The Future of Storytelling, Pervasive Gaming, and AI in Games

Tuesday 4/13/21 09:41am
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Posted By Ana Schafer
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Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by
Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

New opportunities for mobile game developers to provide heightened levels of immersion are being created at the intersection of television, cinema, and videogames. It becomes even more compelling when these transmedia experiences are combined with 5G, pervasive gaming, and AI. We’ve teamed up with the IMGA (International Mobile Gaming Awards) to bring you The 5G Future of Mobile Games white paper, covering the intersection of these different forms of media which are changing the gaming experience for players, and also for the developers of those games.

In this blog, we’ll look at how our mobile technology innovation and support for integrating creative use cases is helping to play a significant role in the future of interactive storytelling.

Interactive Storytelling

“It’s going to be video games – not feature films – that will push storytelling forward in new and exciting ways.”
    - Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in The 5G Future of Mobile Games Whitepaper

Film franchises have traditionally been the driving force behind transmedia, or interactive storytelling efforts, which is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple media channels. In 2019 video games grossed $138.7 billion, more than three times the amount compared to cinema, which grossed $42.5 billion. Today, as mobile games have a 48% share of the gaming market, and with the pervasive nature of mobile technology, it seems mobile game developers could now be moving to the forefront of furthering the interactive storytelling experiences.

Until recently, the capabilities of CPUs and GPUs on mobile devices, along with limited network bandwidth, held mobile game developers back from fully participating in this transmedia experience. With the rollout of 5G, coupled with our robust Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 5G mobile platforms, the convergence of television, movies, and interactivity can bring about a new era of storytelling in the gaming environment.

Gaming in 5G has the potential to take interactive storytelling to yet another level with its ability to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality, even making the audience active participants. We’ve already seen a simple example of this in the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which was labeled an ‘interactive film.’ Viewers streamed the movie to their laptops or smart TVs and clicked several preprogrammed choices to make decisions for the main character. Like a ‘choose your own adventure game,’ each choice dynamically changed the narrative and led to five different endings. Its success confirmed there is an appetite for game elements in interactive storytelling.

Game developers are tapping into their experience with these new technologies to take storytelling to new mediums. One innovative example is the use of game engines to build series’ sets for The Mandalorian. Both the sets and real-life characters become stored digital assets that could immediately be used in-game to provide the player with a more immersive experience in the same virtual universe.

Pervasive Gaming
Pervasive games take gaming into the three-dimensional world, and are generally played out in public spaces like shopping malls, conferences, museums, and other non-traditional game venues. With mobile devices, wireless networking, positioning systems, and context-sensing technologies, pervasive gaming can add dimensionality and increase immersion in gameplay by blurring the lines between the game and the real world.

“…I think we got glimpses of it already with Pokémon Go, a device is connected and tracks where you are. So, what if it’s not just your phone, but your watch or select something else like your car, your clothes and you can make a bigger data layer on top of the game.”
- Paul Gadi, a serial entrepreneur in mobile games and founder of Outplay Games

Mobile-based interactive storytelling is developing quickly, with apps like Zombies, Run!, that makes the user feel like they’re outrunning zombies and battling the apocalypse by pairing a user’s fitness tracker and smartphone. The next evolution could see these inter-device transactions using built-in wearables or external sensors that capture information about the players’ current context. You can then deliver a gaming experience that adapts to where a player is, what they are doing, or even how they’re feeling. The growing availability of 5G should also help contribute to the maturity of pervasive gaming and immersion.

“Another possibility from 5G I think is that in an RPG world, you can define the artistic style and you can define what can be changed or can be modified. Every time a player enters the world, with a 5G connection to the server, the game will generate a unique world with unique contents. And next time, somebody else comes to this world, things are different. The principal is set by the developer.”
-from Mr. Cotton, the award-winning indie developer and creator of Mr. Pumpkin, on pervasive gaming.

5G and its breakthroughs in spectrum use, especially mmWave, provides ultra-low latency and ultra-high bandwidth not previously possible. With it, developers can create a richer, more complex experience such as streaming ultra high-resolution video with crystal-clear audio, and handling significantly more gamers simultaneously, while still delivering 30, 60, or more FPS. mmWave is effective in smaller densely populated areas with high concentrations of users (e.g., stadiums for eSports venues, Internet gaming cafes, etc.). In addition, unlicensed spectrum could also be used to offload gaming traffic in heavily congested areas.

Advanced AI
AI in game development plays an exciting role by introducing self-learning and personalization features to non-playable characters (NPCs). By growing and learning just like people, games can adapt to players’ preferences. The importance of AI goes beyond merely providing intelligent characters to interact with players. AI can also help developers with procedural content generation (PCG) for elements like levels and characters. This means levels can be created on the fly as players progress, at a difficulty level appropriate to the player, providing a unique experience for each player and each playthrough. AI can also assist with analyzing player behavior, allowing game designers to tailor the experience in real-time.

“We think AI is becoming more and more important for games. Not only for PvE games but also for PvP games, because if the AI is good enough, the players can’t easily identify whether it’s a real player or an AI. So, you can design the best experience for the players, and they don’t even know that they are playing with a very, very good AI. I think that’s the future for the gaming industry.”
- Benywu, Lead designer at TiMi

Moreover, as the Whitepaper describes, “Developers see a lot of use cases for these advanced versions of AI in the cloud.” Mobile gaming using cloud AI provides game developers access to powerful cloud AI engines that can dynamically respond and adapt the narrative content of player experiences, personalize the gaming experience based on their location and actions, and inferences about a preferred style of play.

These cloud-based AI engines can also learn more from players about what they enjoy and even what makes them stop playing. By dynamically adapting to how the player is performing in the game, AI can adjust the difficulty or the pacing to make sure the challenge is appropriate, and the motivation to play is maintained. More powerful AI will also allow games to become much more non-deterministic, leading to customized, even personalized, player experiences.

The future could see cloud AI using PCG to create interactive story experiences, like the Bandersnatch example, where the story is generated dynamically in the cloud based on player input. These dynamically rendered frames could even use assets like ‘The Mandalorian’ example we suggested to help provide a more immersive storytelling experience. To receive and render the video in real-time to bring an idea like this to fruition could really use the low-latency of 5G and cutting-edge Qualcomm® Snapdragon Elite Gaming™ features like those found in our Snapdragon mobile platforms.

Conclusion
Our gaming team at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. is super excited that our advanced 5G technology and mobile SoCs offer gamers a comparable mobile experience on their phone that rivals the console or PC at home. The low-latency and high-speed responsiveness due to the better use of the available wireless spectrum, including mmWave, are just what mobile games need to deliver an immersive experience not broken by lag. As developers bring in the intrinsic nature of pervasive gaming and harness the power of both local and cloud AI, greater immersion moves a step closer.

If you are ready to try incorporating some storytelling ideas in your next mobile game project, start with the Snapdragon 888 mobile hardware development kit, use the Snapdragon Power Optimization SDK to make your storytelling more power efficient, and try the Snapdragon Profiler to monitor the storytelling app’s performance as it runs. If you’re looking to incorporate some of the AI ideas we listed, look at the Qualcomm® Neural Processing SDK for artificial intelligence (AI) and don’t forget to tell us about your project!

The 5G Future of Gaming Whitepaper includes many more exciting details and ideas on how 5G is poised to drive the future of mobile gaming. And for additional information and context, we’ve put together the following series of blogs that provide a deeper dive into the Whitepaper’s topics:


Qualcomm Snapdragon, Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming, and Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.