Like a lot of people, I am very excited about the next generation of hardware. I think that both the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X have some outstanding merits that will push gaming as a whole to attractive new heights, and not just in the graphics department.
In fact, what I am personally the most excited about, is the much-needed move to SSD technology which the next generation of hardware is making a case for. More than just a hard-drive swap, this new technology improves data transfer on the I/O level, making the CPU communicate faster with the drive and other components.
With this increase in asset and feature loading, I believe we will get some fantastic improvements in cinematic storytelling, and here are a few ways I think we will see a leap.
More impactful cuts
As you know, the worlds in games are getting more complex than ever. With the recent showcase of billion poly support in a scene shown by Epic themselves with Unreal 5, it is only going to get even more detailed.
Sure, you can bring up most open-world games that do not have a loading screen as you travel through the different biomes or areas as a counterexample. However, the fact is that there is still some loading involved in that, as the game cleverly empties assets that aren’t needed and replaces it with the newer ones in front of you.
Your actual journey from one end of the map to another is the world loading around you in a sense. This is why when you fast travel, you still get the traditional loading, as the game has to load everything of that area at once, rather than gradually build it up in front of you.
Cinematically, however, this also limits specific jump cuts in triple-A games, where you do not see a big-time or location jumps happen. Then when this does happen, these are usually interrupted by a loading screen breaking immersion.
Imagine getting an ambitious opening or montage with different jump or hard cuts where the game seamlessly changes one level to another at the snap of a finger. Maybe something like that fantastic opening from 2001: A Space Odyssey, where you jump from a scene of apes to outer space or some of the interesting cuts between scenes in Stranger Things as seen in the compilation video above. Now I don’t think it will be that seamless, to begin with, and some liberties will still be taken.
The loading tech already being seen in Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart makes me feel studios will find creative ways to mask those seconds. It would have been a lot harder if it was minutes instead.
The online component of GTA V isn’t the only noteworthy aspect about it, as the game has one of the best singleplayer campaigns available in videogames. With a really ambitious storyline, it lets you seamlessly switch between 3 characters during missions, giving you varied angles to the action. A great example is during Three’s Company mission (video above), where you extract Mr. K from the IAA Headquarter.
This is currently possible because some of the more seamless switches happen when you are in the same area, as the game doesn’t have to load unique assets. Anywhere else in the open world, the camera pulls up, and you have to wait before it goes back down to someone else. Even then, just imagine what more someone like Rockstar can do if its already pulling tricks like this!
Now imagine this switch taking place across different places, or even cities and countries. In the hands of someone like Naughty Dog or even Rockstar, we have the potential for some groundbreaking gameplay or cutscene sequences.
Not only that, but I would love to see some creative transitions between scenes and characters that make the whole world around you distort and change into something else. It could be a unique feature for some quirky games like what Double Fine makes.
This generation alone, we have already seen something as narratively ambitious as God of War with its one-shot gameplay. You do not get cuts or transitions unless you die. Whilst something like this was possible this generation, it required a lot of R&D and workaround to work, an effort that at times can be gated to bigger studios.
Triple-A games are not the only ones who will be benefitting from this SSD upgrade. It will give a lot of power to indie devs as well, providing more headspace to everyone. This will also negate the need to do complicated workarounds or draw from experience usually gated behind the older companies.
With all the above points coming together, we have the potential for some genuinely jaw-dropping gameplay moments and mechanics that might not have been possible before. We might finally be able to beat stuff like Inception, Interstellar, and even looper. However, there is one excellent level from a highly acclaimed videogame, that has already come close.
Again, I am not saying that none of this wasn’t possible, but whenever it was, it usually revolved around transitions or changes in the same area or required tons of R&D and resources to work. With the new upgrades, it should open up the possibilities to a much bigger dev group and ideas.