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Mail Bag

Thursday, June 4, 1998

Date: Wednesday, June 03, 1998 3:08 PM
From: Tim Kraemer
Subject: mailbag re: the next big thing

The problem with delivering "the next big thing" is the time it takes to produce a game. Look how long it took to produce Unreal. Production time is why Carmack decided to go "Quake3" instead of producing a whole new game.

Games are going to incrementally migrate into fully interactive movies but it is going to take quite a while to get to that stage. What the game industry needs is an agreed upon "3d engine monopoly". I know this sounds wacko, but look at Hollywood. Could you imagine how long it would take if Fox had to reinvent the camera and the film every time they made a movie? That's what happens every time a new 3d game is produced, as they spend loads of time inventing a new engine or rewriting a licensed one.

Microsoft is obviously not a good example of a monopoly, but one can clearly see that having a dominant operating system has been good for vendors and software developers.

Imagine how good games could be if the developers could spend all of their time working on the actual content of the game itself and not years on engine development. This will probably never happen because of all the money, egos, and companies involved but it would make for quite the gameplay revolution.

The smart company or companies will move towards making a be all end all 3d engine that can "semi-infinitely" scale up with future hardware so as not to be obsolete any time soon. What would this engine have?

No limits on polygon sizes for maps or models (do as many as your machine can handle). Full color 32 bit textures of any humongous size. 8x or more multi-pass texturing. Put all the stuff you want on any surface. And a hot dog Java programming language for customizing the game.

Several games are already making advances in the next big thing; Duke nukem forever has people talking in the game with moving mouths. Half life has talking characters and some spectacular artificial intelligence programming. But these are really incremental advancements.

The next big thing may never happen. It just might be one increment after the other. But if for some reason people decided to get together on an engine... Who knows.


Date: Wednesday, June 03, 1998 1:56 PM
From: Carl Kidwell
Subject: what's the next leap going to be?

I've been following an interesting thread in your mailbag and wanted to provide some comment and possible insight on the future of FPS gaming and the 'next leap'.

I think one of the major factors that appeals to so many people about FPS games is its ability to lend greatly to SOD (Suspension Of Disbelief). SOD basically says that if a game immerses you enough to make you feel like you are 'there' instead of sitting at a computer you have 'suspended your disbelief that this is just a game' for a brief moment.  This is part of the source of the 'rush' that people get when playing a game of this nature.

The biggest use of SOD to this date has been the FPS. But SOD has also been put to great use in RPG's and FPS/RPG hybrid's (Arena, Daggerfall, System Shock, Ultima Underworld).

True enough to the previous postings the next 'leap' will not be likely to come from an enhanced 3D environment, but this is not entirely impossible either.

The next 'leap' will most likely come from a factor that may  be on the social or interactivity level.

Here are some suggested examples of possible 'leaps':

A: Social :  One of the biggest lackings in most FPS's (and even RPG's) is lack of interaction with real people. Bringing multiplayer capabilities to DOOM, Quake have obviously been a 'leap' ..they have extended the life of a computer game far beyond a traditional titles average lifespan of 4-6 months.  To raise social interaction the use of full voice communication during gameplay, the implementation of a 'real' persona, introduction of an economic system  that can be used for many types of interaction like purchase items, upgrades, weapons, or perhaps placing wagers on the outcome of your games, increasing your personal maximum of health, (and many other economic possibilities) are just a few ways that may provide a 'leap' in the gaming experience on a 'social' level.

B: Interactivity:  Right now much of the world we play in is 'static' that means that a particular wall, door, house, whatever will always be there. The ability to either destroy, or even build in a real time basis upon the game world we are playing in would definitely be a 'leap'. Some companies are working on expanding this area and we may see advancements even in the next year. I think though that interactivity not only should be 'dynamic' meaning you can change everything...but it should have 'stability' as well. Meaning that if you build a wall, that it will stay there until someone destroys it. Instead of coming back tomorrow and having to build the wall over again.  And if you tie in the possibility of an economic system into this concept of a real buildable world you could imaginably build yourself an impenetrable fortress from which to base your attacks and defend your fortunes. Clans could have a 'real' home with everyone having their own rooms in their clan's fortress. Imagine the difference between playing a game of 'CTF" where you are defending a base for 30 minutes per map, vs defending your home that you have built over the last month. If you loose your home is destroyed... imagine the emotional impact of that. Your entire clan would rise in vengeance to strike down the enemy .. talking about SOD ..whew.

Okay..Ill lay off for a bit here, but I think that the horizon holds many incredible and interesting frontiers(or 'leaps' if you will)for gamers.


Carl "Slaine" Kidwell
President - AGDA

Date: Thursday, June 04, 1998 5:05 AM
From: Eric Snyder
Subject: RE: What's the next big leap going to be?

Just thought I'd throw my opinion in on the "Next big leap" speculation. I think the next leap will have to wait until the coming of that most anticipated technology advancement. High band width for all! With the proper amount of band width, I think the games will most certainly take a turn toward one of Id's original intents, truly interactive worlds. Imagine being able to speak through a head set to other players in your own voice or maybe modulated on the other end. Add to this the feasibility of having "world-sized" worlds... Role-playing meets Shooter.  

I can see it now, while me and my platoon are down in the mud trading shots with 'Ivan', an air battle rages overhead for mastery of the battlefield skies. All the while keeping an ear on the "radio" for tactical instructions from the commander. A game such as just described might even support multiple interfaces such as a more tactical or strategic play for commanders or logisticians.

The traditional D&D genera would be a given. Aside from the patented 'hack-n-slay', you could throw in such activities as empire building and economic conquest or whatever.

While most certainly not original thoughts, that's my two bits. Off course a comfortable waste-disposing chair that fed you Doritos and Coca-Cola might me considered a 'big leap' also...

Date: Wednesday, June 03, 1998 4:45 PM
From: Dan Stewart
Subject: Next Gen Shooters

In regard to all this talk about next generation 1st person shooters: I agree completely with Crash (06/02/98) when he says the next leap will not be one of the same profound importance as the Doom - Quake jumps were. BUT-   there are other ways to make giant leaps for playerkind. Other current talk is about the single/multiplayer debate. In my humble opinion the current multiplayer scene is nothing compared to what we can expect in the future.

Ultima Online leads the way (apparently - we don't have it yet this side of the pond) in a more immersive on-line experience. When I frag someone online I always wish it could be a bit more personal - the next step is surely simultaneous voice transmission with the game (wasn't there talk of that all the way back before Quake?) so teamplay can be better coordinated (CTF anyone??) and abuse can be more spontaneously expressed. Then maybe a more enduring frame of reference can be constructed - with faster data transfers coming we will be able to play on a level field worldwide and lasting frag stats for each player can be accumulated. The big problem with all this is the tossers who will inevitably abuse the system and lead to lack of trust of scores (represented through changing plyrskins/modls or new weapons?)

So, there are still directions to go, and a long way to go along them. The new shooters will make gradual aesthetic improvements and you shouldn't underestimate the importance of visual realism. I'm not diss'ing the cross genre shooter either (half-life, mmmm) but yeah, the multiplayer aspect is very important now and will be even more so in years to come.

I have seen the future, and it is on-line.

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