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Gearbox boss on an industry inching toward the 'holodeck'

Bags Hooper

Despite striking gold, once again, with the Borderlands series, Gearbox isn't sitting back to watch accolades and sales numbers pile up. Having recently released Borderlands 2, the Texas-based team now turns to focus on supporting that game with additional content, and on completing the team's next high-profile project, Aliens: Colonial Marines.

During the 2012 New York Comic Con, Gearbox Software President Randy Pitchford was on hand to help promote the narrative sequel to the classic mid-80s film; a game that has finally settled on a firm February 2013 release date for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (with a Wii U version planned later).

In keeping with Gearbox's forward-looking plans, Joystiq asked Pitchford what his team wants the next-generation Xbox and PlayStation to include. What hardware does Gearbox need?

"Imagine the spectrum of what's possible in the computing world," Pitchford dared us, asking to then pick a sweet spot between price point and computational power. Unlike the response we got from the Frostbite engine crafters at DICE, Pitchford stepped away from naming exact specifications; however, he suggested the next generation would come about from smarter, strategic partnerships across the development community.

Outside of the obvious iteration in simulation capability that comes from more processing power, "the real exciting thing is about the people, the relationships and the businesses involved and how they're working together," he said.

Last generation Microsoft and Sony went against this ideal, landing on opposite sides of the physical format war, which eventually led to the dominance of Blu-ray. Pitchford said that the biggest opportunites were coming from unified goals. "I'm really excited about the potential for that. We'll see who wants to play and what they bring to the table."

"Whether its entertainment or devices we're at our best when we're collaborating and we're working towards unified goals," Pitchford added.

Touching on where motion gaming lies in the next generation of consoles, Pitchford said that there are two ways to look at the dream gaming scenario: as the Star Trek Holodeck and as The Matrix. In the first instance there's a simulated environment that your brain perceives as reality. In the second, we have a machine that can talk directly to your brain and accept input commands directly from brain synapses.

"Motion control technology that we're seeing today and we'll see as it iterates is a step towards the Holodeck vision," the Gearbox boss told Joystiq.

Pitchford warns that one of the downsides of this direction is our naivety towards this new and emerging technology. "It's still rudimentary. It's not great yet, but it's going to get better. But where it needs to be to do the Holodeck, we're a long ways from that."

Motion gaming may be a necessary step to getting to Pitchford's Star Trek-inspired dream, but simply detecting motion that can better be achieved through thumbstick movement or a button press may not be the ideal feature-set for the technology.

If a motion is best achieved as a stick movement or a button press, Pitchford would rather the system allow him to just move the stick and press the button. It's more ideal than "flapping my arms like an idiot," Pitchford jokes.

"Characters need to depend on feedback that's more nuanced than something that would be better accomplished with a button press."

Bags Hooper is a writer based out of Brooklyn, New York. He has contributed to multiple outlets, including BuzzFocus, USA Network, Showtime's Pop Tudors, Monsters & Critics and FHM. You can follow him on Twitter at @BagsHooper.

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