There's a lot going on vis a vis cloud computing these days, and it has been occupying a good share of my time lately, especially considering what it can do for the future of R-POW gaming…
I was so busy trying to wrap my mind around its potential from an infrastructure and business standpoint, how it could inform game design practices and tie with other pink unicorns like augmented reality and AI/AGI, I missed the obvious… frickin' gorgeous games.
Minesweeper on Windows™
R-POW, in their various MMO* incarnations to date have been plagued with the general curse of blandness at best, ugliness at worst, with a few notable exceptions such as EVE online and World of Warcraft, which have managed to make for reasonably good looking games by banking either on a hardcore g4m3rZ userbase with matching rigs, or on insane talent and production value, respectively.
Cloud-based gaming, by moving the computing power out of the end-user field, not only brings hardware requirements down (all you need is a decent display hooked up to broadband — read any HDTV-capable appliance), it opens the possibility to code games with previously unreel hardware reqs that would have reduced the potential market to the niche of very special nerds operating liquid-nitrogen-cooled gaming clusters, purpose-built for one title.
Incidentally, such systems exist, they're called military-grade training simulator platforms, and for some reason it's an approach that never made it big in the consumer market — I blame the terrible dress-code and hairdos, personally.
Cloud computing doesn't just hold the potential to bring down development and operating costs of R-POW, to let studios finally make a buck by steering clear off parasitic publishers & retailers, or to open the way for easy licensing and high-quality indie games by allowing costs to scale up gracefully with user base growth. The biggest change may yet come from the fact games will no longer be defined by the limitations of the end-user hardware. People (and designers) will be able to make decisions based on what they need/want, rather than what the target PC or console can handle.
No longer forced to design and code within the confines of 5 years old consoles or $600 office/family PC, game makers will be able to trust the platform to glitchlessly churn out the latest in rendering algorithms, and may even gain access to on-the-fly throttling to beef up the simulation engine to meet the demands of a climactic scene.
Movie-level visuals, plus solid simulation engine, massively multiplayer, always on, from your smartphone to your wide-screen TV… now we're getting somewhere.