You know what’s cool? Technology. Technology is getting pretty amazing, and if we take a step back and realize how far we’ve come in the past 30 years, it’s almost impossible to think about how much farther we can go from here. Does anyone remember how much memory room a floppy disk had? About 1MB. And that used to be enough storage for entire operating systems! Games went from giant tables to small cartridges, to weird black-bottomed disks to Blu-Ray. Pixels went from 8, to 16, to 32, to 64 in a matter of just a few years. Donkey Kong went from static anti-hero to starring in his own series of games, for goodness sake!
Remember invisible walls? Remember bad water graphics? Fire that looked like sheets of paper flapping in the breeze? Fixed camera angles that made every step into a new room an impossible calculation? These things, and many, many more, have slowly begun to disappear thanks to new technology. Better design software, stronger graphics engines, and most of all, more funding and bigger teams have almost (but not quite) done away with issues that players used to have to simply deal with. Gone (mostly) are the complaints of “What do you mean I can’t jump over that step!” and “Why does the water kill me?”
When I pick up a game for the first time, I don’t necessarily follow the obligatory tutorial instructions that teach me how to play. I like to see what I can NOT do, more than what I CAN do. If there’s a bottle on the table, I want to shoot it, and I want it to shatter like any real bottle would. When I see a mirror on the wall, I want there to be a reflection of the room it’s in (myself included) because that’s what a mirror is. Game developers have picked up on this feeling and have begun making the smallest things interactive, simply to add depth and realism into their worlds. Interactive sinks, toilets, televisions, light switches, and mailboxes all add to the ‘reality’ of the game world. (And sometime serve to confuse you. I turned on every damn HAM radio in Fallout 3 and New Vegas and it didn’t change a thing. Made me feel like I was looking for the Triforce in Ocarina of Time all over again.)
I picked up RAGE for the PS3 not too long ago (for only $8.99 pre-owned at my local GameStop, although I had to suffer through three separate pleas for me to pre-order titles that I didn’t want) and was very impressed with the amount of detail that was put into the game. Small things, like stuff flowing in the breeze, the amount of design that was put into the character’s faces, or how every single NPC I ran across was fully voiced all helped to immerse me into the world. The game was painfully short, however, and I wish there could have simply been MORE of it to love. The different cities that you visit in the game are beautifully designed, down to flickering neon signs in the aptly named Subway Town or the rippling of a small pool of water dripping from a window unit air conditioner. (Also, there are multiple references to the show Breaking Bad throughout the game, which is my favorite television program. So that makes me a little biased.)
What I’m getting at here is that yes, many games still come out with flaws. Some consoles will be better than others. There will still be terrible games based on movies (we’re looking at you, Star Trek) and there will always be escort missions that are just downright irritating. But when you look at how far we’ve come in just a short amount of time, it’s pretty incredible. Playing through Assassin’s Creed II recently left me with a sense of exhilaration that I have not felt in a long time. I remember when having more than six characters on-screen at once would slow the game down drastically, the frames stuttering so bad it was almost impossible to play. And jumping and climbing on rooftops? Maybe if you had played on that single roof for three or four hours and could remember exactly where the developer left solid flooring and where he just has empty textures. And there’s so much to do! And so many places to do them in! Final Fantasy VI took 3 disks (the weird black ones) and still wasn’t able to fit half as much content or gameplay.
Remember getting to “Blue Hell” on Vice City? Sometimes it was by accident, sometimes it was on purpose, but eventually every player dropped suddenly through the ground and ended up miles high over Starfish Island, falling to their death, Ray Liotta screaming all the way down. I remember being able to go to a gym in Los Santos and climb through the roof, suddenly ending up in a Matrix-like Construct with every interior in the game. These days are behind us, for the most part, and in a way it makes me a little sad. There’s something special about turning on “No Clipping” in Hexen 64 and running everywhere the designers didn’t want you to see. It’s like a sneak peek into the virtual representation of the code.
Technology is expanding at an exponential rate. Right now we can download games to our systems, and soon we won’t even need them to be finished before we can start playing. The new PS4 game Killzone: Shadows Fall will be available to play as soon as the menu and first level are done downloading, and that’s insane. Who knows what the future will bring us? If Occulus Rift gets the fan support and attention it needs, perhaps we can all have virtual reality simulators in our living rooms before we know it. Or perhaps some breakthrough will happen in the field of hologram research, making them cheaper to mass-produce, and we will be able to play Risk the way it was meant to be played.
E3 is just around the corner, and rest assured that we here at 6aming are committed to bringing you the latest and greatest in every category. What will the Research and Development teams reveal this year? Stay tuned.