Technology evolves in amazingly rapid speeds. If you need any real observable proof of the speedy advancement of digital technology over the years, take a look at the gaming industry. From the very early years of black-and-white 2D games like Pong (1972) to the first 3D game, 3D Monster Maze in 1981, and from primitive first-person shooters like Wolfenstein 3D (1992) to complex, life-like shooters like Battlefield 3 (2011), there’s no doubt that the gaming industry has seen its fair share of technological evolution.
It’s has been exciting ride for all of us gamers, both casual or hardcore types. Most of us have a wishlist for how games will turn out in the future. Well, it’s hard to say if they will come true, but we might very well extrapolate from existing trends, which is the whole point of this article. Here are 5 features you can expect in the future of gaming.
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1. Immersive Gaming: The Return of Virtual Reality (VR)
Some of you may be surprised to know that 3D films have existed since about a century ago. The technology just didn’t really didn’t take flight since then due to high costs. It is not until In the recent years that we’ve experienced the revival of 3D technology not only in films like Avatar, but also for gaming screens.
We have also seen the evolution of video games in terms of its graphical quality, so much so that one would have difficulty differentiating a video game from a real-life scene today. It appears that there is a movement towards more immersive digital entertainment, from movies to games. The question is, where do we go from real-life 3D graphics and beyond?
A Virtual Reality Comeback
With major leaps in technology that resulted in improved hardware capabilities, virtual reality (VR) has started to resurface in the gaming industry. Of particular note is the upcoming Oculus Rift, a VR head-mounted display (HMD) created by Palmer Luckey.
Due to be released early next January for a mere $300, Oculus Rift features a massive field view (107 degrees), quick-response (ultra-low latency) head-tracking system, and incorporates immersive stereoscopic 3D rendering capabilities as well. Its prototype which was showcased in various gaming conventions has already received numerous positive reviews from game developers and internet reviewers alike.
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2. Secondary Screens for Gaming
With the booming market for handheld devices like smartphones and tablets, the console war between the three major brands (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) has intensified, with a rush to invent a secondary gaming device for players.
Consider the newly released Wii U GamePad, which features a built-in touchscreen that can serve as a supplement to games. In first-person shooter games, a second screen lets you access the map or your inventory seamlessly without leaving the game field. What you can do with a secondary screen is not limited to that, it adds to the gaming experience which is demonstrated wonderfully in this ZombiU gameplay trailer out for an inside view (Warning: the video contains gore and violence).
Even Microsoft is catching up with the competition with the advent of Xbox SmartGlass. However, unlike the Wii U, SmartGlass is an app that acts as an additional tool for gamers to interact with. It can be downloaded into and accessed from smartphones and tablets to enhance the gaming experience.
Sony has taken its first step to integrate their Playstation 3 console with their handheld device, PS Vita via the Cross-Play feature, allowing the gamer to stop playing on one device and resume on another device.
3. Open-Source Gaming
Look at the number of free (or cheap) homemade games available in the mobile market today and you will have an idea where future games may be heading: Open Source! For instance, Ouya is an Android-powered, upcoming video game console (to be released April 2013, pre-order here) that works under the concept that games should be cheap to build and cheap to buy.
Independent developers do not have to purchase an expensive software development kit (SDK) to create games and release them to the market. Ouya offers 1080p gaming experience and contains tons of free-to-play and affordable games at only $99, it’s hard not to see where the attraction lies with Ouya.
The console itself is the development kit, so anyone can build a game if they wish to do so. Making game development easier and cheaper creates more creative gamemakers, giving rise to more variety of free-to-play games for everyone. Games of the future may no longer be monopolized by major game developers, much like how video-making has been made mainstream by Youtube.
4. Augmented Reality (AR)
On top of seeing your actual physical environment, in Augmented Reality you will be fed with additional information or data overlay, digitally, in real-time. One good example of AR in action will be the mobile app, Wikitude. Holding up your smartphone and pointing towards your surroundings, the screen reveals nearby restaurants, ATMs, hotels, etc for your navigation.
In gaming, there’re already gaming apps like DroidShooting, a simple shooter game which lets the player interact with the surroundings in real-time. Holding your smartphone up, you will need to shoot targets appearing from everywhere around you. This is very primitive gaming, of course, but there is a window of possibilities for such a gameplay concept.
Eventually we may even have a gaming session with wearable UI like Google Glass where you don’t even need to hold up a console or device, and playing a game almost feels like you’re on the ground in the gaming realm.
5. Cloud Gaming
With more reliable and faster internet connections, the technology of cloud computing has begun to gain some momentum. The Sims creator Will Wright embraces the idea of cloud gaming as a crucial part of the future of the industry. For one thing, the gaming industry sees it as an oppotunity to make games as easy to access as music and movies.
With Cloud Gaming, we need not wait forever to get updates to high-quality games. It’s all in the cloud and all we have to do is connect to it with a stable Internet connection and play to our heart’s content. Games will also be cheaper and more easily accessible via computers and even tablets. How much longer need we wait for this? In August 2012, Sony has purchased Gaikai the world’s largest and most widespread cloud gaming service for $380 million and is expected to incorporate it into Playstation 4. So, not long, fingers crossed.
They say predictions about how technology will evolve in future have always been inaccurate because we can never really predict how we may deviate from the intended use of the original creation.
That said, it is still delightful to know that the gaming industry is heading towards uncharted territory, always exploring and pushing the limit. As for me, I’m one who would rather take a backseat and take pleasure in seeing how future games will unfold themselves!