The Big Cost of Small Places

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Thanks for covering this. It's probably the biggest and least obvious current issue related to games. I quickly googled the dialogue for both since it's an easily quantifiable and reliable indicator, apparently in the time of DX its 10k spoken lines were startling enough to be worth mentioning in releases. HR has 200k, 20x the number and at release that also was a selling point. Everything needs to be bigger and better than the thing that came before, but it's reaching the limit of profitability for AAA games.

The only thing that seems likely to help is some form of modularity in the development process. The majority of developers will not current build a graphics engine, preferring to license one pre built and tailor it to their needs. In the same way, it must become possible to access a pool of pre built objects, each of which can be tailored to suit. While still far from a solution it would at least provide an alternative.

Unless you want everything to be generated randomly and procedurally, of course. That's a whole other discussion.

Building on what Chirez said.

Basically what people need these days is Stock Gaming Footage Programs. Programs that design X amount of base environments and the developers can just use that to suit their needs and detail it to their own taste.

Basically a separate company or a software company that does little else but design stuff. Puts it in a big library then licenses that library to whoever wants to. Than any developer can just pull a couch off of that library, add a bloodstain and BAM! We're back to the level of time and effort it took to design a couch in 2000.

The thing is though established industries are always slow to change. It will probably take years if not decades before an idea voiced by a random guy on the internet actually gets implemented even if current day technology can handle it perfectly. I mean we still don't have "Movie on demand" from Hollywood. Pay 8$ to see a movie on release date streamed to your TV.

Great article.

The other thing that perhaps needs to be mentioned is the memory limitations of the current consoles. The 360 and PS3 are like people. They can only handle so much stuff at once. Everything you put in the gameworld, from objects to characters to sounds to scripts, takes up data space, ranging from a few bytes to hundreds of megabytes. Consoles, and even PCs to a greater extent, can only handle so much data before they run out of headspace to compute it all.

For example, lets say a developer wants to make an office environment for their game. They start off by creating the area that will act as the basic plan for the office. Already, that starts taking up memory. Then, they create a floor, walls and a ceiling that reflect real life office stylings. That's more stuff for the console to handle, so that takes up more memory. Then they decide to add rows of cubicles and desks. Each of these are separate objects containing dozens of polygons, and the computer has to remember them all. More memory gone. Then other objects, such as scanners and water coolers, are added to further enhance the office atmosphere. More objects, more memory required. Then the lighting and physics systems have to be integrated, and these can take up a lot of space. If you run into the scanner, is it going to remain motionless, or fall over like a real scanner would? If so, the computer's going to need to
dedicate some processing power to making sure the physics work. Same with lighting. Will destroying one of the light sources result in less light? Computer needs to calculate the too. More strain on the CPU, more memory required.

All that's done, and you've still got to add NPCs to the picture to turn it into a real office. Each NPC will require more memory. Each NPC will need to look suitably different from each other to avoid feeling like the player is in a cloning factory. Not only that, but they will need their own unique lines, from their own unique voice actors. The computer needs to access all this info immediately if the player talks to any one character, meaning every characters dialogue needs to be at hand ready to pull up in a second- more memory required. And speaking of sounds, all ambient noises and sound effects need to be included and able to play instantly the moment they're required. Again, memory required.

What this means is that even for a simple office environment, there can quite easily be up to a few hundred megabytes of data for the computer to handle. As gamers demand more and more detail and quality of their environments, that number is going to keep rising. The problem is that consoles currently have a set amount of RAM they can use, and without wishing to insult anyone fond of their consoles, it is a rather puny 512mb.

Developers not only are being told to create higher fidelity, more detailed levels and worlds. They're being told to do so on consoles that only have half a gig to store whatever the developers throw at. Any single level or area must be less than 512mb in total data, if the consoles are to be able to load and play it. This is why, for instance, every building in Skyrim requires a loading screen to actually head inside. Whiterun seems like on big area when you think about it in terms of a town, but as a piece of level design, it's not one big area, it's dozens of smaller areas that require loading screens to transition between.

Personally, I think we do need a new console generation, not so that graphics will get better, but so that graphics can stay roughly the same while levels and [/i]worlds[/i] get bigger. If Skyrim was released on a set of systems where 4gb of RAM was standard, as opposed to 512mb, it may well be that we got presented with a gameworld where transitions between the inside of buildings and outside was far more seamless. Where you can go straight from wandering around outside into that cave you've just stumbled across, with no loading screens inbetween. Even at the same level of graphical fidelity, that would make for a huge difference in how immersive and enjoyable the game becomes.

