The Real Next-Gen: What the Source 2 Engine Means for Gaming
Although it came as no surprise, yesterday’s announcement by Valve that the Source 2 engine is in development instantly caught the attention of gamers around the world. Valve has largely been in a mysterious state for the past year, busy with important gaming developments but with no information to share. Now we know that the next generation of Valve’s gaming engine is upon us.
As a PC gamer I couldn’t help but think about what I hope the Source 2 engine means for gaming at large. The first Source engine had a huge impact on video gamers, and it’s only natural to expect the same from its successor. Below I’ll discuss what I hope and think Source 2 could entail.
The Games We’ll Play
A great gaming engine can only do so much. If there’s one thing that defines the Source engine, it’s the great library of games that Valve and third-parties have successfully developed on it over the years.
It all started early with the Source engine. Within a year of its debut it had not only Counter-Strike: Source to demonstrate its potential, but the award-winning Half-Life 2. Soon after the flood gates would open as industry-defining games like Team Fortress 2 and Portal would be debuted. The Source engine would quickly become the platform for several of the most popular games in the world.
When you talk about a new Valve engine, it’s expected that it’ll host several of its greatest IPs. Here are a list of the games we will likely see:
- Counter-Strike 2: While Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is outstanding, a new engine could help define a subsequent release as more than just another iteration of the franchise. Though it has an active player base of millions, it could be even more.
- Day of Defeat 2: It’s actually been a while since we’ve seen a AAA World War 2 shooter. This would fit in nicely into Valve’s modern game roster.
- Dota 3: Gamers definitely don’t need this right away, but migrating Dota 2 to the new engine in a few year’s time might not be a bad idea.
- Half-Life 3: Half-Life has always been Valve’s core IP for demonstrating the potential of its engines. Half-Life and Half-Life 2 remain as two of the highest-rated titles in gaming history. The expectations for Half-Life 3 are off the charts.
- Left 4 Dead 3: Left 4 Dead is Valve’s premier co-operative franchise. Sadly, the presentation of the last two games have made it difficult for some gamers to return to. A third installment can put Left 4 Dead back on the charts.
- Portal 3: This could be an extraordinary showcase for the physics in Source 2. It also would have great mainstream appeal due to its single-player and co-operative nature.
- Ricochet 2: Let’s be real, Ricochet wasn’t a very good game, but there’s potential. Maybe Source 2 will unlock it.
- Team Fortress 3: Team Fortress 2 is still one of the most popular PC games, but it’s nearly eight years old. An upgrade would propel the IP back into stardom.
Optimization at its Finest
It’s been more than 10 years since the Source engine was released, and we still find new games running on the engine. Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall is a great example as it was a fairly good-looking game that ran on the aging engine. You could say that Source had a part in the game selling several million units, and achieving an 86% Metascore.
It’s not just that the Source engine was so ahead of its time in 2004 that it’s been able to live such a long and healthy life, it’s that it’s incredibly optimized, too. Performance has never been a concern when it comes to the Source engine, allowing gamers with PCs and laptops of all kinds to play Valve games as they are supposed to be experienced: without headache.
I remember back in 2004 I didn’t have a very impressive PC. While Rome: Total War and Doom 3 looked great, frame-rate dips resulted in me turning off shadows and other important visual options. This was a recurring theme among games of that era. Well, at least for non-Source games. Half-Life 2 ran without a hitch, and the same could be said of Counter-Strike: Source. It seemed as if Valve knew something that other developers didn’t.
It’s almost amazing how well Source games run despite looking as good as they do. This optimization will be more important than ever with the introduction of Steam Machines, which will be some console gamers’ first foray into “PC gaming” where 60 FPS is, for many, a standard. So, you could say that Valve’s ability to nail down the optimization side of its engine will be a key component to success across its portfolio..
All New Potential
When Source came out it brought with it a physics engine that went above and beyond anything gaming had seen before. I remember toying with rag-doll physics in Counter-Strike: Source, and enjoying the power of the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2. This single element alone was able to move software.
Source 2 needs its engine-seller, and that appears to be its “create and share” approach. Valve stated in its press release yesterday that Source 2 will not only be “free to content developers”, but that “gamers themselves will participate in the creation and development of their favorite games”. What that means for the end-user experience is yet to be demonstrated.
The Steam Workshop has grown to become a popular place for PC gamers to visit for free new content for their games. It appears that this will be a critical factor in the design of Source 2. Though, this user-created content is something we’re already seeing, so Source 2 will need to find a way to integrate the hub into its design in a more elegant manner.
Utilizing New Technology
Gaming development has come a long way since Source debuted in 2004. Today, there are new technologies to consider, such as those featured on Nvidia’s new Maxwell 9-series lineup. We have better anti-aliasing than ever before, higher resolutions, new lighting methods, and other technologies that can mean big things for gaming experiences.
And then there’s virtual reality. It was announced this week that Valve has partnered with manufacturer HTC to craft the HTC Vive, a headset designed specifically for PC gaming. It was a big move that could have ties to Source 2.
Gamers want beautiful games and new experiences. For the most part, the new generation of consoles have failed to demonstrate what’s next for gaming. Now, it’s Valve’s turn.
Valve has been good at taking advantage of new technologies, and that’ll be important with Source 2. You can expect the engine to be the platform for games heading into the distant future, so it’ll need a strong foundation to produce longevity. Supporting virtual reality in the best way possible, in addition to other technologies, is what will define where it stands in a few year’s time.