This discussion is about something that I and many others think is going to revolutionize how we play video games, including MMOs such as EverQuest next.
Since MMO gaming started, initially with MUDs progressing to Ultima Online and Everquest, and now to titles like EverQuest Next, Wildstar and ESO, how we interact with the game, our mode of input and the output we receive have essentially remained unchanged. While the software and components within our gaming machines have continued to evolve and improve, little has changed with the mouse and keyboard. We now have wireless setups, faster response times, mice with numerous keys and secondary presentations of keyboards but that has largely been all (I am not including gamepads in this discussion). The reasons given for this have been numerous; the technology wasn’t there or was too slow, the demand would be low, there would be little developer support, the cost was too high, did I mention the cost and yeah, the cost.
Everything is about to change.
With the creation of online websites such as Kickstarter, smaller startup companies have been given the means to try and bring these dreams to reality. Along with this availability for startup capital, the costs of many components have continued to decline. This has not only allowed smaller companies to look at mass production but has also lowered the cost to consumers. Several well-known developers have started to add their support as well. There are several new technologies and some existing ones out there that I feel will in time influence how we interact with the game world. This is likely to be a very controversial topic depending on your game play and also your belief in how games, specifically MMOs, should be approached. This article will include some of the upcoming technologies and possibilities that may make their way to our homes. This is not an all-inclusive list and if you feel something important is not listed, please let me know.
No introduction is really needed here. This is a VR set up with head tracking abilities that is currently in development. It gained notoriety through Kickstarter. They have received several mentions and awards during this year’s E3 which can be seen on their Facebook site. The current price for a developer’s kit is $300 with an unknown estimated delivery time and unknown time frame from development to release. At E3 they announced an upgrade in the hardware allowing for 1080p.
Site quote: “The Oculus Rift is a next-generation virtual reality headset designed for immersive gaming.”
From a new start up, this is VR equipment that allows you to control player movement in the game world by your own movement within the designed hardware. As the software tracks your movement, the character on screen reacts. It is currently on Kickstarter and has more than met its goal. Price and release date is unknown. While now all gone, on Kickstarter $349 paid for the full hardware and software.
Site quote: “The Omni is the first virtual reality interface for moving freely and naturally in your favorite game.”
This is essentially a full body tracking system that “allows you to become another person.” The website describes it as “The main attraction of the VRcade is the virtual reality experiences that happen on what we call the Grid. The Grid is a huge room lined with cameras, but not just any cameras. We are using the latest in optical motion-capture technology, exactly like you see behind the scenes in Hollywood movies. The difference here is that you get to use them to play a game. You might think this is similar to the Kinect, but we are tracking your entire body without missing a step. This allows you to control the 1-to-1 motions of an in-game character, essentially letting you BECOME another person. No joysticks, no giant hamster balls, no treadmills…just your natural movements. You can jump, run, duck, go prone, punch, and kick with perfect precision.” The Facebook page is here. Price and consumer availability is unknown.
Site quote: “Welcome to the world’s first Virtual Reality Arcade for the 21st Century.”
This is a device that will track your natural hand movements to manipulate what is on your computer screen. The website states, “With a wave of a hand or lift of a finger, you’re about to change the way you use your computer. The Leap Motion Controller senses how you move your hands, the way you move them naturally. So you can point, wave, reach, and grab. Even pick something up and put it down. Just like in real life. It’s an amazing device for the things you do every day and for things you never thought you could do.” You can preorder now for $79.99. The company website states it will start shipping July 22nd.
Site quote: “Ten fingers, two hands and one huge leap.”
The remaining possibilities are with general equipment, things like smart phones and tablets and some other devices. There are already existing MMOs such as World of Warcraft that allow for interaction with friends and guild members, posting and viewing auctions, and viewing the calendar among other things. Tablets will likely allow for some “beefed up apps” that potentially could even include gameplay, maybe not raiding but something like crafting might not be a stretch. I would think that from here on out there will be a large amount of integration of these devices as it will allow the gamers to stay in touch with their game essentially all of the time and never-ending interest is definitely something I imagine developers want. There also is the possibility of something like Google Glass or smart glasses being used within gaming to provide extra information, say about the raid encounter you are currently on, without having to leave the current computer screen. A curiosity of mine is also something like the Pebble watch and somehow receiving push messages from either your smart phone or the game directly about various parts of the game such as chat or auctions sold. The Pebble is available for pre-order for $150. Another interest I have come across is something like the Ivee. Imagine cleaning or watching a movie and simply asking the Ivee to check for the number of guild members online or a specific player and receiving a yes response from it. You could then potentially ask it to send a message to the player or ask it to log you into the game from your computer while you finish whatever you are doing. This device is available on Kickstarter for $149 and states it will have a retail price of $199.
As you can see the way we provide input and receive output with our MMOs and really everyday life is about to explode into a realm of possibilities that we have never seen and probably five years ago could never have imagined. These, for me, are truly exciting times! I hope that the dev team at SOE will support these products because if they do, Norrath could be experienced in a way never possible before.
Have an opinion or thought about these devices or any I missed? I want to hear about it!
Images are courtesy of Oculus VR, Omni, VRcade and Leap Motion.