I’m pretty sure we’ll have something that is to all intents and purposes photorealistic Dwarf Fortress replete with procedurally generated dialogue, facial expressions, and so on, by 2050 at the latest at the current rate. I’d be unsurprised to see it by 2035.
I guess your point is it wouldn’t be as charming/engaging? But I suspect whilst you might lose some small number of people who prefer to “leave it to the imagination”, you’d gain huge hordes of people who wanted to immerse themselves in this generated world.
Agree: re: ME, though, the whole “cinematic” approach is what defined that series, and why the move to open-world was a mistake (and why the open-world bits of earlier games were among the least effective).
I don’t think it’s a maturity thing. I was hugely drawn in by isometric RPGs like Ultima 6/7 when I was like, barely double-digits, and loved Fallout 1/2 to pieces, but when BG1 came out, I also felt very distanced from it.
I think a lot of it comes down to the precise implementation of the engine. Infinity Engine was extremely zoomed-out, and in most of the games, didn’t really show the characters even in dialogue (I seem to think PST did a bit more, but maybe I’m wrong) as anything but fixed portraits.
Playing Pillars of Eternity, more recently, I found that it didn’t feel as distancing, but there was clearly less of a strong connection than in Bioware games where I could really see the characters. Then again, with The Outer Worlds, I felt pretty distanced/disconnected, despite a more Bioware-ish perspective.
I do think having 3D dialogue and so on does help draw most people into the game a lot.