What Advancements in Game Design/Mechanics/Tech Do You Want Next Gen?
A couple weeks ago, I watched Drive, which is a really cool movie that everyone should watch at some point. One thing that stuck out to me was the way the film uses blood. It's a very real substance in the film. When people bleed, they really bleed. When they get shot, blood spatters everywhere. It feels incredibly intense (the acting, script, direction, sound, editing, and cinematography help too, of course).
In games, blood is often little more than some 2D art asset that expands in size. Few games treat blood realistically (the size of a creature subtracted by the amount of blood the creature has already lost creates a pool of blood when the creature dies roughly proportionate to amount of blood the corpse is likely to lose, for instance), much less as a genuine substance.
While calculating the physics of fluids is hard (some people will go for exploding bones and brains and things, like Fallout), making blood feel like actual blood is something I'd like to see in future games. I realize that sounds a bit creepy, and if you're a pathetic games journalist who thinks it's horrifying we find violence in games fun, you're probably frothing at the mouth about how you can eviscerate my post.
Thing is... I'm interested in seeing more horrific violence. Look at Red Dead Redemption: the story tried (and failed, because it was poorly written and an embarrassment to good Westerns) to be all serious and full of gravity, but the game let you kill by the hundreds. What if a modern game... made violence repulsive? What if it gave violence more gravity? What if you played a game where you had to brutally beat a man to death and you felt genuinely awful for it?
There's power in that. The power to make games more than the Hollywood equivalent of popcorn fare is one that people need to explore more. Making violence abhorrent is, I think, a good step.
Another advancement I'd like to see is an improvement in dynamic animation quality. Currently, many games feature canned animations, which look unrealistic (say what you will about Max Payne 3, which is terrible--its animations are top notch!) and have a tendency to result in things like stunlocking. Having dynamic animations that eliminate stunlocking while looking better is a win for everyone.
Keeping on topic with visuals... while I think lighting and shadowing is neat and all, it can be done by the artists. It doesn't need to be an engine thing. Games like Okami have shown that your game doesn't have to have the best objective graphics out there to look excellent. You know what does help a game look excellent? Long draw distances. Halo looks great in part because it has some of the largest environments in video game history. Space is nice and open, which has a lot of subtle psychological effects, like increasing sense of wonder and believability.
See, I don't think an increase in geometric detail is all that important. So long as games maintain a visual coherency, I don't care what they look like. Poor animations and short draw distances fight against that--they pull players out of the experience.
Lastly, I'd like to see great advances in AI. Currently, there are two kinds of AI that blow all others out of the water: GOAP and Halo's. Most games have some lame, boring AI that will do stupid things like run into walls or not change their behavior as the game gets better or not operate in teams or things like that. At the very worst end of the spectrum, you get AI like Uncharted's, which has X-ray vision as soon as it's alerted to your presence, turning most fights into simple shooting galleries (even Serious Sam's AI allows for more play variability). In the future, I'd like to see games where changing the difficulty means that the enemy AI is smarter, not necessarily more damage resistant. Having an enemy that's more able to take punishment really isn't all that interesting, and not much of a test of a player's wits. Having an AI that makes players think, like Halo's or STALKER's, is far more interesting.
As you can see, there's an overall design philosophy at work here. I want games to be more consistent. I want the experiences to be more immersive through internal consistency. Advancements in technology should help that significantly.
What advancements in game design/mechanics/technology would you like to see?