Sunday, 13 April 2014

Elements of game technology, part three: interaction design

The difference between a movie and a game is the element of interaction. You as a viewer/player cannot intervene in a movies events in a way that you may be able to during a game. This idea of interaction brings us that bit closer to the immersion of the many games played today. Just the ability to make decisions and choices which affect the characters, mechanics and environment of a game can change the outcome of an in-game event and therefore story.

 The development of video games in the past few decades have been extraordinary! Starting with simple graphics moving on a screen and text-based adventures to now having interactive three dimensional models which react to realistic, world like physics; this is obvious to see. But how has the way we play these games changed over this time?

 The interesting thing about video games is the idea that you are sucked into a game by your interaction with it, regardless of whether you move your body or not, you feel in control as that character or entity. The addition of new technologies allows us to be in control in different ways. Developers have always thought of new ways for a player to play their favourite games and also sometimes as a marketing strategy in order to make sales. It’s all about adapting to the market and be one step ahead of your opponents.

 One example may simply be the joy stick, used at its peak during the flight sim era of the 90’s it changed the way the player could fly, feeling like they were in fact the pilot. Another may be the “GunCon” controller which was bundled with a copy of time crisis. This was essentially a replica of a pistol, which allowed the player to shoot and take cover all with this controller. Although this was a new way to submerse the player within the game, it had a compromise. As the user could not move while using the gun; it meant that the mechanics of the game changed. Therefore, the character would move stage by stage using dynamic sequences as progressively harder opponents face the player.

Although it may be a compromise, it could also be said that this new game mechanic and technology influenced games in the future. An example of this might be that of the ‘Gears of war’ franchise and its ‘Horde’ game made, which saw wave upon wave of increasingly challenging enemy attack you. This in turn has been adopted into many other games since then.

 Modern interaction in games has recently been focused towards virtual reality and pushed further by combining this with motion controls. One of the most highly anticipated devices of the current and next generation is the Oculus Rift VR headset. With head tracking software and a screen attached to your face, it literally puts you in the game. Many companies have noticed it’s potential and so are combining their technology to further heighten the immersion.

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