Gaming is one of the cornerstones of the entertainment industry—along with the tech industry. As a fast-growing and highly lucrative sector, gaming has been leaning on technology to help push into new frontiers. The more advanced that technology becomes, the greater the number of opportunities for innovation in terms of how players game and what these games look like.
For the most part, gamers are typically focused on advancements in peripherals. They want a more ergonomic and comfortable controller, a more responsive keyboard or mouse, a greater connection via ethernet, and so on. However, a game’s playability doesn’t only come down to hardware—it’s also about the software that powers the program.
As the video gaming industry delves into new territory, let’s focus on a few of the most interesting pieces of software. These programs work behind the scenes to create an immersive gaming experience and are often the difference between a project becoming a classic hit versus remaining popular for a year or two.
1. Random Number Generators (RNGs)
A random number generator is one of the most basic and influential pieces of technology behind any game. The goal, as the name suggests, is to generate fully random outcomes that add dimension and complexity to games. Let’s use the example of a short-form casino game like slots.
When a player spins the virtual reel while playing on an online platform remotely, they can rest assured that each combination is absolutely randomized thanks to an RNG. (Don’t confuse this with a slot game’s RTP. The game’s RTP, which stands for return to player, highlights what a player should win if they spin the reel 100 times.) Beyond the world of casino games, RNGs are used to create variation.
In an FPS game, this might mean adding factors like wind resistance, which affect a shot’s trajectory. In a battle royale, an RNG would control vehicles, weapons, and other types of spawns.
2. AI-Powered Non-Playing Characters (NPCs)
One of the latest and most impactful advancements in gaming has been the introduction of AI. For decades, non-playing characters (NPCs) have thrown a wrench into popular games. Side characters were buggy, their actions unhelpful, and their dialogue confusing. This is now changing thanks to AI-powered NPCs. Today, the average NPC is capable of offering players aid as an ally or challenging them as an enemy.
NPC behavior changes based on the game’s mode and the player’s actions, allowing for more complexity. Some developers, including Ubisoft, are even using AI to help generate scripts quicker for game writers.
3. Voice Recognition Software
Currently, voice recognition software is in development, which means it’s not nearly as prolific or functional as RNGs and AI-powered NPCs. However, as with cloud-based VR (discussed below), the ongoing roll-out of voice recognition software will have great changes in the industry. Typically, voice recognition covers basic sound recognition—meaning gamers need to be careful about the input into their microphone, as it can be heard by other players or NPCs.
This type of technology has been around for over a decade and has added an immersive quality to FPS, horror, and other titles. However, many are focused now on voice recognition tech that allows players to control the game using voice commands. This was originally developed for gamers who couldn’t use standard hand controls. While this remains true, it’s also being diversified and adapted to add a new dimension to game play.
4. Cloud-Based VR
Let’s shift toward VR and cloud gaming. The concept of cloud-based gaming has been around for the last few years. However, there have been dozens of roadblocks that have slowed down the concept of OTT game streaming—at least, for now.
Currently, the cloud is being adapted for VR in order to minimize the challenges faced by VR developers. But what would this look like? For example, a cloud-based VR game would minimize the size of the headset, as it could more easily render images. The less demands on hardware, the more streamlined and functional the experience becomes.