Dreaming up new characters and creating complex virtual worlds is something all video game designers love to do. In fact, you only have to look at some recent headlines to see that this is the case. Little Nightmares by Bandai Namco received our 2017 game of the year award because the designers had managed to create an unnerving experience in a fairly small world. Despite being a short game (a six-hour playthrough), the intricate details, clever hiding places and scope for employing certain tactics made the world highly engaging. This attention to detail and the use of the latest technology not only something that made Little Nightmares a hit, but many modern games too.
However, as exciting as it is to invent new ways of playing, there’s something about the classics that’s always appealing. Taking what some would consider a tired concept and reinvigorating it with new ideas and features is something that more and more developers have started to do in recent years. Chess Ultra is a fantastic example of a classic that’s been given a new lease of life courtesy of modern technology. Developed by Ripstone and released across various platforms – including the Xbox One – in August 2017, Chess Ultra combines strategy, gameplay and immersion.
In the first instance, the game stands out because it offers 4K graphics in a virtual reality (VR) setting. Thanks to full compatibility with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Chess Ultra plunges players in a realistic world where every grain of the mahogany board is visible. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, VR chess is something new, but it’s not something that’s been added to the mix in order to cover up weak gameplay. As you scroll through the game, you’ll notice that the opponents are lifelike. The artificial intelligence powering the game has been approved by a chess Grandmaster, so even the best chess players will be challenged. In tandem with this, the guys at Ripstone have added some gaming elements, such as the ability to play against the Grim Reaper in Gomorrah.
Tech Makes Complex Classics More Accessible
In essence, what Ripstone has done is not only make chess more exciting, but more accessible to the masses. Chess is a complex game and that often puts off casual players and, in turn, stops them from playing. However, when it comes to Chess Ultra, the VR and gameplay elements add extra levels of interest and that makes it more likely that inexperienced players will play. This, in many ways, is Chess Ultra’s greatest triumph. By taking a classic and making it something that traditional gamers and chess fans want to play, Ripstone has found a winning formula. In fact, this is a formula that’s also been used by casino game developer NetEnt.
Like chess, poker and its most popular variant, Texas Hold’em, has always been an intriguing yet intimidating game. As impressive as it is to watch, the nuances of Hold’em can become extremely complex and that, in some instances, can dissuade people from anteing up. To counter this and capture the spirit of Hold’em, NetEnt has developed TXS Hold’em Pro. Unlike the game on which it’s based, players are competing against the “house” instead of other players. However, what the designers have managed to do is take the fundamentals that have made Hold’em exciting and popular and put them into a more accessible format. In simple terms, the player dealt two hole cards and can then bet on the flop, turn and river if they believe they’ve got a five-card poker hand capable of beating the dealer. This, in practice, is very similar to regular Hold’em. However, what TXS Hold’em Pro does is to remove certain elements such as bet sizing, bluffing and hand reading. These things are where poker becomes a complex game. In fact, until poker bot Libratus came onto the scene, certain poker variants were so complex that AI struggled with them. However, by removing these elements, NetEnt has made the game accessible but retained the core excitement of Hold’em.
Creating New Experiences in an Entertaining Way
“Uno” (CC BY 2.0) by hannah.rosen
In addition to making classic games more accessible to the masses, modern technology and gaming trends can also give players access to worlds that are typically out of reach. Football Manager is a perfect example of this. When you scroll through the latest and greatest Xbox releases, football-themed games are always in the mix. FIFA 18 with its “journey” element is one of the top offerings, but this doesn’t really take you into the mind of a manager. In contrast, Football Manager 2018 allows you to control every aspect of football’s tactical underbelly. Yes, you won’t get to control the players and show off your skills. However, you do get to use your brain and use your knowledge of the beautiful game to come out on top. What’s particularly interesting about Sports Interactive’s Football Manager 2018 is the fact you have to factor a player’s morale into your decisions. Thanks to the Dynamics function, you’re essentially looking into the subtleties of professional football and get a realistic insight into the beautiful game that players haven’t been able to get before.
Of course, things don’t always have to be that dramatic or serious. Yes, it’s great to see modern technology make games accessible or bring previously untouchable mediums into reach, but sometimes it’s just fun to bring a classic back to life. Uno is the perfect example. First released in 2006 for the Xbox 360, Uno has become something of a favourite for those that love strategy, competition and entertainment. The latest version for the Xbox One has been developed by Ubisoft and features a number of gameplay attributes. As well as online play and webcam compatibility, you can select different modes such as force plays and point limits. Additionally, you have the option to pair up with another player (human or AI) and play in this way. Essentially, what the developers have done is to take the original table-top game and make it a video game hybrid. The end result is a product that not only offers the entertainment of the original, but also the thrill of video gaming.
When you piece this all together, it’s easy to see why Chess Ultra is a success and why developers love reviving classic games. Sure, being creative and thinking up a completely new concept is great, but there’s plenty of miles left in traditional games. Indeed, if a game is popular it will remain popular with a little bit of help from modern gaming technology.