The Seven Elements of Successful Videogames

by Brooks Weaver. 0 Comments

The success of videogames in the future is going to depend on seven, key elements.  Those elements involve keeping games social, offering multiple gameplay types at console-level quality and making games available whenever and wherever gamers want to play.  Curious?  Read on to find out what it will take for games to be successful in the near and distant future.

1) 1st AND 3rd Person gameplay:

As I've stated in previous blogs, my gameplay-of-choice is what's referred to as "3rd person" gaming; i.e., you play looking over the character rather than playing the game through the eyes of the character (1st person).  But lately I have been converted to enjoying games that incorporate BOTH 1st AND 3rd person game types.

Some examples of games that incorporate the ability to switch between 1st and 3rd person game types are “Metal Gear Solid 4”, “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”, “DayZ” (freeform survival horror) and even the up-and-coming "The War Z".

Giving the player the option to switch between gameplay modes empowers them to have a more well-rounded experience that, if they want, can change their experience each time they play.

Their experience is enriched through this ability because they can either play in 1st person mode all the time to give them the same point of view that they experience every day in the real world, 3rd person mode so that they can play the game from the point of view that feels, more or less, like they are playing a movie or mix the two while playing through the campaign or multiplayer modes in order to provide a totally different experience.

An example of how both game types within a game can be used to complement one another in order to benefit the gamer is when you are hunting your prey / opponent:  

Having the ability to play in 3 rd person gives you a much wider point-of-view where you can see everything within the immediate area around you; including the character you are currently playing.  Then when you are ready to take down your opponent and you need to aim your weapon with the utmost precision , you can switch to 1st person in order to look down the weapon’s sight to lock onto your target and, well, finish the job.

2) Social, Social, Social:

To paraphrase the artists, writers and developers that I have talked to in the industry over the past year, when it comes to how games are played now, “Social is where the industry is now.”

It has become a regular thing to see Facebook and Twitter attached to the products we use every day, the articles we read and the websites we visit.  But the idea of Social Gaming, though not new, has been gaining more and more momentum over the past few years.

Racing, sports and action/adventure games not only enable you to play against other players locally (in your house, apartment, etc.), they also provide a “social”, online aspect to enable you to play with millions of other players around the world 24/7.

Besides racing to the finish line, kicking the winning goal against another player or capturing a flag that another team tried to protect from you and your fellow gamers, another type of social game is one that involves social interactions with NPC’s or Non-playable Characters; i.e., the computer-controlled characters in the game world.

Social interactions with NPC’s provide opportunities for gamers to become either famous or infamous through their actions in the game – driving the story (campaign) in one direction or another.  This type of “direction” can be seen in such game series like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed saga where hurting or killing an innocent bystander can lead to NPC’s becoming hostile towards you.  But if you choose to help them and not hurt them, most of the time it will open up new missions and gameplay options that wouldn’t have otherwise been available through your negative actions.

In the online Psychology Today article entitled, “ The Social Benefits of Video Games ” (2010), Dr. Clay Routledge writes that even though games have become more realistic in their appearance, they have also become more realistic in their consequences:

“ In Red Dead Redemption , for example, it is true that a lot of the game is violent. However, the violence has context and consequences, as it does in real life. For example, if you just shoot a random civilian, your honor ranking in the game goes down, you become less liked by people in the town, and a bounty is often put on your head. If you intervene and help a person in distress (e.g., a woman being assaulted), your honor ranking goes up, you are often financially rewarded, and you become more liked by people in the town.”

Note : Rockstar Game’s Red Dead Redemption (RDR) won the coveted SpikeTV “Game of the Year” award when it was released; going against the industry which, at the time, had released futuristic titles that were polar opposites of the western.  Personally, I really enjoyed RDR and I recommend it to anyone with the proviso that they understand its “Rated M for Mature” rating; i.e., parents, take heed.  RDR is NOT a title for kids to play.

On the other hand, The Walking Dead: The Game , though not a “social” game, presents the results of your actions at the end of each episode that you play so that you see how your actions compare to everyone else who has played the game; e.g., did you save Person A or Person B, did you treat someone poorly or fairly, did you select the Shotgun or the Rubber Chicken, etc.  This type of reporting is, in a way, a social aspect to the game because your actions are compared to other players and their actions.

One final example of social gaming can be seen in Maxis’ reboot of " Sim City ".  The game focuses on “City development and management”, but will offer so much more than its predecessors.  Within the up-and-coming title, you not only build and manage your own city, you also have to worry about the cities around you because elements like crime, pollution, innovation and natural disasters can all affect how your city and the surrounding cities (controlled by other players the world over) either grow and thrive or wither and fall.

3) Game access on Net-Gen Platforms AND Mobile:

I don't believe, at this point, that mobile gaming is the future of gaming.  But what I do believe is that mobile gaming partnered with console gaming IS the future of gaming because of one, simple reason: an "immersive experience" whenever and wherever gamers want to play.

People that like to play games like to do so at their convenience.  Playing a game on a PC or Next-Gen console, as well as, on their phone or tablet device are the current options that are available respectively.  But what if you could start playing a console-based game, then switch to a mobile device and continue as you ride the bus or carpool to work?

Furthermore, what if you could continue to play at lunch on your phone (or during a meeting…), and then once again pick up with the same game on your console or PC with all of the progress that you've made throughout the day after you've worked out at the gym or just sat through a 2-hour study group?

