Everyone knows that the next generation of gaming is going to look really pretty. The number of models onscreen will shoot up, and the graphics will get even closer to bridging the uncanny valley.
What should be getting more attention, however, are the other, more interesting innovations coming with the games themselves. From new connections with mobile devices to great new takes on artificial intelligence, game designers are figuring out more and more ways to use technology to suck all of the free time from your life.
The long-running Forza series is known for incredible realism and crushing difficulty. It is the elite racing simulator. For the next installment of the franchise, the developers over at Turn 10 decided that racing against normal computers is too boring. Even when playing single-player, they feel you should be racing against the intelligence of other real people. And so the "Drivatar" was born.
This AI will learn from the way you race. It will track how much you break and how tightly you clip turns. It will record how you react to other cars. It will measure everything about your racing style. And, when you aren't playing, this frankencar patched together from your habits will roam the internet, seeking other players to race. You can even assign this thing to play career missions for you if you don't feel like doing them yourself.
Imagine the implications, if taken to other genres. Computer opponents that react the way people really do. This would add another whole level to strategic thinking and bring new challenges to shooting, strategy, and action games.
The Wii U's main selling point is the dual-screen action that comes with its controller having a touchscreen in the middle. Xbox said, "Who needs a specialized controller? Why can't just any smartphone, computer, or tablet do?" Then they invented SmartGlass.
While SmartGlass has been used in games before, as a map or a way to view detailed game stats, Dead Rising 3 really brings out its potential. With SmartGlass, you can "connect to the Zombie Defense and Control network" for "exclusive missions, new weapons, powerful military support features and more!"
Using your smartphone to rain down artillery death on a massive zombie horde while you watch on your television? Awesome.
The Battlefield franchise has a reputation of being exactly like Call of Duty, except much more tactical, with rock-paper-scissors style classes and vehicles interacting on huge maps. To take that tactical experience to the next level, Battlefield 4 will offer the ability to play in "Commander Mode" on your mobile device.
In this mode, you manage intel, deliver airstrikes, monitor a team, and set objectives. And, awesomely, the little people you see running around on the map on your tablet are actual console gamers, doing their own thing. It is a really cool new way to connect different types of gamers, on different platforms, over the same experience.
This connection between mobile and console games is not going to stop with Battlefield, by the way. Consider Commander Mode as a preview of what is to come, because gamer designers are really trying to tie together the two platforms on an industry-wide level.
Hey, console gamers. Have you enjoyed feeling superior to World of Warcraft players for the past decade? The countless hours and dollars wasted, the deteriorated social lives, the obsession of a fantasy MMO? Well, I hope you enjoyed that superiority while that lasted, because that experience is coming to consoles.
The Elder Scrolls Online is a game set in the same universe as Skyrim and Oblivion. That's right, they are combining the most life-sucking console game in recent memory with the most life-sucking genre ever. And I am incredibly excited.
The downside is that the game comes with a $15 a month price tag, in addition to sticker price and console online service subscription costs.
Watch the gameplay trailer for Ryse: Son of Rome, and you'll see what I am talking about.
Every bit of combat is another example of pressing a button to watch your character do something awesome. Very little of the game is directly 1:1 interactive.
SmartGlass makes another appearance here, allowing players to review and share footage of their gaming experience directly from their SmartGlass enabled device. Exactly like a scene you really liked from a movie, on YouTube.
I'll have to play it to really see whether this is a good thing for this game, but this is the one innovation I am really nervous about: interactivity is kind of what games are all about.