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Sony and the next 10 years of gaming

The death of single player, perfect digital humans, and consoles that answer back

In a behind-closed-doors session at GDC Europe, attended by Eurogamer, Sony luminaries past and present held forth on that most agreeably vague and provocative of subjects: What will gaming be like in 10 years time?

Industry veteran Mark Cerny - who worked with Sony on the Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank series - began a little closer to the present day, with a prediction that many in the audience would have preferred not to hear.

"I believe the traditional single-player game experience will be gone in three years," he said. "Right now you sit in your living room and you're playing a game by yourself - we call it the 'sp mission' or the 'single-player campaign'. In a world with Facebook I just don't think that's going to last."

He named Demon's Souls as an example of a new approach to the solo play experience, and the sort of thing that well start to erode the relevance of single player games.

"Even though on one level it's a single-player game, as you're walking through the world you're seeing the ghosts of everybody who died in that world via the internet. You can leave messages for them. They can leave messages for you. There's actually a boss you fight in that game which is controlled by another player."

Cerny asserted that, in just three years time, if developers aren't including similar features in their games, they will suffer in reviews for a lack of innovative thinking.

I believe the traditional single-player game experience will be gone in three years

Mark Cerny

"The funny thing here is, we don't even know what to call this. Is it single-player or is it multiplayer? We don't even have the words. It's kind of Orwellian. If you don't have any word for freedom you can't have a revolution. How can you be talking about design when we don't have the words to describe it? Yet, that will be the standard, I believe, in 2014."

"A game without the presence of other players in it - you go out three or five years, I believe that is unthinkable given how connected we're becoming."

Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Worldwide Studios, listened with interest, and agreed that connectivity will soon became mandatory for games, if only because the devices they are played on will be connected anyway.

However, looking forward the full ten years described by the session's premise, Yoshida believes that players will be expecting completely believable digital characters, in both appearance and intelligence.

"I think what people want in games in 10 years is the perfect human being in digital form, where you can't tell the difference if it's real or digital. In your reality it's a human."

Mick Hocking, who spear-headed Sony's 3D games initiative, brought Yoshida's observation back down to Earth, but agreed that AI is an under-developed aspect of game technology, and one that will need to be improved to create new experiences.

"In Uncharted you can see they're getting ever closer to real acting performances with great scripts and great interaction, but the more accurate they become, it's still an acting performance that's coming back at you."

"[In 10 years] will we have AI that allows us to truly interact with a character, talk to a character, show the character objects and it can recognise them?"

I think what people want in games in 10 years is the perfect human being in digital form

Shuhei Yoshida

In the past, this sort of progress has been the preserve of research, with Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas' Facade and the early demo of Lionhead's Milo & Kate the most famous examples. But Hocking believes that AI, cameras and sensors will become so advanced that the player will essentially become an "actor" in the experience.

"Perhaps you're playing a detective game and you're playing a witness. The game has got to decide whether you're lying, rather than you deciding whether the character's lying in the game, because we can look at your expression on your face."

It would also be possible to catalogue information about the user from the games they play to form a "map" of their tastes and moods, how they change, and how they relate to each other.

"The more accurate that map can become the more accurate we can be about delivering an experience to change that emotional state," Hocking continued. "If they're feeling sad we can make them feel happy again. It would be great to think that's possible within 10 years."

Yoshida agreed, stating his firm hope that, "developers will have access to information of the player in real-time, and will be able to create some almost dangerous activities."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.