Gamescom 2013: 5 Future Trends from the German Videogame Conference

PHOTO: Virtuix interactive gamestationVirtuix website
Virtuix interactive gamestation

A brand new PlayStation 4. The XBox One. These are the “big” announcements at GamesCom 2013, the annual European trade fair videogame fest that’s currently taking place in Cologne, Germany. But what about the “smaller stories?”

We dig through the news releases to drill down into the game stories we see as future trends.

1- Virtual reality gaming is going to be, like, big

Companies are investing in this interactive space, and with navigating through virtual worlds come hi-tech setups to allow for a really immersive experience. Three brands of note showed at GamesCom 2013. One was CyberTith, a machine you strap into which then uses your kinetic energy to allow a full range of gaming movement. It looks like a cross between a torture device and a playpen, but it seems exciting. Oculus Rift was also in attendance, they of the helmet headset, which allows full on immersion through a viewfinder that covers the eyes.

Another piece of hardware was the Virtuix Omni, which again allowed for a fully immersive experience. These are really exciting devices as they take gaming up a notch and provide access to the kind of augmented world that we’ve all been waiting for.

2- Games get unique: Need for Speed Rivals offers a different game every time you play

Games have limited lifespans as you play them, you win, and if you’re fussy you go back and collect some extra gold coins. Then you exchange it or eBay it. Need for Speed is trying to change this, with a clever “progression system” which ensures you never play the same game twice. This adds a massive amount of lifespan to the gaming experience and really shows that Origin are valuing the customer.

So what does this mean exactly? Well, each “game” in Need for Speed Rivals is estimated at around 12 hours, and you can mix between playing as a cop or a racer. "The variety in the game comes from the ability to play both sides and chop and change" said creative director Craig Sullivan.”Because of the choice offered by Rivals' progression system, players will carve out different paths through the careers - despite playing through the same story.”

3- Gaming gets emotional: The Sims launch SmartSim software so your characters can cry

We might feel that our beloved Sims have feelings, and now they can express that better with the launch of SmartSim. EA Games want your Sims feelings to be influenced by real “Virtual” world simulations, and now everything from the decor of your home to your clothing will evoke a response.

"These emotions dive into how they feel and experience life and allow you to create deeper stories with richer possibilities," said SIMS producer Lyndsay Pearson. Examples shown were dating rejection which “could lead to deeper depression” according to the “YouTube demo video. Not sure how healthy this is, especially as they say they get the angry Sim to lighten up by “punching a bag”, but it’s interesting that their focus is so heavily around emotions.

4- Art and Design in gaming: Stylistic choices over gameplay with Sony’s “Rain”

Sony announced the release date for Rain for the Playstation network.

The whole concept of Rain is ethereal, as its less about the gameplay than the magical world it transports you too. The story follows a boy who sees an "invisible" girl out his window, only identifiable from the shape rain makes of her silhouette. Another invisible entity also exists, an “Unknown” monster. The boy chases her to save her and enters a world cloaked in darkness, with winding alleyways and cityscapes, with a downpour that never ends. He is invisible in this setting and his silhouette is all you see. The musical score creates an eerie vibe and the design is stunning. Whether or not it “plays” well, visually you’re looking at a masterpiece.

To be released on the Playstation Network Oct 1st.

5- Indie Game Development is being embraced by the big players - introducing ID@XBOX

Mainstream games can be amazing, but its often the smaller independent ones that grab people’s attention. It’s hard for small developers to get their foot in the door, but Microsoft has decided to embrace them, rather than put up barriers. Enter the XBox One Indie Developer Program. Launched a day ago, the service is 100% free to join, and Microsoft provides free development kits and access to all console and cloud services including

It’s not a complete free for all as they say that ”In the initial phase of ID@Xbox, we are looking for professional independent game developers who have a proven track record of shipping games on console, PC, mobile, or tablet.”

Still, it’s a step in the right direction and opens us up to a larger arena of unique games.