Have you ever asked yourself what games will be like in a few years' time? No? Well then go away, we don't want you (unless, of course you just happen to be interested anyway).
The first video game (brush aside Pong for the time being) is, as you know, Space Invaders. This involved moving a bunch of pixels, sorry - 'ship' - left and right to shoot the aliens. And that was it. Very simplistic indeed, but a real money-spinner in arcades all those years ago.
Since then, we've been through the ranks of PacMan, Galaxians, Defender (which some people still regard as the best game ever) and many others. We're now utterly spoilt by classics such as Sonic, Axelay, SF2, Sensible Soccer and, well, you know the rest.
While some people mutter on about 'golden nostalgia' in the form of Manic Miner, Head Over Heels, or whatever, there's no denying that the only way is forwards. Playability can't really improve as much as graphics or sound, but as games progress, slow-down will be a thing of the past, and everything will run silky smooth, so you'll certainly see an increase in the enjoyment factor. Don't think for one moment that games will become more original, though - that isn't really determined by the power of the machine, but the programming team. Having said that, horizons
will broaden, and programmers will be more free in what they want to do, which can't be bad news.
You may laugh at the awful specifications of decade-old machines at the moment, but in another 5-10 years, your machines will be laughed at.
"Did you know that the Amiga 1200 only had 16.7 million colours, and a 68020 processor? Snigger. To think now, we have billions of colours and a 70900 processor - makes you feel sorry for all those owners back then, eh?"
Yes, you can bet games machines will be going for a long time yet, not to mention the games themselves; but exactly how different will they be? Well, you could use your imagination, or alternatively, use mine. Read on...
Firstly, all games will be done using vectors. This may seem hard to believe at first, but nothing comes close to them for their versatility. Don't imagine that they'll still be paper darts, though - with faster processors and better graphics, vectors will look as good as the best bitmaps, only they'll be in 3-D.
The game-types will probably be the same - just the usual platformer or whatever, but they'll be enhanced beyond comprehension.
Platform games won't be the usual diet of sprites, backgrounds and
points. You can expect perfect parallax from the backgrounds, and not just layer upon layer of the stuff either - you'll be able to zoom straight into Zool or Mario, and the backgrounds will move accordingly. Don't fancy the side-on view? Well, just press a button and you have a camera in Mario's eyes, or behind his head if you like, or even above his head - a bird's eye view. Yes, this has all been done in flight simulators before, and you know why, don't you? Because of the versatile vectors, of course.
You can also expect millions of colours on-screen, and perfect speech, but you probably already knew that.
Shoot 'em ups will be more like StarWing - only you'll be able to zoom right away from the cockpit and have a horizontal scrolling shoot 'em up, or get yourself a bird's eye view, and - voila! - a vertical scrolling SWIV-type game.
There'll be 100s of missions, all stored onto CD, and sampled speech from your crew, who'll inform you of any vital information.
Flight Simulators will be similar to shoot 'em ups, except that they'll be more strategy/mission based. Like every other type of future game, the whole thing will consist of millions of colours, loads of external views (in fact, you shouldn't be limited, the game will allow you to press the appropriate keys/buttons to move the camera left/right/
up/down/in/out), and while you're selecting your camera positions, everything's updating at 70 frames per second (yes, everyone should have a multisync monitor by then). Everything will be ray-traced, so wherever light is, the light will bounce off/reflect accordingly.
Adventure/Role playing games will be perfectly lifelike. Perfect speech, perfect graphics, perfect frame-rate, and lots and lots of depth. You'll be able to interact with the games' characters, which includes proper conversations. I may be in 'dream-boat' territory
when I say that you'll be able to speak through a microphone to the characters in the game, and they'll respond back, but - hey! - these are just ideas, y'know.
And the others...
Puzzle games will be more graphically pleasing, but let's face it - puzzlers were made to keep you hooked, puzzled and 'up all night', so brilliant graphics and sound effects are secondary. Still, presentation can be improved in the form of, say, speech, clearer graphics or whatever. Good music is an absolute must, seeing as you'll be playing the game so long, but let's face it, apart from a perfect digitised picture of Russia
behind the screen of Tetris, we have machines good enough to produce a fine puzzler. Mind you, I'd like to see more puzzle games featuring multiple-player options - in a similar form to Bomberman/Dynablaster on the SNES and Amiga respectively.
Something like Lemmings is great fun, isn't it? Now, amazing though it is, I'm sure that it could be spruced-up graphics-wise. Imagine on (say) the fire levels, you saw a fiery background with perhaps a burning forest; or a water level with icy mountains, waterfalls and streams - all running in the background, with multiple layers of parallax and an atmospheric tune. This technology
is nearly here, and the sooner it arrives, the better.
Beat 'em ups will obviously contain better graphics, with digitised photographic backgrounds and more fluid animation. There'll be better sound and music, too (now wasn't that obvious?). And there's even a possibility that the player may get semi-involved in the action, too.
Pinball games would be displayed in proper perspective (3-D), with the table ray-traced, and a real shine on the ball. The samples and music would be amazing, and the graphics would be nothing short of breathtaking (the backgrounds could scroll in parallax, for example).