Video game

The future of video games will bring us closer to real-life. It’s just a matter of time. – Mashable SE Asia


Video games are similar to storybooks. Rather than words, they give you a visual representation of what the universe and everything inside looks like directly from the creator’s mind. Some might argue that video games hamper our imagination, but I beg to differ.

Which medium immerses you more: a book or a video game?

Over the past decade, visuals in video games have drastically improved. For the simple reason: Technology managed to catch up and suddenly stunning visuals have become achievable.

Working our way around the uncanny valley.

First off, what is the uncanny valley? It’s a hypothesized relationship of an object in-game and how close it can resemble a real-life object. Take the many human robots that are out there. They look human, but once they move or talk, alarm bells go off in our head.

Are alarm bells ringing in your head when looking at this ‘person?’. IMAGE: The Sound Blog

We feel uneasy because we want to perceive it as a real thing, but the movements, interactions, and in some cases, the features, don’t feel very ‘human.’ Even something like a prosthetic hand falls in the uncanny valley because the way it looks or moves doesn’t form well with the rest of your body.

But somehow, when it comes to video games, it doesn’t feel this way. Even when we know characters that we play aren’t real, we can still relate. For example, in the first The Last of Us game, when the main character loses his daughter, it was a tear-jerking moment, because it felt so real. You feel the sadness, pain, and anger from a human that was created on a computer.

The most heartbreaking moment in video game history. IMAGE: LADbible

So, if that’s the case, why not surpass the uncanny valley and go straight to looking like a human? It’s not that simple. Humans have complex facial features. Our skin stretches, pores expand, muscles move when we talk, smile, cry, and laugh.

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Simulating all of this in a video game would require immense amounts of processing power and would render most games unplayable on even the most powerful gaming computers out there.

Could the future of gaming visuals lead us into the uncanny valley? Should we stop before the valley or try to venture into human looks?

Video game development software is starting to create photorealistic worlds.

When Sony held its PlayStation 5 event, they showed a tech demo running on the next-gen console, which was made entirely on the upcoming Unreal Engine 5. It was a fantastic showcase because the demo showed the future possibilities on other upcoming games.

Photorealism is what we all are aiming for. Imagine standing at a beach and looking out into the game world, but oddly enough, it feels like you’re looking at a video of your local beach? The Unreal Engine 5 gives us a glimpse of the future where that’s possible.

Even on the current Unreal Engine 4, life-like worlds are very much possible. Take a look at this:

But the texture is only beautiful if light is projected correctly. Wrong lighting in a game world will kill that beauty, which brings us to the next section.

Lighting makes a dull world more beautiful.

IMAGE: Pintrest

Light is everything. Not only do we need it to live, but it also plays a monumental part in setting the mood and tone in a game. It’s not something you can just turn on, and it lights the game world according to real-life.

You need to tell the video game engine how light will act upon surfaces and objects. This was one of the significant issues that can break immersion. Ray-Tracing is one such example to achieve real-world lighting.

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Even Minecraft can look like a whole different game with Ray-Tracing. IMAGE: Business Insider

Rather than developers telling the game world which areas should be brighter than the other, Ray-Tracing, to put it simply, creates light as part of an object in the world. This means that light are pixels that bounce and refract off surfaces by reading if the object is rough or shiny.

Take, for example, your room. If you turn off your lights, the one source of illumination would be from your window. Now look at the corners of your room, do you realize that it’s darker than the other parts of your room?

That’s because the light is made of rays, and there is a finite number of times light can bounce around your room before being absorbed by the objects. You would get some illumination, but it would be hard for this light to reach corners.

Left image is without Ray-Tracing. Right image is with Ray-Tracing. IMAGE: Rock Paper Shotgun and GECID

Now imagine translating this into a video game. You enter a run-down house, and the attic is slightly exposed. Because light comes in from the window, anything above it or smaller cracks will not be illuminated. Developers have the chance to play around with these elements by maybe including a monster there and have its eyes glow red.

Ray-Tracing has the potential to change how we play video games. Suddenly, shadows or darker areas are a threat. Ray-Tracing might not show its full potential on the current NVIDIA RTX cards, but seeing in action, makes my imagination run wild.

Smarter A.I. makes it more than a video game.

What the heck happened here? IMAGE: Reddit

How many times have you played a video game only to see your A.I. companions running towards a wall or getting themselves stuck?

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We all know that A.I. is getting better every day. Take OpenAI Five, an A.I., which was taught how to play Dota 2, and it even managed to beat some of the top players in the world. It could formulate a strategy based on how the human players played and outplay them. It was even asked to play 42,729 games with random players online, and it only lost 4,075 games.

Imagine implementing that intelligence into video games. Suddenly, you won’t be breezing through the levels when all the bad guys think like a human. Esport players could also train against these bots and train how to out-think a player that can change their gameplay style on the fly.

These are all very plausible future for video games. As hardware becomes more powerful, it opens up more room for software to shine. We are only limited by how well we can bring the real-world into video games.

How real that can be, is only limited by our imagination.

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Cover image sourced from GamesRadar.





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