Ten Smart Ideas In Upcoming Games

by Jeff Marchiafava on May 22, 2014 at 01:53 PM

Gamers are always complaining about a lack of innovation in the industry, but while some titles simple hone previously existing mechanics and ideas, developers are always trying new things. Here’s a list of some interesting features and concepts being explored in upcoming games.

What's special about it: Asymmetrical multiplayer and an expandable roster.
Turtle Rock’s Left 4 Dead set a new standard for cooperative play by forcing 4-person teams to work together in order to survive the zombie apocalypse. Evolve not only…well, evolves the developer’s work in the co-op space, it offers a new take on competitive play as well. The player who controls the monster has a completely different playing style, abilities, and view of the action than his or her four opponents. The monster’s extra strength balances the uneven teams, while still forcing the hunter team to work together.

Additionally, Evolve is being built to support an expandable roster, so Turtle Rock can easily add new monsters and hunters in the months and possibly years to come, each with their own unique abilities and characteristics – theoretically without splitting up the community between the haves and have-nots.   

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
What's special about it:
The Nemesis system.
Fantasy fans have seen plenty of Lord of the Rings games over the years, but none quite like Shadow of Mordor. The open-world action game from Monolith offers players a new character and story to discover, but its most promising feature is the Nemesis system. This feature randomly generates enemy orcs for the player to contend with, complete with unique faces, names, and characteristics. They’ll also remember your actions in the world and your previous encounters; burn an orc warchief during a fight and he may develop a fear of fire – in addition to a personal vendetta. 

The orcs in Shadow of Mordor also have their own dynamic hierarchy, which will shift and restructure itself as you take down opponents. Who knows, you may end up providing a lowly grunt with a much-deserved promotion – just don’t expect him to thank you for it.

What's special about it: Simple-but-powerful building mechanics. 
Epic Games is known for making action-packed shooters, but its newest title lets players create as well as destroy. Fortnite offers a new and simplified approach to building structures compared to games like Minecraft; instead of placing individual blocks to the construct the fort of your dreams, you lay down entire walls with the press of a button, and then edit them via a simple grid layout. 

Not only do the controls allow you to build in a matter of minutes (or even on the fly during intense invasions), the structures are more visually impressive than their blocky counterparts in other games. Players who are on the fence won’t have to invest much to try Fortnite out when it launches, as it will be a free-to-play title.

No Man's Sky
What's special about it:
A procedurally generated universe.
This ambitious new open-world sci-fi game from indie developer Hello Games already has fans drooling thanks to its lush visuals and proposed scope. Players take on the role of a shipwrecked cosmonaut, who must explore new worlds and collect resources to repair his ship. Every planet in No Man’s Sky is procedurally generated, complete with its own ecosystem and creatures. Hello Games says there will also be outer-space dogfighting, providing the full sci-fi fantasy to geeks like me.

What's special about it:
A new type of upgrading. 
Famed developer Bungie is doing a lot of exciting things in its new sci-fi franchise, including taking an MMO approach to a console shooter. What we’re most excited about, however, is the developer’s new approach to upgrades. Rather than having to level-up multiple characters, players choose one basic class and then level-up focuses. These builds can be switched on the fly for different circumstances, such as when you’re adventuring solo or playing as a medic with a group of friends.

Upgrades also extend to your equipment as well, including guns, each of which has its own upgrade tree. As a result, Legendary weapons aren’t just more powerful, but provide deeper skill trees to customize. Even if you and a friend are using the same weapon, they may function in completely different ways, giving players plenty of customization options when exploring Bungie’s new worlds.

Coming Up Next: More games that dabble in the art of procedurally generated content... 

Deep Down
What's special about it:
Procedurally generated dungeons.
Plenty of roguelikes have featured randomly generated dungeons before, but they’re usually of the top-down or isometric variety. Deep Down is a full-fledged third-person action game, and thanks to Capcom’s new Panta Rhei engine, it looks gorgeous. Booby traps, breakaway floors, and hidden passages are just some of the surprises players can expect in Deep Down’s dungeons, which are different every time you play. 

Deep Down’s methodical combat is reminiscent of From Software’s Souls series – a good comparison for any melee-focused action game – and players can loot the corpses of other fallen human players, or team up with friends for four-player co-op.

What's special about it: 
Procedurally generated episodes. 
In case you haven’t noticed, procedurally generated content is an increasingly popular trend. 17-Bit is employing the strategy for Galak-Z, its upcoming anime-inspired shoot-em-up. Each play session in Galak-Z is presented as its own randomly generated episode. Each episode is broken down into chapters, which offer players a trio of locations to choose from and feature a mix of procedurally generated and hand-designed planets. As players make choices, a dynamic story unfolds complete with anime-style cutscenes and cheesy commercial breaks. Meanwhile, the ship upgrades available for purchase are also randomized, further mixing up the gameplay. Galak-Z also features permadeath, adding excitement to every dogfight and ensuring players will keep coming back for more.

Mario Kart 8
What's special about it:
Replay features.
The Mario Kart series isn’t known for making drastic changes to its time-tested formula, but the latest installment offers players a pretty cool gloating feature. After a race, players can automatically compile a highlight reel of their best and brightest moments. Players choose which characters to focus on, and what types of actions to highlight, such as biggest hits, item usage, or biggest drifts. After that, the game automatically selects what moments to include and chooses fancy camera angles that complement the action. Players can also customize the length of the clip, and upload the clip to YouTube. We expect to see a lot of videos of people getting screwed over by blue shells.

Unreal Tournament
What's special about it: 
It’s completely free.
Epic only recently announced that it’s working on a new installment of its popular online competitive shooter, and hasn’t shared many details about the project yet. One thing it has stressed is that the game will be free. Not free-to-play, mind you – completely free, without any microtransactions.

Epic plans to eventually make money from the game by creating a marketplace for players to share or sell custom-created content via Unreal Engine 4. Before that can happen, however, the game needs a healthy community, which Epic intends to foster by creating a fun competitive environment that anyone can play for free. Not only should this ensure players have plenty of competition, but if the user market takes off, there should be no shortage of great content in the future.

What's special about it:
You can sing through your phone.
Ben Hanson made me add this one to the list, because he has weird taste in games. However, it certainly qualifies as a smart idea; the PS4 version of SingStar allows players to use their smartphone as a microphone by downloading a free app. If the added cost of a microphone was preventing you from singing your heart out, now’s your chance to get on board!

Did we forget a smart idea or interesting feature in an upcoming feature? Share it in the comments below.