So it’s 2014 and we’ve just started into our 7th or debatable 8th console generation. The PS4, Xbox One and even the Wii U are all vying for a place in our homes and under our TV’s. We’ve come a long way from the earliest days of gaming with the likes of Space Invaders and Pacman. Gaming as an industry is a behemoth in current times but we all know it wasn’t like that. Like any industry, it always faced some trials and tribulations.
Gaming as a whole, even for as long as it has been around, is still very much in it’s infancy. It’s still finding it’s feet and it’s trying to learn what direction to stumble, walk or even run in. With each generation of consoles, developers faces different challenges and consumers have different expectations but there’s always been one underlying aspect which couldn’t be ignored by anyone and that was graphics. The game development process is similar to any other art from. It’s about creation, it’s about constructing something that others will enjoy. The graphics, even down to the individual polygons are like little drops of paint on a canvas. Yes, each and every game has a very different graphical approach but they are all trying to convey a theme, story or even emotion.
With the latest generation of consoles, mainly the PS4 and Xbox One, graphics is one the biggest aspects facing the developers. Again, I do agree other aspects such as online multiplayer, social sharing, second-screen compatibility and even the up and coming VR movement are all important as well to the process but for me, it’s the graphics, and the level of detail required that is going to make or break many of the established and up-and-coming development studios.
Take for example, Quantic Dream. These guys, spear-headed by CEO David Cage, are world renowned for their story driven narratives, their extremely well developed characters and their relentless drive for graphical realism in their games. Being a previous developer for both the PS2 and PS3, it seems they’ve found their console of preference and it shows in their exclusive titles.
Their first PS3 title, Heavy Rain, took story telling in gaming down a new and barely ventured path. It focused largely on the decisions you could make and did it all with some astounding graphics. Many describes it as a ‘playable film’ and I would like to see this as a huge compliment to the guys at Quantic Dream. Their latest game, Beyond: Two Souls, again focused heavily on the characters and their extremely personal stories and yet again, they pushed the PS3 to it’s graphical limits.
One big factor for me about Beyond though is it’s use of high profile Hollywood actors. The game stars Ellen Page and Willem Defoe. This was and still is quite a ground-breaking step for the gaming industry and, for me anyways, can be seen as a definite sign of things to come. I know there’s has been a few other games with famous celebrities involved but what makes this different is that the actors were actually acting through digital copies of themselves, highlighting again, how far we’ve come in terms of graphical standards. The transition of actors to video games is just starting but like their move from the big screen to the TV screen in many award winning series, it’s only a matter of time before many other actors start to make the move to this ‘new’ art form as well.
With these latest consoles, and their much lauded graphical prowess, this can all be seen as both a blessing and a curse. More graphical horse-power mean more graphical capabilities so the studios must, if they really want to create something truly next-gen, spend enormous man hours on creating both living and breathing characters in world’s that are alive as well. This is all going to take considerable amounts of time and can be seen as the curse of all this potential power. Consumers don’t like to be kept waiting so the studio that can streamline this process of making unimaginable large world, fill them with both fictional and even real Hollywood actors and all within a realistic console generation timeframe for numerous instalments really will be the next game development power house.
As I said at the beginning, even though the gaming industry may seem like it’s been around for quite some time, it still have so much more unimaginable room to grow. Gaming will be, in my opinion, the most prominent art form of the 21st century. With big Hollywood actors now entering the industry and studios spending record-breaking amounts on the development of their games, the future looks gorgeously bright for gaming.
I’d like to finish with a video I recently shared that shows some early signs of the Uncanny Valley being finally cross and graphical fidelity reaching unbelievably realistic levels. Let me know what you think about the future of video games and where they’re headed in the comments below.