We are now in the seventh year of the Xbox 360, and six year of the PS3 and the first wave of next generation consoles has arrived in the form of the Wii U, this article will dive into the software that will dazzle our eyes when the next generation is in full swing.
I will discuss the prices that gamers around the world will have to pay to see all those pixels, my previous article gave a brief look at possible architecture of Sony and Microsoft next generation offerings and we took a look at the Wii U.
This article will go into the software side of the games and services that the next generation will possibly offer. Some developers have made comments on how much it would cost to make next generation games, some developers have stated that they don’t see much of difference in the cost, while engine creators like Unreal have estimated that it might be 4 times the cost of a current generation game.
Let’s look at some of the possibilities of the next generation of gaming, at this time we will look at the art assets and the different software components that could possibly go into making a next generation game, since a lot of the R&D budget is spend on it.
A recent interview with IO, the creators of the new Hitman games, discuss how the developers felt constraint by current generation technology, what this means is that corners had to be cut to fit the developers goal of making AAA game.
With the limited amount of Ram that the current consoles have game developers have to spend time creating new techniques and engines to squeeze every last drop of processing power from the PS3 and the Xbox360; time equals money when it comes to making games, so the more time you spend trying to make a pig fit into a dress, the more money you spend buying new dresses when it rips.
If developers had 4 to 8 gigs of ram to work with in a console environment there would be no need for them to try and figure out how to fit their game into the small amount of space that the current consoles gives them.
This means more power which equals to prettier visuals, better AI, better physics, and an overall better game in the hands of the right developers.
Now developers will say with next generation power, gamers are going to want the bridge to the uncanny crossed and that will take more artists, programmers and bigger assets to make those kinds of visuals come true. PC games like Battlefield 3 are looking pretty damn good; sure it could look better but again will better mean more money coming out of our pockets?
The reason I bring up Battlefield 3 is because the frostbite technology is really impressive and EA has access to that technology, what this does is spread the cost of next generation development evenly, EA does not have to licenses Unreal engine 4 for some of their games and Crytek 3 for others, they can use in-house technology for all of their games and save on that licenses fees.
The expensive part of change from current generation technology to next generation technology is creating that wow factor, developers think ‘I’ve got make my game look as close to CGI quality as possible.’ That can be an expensive and that’s why developers use or create their own game engines.
Creating a game engines is expensive proposition, it takes time and man power, the reason the unreal engine is so popular this generation is the cost of creating a new engine. R&D for game engines is time consuming and can command a lot of man power but a AAA game needs a good engine.
So far all the possible next generation games look stunning, does that mean the price for these games will stun us as well? When I think next generation I think current generation cut scene as in-game action.
Let’s look at what tools developers will possibly use to give us those visuals. First we will discuss lighting, one of the possible technique that developers might be using is Ray tracing, Ray Tracing is when an image is generated by tracing the a path of light through pixels in an image plane.
This technique is capable of producing very realistic visuals. The problem with ray tracing is the computational drawback; ray tracing at this time is best suited for still images and film. If the next generation has the muscle to make ray tracing a real application in game design we will have one of the equation for creating toy story like graphics in game.
The next lighting technique is global illumination, global illumination are group of algorithms used in 3D graphics, in other words images using global illumination algorithms gives a more photorealistic visual.
There is a debate of which solution will work best for next generation gaming, but both give a realistic feel when it comes to giving more realistically illuminated scene. These lighting techniques have been around for a while and developers won’t have to invent the wheel; the use of these techniques will be adopted if the hardware has the juice to make it happen.
So it might cost the game developers extra or it might not cost them anything if the engine they are using has the right lighting solution, by the way BF3 use geometrics enlighten engine, which is the global illumination technique.
A recent interview with geomerics stated that the next generation consoles are coming close to avatar like lighting. On a side note unreal refers to the lighting source on unreal engine 4 as, dynamic global illumination.
The reason why I focused on lighting solution, in next generation of games, is that lighting will be a big part of giving next generation games that CGI look. Yes there will be polygon counts, but with tessellation and other techniques you can cheat on the geometry.
The real question is, will all this new technology, and in game assets cost us gamers more money? My answer is yes and no, depending on how the developers tackle our expectation of visual in a next generation games.
Will EA, Ubisoft, Activison and Take Two create visuals that cause developers to go all out when comes to graphics? Developers that have in-house gaming engines ready to scale up to next generation graphics will have R&D costs already budgeted, but the developers that don’t have their gaming engines ready to go will have to spend the initial cost of licensing or creating an engine.
Games with better visuals can be a great source for advertisement dollars, this can also create new ways for developers to make money by selling virtual spaces in games, I’m not talking a full on commercial in a game, but a realistic looking coke machine.
If developers don’t have a game engine, get one, it seems that next generation visuals will be at certain standard, as the games at E3 looked fantastic.
That means the bar is going to be set high for visuals, it seems that having a good engine will keep cost down. I would like to see in game cutscenes almost live action like, but I don’t want to have to get a second job to buy a next generation games.
Games are too expensive now, and yes, I willing to pay full price for AAA title. But if developers try to get an extra 20 dollars for a game, and think when hardcore gamers see the games they’ll pay the extra money that will be a mistake.
This is my opinion of course and we don’t know if it’s going to cost more money but if it is, Mr. Developer I might give an extra 10 dollars, but for 80 dollars I might have to pass.