Fusion: The Game of the Future
February 12th, 1999

Randy: Well, Gerard, after our last free-for-all, journalistic, self-serving article, I think it's time we get back to the important topic we were hired to write about.

Gary: I agree completely, old boy. Roll out the browser and let's talk about online adult entertainment.

Randy: Uh, Gary, this is the Mac gaming column.

Gary: Oy, what you must think of me. Quite right…Macintosh gaming. Well, I'll just tuck this other little article away for now.

Randy: It looks like Gary has been researching other types of computer entertainment. What we are supposed to talk about today is the future of Macintosh gaming. Where is computer game entertainment heading? What is the next step for computer gaming?

Gary: I just hope I don't have to charge another $19.95 to my credit card to play it.

Randy: While I think online gaming is a big part of the future of gaming, I don't think the next big innovation will be about online games, per se.

Gary: Okay, I'll bite. What do you see for gamers in the near future?

Randy: I'm glad you asked. As you and I have talked about at great length, I have been waiting for the day when on-the-fly 3D graphics could match the beauty and clarity of pre-rendered graphics.

Gary: Boy, I know I sure have. And some of the spectacular titles that have come out this year have gone a long way toward crossing that line. Games like Unreal and Klingon Honor Guard (both built on the Unreal engine) have luscious graphics that almost equal the quality of phong-shaded graphics from a quality 3D program.

Randy: And these games have made progress in bringing the game back into the action.

Gary: I agree. For a while, the first-person shooter was the king of the hill in terms of game sales. Starting with Marathon and Doom, and all the way up to Quake and Hexen, the idea has been pretty much to kill everything you see. The plot lines were thin and contrived at best and the puzzle solving was reduced to maze running. But these types of titles have sold well. And to their credit, they were fun. For a while. But then the novelty wore off.

Randy: Then along came Unreal. Ground-breaking graphics plus a game engine that could handle more interaction other than shooting and picking up ammo.

Gary: Finally you could manipulate objects in the environment and use your brain as much as you used your gun.

Randy: What about titles like Dark Vengeance and Tomb Raider? You have great interactivity, wonderful puzzles that challenge even hard-core puzzle fans that usually played games like Myst and Riven, and you have skill and dexterity challenges like the old arcade games, but set in quality 3D environments. What more could you possible want from a game?

Gary: In a word, variety.

Randy: Exactly! No matter how creative a game maker gets with a new game engine, no matter how they improve on the model, it is still basically the same game. For example, in MDK, one of my favorites last year, you do have a variety of ways to travel in the game. You travel on foot most of the time, but there are times when you fly or surf or even ride inside stolen robots. But you are always in the same basic game. That's the way it has to be, right? You build a game in a certain engine and that's what you use from start to finish.

Gary: Why does a game have to be limited to one style of play? What if you could play a game where your character runs through a real time 3D world during fighting segments, like in Quake, but then could interact with digitized actors in a QuickTime layer in other areas of the game? Imagine if they made a new game based on Star Wars, for example. You could talk to a pilot in the cantina, negotiate a price, and get directions to the ship that will get you out of Mos Eisley.

Randy: That would be docking bay 94.

Gary: Uh, huh….Then you could walk to the docking bay using a VR engine, progressing through nodes and exploring the city until you found the ship that would help you escape.

Randy: That would be the Linoleum Falcon.

Gary: Laugh it up, fuzzball. But when you enter the docking bay, it's a setup! An Unreal-style engine takes over and you have to take out the Storm Troopers as you blast your way to the Falcon.

Randy: Now you're talking, dude! Then, in the same game you could crawl into the cockpit of the Falcon and the interior of the ship would be a pre-rendered ray-traced, point-and-click, exploratory-style interface. That part of the game would play like Riven or Timelapse. I envision the soundtrack changing as well, to more completely take you from the excitement of blasting enemies to the wonder of exploring a fantastic new area.

Gary: And then, after you explore the ship's interior, and figure out how the damn thing works, you strap yourself into the pilot's seat and take off. A flight sim engine takes over, and you fly the Falcon in a real-time combat mission, as you try to make the jump to lightspeed.

Randy: Keep in mind this is all in the same game! Sounds cool, huh?

Gary: We think so, too. We are talking about a fusion of game styles to give a totally free game environment, allowing the player several types of game experiences all within the same title.

Randy: We know all of you are saying to yourself, "But, guys, that would never work! All of those engines would never fit on a CD-ROM! It would be confusing! It would be too expensive! I'm scared!"

Gary: Never fear, timid readers. Next week, we will detail the technologies that will allow this future of gaming, and we will talk about how we would implement a game like this to really make it work.

Randy: I've got a bad feeling about this…