This year’s E3 showed off a myriad of new technology intended to enhance our gaming experiences. The impending release of two powerful next generation gaming consoles this holiday season means games are going to become more advanced.
These advancements will not only improve the quality of the games’ looks onscreen, but also allow them to interact with the players unlike ever before. From motion controls to second-screen gaming, E3 offered a glimpse of the bright, innovative future to come in gaming.
Of all the technology on display, we’ve highlighted the five trends we expect to change gaming in the next few years or so. See something we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
1. Motion Controls Get Smarter
While Nintendo’s Wii pioneered motion controls for gaming and Microsoft’s Kinect brought a whole body sensor to the Xbox 360, the current offerings on the market are far from perfect. Motion controls are often gimmicky or added in unnecessarily. Additionally, Kinect’s camera often requires exaggerated movements to follow the player’s action.
Microsoft’s new Kinect for the Xbox One is much more precise than the demos shown at E3. Microsoft’s tech demo showed how it could detect more precise movements. In order to raise your shields and deflect bullets during a first-person shooter style match, you would simply tilt the controller upward. To activate your night vision goggles, you would tap the side of your head, and simply tilt your body left or right to literally lean around corners.
“We tried to make the motions more natural to what a gamer would do,” Yusef Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of marketing and strategy for Interactive Entertainment Business branch, told Mashable.
This may include any natural moves by intense gamers. For example, in a racing game, a player might lean his body into the turns, which this upgraded Kinect would detect.
Harmonix, a company adept at working with the Kinect for its Dance Central games, showed how motion controls could operate in a more abstract way during the demonstration of its upcoming title Fantasia: Music Evolved. In the game, players conduct music with motions, enhancing the world around them. It’s a unique game, and we haven’t seen a control scheme quite like it before.
2. The Evolved Second Screen
At this year’s E3, we saw more second-screen integration from not only console makers, but also from game publishers.
Microsoft revealed much more information on the interaction between tablets running SmartGlass and Xbox One games. In Roman action-adventure game Ryse, for example, players can use tablets to watch friends’ concurrent progress through different levels, along with videos of their conquests. In Xbox One’s Project Spark, a game-creation game, players can use tablets in concert with the controller to create your game world.
Publisher Ubisoft released two titles with their own apps designed for tablets, both which added value for players. In Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, an Android and iOS app functions like a GPS device, allowing players to use it as a map in-game for their quests. When the game isn’t running, the app allows players to send their fleet to quests while they’re not playing.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is a multiplayer, third-person action game that challenges players to control a pandemic in New York. The drop-in/drop-out co-op allows for players to quickly join one another’s games, and also allows for players to join via tablet. That tablet player operates a drone in the game, which can aid its team by marking enemies for takedown, healing allies and surveying the area well. It’s impressive because the player on the tablet is actually taking part in a real-time game session.
Of course, the Wii U tried to bring this idea to fruition last year with its touchscreen GamePad controller. While third-party games take full advantage of the screen’s ability to convey extra information to the player, the screen hasn’t been very widely adopted. Some of Nintendo’s newer first-party titles use the feature frequently, such as in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker Wii U remake, which uses the GamePad screen to swap items rather than forcing the user to pause the game to access a menu.
3. Virtual Reality
Developers have only been working on Oculus Rift for a few months, but already the virtual reality headset shows promise in creativity. Virtual reality often feeks like a gaming pipe dream hallmarked by goofy accessories and poorly functioning technology — but that’s about to change.
Oculus Rift creator Palmer Lucky said his company has come a long way since last year’s E3, when the headset was only being shown off by former id Software co-founder John Carmack. With 10,000 developer kits in the wild (and more shipping), creators from all backgrounds have been working on virtual reality games, and now, Oculus Rift is working with some of the most commonly used engines such as Unreal 4 and Unity.
We played five or six Oculus Rift games at E3. The biggest of note was EVR, created by CCP Games, the makers of EVE Online. This space fighting game was only a tech demo, according to CCP developers, but it still demonstrated the awesome, immersive power of virtual reality.
Other indie titles featuring the Oculus Rift were playable at the IndieCade booth, and each provided a different take on the benefits of virtual reality. Soundself, a game created by Robin Arnott, focused on meditative chanting; the player’s tonal hums made the dizzying spirals in front of his eyes spin and pulse along with the sounds he made.
Oculus Rift continues to expand. The company announced Monday that it received $16 million in venture funding to continue hardware development, and OculusVR showed off its new HD Rift at E3 — a first for the platform.
4. Game DVR and Streaming
Both Sony and Microsoft have recognized that gamers want to share their content, so they integrated methods in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to simplify a previously complicated process. Both consoles feature the ability to broadcast gameplay live with minimal work; the Xbox One streams to Twitch, while the PS4 sends live video to Ustream. Both consoles also capture gameplay continuously via game DVR, and both allow players to edit and share key moments with friends.
5. Cloud Computing
Console makers have turned to cloud computing as a way to extend the life of gaming consoles and ensure players get more out of the hardware in their living rooms. Instead of the console acting as the entire workhorse for processing, some will be handled by remote servers.
This isn’t a new idea to gaming. The now-defunct OnLive started a few years ago on the premise that players could harness server power to play a wide variety of games that weren’t on their home computers — and it wasn’t the only company working on that idea. In 2010, Sony purchased streaming company GaiKai, and its technology is now helping power the PlayStation 4’s cloud services.
Sony detailed streaming in its February press conference, sharing that it would be used to eventually bring older PlayStation games to the next-generation console (which are currently incompatible due to radical architecture changes from previous generations). Sony also plans to use cloud computing to allow PlayStation 4 games to stream on the handheld PlayStation Vita.
In an Xbox One demo, Microsoft software engineers harnessed the console’s internal processor to render 40,000 of the asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, displaying their movement in real time. Then, they showed that with help from Microsoft’s 300,000 servers, the Xbox One could render 330,000 asteroids in that same belt. The engineer explained that this technology could make games look better, increase the map size and decrease load times.
These technologies are the biggest examples of trends found at this year’s E3, but they aren’t the only ones. Gaming is evolving rapidly with the launch of new consoles, new players getting involved in the field and the rise of mobile gaming. I’m sure we’ll see great things in the future, even as soon as next year’s conference.
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