The Five Gaming Trends of 2014The Year of Virtual Reality
Playing Half Life 2 on the Oculus Rift was our highlight of 2013, but there are a few problems with the virtual reality headset at the moment. Its resolution is currently far too low, there aren't that many games to play it with, and, well, strictly speaking it's not out yet. Thankfully, all of that is set to change next year, with a high-res, commercial version of the Rift scheduled for release in late 2014.
Many upcoming games are ensuring Rift compatibility will be a feature on release. These include several of the titles we've already mentioned. Elite Dangerous already has Rift capabilities built in, while the likes of DayZ Standalone, Everquest Next, The Forest, Titanfall and Star Citizen are also planning to embrace the virtual reality headset in a warm compatibility hug. Other interesting games looking to use the hardware in some fashion are the free-running zombie RPG Dying Light, which sounds like an ideal match for the Rift, and EVE Valkyrie, a space-combat spinoff from CCP and one of the few games currently being developed entirely with the Rift in mind, by using the head-tracking capability to enable players to target enemy ships using their eyes.
For me personally, the Oculus Rift
changed how I view Half Life 2
forever, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it did the same for gaming as whole at some point in the next twelve months.
The Year We Survive
It says quite a lot about how the games industry is changing that Epic's first game to be released on Unreal Engine 4 is not a realistic-looking-as-possible FPS, which is how almost every major graphics engine ever has chosen to show off its new Screen Space Ambient Occlusion effects or whatever. Rather, it's a Minecraft-esque survival game called Fortnite, where players team up with a bunch of friends to build shelters and explore the world during the day, and fend off waves of cartoony monsters at night.
And it's not the only game of 2014 to put its own spin on the resource-gathering, base-building, and hopefully not-dying formula which has proved itself so popular in the wake of Mojang's indie sensation. 2014 will be the year survival games switch from being an intriguing novelty to becoming a genre in their own right. Joining Fortnite in the Bear Grylls fan club is The Forest, a remarkable looking indie game that casts you as a survivor of a plane crash lost in a beautiful woodland, which unfortunately happens to be populated by an extremely hostile indigenous tribe. In addition to that is the Long Dark, the recently Kickstarted survive-em-up aiming to be the most immersive survival game of them all, with no menus or HUD, and only your body's own physical responses to go on.
There's survival beneath the waves with Under The Ocean, survival with dinosaurs in The Stomping Land, survival against aristocratic tea-drinking robots in Sir, You Are Being Hunted!, and of course the full release of DayZ
, the most detailed and unforgiving survival game of them all. But perhaps the most interesting new entry for next year is Tom Clancy's The Division
, a multiplayer survival game that sees players teaming up in small groups of tactical squads, scouring the ruins of New York for food, weapons and equipment, while battling against other groups of player survivors. The Division's novel take on multiplayer also, handily, brings us onto our next overarching theme of 2014.
The Year Multiplayer Evolves
Two genres which have been stagnant for a while now are the multiplayer shooter and the MMORPG. The multiplayer FPS has been based around the Call of Duty/Battlefield template for years, while the MMO has summarily failed to move on from the World of Warcraft model despite a few valiant attempts at change such as Guild Wars 2. But next year will see a slew of games designed to shake up how you play with your friends.
The first is Titanfall
, which has taken a look at the Call of Duty-style multiplayer FPS and gone "You know what would make that better? Giant robots that you can call down from the sky, climb inside and then storm around like a walking apocalypse. Oh, and jetpacks that give you a whole other dimension to play with, hopping onto rooftops and along walls like a giant weaponised flea. And how about a narrative framework that contextualises why you're shooting your best friend in the chops and adds a little bit of Unreal Tournament's Assault mode to the proceedings? I think that covers ev...oh no wait, what if every game ended with a frantic extraction period that saw the losing team trying to escape the map in a dropship, and the winning team trying to hunt them down. Yes, that all sounds like fun. Let's do all of those things."
As you can probably tell, we're pretty excited to see if Titanfall can live up to the impressive looking demo we played back in September. But it's not the only multiplayer game landing next year that has got us intrigued. Also looking nifty is Destiny, the "definitely not Halo Online honest" game being created by Bungie. Destiny attempts to meld single-player, multiplayer and a sprinkling of MMO as teams of players join together to compete against other players in a persistent online game with its own factions, races and classes.
While Respawn and Bungie are busy trying to revitalise how we happily shoot at the people we love most dearly in the world, SOE are working on Everquest Next
, the MMO that finally looks to bring something genuinely different to MMOs. It comes in two forms, the first of which is Landmark, which is both the tool SOE are using to build Everquest Next, and also a game in its own right, a game about crafting and re-shaping the world with thousands of other players.
As for Everquest Next itself, it combines a hand-crafted Overworld which is a reimagined version of Everquest's fictional continent Norrath, with a procedurally generated underworld which you can break into at any time, and explore dungeons with your party on the fly. What's more, the most interesting player creations of Landmark will be incorporated into Everquest Next. It's a fascinating experiment in MMO design.
Be prepared. It's going to be quite a year.