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Games of 2020 document

Bogged down with midterms and assignments, it was hard to muster the time to think and write it out. It may be too futuristic, and not in accordance with current trends, but this is something I would love to experience.

Jaws of Hell – by Roman Zimine, University of Waterloo

“Heavy clouds block the way to heaven and bleed streams of rain upon the world. The water pounds your armour and thunder fills your ears, and all you feel is your racing heart, eager to bounce out of your chest. Your trusty sword sits lightly in your right hand, covered with a coat of blood. Your shield and helmet are long gone. As the deafening thunder dissipates, you hear footsteps behind you. You turn around, instinctively bringing your sword to high guard. A large, red-skinned demon, encased in decorated iron plate and wielding two curved scimitars is approaching. His head is uncovered and bald, with a halo of small horns near the top and large, pointy ears. His large eyes are black and red, and his mouth – filled with razor-sharp teeth – is split in a wide grin.

His low, hissing voice rises above the rain. “I’ve been looking for you.“  He strides closer and closer, raising his swords. You steel your heart and your hands, ready for the battle. Twenty yards away… Fifteen… Ten…

Suddenly, he crouches down, and jumps, rising into the air and covering the distance in the split of a second. He lands with a thud and stabs at your abdomen with both blades. You bring your sword down, smashing the scimitars out of the way. They scrape harmlessly against your armour as the demon falls forward. You raise your spiked knee to meet his uncovered head, but he disappears. It takes a second for you to realize where he is. But a second is too long. The blade of a scimitar thrust with unhuman force erupts out of your chest.

You rise like a bird in the rain and turn around to see your body hanging lifelessly on the demon’s scimitar. He grins as he raises his other scimitar and slashes it across the back of your neck. A fountain of blood spurts upwards as your head falls to the ground. The demon throws down the scimitar, grabs you by the shoulders with two monstrous hands, and bites into your flesh.

Game over.”

For years, gamers of all calibers have been dreaming of a virtual reality game. And, given the technology that is available today and the rate at which new innovations are created, this fantasy may very well become a reality by 2020. “Jaws of Hell” is a cutting-edge virtual reality game that literally places the player in the shoes of an unlikely hero in a fantasy world.

The Technology

Modern-day technologies include surround-sound, 3-D glasses, voice capturing, and motion detection. When developed and combined, the three – along with other more widespread technologies – can provide the perfect environment for a virtual world. While mobile and casual games are increasing in popularity, and may very well continue to do so as people work longer and longer hours, hardcore gamers will be looking for a constantly more immersive experience. While a console virtual reality experience is not likely to be developed in the next 11 years, the technology behind “Jaws of Hell” may be.

The player will be equipped with 3-D glasses and a game-suit. He will then step into a large sphere resting on a frictionless base. The sphere is made to ensure that the player will not run into unexpected real walls during his virtual adventures. As the player walks inside, the sphere will turn accordingly, providing an uninterrupted virtual experience. The sphere will have entrance points for air, and a soft matting to ensure the player’s safety.

Once inside, the world of the game will be formed around the player, who will feel as if he is a real character in the game. Looking at his hands – through the activated glasses – he will see the hands of his character. His body will be the body of the character.  This is ensured by the game-suit, which will be made specifically to assist in this effect.

The player will control the character directly, and advanced motion detection built into the sphere will allow this to happen. A small stick – similar to a police baton – will be provided to aid the motion detection. In the virtual world, the player will see the baton as a sword. The player will block a strike by raising his hand in an appropriate manner and strike in the same way. The character will move as the player walks, run as the player runs, and crouch as the player crouches. Dialog will be highly realistic, with the player speaking to the AI and voice-capturing software and hardware to carry the message to the software. Surround sound will also be built-in, providing the player with audio to heighten the realism: the sound of rain and thunder, the singing of birds, the roaring of demons, the clang of swords and the whistle of arrows, among a myriad of other effects. The sound will also be used to intensify the world – for example, subtle music during suspenseful moments.

There are, of course, deficiencies to this technology and many ways in which it can grow. For example, there will probably be little realistic sense of touch, other than the weight of the baton to simulate a light sword. The player will have to move around, restricting the length of gameplay. However, it is unlikely that 11 years will be enough to develop a matrix-like technology.

In light of these, and several other, deficiencies, there are some more “conventional” systems in place. For example, when the player is not in battle, there are motion control commands (with the off-hand) that can be used to open menus, loot bodies, change armour etcetera. This leads to gameplay.

The Gameplay

You the role of Leon – the son of a peasant in Middle-Age France in a world encroached upon by hell. As you make your way through the world, you encounter bands of humans of all the other nations, whose generations of conflicts were forgotten in the face of a common enemy. An unlikely hero, you track the source of the invasion to its roots and save the world from the Jaws of Hell.

The game is, in concept, similar to the Diablo series and games such as Oblivion. Its driving element is story, which unravels before the player as he explores the world. There are several big cities and castles, though the number dwindles as the invasion spreads, multiple villages and numerous refugee settlements. The player can talk to anyone, and many of the people will have small side-quests that will assist you in your main mission, or simply give you a chance to be good or evil. The main quest will lead the player through Europe, to Rome, and, finally, to the locations of the Jaws of Hell – the source of the hell-spawn encroaching the planet. The player will unravel the reason behind the invasion and be given the choice of stopping it or joining the Devil. Moral choices will be a big part of game play, and will become very personal as the player will literally be in the shoes of the character. Doing the right thing may not give you the best immediate rewards, but doing the wrong thing may have long-term consequences for your reputation and the hospitality others will offer you.