This is actually already a reality for some titles on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita and Apple iOS devices (sort of).  But in my opinion as smartphones get more horsepower and improved game engines, not to mention as consoles move more and more into the “cloud”, I believe that this will become more of the norm in the months and years ahead.  Start on one (game) platform, go to another to continue your game and then finish on another will be a normal way of gaming in the future.

Note : I am with the understanding that the latest round of next-gen consoles will be the last round of consoles to exist.  The PlayStation 4, Xbox 720 and Wii U (or whatever names they take) will all be replaced in a few years by cloud-based systems that will make the “next-gen, HD gaming experience anytime, anywhere” a reality .

4) Enhanced Graphics (Characters and Environments) AND Sound:

Gaming engines (like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine , Ubisoft’s AnvilNext , Crytek’s CryEngine and even Unity Technologies’ Unity3D ) are advancing to the point where today's console games will be tomorrow's mobile games.

Yes, I am one of the believers that over the next two-to-five years, if not sooner, the games that we play on such consoles as Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 will be migrated in their full resolution, sound and gameplay options to our mobile devices.  I believe this to be true because look at how a lot of the games of yesterday are available on our smartphones and tablets today.  It is a natural progression that I feel will continue in the near and distant future.

In regards to how games will be made available to our mobile devices in the future, gaming services like Microsoft’s Xbox Live , Sony’s Gaikai , Google’s Google Play , Valve’s Steam , as well as, updated wireless technologies (like LTE ) that provide high-speed (HD-grade) content streaming will pave the way for the HD gaming experience on-the-go.

On the other hand, enhanced environments, including the ability to Mod (or “modify”) those environments to provide more room to explore and tailor even a linear-based campaign to be much more than “linear” will provide a mechanism for players to truly drive how games unfold.

They will also be able, with this new level of freedom in gameplay, to dictate which direction they want to take their experience; i.e., do they want to go the good or evil route to finish the game, or do they want to blur the lines between the two in order to progress to the final confrontation (if there even is one).

Games are and will continue to be all about “Player Choice” and not just about getting from the beginning to the end.

5) Virtual Reality, 3D and Motion-Controlled interfaces:

As opposed to elements that WILL make gaming successful in the future, I DO NOT believe that the success of videogames in the future will be dependent on the utilization of virtual reality visors / glasses, 3D technology and motion-controlled devices and interfaces.

I am not saying that these technologies won’t be a part of gaming in the future – as most of them are a part of gaming now.  But I believe that these technologies will ONLY complement gaming in the future and will be OPTIONAL to games at large.  

Personally, I do not enjoy 3D games (with one or two exceptions); although they can look cool when they aren’t making me feel nauseous.  Nor do I like wearing anything when it comes to playing a videogame.  And to top it off, I have definitely had my run with motion-controller games and did not enjoy them as much as others.

But to be close-minded and disregard these technologies as inferior to other, more successful videogame hardware and software would be just that, so we will have to see what the future holds for these devices / interfaces.

6) Multiplayer:

PC and Next-Gen Console games are no stranger to thousands of people going head-to-head in game matches focusing on capturing the flag, controlling a territory or even killing anything and everything that moves before the opposing team does so.  Moreover, cooperative (Co-Op) drop-in / drop-out gaming has also seen a lot of action over the last few years; gaining more and more momentum ever since Epic Games’ Gears of War series brought the game type into the mainstream.

Multiplayer, like the other key elements that WILL make gaming successful in the future, will continue to engage gamers of all types in one-of-a-kind experiences.  This is the beauty, so to speak, of multiplayer: it provides a mechanism for anyone to jump into a game and play against or with other people around the world in various multiplayer modes; e.g., Capture the Flag , Deathmatch , Territory Control , etc.

Even though I play multiplayer game types from time to time, I really enjoy Co-Op gaming within the main campaign of a game because I can play with friends and family that do not live close to me whenever we can all logon and play at the same time.  This way “we” tailor the experience together, “we” make it our own and “we” make memories that are unique to us.

7) Disc to Digital:

An earlier note mentioned how gaming consoles will eventually be replaced by interfaces that are cloud-based.  But to make the transition from existing in a console-based world to thriving in a cloud-based world (in regards to gaming), there must be a first step.  That first step, which is happening now, is the move from providing games on Discs to providing them digitally via download through services like Xbox Live , PlayStation Network , Steam and Apple’s App Store .

It is the opinion of this writer that any developer that does not transition their games from being Disc-based to being made available digitally is to their own peril.

Although numerous examples can be given of why developers should transition to the digital / downloadable world, the best one that comes to mind when referring to just how successful developers can be with digitally-available titles is with Apple’s App Store .

I could recount the numbers that have been provided by Apple to date in regards to their success, as well as, the BILLIONS (with a “B”) of dollars that have been made.  But just like my earlier reference to Facebook and Twitter , I can bet that there isn’t a week that has gone by where you haven’t seen or heard something that provides evidence as to the success of downloadable games through the App Store ; e.g., Angry Birds , Bad Piggies , Cut the Rope , etc.

Conclusion

So there it is.  There you have it.  The seven elements that I believe will pave the way to the success of videogames in the future.

Do you agreed, disagree or feel that I missed something?  Let me know in the comments section below.  And as always, thanks for reading and for the comments to date.  I really appreciate it.

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