During AMD's developer summit last week, the company's Ritche Corpus moderated a panel of five developers regarding the future of gaming: Chris Roberts (Star Citizen), Sean Tracey (Ryse), Jurjen Katsman (Thief), Tim Kip (Oxide Games) and Jon Anderson (Battlefield 4). A total of ten questions were asked before the microphones were opened up to the audience, ranging from cloud gaming to advice to aspiring developers to tech of the future.
So what are these five looking forward to? Roberts pointed to virtual reality, higher geometry counts, resolution independent textures, true mobile gaming and more. Tracey wants more user created content, community driven game content, physically based systems for particles, fluid simulations, and a photorealistic environment that reacts like the real world to make virtual realms more immersive. He also wants to see the removal of a tiered gaming experience, enabled by a single platform that can be carried around with you.
This latter idea was actually mentioned by the majority of developers seated in front of us, and one even demonstrated putting the device in his pocket. This is an interesting concept: one device for gaming, seemingly the size of a smartphone. But what operating system would this device use? Windows? Linux? Perhaps Android? Maybe a scaled down version of SteamOS? Regardless the OS, the notion points to a device that plugs into an HDTV and accepts input from gamepads. Smartphones for the most part have arrived at that point.
Getting back to the Q&A, out of the current tech, what excites these developers the most? Jon Anderson named AMD's Mantle API along with virtual reality (Oculus Rift, etc.) and really fast, small and affordable laptops. Tim Kip from Oxide named the increasing compute power in smaller and smaller devices, and taking cloud-based metadata to improve player experiences such as adapting AI players based on human movements. Jurjen Katsman said he was also excited about Mantle, as did Chris Roberts. Also mentioned was 4K resolutions and stronger mobile platforms.
Another topic of discussion was independent consoles like the OUYA. Immediately, Roberts mentioned the Steam Machines initiative, which he said "has potential." Samsung and Apple could potentially enter the market as well, allowing their phones to talk to the TV, act as a controller and so on. Katsman also indicated that Steam Machines has potential, but may not capture the attention of every PC gamer. He even said it's easy to make micro consoles, but doesn't seem to be easy to make them successful. Anderson added that micro consoles like the OUYA are spreading the Android ecosystem to everything that could possibly exist, but opening the walled garden would be interesting.
So what's the next big challenge for hardware and software industries to tackle? Chris Roberts wants more Mantle, and said that Sony has had a vastly improved dev interaction and environment. Rather than tricks, Tracey wants to see infinite worlds while Katsman named Java on GPU and easy programming constructs. For Tim Kip, there could be a better way to communicate power and compute restraints, and to work together for hardware and software development. Anderson named memory bandwidth, and said that many OEMs hamstring configurations with really poor memory.
On the topic of cloud gaming, Chris Roberts said he wasn't using this particular business model, but it could be viable if implemented well, noting League of Legends. He also pointed to a number of games that aren't fun unless the player shells out cash. Tracey followed up by saying that Warface, Crytek's free-to-play shooter, has been quite successful, and that there are differences with different operators. He said there's also different perceptions of what Pay2Win means and some stigmas that need to be broken, such as free to play meaning that the game isn't an AAA title. Free to play is a sustainable model that needs to evolve than anything else, perhaps more so than retail.
In talking about the role of cloud gaming, Tim Kip said it could lead to more interesting and evolving AI, and could enable the implementation of some form of MMO features in any game such as cloud saves. Katsman suggested that the increased power of devices diminishes the need for cloud gaming solutions like OnLive, even more so given that many PC gamers already have hardware that's better than a title's highest specs requirements. Cloud gaming likely appeals more to the casual gamer who doesn't care about latency, artifacts and so on. Tracey said that cloud gaming has a little ways to go in terms of reliability, whereas Roberts suggested that cloud makes sense for world simulation.
By the end of the roundtable, the developers were asked to give advice to budding game makers. Anderson said to finish a project, and Katsman expanded on that answer by suggesting that individuals choose something that they can actually finish. Oxide's Tim Kip suggested that devs create a fully working demo, whereas Tracey said to make mods, don't specialize too early and don't be just an idea man: get involved with the development process. Roberts also suggested not to specialize too early, keep up with the indie scene, and play around with the CryENGINE or Unity SDK.