It's not a matter of developers not being able to make the most of what they have now. It's a matter of developers having to make constant short-cuts and tricks in order to get increasingly data-heavy games to work on consoles. If we have a new console generation, we should (hopefully) be able to give developers the potential to build levels and worlds without memory limitations being such a burden on what they want to design.

Yvl9921:

Raiyan 1.0:

snave:
snipped for space

Here's another idea - how about furniture manufacturers letting the game developers use the 3D models/textures/normal maps of their furniture (I'm pretty sure they have those during the conceptual/manufacturing phase)? The developers won't have to spend time on creating these assets and potentially not pay for them either, as they work as in-game advertisement.

In fact, stretch this idea to other facets of asset development as well. It's a win-win situation for everybody!

No, it doesn't work that way. Furniture makers are gonna have blueprints, but they're not gonna hire a freaking 3D modeler for something that can be done on paper.

If they have automated manufacturing facilities, wouldn't they have 3D models to fees into their computers?

To be honest I still get excited if I press A or X in a shower and it does that 3 second burst of water! Even if nothing gets visably wet, and it appears to flow through the character, its a nice touch!

Hell! I replayed the Darkness again recently, and it was the first FPS I played where you could see your body, and ever now and again I would do the 'look down and see your legs and coat' dance! I like the games as detailed as they are! Hell I play a lot of RPG's on my DS, and I have never once actually been bothered that all the furniture all over the world is identical, its just something my mind has accepted!

Raiyan 1.0:

Yvl9921:

Raiyan 1.0:

Here's another idea - how about furniture manufacturers letting the game developers use the 3D models/textures/normal maps of their furniture (I'm pretty sure they have those during the conceptual/manufacturing phase)? The developers won't have to spend time on creating these assets and potentially not pay for them either, as they work as in-game advertisement.

In fact, stretch this idea to other facets of asset development as well. It's a win-win situation for everybody!

No, it doesn't work that way. Furniture makers are gonna have blueprints, but they're not gonna hire a freaking 3D modeler for something that can be done on paper.

If they have automated manufacturing facilities, wouldn't they have 3D models to fees into their computers?

Quite possibly. And an interesting train of thought!

I suspect some of the fancier arteur-type designers would have things 3d modelled first. I think any 3d models designed for manufacturing would be in pieces though and only the frame; although likely easily recombobulated, if a bit polygon heavy in results (then you get into the time cost of micromanaging components vs. building from scratch). The point about encouraging manufacturers to release models is interesting, although I wonder if any form of advertising discounts (where would the branding go?) would offset the level of micromanaging asset "purchases" from a plethora of companies. I suspect if things ever went this way, it'd be games developers subcontracting (rather purchasing) models to a monopoly or duopoly of catalogue-spewing virtual-life warehouses, which in turn may independently procure or reconstruct designs from legitimate physical design companies.

Welcome back Seamus! I've missed your insightful articles. Will we be seeing more Stolen Pixels as well?

@snave That's a really, really intresting idea.

You could probably do the same for character models/clothes, faces etc, too. And vegetation. I mean, there's already companies that only create really high quality textures for everything, so why not models as well.

1337mokro:
Building on what Chirez said.

Basically what people need these days is Stock Gaming Footage Programs. Programs that design X amount of base environments and the developers can just use that to suit their needs and detail it to their own taste.

Basically a separate company or a software company that does little else but design stuff. Puts it in a big library then licenses that library to whoever wants to. Than any developer can just pull a couch off of that library, add a bloodstain and BAM! We're back to the level of time and effort it took to design a couch in 2000.

The thing is though established industries are always slow to change. It will probably take years if not decades before an idea voiced by a random guy on the internet actually gets implemented even if current day technology can handle it perfectly. I mean we still don't have "Movie on demand" from Hollywood. Pay 8$ to see a movie on release date streamed to your TV.

You would need one company for every game engine though. And different engines do completely different jobs so we'll never be at the stage where a single universal engine can perform what is required for every developer's idea. Besides that, using stock objects for games is something I am agaainst as a matter of principle. Games are an artform and as an artform they would be horribly limited if they could only use stock footage. Games that dare to have fantastical and abstract premises set in bizarre worlds could not benefit from this idea and eventually developers would shy away from making games that needed so much work.

