3 Game Design Trends To Watch In 2013

By on November 28, 2012

Video Game Design is a rapidly growing technical field, projected to grow by 30% in the next 10 years and produce 270,900 new jobs. The average annual salary of a game designer is $80,000 and the video game industry is valued at over 65 billion dollars. With the increases in graphic capabilities and processor power of gaming devices in the last decade, the video game industry has tripled in size. Game designers focus on the missions, puzzles, narrative, audio/visual style and general mechanics of a game.

Here are a few gaming trends to be on the look out for in 2013:

Open Worlds
An open world game allows the gamer to roam the entire gaming environment without ever stopping to load a new region of game space while exploring the outdoors. While fast-travel is usually an option in an open world game, it is not absolutely necessary because every area of the game can be reached on foot or by vehicle.

The storyline of an open world game is often nonlinear, meaning that some events can occur in any order. Examples of recent open world games include Fallout 3 and Grand Theft Auto 4. Some games employ large worlds that are not strictly open, relying on a map screen for transportation, such as Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3.

As more open world games are produced, game designers will be required to build very large game environments. The environments usually must be filled with large and small interactive features such as buildings, caves, enemies and resources.

Difficult Decisions
Gaming story lines have become more complex as they incorporate difficult decisions that affect the course of the game, such as the decision to kill certain characters or help some organizations while hurting others. Gamers can be forced to make a difficult decision in order to advance the plot, normally choosing between a certain benefit and penalty combination and a different benefit and penalty. Recent games that incorporate difficult decisions include Silent Hill: Downpour, Dragon Age II, Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 3. Open world games usually incorporate some form of difficult decisions.

The continuation of the difficult decision trend will require game designers to dedicate more time to writing a complex branching storyline rather than a linear storyline. These decisions often impact future dialogues, environments and even endings.

Retro Sci-Fi Dystopias
Science Fiction games have progressed to include games that take place in post-apocalyptic dystopias rather than in space or on other planets. These retro-futuristic games usually invoke 1950’s era nostalgia and nuclear paranoia, but take place in alternate realities in which technology advanced much further while maintaining the retro aesthetic, but the apocalypse has occurred and destroyed most of it. Retro Sci-Fi Dystopian games include Fallout 3, BioShock and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

As more retro sci-fi dystopian games are designed, game designers will have to think of new ways to incorporate this theme in stories and environments. The new games will not be as popular if they simply recycle the same old rocketships.

As the video game industry continues to expand, game designers will have to design increasingly complex games, with larger environments and nonlinear storylines. They will need to recreate popular themes while keeping the material fresh and exciting.

Gil Peck is a writer and gaming enthusiast from Sacramento, California.  You can ready more of his expert advice at Top 8 Best Online Game Design Schools.

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