Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let Go: The Future of Gaming is Out of Control


It’s pretty trendy to remember old games. We’ve all got childhoods paved with dusty cartridges and the stories they told us; cartoon dinosaurs losing their girlfriends and ninjas avenging their father’s premature gut-stabbing.

Dude’s a badass.

Memorable, to say the least. But what connected us so to these bizarre tales, of worlds where

jumping was key in almost all areas and the only real surprise was what the “B” button was going to be used for?

The controller. The tiny plastic rectangle that we didn’t realize was way too uncomfortable until years later, when arthritis showed up about 40 years early. It filtered our actions into the pixilated world and made us able to hack and slash our way through any matter of horrifying nightmare world.

So, with the game industry in a state of constant progress, it only makes sense that the gaming staples we came to know and love as kids would be due for a radical overhaul. We’ve seen cartridges turn into discs, electronic humming evolve into orchestral masterpieces, and celebrity

vocal talents where there used to be onscreen text.

Microsoft and Sony have announced: the next thing to go is the little plastic rectangle.

YOU ARE THE REASON MY THUMB JOINTS ARE ROTTING AWAY.

The days of button-mashing and trigger-pulling are over, as very soon, the only thing you’ll need to play a game is the body you’ve let go to waste. With such a dramatic revolution at hand, it makes sense that a new face appears on the horizon to usher in an age of wireless, buttonless control:

A creepy little boy.

His name is Milo, and my god is he eerie. Lionhead Studios seems to think he is just the dynamo to bring the fury of futuristic fervor hurdling into the next generation. As a demo indicated,

Microsoft’s Project Natal incorporates all of your body movements into the virtual world. As a girl converses with the onscreen Milo, we can see he is capable of voice recognition, physical movements, and intelligent responses. And he is a mere precursor of things to come, as Microsoft and Sony both have plans to connect you even further to video games by…disconnecting you. Entirely.

I watched the demo online and I couldn’t help but feel like I was in the first scene of a movie where Milo’s “moral compass files” get corrupted and some sexy teens are stalked and killed.

“They mostly come at night…mostly…”

There’s even footage of a kid scanning his skateboard into a game and riding it.

Microsoft’s Project Natal is clearly capable of some mind-blowing tricks, but as usual, Sony isn’t one to be left behind.

Their demo video of two (somewhat nervous) reps showing off their wireless motion controller is also impressive. The device has a sensor ball on the top, which can be tracked by the EyeToy on top of the PS3. Judging by Microsoft’s invention, one would think that the Sony model is somewhat behind, seeing as how it still requires you to hold something.

However, the reps address this, and I’m inclined to agree: not everything is more realistic with your hands. As a guy who’s more likely to play a shooter than a sports game, the point is raised more for pulling a trigger than swinging a bat. The controller’s abilities are wide-reaching, and while the sports demo seemed pretty obvious, when the one guy starts firing arrows at an army of oncoming zombie-vikings, you can tell the audience sits up and takes notice.

Microsoft has even managed to get Lionhead, Bungie, and Epic on board; developers behind some of the most high profile and successful games of our generation. Though it may be premature, the mere combination of this technology with the games these studios are responsible for is enough to make you start drooling.

What we should be nervous about is the complete lack of a price tag. Granted, there are plenty of gamers out there who will drop a couple of house payments for this kind of technology, but for the rest of us, well… we saw some pretty extraordinary demos. In a world where even the “price reduced” PS3 and XBOX 360 are enough to cause some gasps of horror, the next generation can only have higher numbers on the price tag.

But… watch the video, if you haven’t yet. It almost doesn’t seem real that this is where we are. They’ve jumped on the River Wii and sailed it to an ocean of possibilities. With both companies releasing mere demos, we can rest assured these concepts will only be developed further.

And with a ghostly British boy at the forefront, you can bet we’re only headed for something good.

Or, disembowelment.

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