What really needs to happen is for us, as a group, to realize that photorealistic scenery and characters are a load of horseshit which was never a good idea to begin with. Limiting the artistic possibilities of gaming to the aesthetics we associate with the real world is lunacy. Videogames aren't films. Films NEED to use images from the real world because cameras are limited to using images of the real world. Videogames have so much more freedom to create whatever characters they want in whatever scenarios they choose without it having to make sense.

Videogames aspiring to look like Hollywood films is no more logical than Pixar deciding it wants to make photorealistic CGI and write a story about gritty courtcases and paranoid silent witnesses.

Anachronism:

Irridium:
I'll admit, I squealed a bit when I saw this.

As did I. It's good to have you back, Shamus. Please don't disappear again.

He doesn't "disappear". He just writes when they pay him.
Awesome column, by the way. Shamus has always been my favourite writer on The Escapist and I was disappointed when he stopped writing.

All you say may be true, but that doesn't explain why companies like Bethesda CAN make a huge RPG while others struggle with an FPS which should be much simpler to make logic-wise.

Perhaps in the end it all comes down to tooling. If games are much shorter now than they were before, the tools to make them have not been keeping pace with the quality of the games. It is well known that Bethesda have excellent tools with which they fill their worlds.

Either that or companies don't care about making long games anymore. Since Steam and achievements it has become common knowledge that barely a third of people actually finish the games they own.

Tiamat666:
All you say may be true, but that doesn't explain why companies like Bethesda CAN make a huge RPG while others struggle with an FPS which should be much simpler to make logic-wise.

Perhaps in the end it all comes down to tooling. If games are much shorter now than they were before, the tools to make them have not been keeping pace with the quality of the games. It is well known that Bethesda have excellent tools with which they fill their worlds.

Either that or companies don't care about making long games anymore. Since Steam and achievements it has become common knowledge that barely a third of people actually finish the games they own.

Not to be horrible to Bethesda or anyhing, but they do have a reputation of making games that look like shit. Everything else is pretty neat and tight. Good story, lots of stuff to do, but the scenery and the characters are ugly. I'm not really against that in any way. As I say, realism is bollocks, but given that Bethesda is already clearly into Sci-fi/Fantasy genres I don't see why they want to be in the big boys club of gritty, photorealistic action games when they could easily get away with any other, cheaper, much more beautiful aesthetic. Of course, I suppose the answer is that they cater to the roleplaying bunch who hypocritically want their escapist fantasies to take place in a world identical to our own.

Modern games are expensive because of the increase in money spent no marketing, not gameplay.

Full voice, famous voice actors, realistic grass, game themed slurpee flavors. All of these cost money, and none of them make the game a better experience. But a famous actor puts an attention getting name in the ads, the realistic grass makes for pretty trailers.

Take Skyrim, the full voice must have cost a ton of money but it doesn't add a thing to the game. Or even better, Mass Effect. Does it help the player one bit to hear Shepard say "Tell me about your culture?"

Then as a contrast look at EYE Divine Cybermancy. Unpolished, baffling, ugly, but also completely original and a ton of fun. Nothing is voiced, all of the characters talk gibberish and it works great. Remember the aliens in KoToR? They talked a few sentences of mumbo jumbo that sounded like a star wars language and that was enough to establish them to the player. Wonder how much that cost to set up? Not nearly as much as it cost to voice out every line of every minor character in skyrim (with the same 5 actors making the whole thing facepalmingly comical).

To go back to your Deus Ex HR example (disclaimer, I havent played it) apparently the boss fights were outsourced, and implemented poorly, in order to save money. You would think that the freaking BOSS FIGHTS would take a much higher priority than realistic furniture but apparently that wasn't the case.

While the whole detail issue might explain why modern games are more expensive it isn't an excuse for them to be less interesting. It is up to the game designer(s) to figure out the correct level of detail and features to support the desired gameplay within the budget.

And if you haven't played it yet check out Kings Bounty: Armored Princess. That is the prime example of a single minded focus of the designers on gameplay. Once that was ironed out a the story to support the gameplay and the world to tell the story was built out to be exactly what was needed.

I've had more fun in that game than either skyrim or mass effect 2 and I bet the budget was less than 1/20th.

Yvl9921:

No, it doesn't work that way. Furniture makers are gonna have blueprints, but they're not gonna hire a freaking 3D modeler for something that can be done on paper.

snave:

I suspect some of the fancier arteur-type designers would have things 3d modelled first. I think any 3d models designed for manufacturing would be in pieces though and only the frame; although likely easily recombobulated, if a bit polygon heavy in results (then you get into the time cost of micromanaging components vs. building from scratch).