Combat in the game will be fast-paced and realistic, but the available techniques will go beyond what is real. You will learn spells, cast by moving your off-hand in pre-determined patterns. For example, to cast a fireball a player would have to reach out his hand, and snap it back to his hips (similar to a reverse punch), clenching his fist as he does it. Then he will see an orange glow intensify around his arm, and when he is ready to release the spell he will shoot his arm out, firing the ball at the monster. Sword combinations will work in a similar way – certain motions unlikely to be performed accidentally will set in motion a cinematically pleasing sequence of chops, slashes, and stabs as the character hacks the unfortunate monster to pieces. The player will also be able to use other body parts – such as the arm, shoulder, or knee – as weapons, but at his own risk. The equipment will not change very frequently. The sword you get in the tutorial will be your sword for the game for story reasons, while better armour will take a while to obtain.

Below is a minute-by-minute description of the “tutorial” of the game. One thing of note is that the player does not control the character using keyboards, mice, joysticks, or remotes. The player sees himself as the character and acts as the character, experiencing the world from a true first person perspective. Another thing to note is that the cutscenes are in the form of short, animated 3-D movie.

It starts off with a cutscene that introduces the world and zooms into the woods and into the perspective of Leon, who is going out for wood, an axe over his shoulder. Suddenly, Leon is contacted by Archangel Michael, who introduces himself to the highly-pious character and walks the player through basic controls – walking, sitting, and swinging his axe. Another cutscene interrupts game play, this one showing the player move through the forest onto a road, where he sees three imps attack an armoured knight. Another three lie dead at his feet. Archangel Michael entices the player to help the knight, but another subtle voice calls him to hide and save his own skin. If the player chooses to hide – that is, crouch behind a bush or a tree, there will be a cutscene of the fight as the knight kills two of the imps but is felled by the third. The player must then get out of the bushes and kill the third imp with the axe – an easy feat since the imp is almost dead. If the player chooses to help, he will be given the combat instructions as he joins the fight. The knight, with the player’s assistance, will kill the three imps but die of wounds. Either way, the player stands over the knight’s dead body.

The player will then be taught about the gestures to loot, open an inventory, and equip items. He will have to equip the knight’s sword and armour, and run down the road towards his village. There will be another cutscene – this one longer – where the player gets to the village and is greeted with burning houses and numerous imps slaughtering townsfolk. Archangel Michael tells the player to slaughter the imps using the skills he has learned. The player can explore the town, attempt to break into buildings, and potentially save several villagers. When the imps are dead, the player encounters an imp-captain – a taller, stronger, armoured and armed imp. When the captain’s health is at 10%, a cutscene is played in which the character executes the captain in splendid fashion, but is injured once again in the process. Voices are heard in the distance, but the character passes out and the player’s vision turns black.

What’s better? (besides the technology)

While the technology and the ground-breaking control system alone may be enough – at least initially – to attract many gamers, “Jaws of Hell” is no simple hack-and-slash game. One thing that will be key to the game is the extra degree of interactivity of the player with the game world. AI will be highly advanced and dynamic, with both enemies and allies adapting to the flow of battle depending on the moves the character makes. Conversation will be spoken, though the dialogue options will be provided to the player (since it is doubtful AI technology will reach a level sophisticated enough to simulate a real human in real-time). Furthermore, there will be an intricate back-story, a deeply woven plot, highly developed and interesting secondary characters, and multiple decisions that will be left to the player. The player will not only want to kill demons, but immerse himself in this world and interact with it. The cinematic quality of the cutscenes will be exceptional, and the combat will be simple to learn, hard to master, and extremely entertaining. It will offer the ultimate escape into the fantasy world, and every gamer will find something to his fancy.

Multiplayer

The system accompanying “Jaws of Hell” will not be one everyone can afford, and those who want to play it will likely have to pay an hourly rate to enjoy themselves in the virtual world. As a result, a virtual centre – a spinoff of the modern-day game centre – can be built, which will house several of the machines and allow the players in them to play either solo or multiplayer games. Multiplayer will have several options – putting the players against each other, or throwing them in the middle of the world – tutorials and cutscenes excluded – and sending swarms of demonspawn against them. A voice channel will be opened, allowing the players to communicate verbally. This will add a new intensity to combat as the players experience shoulder-to-shoulder combat against a mass of enemies.

The Good (Summary)

  • Cutting-edge technology
  • Live the fantasy world
  • Fight demons in true first-person style
  • Intricate and engaging storyline and characters
  • Involving gameplay from combat to moral decisions
  • Sophisticated AI to simulate highly realistic combat
  • Join friends on a collective dive into the fantasy world

Deficiencies

  • Expensive and unlikely to be affordable for the average consumer
  • Require a period of complete immersion into the game
  • Require a fair amount of physical activity (may be a cons for some)
  • Since tech is cutting edge, it is not at its potential and has room to grow

Why people will play it

People will play this game largely because of the unprecedented immersion it offers. There is no better way to immerse oneself into a fantasy world than to literally take the role of a character living there. People seeking to “escape” the real world for a chance to do anything they want will find just that in “Jaws of Hell.” Once people – attracted by the innovative technology and the opportunities it offers – begin playing, they will immensely enjoy the combat system. Furthermore, as the story unravels, they will seek to learn more, meet interesting characters, and change the very fabric of the world. The decade-old dream of virtual reality will become real, and as people try it out they will be drawn in by the contents of the game itself. “Jaws of Hell” will be an amazing experience for everyone who tries it.

Beyond 2020

As technology continues to change, the hardware will improve, allowing more flexibility for the software – that is, the game. True human-like AI that can hold a real-time conversation, the engagement of more senses, different types of weapons and magic, and many more features would become possible. As time goes on, “Jaws of Hell” and its descendants will only get better.

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