The Innovations of Modern Gaming
An Ace Up The Sleeve For Future Developers
©2010 Nicholas Laborde
Our current gaming industry is filled with a plethora of culture changes and rapidly expanding advances in technology. With these advances comes a word we hear thrown around quite a lot these days: Innovation.
Innovation. What does this mean, exactly? The dictionary defines innovation as “an introduction of new things or methods.”
So when ‘you‘ hear the word ‘innovation’, what does it conjure up for you, and where does your mind wander to?
The first thing I think of is what is now moving from the innovative stage to the traditional stage: which in todays era seems to be ‘motion’ or ‘gestural’ gaming.
At the time I was speechless: Nintendo, in their usual style, had managed to do something so new, so creative, so innovative, and so mind-blowing, that it begged the question, where could we go next?
It was a sign that the gap between input and atmosphere was slowly closing. Ideally we were going to finally feel more connected to games via more physical methods. Turning a wheel, punching an enemy, even rowing a boat, bowling a ball, all things that would allow you to physically interact ‘immerse yourself’ into the game and be a bigger part of it.
When you look at these two products of competitors of Nintendo, you notice one thing: they’re essentially the same. Heck, PlayStation Move didn’t even TRY to differentiate itself from the Wii’s controller.
Kinect has no controller, but is, of a fashion, along the lines of the PlayStation Eye in that YOU are the controller.
Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower.” Keeping this in mind, who are the leaders and who are the followers in this situation? Each competitor’s technology has it’s own differences and uses, but I’ll let you decide what’s what.
No longer on the sidelines, but down on the playing field.
These things are widely varied in how people view them naturally, but it all comes down to what type of software it uses, and how it is executed for each individual situation.
3D Gaming – Movies
Now, let’s get into something that’s currently sitting in the ‘innovative stage’: 3D. The third dimension… something of wonder and bewilderment at the same time. As a child, I’ll never forget the first time I ever saw 3D.
It was an informational book on the ship H.M.S. Titanic. It came with the generic glasses that were red on one lens and blue on the other, and the pictures were half red and half blue to create the 3D effect.
Wonder washed over me as I saw these images (coming out of a book, might I add!), but I began to ponder: why isn’t this done more often?
If you step back a bit more, we have the infamous Virtual Boy from Nintendo. There is no need to explain this abomination of the third dimension; it’s own existence forever remained a black mark on the industry on why gaming shouldn’t go 3D.
Such things as nausea, migraine headaches, peripheral disorientation, inability to refocus the eyes after use, and many more side effects that were recorded at the time. [Ed: I actually have one of these little critters, and they certainly do cause such effects on a human being]
Coming back to the present, and 3D is trying to make a huge comeback yet again in both cinema and now gaming. But it’s not the big three who have been pushing this; in fact, NVidia has been using stereoscopic 3D for over a year now in many PC games (Resident Evil 5 is just one example).
In reality, the big three companies have been most likely paying attention to the “cool factor” of this technology and wanted to dabble into it themselves.
So what do I think of 3D?
Well, as a technology, I find it fascinating. It is yet another step closer to virtual reality (if that will ever be achieved).
It also has drawbacks that can’t be predicted, such as the fact that some people simply cannot see 3D, no matter how it is presented. As well as those who are affected by the nausea, visual distortion, and other side effects. Even the TV manufactures place warning on their Sterioscopic TVs warning of such side effects.
However, Nintendo’s answer to 3D, the 3DS, apporaches it on a different level altogether, supplying a slider that adjusts the depth of the visuals so that nearly anyone can see the 3D effect. Their technology is even more innovative by the sheer fact that you do not even need special 3D glasses to experience it.
Sony’s take on 3D? Well it’s rather an expensive one. True Sterioscopic TV’s start at around $2000 (USD) and can range upwards of several thousand US$. They come with special glasses that aren’t traditional, and there you have it, as well as the usual caveats for ‘safe viewing’ naturally.
According to Sony, theirs is apparently it’s the real deal (hmm I think I’ve heard that phrase once before about real HD), because games such as Killzone 3, Grand Turismo 5 which are 1st party titles, having received good praise by those people who have seen and experienced then in ‘Real 3D’.
The only barrier to entry of course is the sheer high cost of setup.
I would love to experience 3D PS3 games (and blu-ray movies), but simply can not afford it. Here’s an interesting thing to try. Head off and buy a 3D PC monitor (roughly around $US300) and hook a PS3 up to that monitor, since 3D doesn’t need a special cable, experiencing it would be far cheaper for gamers than investing in highend Sterioscopic TV’s.
With regards to 3D, it seems they’re going to wait and see what the adoption statistics are, and then go from there.
One thing that is no longer innovation, but is far past the traditional stage and vastly incorporated into our modern lives, and is something that I really enjoy, is micro-transactions (the feature itself, not the money aspect, mind you!).
Xbox Live succeeded in pushing forward this age of DLC and always available online content, and naturally everyone else has unanimously followed suit. They would be foolish not to of course.
Everything that I have discussed here is an ‘innovation’ in today’s technology that influences our gaming industry. Five years from now, they could be completely absent, to be replaced with some new technology that has not been conceptualized yet.
A small theory I have on the whole 3D fiasco spawning again is simply that visuals are reaching their peak.
Look at a game such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Killzone 3 or Crysis 2. We simply can’t get more realistic than photo realism, and that moment is fast-approaching. As a result, developers realize this and want to call attention to the visuals but in a different form.
Our industry is at that stage where all of these new opportunities are being handed to us, but we’re not very eager to accept them yet, due to them being excitingly new.
We want to stay in our comfort zone with all the things we have, and keep assuring ourselves that all these things will be good for us. But after so long, we need a breath of fresh air (even if it doesn’t always succeed).
I end this discussion with a quote: “Innovation violates tradition – attacks it in public and steals from it in private.” – Mason Cooley