Time is fairly relative when you are a Viking fighting your way through the European countryside or, as a dragon-born, slaying dragons across continents. It can be hours before you snap back to reality, realizing you have been playing video games for most of the day. This is where the true power of immersive gaming lies.
Over the years, the gaming industry has grown significantly, infusing digital technologies at the core of their process. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this growth, as people are looking at new and innovative ways of keeping themselves engaged and entertained from the comfort and safety of their homes. In fact, according to Mordor Intelligence, the global gaming market, valued at $173.70 billion in 2020, is expected to reach a value of $ 314.40 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 9.64 per cent over a period of 2021-2026. Closer home, an EY – All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) report mentions that the number of online gamers in India is expected to grow to 510 million by 2022 from 360 million in 2020, with approximately 85% of these estimated to be mobile gamers.
What is really interesting to note here is that there has been a significant rise in online gamers from tier-III cities and towns in 2021, as per the latest India Mobile Gaming Report 2021 (IMGR). The key underlying factor driving this exponential growth in the gaming industry is the inherent potential for creating immersive experiences. Let’s take a closer look at this.
Creating immersive experiences for gamers
The competitive nature of the gaming industry acts as a major driver for developers and publishers to constantly explore innovative ways to acquire users. This is aided by the fast-changing consumer tastes and preferences as well as rapidly evolving technologies. In fact, research shows that the Extended Reality (XR) industry, which includes Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) and involves both virtual and physical spaces, is estimated to grow from $43 billion in 2020 to an incredible $333 billion by 2025.
These technologies are aiding game developers to keep the users hooked. Some common yet game-changing technologies include creating graphic immersion through AR and VR technologies. Here, the AR technology uses the device camera to scan the gamers’ surroundings and then creates a similar environment within the game, making players feel a sense of familiarity within the game. Another method is audio immersion with the help of special sound effects and music to make the player’s experience more realistic and captivating, creating an atmosphere, evoking emotion, and placing them in a particular mindset as they advance.
While it is not easy to come up with unique story ideas, having a well-defined and captivating story plays an important role in keeping gamers engaged in the virtual world. Although most games do not feature motion-captured actors or recorded camera clips, one can still make characters a lot more real with effective voice acting.
The use of Real-time Strategy (RTS) makes virtual gaming even more realistic and immersive. In simple words, players progress simultaneously with each other in “real-time” as opposed to taking turns. Some of the well-known RTS games in the market include Age of Empires IV and the soon-to-be-launched company of Heroes 3. Role-Playing Games (RPG) offer yet another unique experience to the users, creating a sense of achievement for the player as his game character progresses and enhances his attributes at every level, wanting to keep moving towards that next level up, case in point, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Selecting creative tools to build immersive games
As games become more complex and interesting, developers are constantly striving to use creative tools and methods to implement different kinds of techniques for immersing players. The appropriate use of colours – from pixel art styles and colour contrast to patterns and schemes – act as a vital tool to keep players focused and ‘in the game’ despite going through repetitive levels.
3D modelling software is another increasingly vital tool that helps in making more realistic special effects, gaming, and entertainment imagery. With the help of advanced real-time 3D creation tools, creators across industries have the freedom and control to offer and deliver cutting-edge content and interactive experiences to consumers. For example, in 2020, during the global lockdown, millions of video game players enjoyed a live music concert experience through the popular video game, Fortnite, where the developers created a live music event within the game. Or take MetaHuman, a cloud-based 3D character creator which simplifies the process of creating digital humans which conventionally takes several weeks or months to merely a couple of hours of work to create and to etch out the intricate details, offering an exceptional standard of quality, fidelity, and realism. For anyone creating interactive content in any industry, real-time 3D holds the potential of taking graphics to the next level.
Also, the use of video game engines with built-in libraries and purchasable game assets are considered to be imperative for developing dozens of immersive games within a short span of time. Real-time workflows offered by these engines are radically transforming established pipelines, improving collaboration and delivering renewed creative control.
Striking a balance between unique visuals or great aesthetic features with practical and seamless navigation that offers an enhanced user experience is one of the major challenges faced by most designers. Technology advancements are continuously bringing new tools for improving player engagement through more immersion, creating a virtual world where players can turn into whomever they aspire to be, travel wherever they desire to and do whatever they wish to do.
The article is written by Saishree Ashwin, Business Development Lead- Games, Epic Games, India/SEA.