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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Fast forward to the future of games
Children playing computer game, BBC
Computer gaming looks set for big changes

Computer games look set to get a lot more challenging both for players and those creating them.

Games are set to look much more realistic, computer-controlled characters will be more convincing and keen players will need to spend more to pursue their hobby, said a panel of experts gathered at a game makers conference in London.

Some of experts believe that the improved look of games will raise players' expectations which will prove a burden for almost all game designers.

Game makers will have to develop new skills and techniques to make the most of the opportunities offered by the new technologies.

Army men

The problems and potential of the technology changes expected over the next five years was debated by game industry experts and veterans during the Game Designers Europe Conference.

Jez San, head of Argonaut Games who started his own company when only 16, said the amount of polygons that a console could display per second improved roughly 100-fold every five years.

PlayStation 2, AP
PlayStation 2: Obsolete in 5 years?
As a result he said the next console to be released, perhaps the PlayStation 3, could be capable of displaying hundreds of millions of polygons per second, marking a vast improvement in the subtlety game makers can call on.

But visionary game designer Peter Molyneux, the man behind Dungeon Keeper and Black& White, said big improvements in graphical detail brought its own problems.

He feared that every game studio would need an army of animators just to produce enough creatures, units or beings to properly populate vast computer worlds.

He also worried that designers would get seduced by the look of a game and neglect more fundamental issues.

"We are not modelling big square surfaces any more we are modelling shadows and the way that light reflects," he said.

"The fear is that we spend 99% of our time modelling dust particles in the air and only 1% on the game play."

Costly conversation

David Braben, co-creator of the legendary Elite game and now head of Frontier Developments, said better-looking games had to be matched by improvements in the way in-game characters were handled.

"Once you have characters speaking to each you realise how shallow the things are driving these things," he said.

EverQuest screenshot, Sony
EverQuest could be a model for the future
Mr Braben said that game designers had to develop new skills that made in-game characters more intelligent and capable of meaningful interaction and even conversations.

"Once you move away from shooting games, when you are face to face with characters and you are not necessarily blowing their brains out the speech part becomes much more important," he said.

His view was echoed by Colin Hughes from Sony Research who said in-game interaction was sorely in need of improvement.

"The big step forward is going to be synthesis of speech and have it driven by a behavioural model and have it act as a character," he said.

Multiplayer gaming


It has taken internet gamers a long time to get over the fact that good games are not free

Jez San, Argonaut Games
All the experts agreed that networks, be they computer or mobile-phone based, were likely to become hugely important to games and players over the next half-decade.

Currently though few companies were making money out of the online version of a game previously played on a single computer or console.

The only exceptions were the massively multiplayer games such as EverQuest and Dark Ages of Camelot.

Some predict that as multiplayer games become dominant consumers could find themselves paying for every episode of a title.

"The internet has educated people to believe that games are advertising sponsored," said Jez San, "it has taken internet gamers a long time to get over the fact that good games are not free."

See also:

16 Jul 02 | Entertainment
23 May 02 | Entertainment
09 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
30 Jul 01 | dot life
13 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
30 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
07 Mar 02 | Entertainment
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