console. You can see that happening already with Xbox Live apps on phones and tablets, and some companies have already experimented with the idea of virtual turf wars, where you battle for control of postcodes via Foursquare-style check-ins. This won’t be compulsory,I should stress, but the games of the future are going to be carefully designed so that you are able to engage with them in some way wherever you are.
But advanced tech will be the big change. AR is a safe bet, but Microsoft’s got boffins working on some bafflingly obscure technology. There’s probably something on a shelf in Seattle that could give games realistic smells. I’m not going to put money on that actually being included, mind.