By Diarmuid Mitchell
The star producers and designers from games publisher Electronic Arts (EA) have given a tantalizing glimpse of what gamers can expect over the following year
Rap artists like Ludacris appear in Def Jam: Icon
At an event in London, the games giant showcased some of their forthcoming releases for Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (PS3) platforms.
The makers of titles such as hip-hop fighting game Def Jam: Icon explained how the power of next-generation consoles was set to revolutionise gaming.
Chris Roberts, senior designer on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, said the game was on schedule for release a week before the film, and promised gamers some new experiences.
"You're going to see all of Hogwarts based on the blueprints from the movie. It's all there and it streams without loading," he said.
"We're showing some places that have never been seen before like Grimmauld Place where Sirius Black lives."
The new game features boss level fights between Dumbledore and Voldemort, who Mr Roberts described as a "scary dude that makes the Emperor (from Star Wars) look like a wussy".
The thing we're working on now is using the PS3's six-axis controller to control the crash of your car
Lead programmer, Burnout 5
The game is designed to give players the freedom to do whatever they want, with no prescribed way to complete the game.
"We've got a school full of kids - it's a living breathing world the player can mooch around in - they're not absolutely forced to play this level, then this level, then this level," said Mr Roberts.
"The game is completely free-form: Harry can go to class, play gobstones or wizard chess, all of the things from the film."
Player choice is important in Harry Potter games as they are very popular with young children who have shorter attention spans and a low tolerance to failure, which means they need to be offered multiple ways to play the game.
The freedom for the player to choose how to play the game is something EA are actively pursuing in their next-generation titles.
Kudo Tsunoda: "Music defines the gameplay in Def Jam: Icon"
Chris Sullivan, lead designer on the forthcoming Burnout 5 driving game, said the new PS3 game will give people "experiences in games they have never had before".
"Burnout 5 will have completely seamless open world gameplay so you're not tied to a particular track with chevrons around you like a dog on a track," he said.
"It's about giving people the choice to play the game how they want to. That's a big part of next-generation gaming."
Ian Angus, lead programmer on Burnout 5, said gamers can expect changes in game controls for the PS3 version of the game.
"The thing we're working on now is using the PS3's six-axis controller to control the crash of your car," said Mr Angus.
"Sony have given us this hardware and we're going to use it wherever it's appropriate," he added.
EA Chicago boss Kudo Tsunoda pointed out how music defines the gameplay in his studio's soon-to-be-released, hip-hop fighting game Def Jam: Icon.
"The fighting in the game is driven by hip-hop. Everything in the environments all animate and bump to the beat of the music," said Mr Tsunoda.
NBA Street Homecourt features photorealistic graphics
"The fighting's really about using the environment to do damage to your opponent so you've got to know the beats in the music to be successful in the fighting
"On a controller the two analogue sticks are set up just like a DJ's turntables so you can scratch the music, add your own beats and switch records in the middle of a fight."
Hip-hop stars like The Game and Big Boy contributed to the development of the game, said Mr Tsunoda.
"The DJ controls actually came from the rappers - they said if the music is the key to the fighting here's how to control the music using turntables."
While Mr Tsunoda enlisted the support of hip-hop stars to develop Def Jam: Icon, Andrew Wilson, executive producer for EA's football games, drew on the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ronaldinho for his forthcoming Fifa '08 title.
Although Ronaldinho's input and feedback is important for the development of the game, it is just as important to spend time with the gamers, said Mr Wilson.
EA's latest football games have improved artificial intelligence
"There are people making a living as professional football gamers playing Fifa in tournaments so we ask them: 'What do you want from interactive football?'," said Mr Wilson.
As console games make increasing use of multiplayer online play EA expects to see more social interaction in football games online.
Technologically there is no reason why online football games should not feature 11 different gamers making up the entire football team, said Mr Wilson.
But in reality the gamers themselves may not be quite ready for this kind of team play.
"We have to help our users get to a point where they can understand why playing left-back is fun," said Mr Wilson.
"Everybody wants to be a striker or Frank Lampard in the midfield. So we need to show that playing as Puyol in defence is fun."