The future of computer games: what will they be?
Rapid development of technologies and creation of artificial intelligence systems give us a reason to reflect on the future — what kind of games will be there in ten, twenty, and thirty years?
This article does not attempt to analyze but to fantasize (or, if you wish, to dream) about the topic.
The most obvious trend of development of the gaming industry is definitely graphics quality — it is not improving distinctly every year but if we consider long-term results, the progress is evident. The main question that arises here is when will the graphics with cinematic level of reality appear?
According to the experts of the portal EGamersWorld, it needs performance level of 40 teraflops (FP32). If we suppose that a game console of the next, ninth, generation expected to appear in 2020 will have performance level of 13-15 teraflops, we are likely to see 40 teraflops in consoles of the tenth generation whichever is sooner 2030. Game computers will achieve this level several years sooner, but, as we know, developers are focused on speedwork of consoles but not on top personal computers. At one of their events, rendering of pretty realistic graphics real-time was demonstrated by Nvidia — but to do it, they needed a rather expensive ($69,000) system with performance of 60 teraflops.
Admittedly, according to another authority of the gaming industry, Yves Guillemot (Ubisoft), games will have moved to cloud by that time. In this case, other laws, only commercial, will be activated — what performance level is the most beneficial for needs of one gamer. In theory, this approach is much more optimal as this performance may be regulated depending on game requirements, time of a day (in the morning server load on the location will be the lowest), tariff rates, etc. And the most important is that thanks to streaming computer games will be totally cross-platform — one game may be played on PC, smartphone and autonomous virtual reality glasses.
One way or another, in the nearest two-three decades, the graphics in computer games will be indistinguishable from films. Along with virtual reality glasses, it will provide the maximum possible (until the way of direct impact on human consciousness is invented) sense of immersion.
Another pretty obvious trend is artificial intelligence. Apart from the control over bots in a game, it is necessary for one and the same realism. To recreate interactive human emotions and mutual eye contact for characters in a computer game, the performance alone is not enough — new algorithms are needed. They are likely to be replaced by machine learning. We can say the same about the mechanics of movements — fans of the multi-user computer shooters know how awkward may stationary running of a character facing an obstacle look. The problems in this direction are already being worked on — ref. developments of Ubisoft, DeepMind, and OpenAI.
A much more interesting and alongside far more difficult direction of the use of artificial intelligence is plot interactivity that changes depending on the user’s actions. Artificial intelligence (is obviously of a higher level in comparison with the current realizations) will allow to branch scenario of a game at literally any second — similar to the way it happens in life (at least in theory, if we do not take into account conservatism and conventionality of our behaviour).
Artificial intelligence technologies are likely to offer new prospers of the open world genre. It has existed for a long time and provides a player with freedom of actions limited only with the current level of technologies. Thanks to AI, the scale of a game may be enlarged both in space (a character of the assumed GTA X can go to any place on the Earth and develop any frenzied activity there) and in involvement of all the characters in the plot (and their number will be practically unlimited). Thanks to artificial intelligence, developers will not have to draw the area the player will go to and also to make a behavioral line for characters there. Having learnt from international movies and literature, TV news, videos, etc, the role of artists and scriptwriters will be given to the computer itself. Now it sounds like a real fantasy but, who knows, maybe in several decades technologies will reach this level. In this case, AI, whose intellectual and artistic abilities will not be inferior to human’s ones, will be able to continue writing the script while a gamer is still playing it through.
The next direction of computer game development lies only in theoretic assumptions — this is creating gaming worlds with participation of a great deal of players from the real world. If we make our conclusions based on the fact that artificial intelligence will let games be maximally interactive and corresponding to the open-world genre, it will be possible to play them for years, even for life — due to diversity and unpredictability of plot twists and an opportunity to make a kind of career in this game world. It does not mean that games where you can race in a simulator, only run and shoot will not exist. But the huge success of GTA V hints us that a mix of genres will at least be popular especially if such games get close to reality. Pretty far from today’s (or tomorrow’s) life plots with immersion into any historical era or fantasy world are also possible.
In any case, gaming will become a sort of a parallel life the person leads with a chance to coordinate your actions with familiar and unfamiliar people. And I personally have no doubt that even more people are going to get involved in gaming — it will be difficult to resist this temptation. Besides, involvement does not include only playing itself — online broadcasting or records of current games are very popular and they are watched almost like movies or sports events.
An integral feature of future games (and again thanks to artificial intelligence) will probably be natural language interface, moreover, if the player wishes, the other will hear not their voice, but an artificial one. It is something more than just replacement of the text variations that the character needs to pronounce — you can have a meaningful conversation with any character, even random, and you will not be able to figure out whether it is a bot or any other real participant in the multi-user game.
Initially, the scale of such games will need a bigger number of co-writers involved in the development. Some of them will help to make the universe created by a studio more diverse — to add some mysterious occurrences, monsters, aliens and other surprises. Settings will let any player create the desirable level of reality, violence, etc.
These games are likely to have rules similar to those that exist in real life. As in the case with modern race simulators you will be fined for hitting another car, in a computer game of the future you will confront the police that will arrest you or try to shoot you if resistance occurs. And then you consider what you want to do — to escape or to give up to continue playing in prison. And of course there will be ‘corruption’ in such worlds — analogies of modern in-game purchases. If after a bank robbery you will prefer to continue playing not in a virtual prison but in a virtual freedom, pay real money and you will get such an opportunity. And as well as in real life, you can stumble upon pressure of a virtual civil society…
You can imagine what computer games can turn into if they combine all the mentioned abilities. I suppose that they will go far beyond the existing limits replacing cinematography and becoming a real mode of communication. And even, just imagine, the main form of pornography (as this is a part of cinematography) whose revenues are compatible with incomes from selling computer games. Games with modern plots will probably be used by advertisers who can make orders for creators or moderators to put virtual billboards on the streets of virtual cities and make popular characters use special products (cars, clothes, etc.) of particular brends.