From virtual reality to cloud gaming, 2014 could be the year that reinvents the video game experience, says Videep Vijay Kumar

There’s something about 2014. It’s not your average year for video games, gamers and the business of games. It’s going to be different. Of course, it will have its fair share of games on various platforms, and there’s no doubt that both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One will truly set themselves apart (or attempt to do so in vain) from the other. We’re sure to see a winner and a loser in the battle for next-gen by this year’s holiday season, but that’s hardly what everyone is looking forward to. Now, despite the anxious anticipation to get one’s mind blown, that might not quite happen. But let’s spew some words with potential mind-blowing capability: virtual reality (actually becoming a reality, no less), 4K (playing games at preposterously high resolutions, on PC, of course), streaming games to devices across your home (for instance, commanding an army worthy of a king whilst being seated on a, ahem, throne), the official demystification of PC gaming hardware (and making upgrading ridiculously easy), and Metal Gear Solid V (that one’s aimed at getting video game snobs slightly excited). So, as a wise video game character once said, “Stay a while, and listen”.

Of 4K, and more pixels than the eye can see

Graphic card manufacturers are solely responsible for this disturbing trend; one that involves placing super premium hardware in the hands of the consumer. It all started with that awesome Nvidia monstrosity, the GeForce TITAN. Now queue the component maker hoedown. “Enthusiasts” (also known as megalomaniacs who moonlight as PC gamers) can now build PCs with insides that feature graphic cards which have more processing power than a small Pacific island-nation, such as the ATI 290X or GeForce 780Ti, 8-core processors, several more gigabytes of RAM than your average Internet provider’s FUP limit and a compatible 4K display or HDTV so that they can, umm, pretend playing pirate, or better yet, drive a beach buggy while being shot at from all directions. But in all seriousness, the sheer amount of detail on 4K is unquestionable, and is practically achievable only on PC.

Game Streaming – Playstation Now, Nvidia GRID, Steam

With services such as OnLive drifting into obscurity, the idea of cloud gaming and game streaming is still looked upon with more than just a hint of scepticism. But it appears that we have our first viable contenders. Playstation Now (powered by Gaikai) is ambitious, yet promising, set to debut later this year on the Playstation, where legacy titles (PS1-PS3) games can be streamed to the PS4 console (and other Playstation-branded devices) from the cloud — a useful tool given the PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility. The large Playstation catalogue is only rivalled by Steam, whose streaming feature has only recently gone into beta (you can now stream games between Windows PCs in a Wi-Fi environment). And whilst Nvidia’s portable gaming device, SHIELD already allows you to stream games from a GeForce-powered PC to your handheld, GRID’s GPU virtualisation feature is a different ballgame altogether, allowing for multiple users to share a single, ultra-powerful GPU (cloud gaming, anyone?).

Head Mounted Displays – Oculus Rift, Sony

High latency, low field of view and lower resolutions meant that HMDs (head mounted displays) were simply not up to scratch in the past, resulting in our 1980s dreams of ‘video games of the future’ not coming true for the last three decades. But it took one man, Doom creator John Carmack, to jumpstart the VR revolution once again. Now the CTO of headset manufacturers Oculus VR, Carmack helped design and perfect the Oculus Rift, a head mounted display with low latency 360-degree tracking, 3D support, 110-degree field of view and full-HD resolution (in the consumer model). What’s more, Doom 3 is already playable on it. Sony appears to be jumping on the bandwagon with their confusingly named HMZ series of VR headsets.

PC Gaming Simplified – Project Christine, Steam Machines

If there ever was a noble quest, it would be one involving slaying the dragon of PC gaming’s inaccessibility. Let’s start with the more unlikely heroes, to whom PC gaming in the past meant polling rates, dots-per-inch, macros and laser tracking: Razer. With “Project Christine”, Razer proposes a modular design to PC assembly. Since most of the world already knows what a hard drive and graphic card are ( presumptuous, perhaps), assembling a PC would be as simple as purchasing a component, slotting it into a modular “rack”, and voila, you have a PC. Upgrades work just as easily. It’s still only a concept design, but let’s hope that it becomes a reality later this year. On the more familiar side of the moat is Steam — with the Linux-based Steam Operating System and several hardware partners, the first rollout of Steam Machines has already happened. With continued developer support and well-priced hardware, Steam Machines could make the process of buying and upgrading gaming PCs a simple process. Then there are the games of 2014: Thief, Metal Gear Solid V, Titanfall, Destiny, Dark Souls II, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Don Bradman Cricket 14 (hasn’t it been a few eternities since we had a palatable Cricket game?) — icing on the already delicious looking cake.