Video games have been stuck. Stuck since 1996 and the release of Super Mario 64, Graeme Devine told a gathering at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas this week.
"When Super Mario 64 came out it changed the game industry," said Devine, who is the chief creative officer and senior vice president of games, apps and creative experiences at mixed reality company Magic Leap.
That change came when Nintendo released a game that, despite conventional wisdom, used 3D graphics. The ability to create games with 3D graphics had been around for a while, Devine said, but developers felt that the mass audience couldn’t comprehend the level design.
"Game design hasn't moved on since then," Devine said. "Worlds have become more beautiful, but the word is still on the other side of a piece of glass.
"The challenge of mixed reality is to move game design forward again."
Magic Leap wants to do that with its still relatively mysterious head-mounted virtual retinal display. The tech is said to work by projecting a digital light field into a user's eye.
The end result is a technology that appears to insert game graphics into the real world in a way that makes it clear the graphics are aware of its surroundings.
"Now games happen on our side of that piece of glass, in our homes, to us directly," he said.
Then he explained how a game like that could in theory work.
Graeme Devine talking about Ghost Girl at DICE IGN livestream
The ghost girl is a concept at Magic Leap. It starts with a set of real wooden cubes lying on a table, perhaps in your den.
Using Magic Leap, the cubes can become a number of different things in your eyes, but still have the physicality of real wooden blocks.
As you play with the blocks, Magic Leap walks you through what they can do through its technology. It's essentially a tutorial. But as you continue to play with the blocks and learn the tech, you start to hear noises coming from another room in your house. And then the lights starting flicking on and off. The block tutorial continues, but eventually you go to look to see what's going on.
When you enter the room you see a ghost standing directly in front of you and she looks and points directly at you. She can do that, Devine said, because the technology tracks exactly where your eyes are and where you're looking.
The ghost looks past you and points behind you. There, on the ground, is the outline of a dead boy. When you look back the ghost is gone, but you can hear her voice linger, asking for your help.
"Now you're on an adventure in your own house where there is a ghost helping you on your adventure," Devine said.
The ghost girl will become an ingrained part of your home time, Devine said. She'll teach you magic tricks, watch TV with you. Maybe when you're watching Stranger Things, the ghost will suggest you create your own communication system with the upside down using Christmas lights, and it will work.
"All of a sudden you're experimenting, communicating with the other side," Devine said. "I'm doing this in the real world. This is not possible on a console or an iPad, it can only happen in mixed reality."