As the game industry advances, student gamer predicts potential innovations

entertainment

“We’ve set this up so there are no limits … We could, if we wanted, simulate the entire world, different countries, whatever.”

No, these aren’t the words of an all-powerful sentient being or one of the aliens in “The Matrix,” rather, they are the words of Leslie Benzies, president of game company Rockstar North, who is describing the endless possibilities a player has when playing the video game “Grand Theft Auto V.” Many game developers are already fulfilling these promises previously outside the boundaries of imagination thanks to technological advances and are redefining the capabilities of video games.

According to a study done by the Gartner research firm in October of last year, the video game industry is doing better than ever. It made $93 billion in 2013 — up from $79 billion in 2012 — reflecting an all-star lineup of games and excitement for the next generation of consoles. However, another possibly more important fact has yet to be addressed. The same study has indicated that the industry will possibly hit $111 billion by 2015. This newfound potential for growth reflects the possible changes and evolutions that are likely to take place in the video game industry.

Notice the inclusion of the word “likely.” Like the chances of the New York Stock Exchange to have a good day or the odds of the Colts actually scoring a touchdown before halftime, there is always an element of uncertainty to any conjecture about what might happen in the game industry. What isn’t already revealed are up to the thoughts one cooks up. Hector Trevino Amaro, avid gamer and junior, has some thoughts of his own regarding these potential innovations.

“I’m looking forward to 2014 more than I was to 2013 mostly because of the excitement of the next (generation),” he said. “The different games all look pretty and play really smooth.”

The next generation of consoles, the PlayStation 4 (PS4), the Xbox One and the Wii U, set the groundwork for future innovations in console gaming. The improved specifications of all of the systems, along with their individual quirks (the raw power of the PS4, the versatility and convenience of the Xbox One’s Kinect, the innovative design of the Wii U) will hopefully offer new clay for the hands of video game developers to mold into bigger and better games.

Some of these games, such as “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” have already hit store shelves. Yet another addition to the Killzone franchise, it can be all too easy for developers to write off this effort as a generic first person shooter whose only real purpose is to add credence to the PS4’s starting lineup. However, according to Trevino Amaro, this was not the case. He said he cites it as superior compared to its predecessor, “Killzone 3.”

Improvement, Trevino Amaro said, is present in core facets of the game, such as in the increased variety of gameplay and environment. This variety is made possible in part through the capabilities of the next generation of consoles. The processing power of the PS4 allows for more elements to appear on screen, such as the amount and selection of enemies or the increased destructibility of the surrounding environment, thus giving the player more gameplay opportunities to pursue.

However, according to Trevino Amaro, just improving on an old formula will not be enough.

“They have to innovate, come up with new things, not just new graphics,” Trevino Amaro said. “They need to make games more interesting.”

Notable in this regard, according to Trevino Amaro, is “The Last of Us.” This game follows the arduous and heartbreaking tale of Joel, a middle-aged, rough-and-tumble Texan, and Ellie, a child who is as equally sassy as she is deadly, in a post-apocalyptic United States. By crafting a strong, compelling narrative revolving around these two characters, the game establishes an emotional connection between the player and the protagonists on a level unprecedented among previous games.

However, despite its storytelling and visual beauty, the game is still confined to the boundaries of the PlayStation 3 (PS3). Perhaps in the future, games not only on the PS4, but also on the Xbox One and the Wii U, can break the storytelling bar that “The Last of Us” set, as developers learn to use the advantages of the next generation of consoles to make games more immersive and impactful. Perhaps the player will be able to forge a personal connection with the characters by talking to them, thanks to the Xbox’s Kinect’s two-voice recognition features, further engrossing themselves in the people as well as the story. Perhaps the internal beliefs or feelings of a character can be sneaked in on the Wii U controller’s touchpad while a cutscene or event is taking place, thus giving a gamer a greater grasp of the essence of a character’s thought rather than be confined to seeing what’s on-screen. The possibilities are endless.

Or so they seem. But for the moment, Trevino Amaro said he predicts developers will be limited during 2014 by one disturbing fact:

“You still have games that are both platforms, next and previous gen,” Trevino Amaro said. “They’re not truly next-gen.”

Trevino Amaro said that in the initial stages of the introduction of next-generation consoles, developers will be faced with a new system, untested and initially uncomfortable to work with. On the other hand, they will deal with a comfortable, familiar platform that is the previous generation, on which they have spent thousands of hours refining and perfecting. It may be hard for developers to adjust to the change, and the quality of games will reflect that. For example, Trevino Amaro points to the tough transition Sony Corporation experienced from the PlayStation 2 to the PS3. Due to the complicated hardware of the PS3, third-party developers found it hard to cope with the new system, and both the quantity and quality of games dipped downwards.

However, the next generation still offers endless possibilities for developers and gamers everywhere. Developers now have greater freedom to pursue grand, new visions utilizing the processing power of the new consoles — once they learn how to handle those new consoles, that is — and gamers now have increased opportunities to experience games outside the living room and in their daily lives.

“You can now stream games live, share gameplay, basically making it more of a community,” Trevino Amaro said.

While some may expect complications with this new technology, many, including Trevino Amaro, remain optimistic about not only next year, but also years beyond.

“Past (2014), I think (games) will get more accepted,” Trevino Amaro said. “Less controversy over games. It’ll just be a part of life. Just like reading books or watching movies, it’ll incorporate into life. Gradually, more people will start to accept it.”

With new innovations, features and ideas just around the corner, that acceptance may not be so far away.

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