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Tuesday, October 16, 2001
On The Future of Game Design
11:20 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

If you play games daily (or write about games daily) it can become easy to forget that behind these electronic diversions lies a large industry that rivals Hollywood in size -- and in annual income. As with the movie industry, the increasingly elaborate and high-pressure field of video game development is more science and economics than art; accordingly a lot of people who depend on the industry for their paychecks take the business of game design and marketing very, very seriously. As the industry moves past the "two guys in a garage" model of development and game budgets climb into the millions, a lot of people with suits and ties and stern expressions need to be convinced before the "next big thing" is funded and begins production. But what is that next big thing, and who will create it?

Harvey Smith knows a few things about game design, having been the lead designer for the sci-fi thriller Deus Ex. As the keynote speaker of the Multimedia International Market expo in Canada earlier this month, he presented a talk on the state of current interactive game design and his projections for the future. While the talk is quite serious, it is a fascinating look "behind the curtain" at one man's vision of the future of gaming -- and for Deus Ex fans, little hints of what might be included in the upcoming sequel are also provided. Here's a sample from his lecture, "The Future of Game Design: Moving Beyond Deus Ex and Other Dated Paradigms":

By contrast, let's look at our plan for sound propagation in DX2 (which we think is the next step in the direction undertaken by Thief): A sound event is broadcast in a sphere outward from a source. In cases where the sound hits a surface, we bounce the sound, taking into account the material applied to the surface. (So that carpet muffles the sound, for instance.) The number of bounces is capped. Taking distance into account, units 'perceive' the sound if the sound reaches them, directly or by bounce. The same model is used for both player and game unit (or guard) to determine whether the sound is perceptible. Certain acoustic aesthetic effects are ignored on the AI side, but these have nothing to do with whether the AI perceives the sound.
The rest of the talk is more interesting, we promise. Only time will tell if Smith's predictions and prescriptions find their way into future games, or if they will even prove feasible, but it is an interesting glimpse of a possible future for the industry.

The Future of Game Design by Harvey Smith

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