I just found out about the IKEA splash planner, so yeah, IKEA definitely makes 3D models of their furniture. As for polygon-heavy meshes, well, asset developers usually have to make high-poly meshes anyway to create normal maps for low-poly models, and you always have tools like the subsurface function in Blender to easily control how poly-heavy your mesh is.

Funny how people will go back and play the original Deus Ex even now, but is anyone genuinely interested in picking up Deus Ex:NH again?

Another

Raiyan 1.0:
I just found out about the IKEA splash planner, so yeah, IKEA definitely makes 3D models of their furniture. As for polygon-heavy meshes, well, asset developers usually have to make high-poly meshes anyway to create normal maps for low-poly models, and you always have tools like the subsurface function in Blender to easily control how poly-heavy your mesh is.

Another point worth noting is that the customer base of such a service is more diverse than the gaming industry alone. Real estate agents now "virtually furnish" houses for online "tours" (no, seriously) which is an emerging customer. Same goes for interior design consultants who may feel pressured (oops) to use more realistic models in their public design concepts. These guys would also possibly be in the market for "standard" room layouts. Plus there are other formerly failed ideas that may come back. For example, back in the mid 90s when all this 3d modelling software first came about, police forensic squads were looking into it to map out entire crime scenes for long-standing cases (to model reflections); an idea that presumably got thrown out as too difficult, too crude or too expensive back then. Put blunty, the market is there.

Shamus Young:
The Big Cost of Small Places

There's just more to design in games today and that takes resources.

Read Full Article

Wait, are you actually complaining that games get closer to looking realistic, more in line to the actual concept art/creative vision for something and err... better here?

Not to say that for the various things you have mentioned clever people have worked on making their implementation easy. While in the early days developing a game often meant starting from the bottom by figuring out what it wants to do and developing an engine nowadays there are enough commercial (or even free) choices for many game types one can start working on. Not only that but there are increasingly more APIs to make things easier...

Lighting was a pain and placing all the light sources at the right spots to get *just* the right way something is supposed to look? No problem use Enlighten!
You've been having trouble creating realistic trees and general plants to populate your game world with? Use SpeedTree. Need an easier way to develop and change your UI? Scaleform to the rescue! Over short or long as the industry grows even further, there will be a large number of integrated Tools, Middleware and options to use, likely full-grown APIs for lip-synching (or entire face-caption techniques like L.A. Noire), natural animations and body movements (didn't DICE use some sort of proprietary EA animationn system called ANT for that reason only used largely for sports games in Battlefield 3?), fully integratable and customizable AI systems (actually know someone working on a prototype of one) and more, which makes the games not only look a lot better and realistic but in the end might even make some of the steps required to start one of these projects easier. Technology doesn't just develop laterally.

That aside scaling some of this stuff down on to a console level and basically "making things" work on old hardware requires about the same (if not sometimes more) amount of time as making it in the first place. They could've likely crossed off 1-2 years off the development of RAGE if it weren't for the constant problems iD was standing before of actually getting their stuff to work on old hardware.
I'm convinced that that is a part of games nowadays being smaller, another perfectly viable reason would also be that there's simply no headroom to actually implement larger levels that work and look good at the same time to load up and stream on 256-512MB of RAM available.
See the difference between Crysis --> Crysis 2, the latter having the much bigger development budget.

You also left out the point that some of these people want to push the envelope of what they can do and create/engineer the "next best thing", a good analogy would be the film industry that could likely create perfectly fine films just based off of characterization and acting talent, yet some are still going to push and create the next Star Wars, Jurassic Park or Avatar at great personal expense.
There's actually some game devs already discussing: http://timothylottes.blogspot.com/2012/01/games-vs-film.html if they should rather go for the obvious improvements they can get from a new console generation and do 1080p/60 or stay at 720p/30 and rather use the additional power to push more pixel operations for a "movie/pixar"-like picture instead. Would you have stopped Michelangelo from drawing the Sistine Chapel or Tolkien from writing The Lord of the Rings, because you thought that simple paintings with a certain amount of colors or a book with a certain word-count is "enough"?

It's not like there's always the choice to create smaller projects instead or do Indie games, i've heard they've been doing rather bad lately.

Also yeah, write some more articles :P

It seems to me development time could be saved for making the game longer, if for a month or so, their 3D departments just churned out random filler material like chairs and tables (with a few dozen palette swaps). This way game development times would be reduced allowing for larger games to be made in the same time.

Shamus Young:
The Big Cost of Small Places

There's just more to design in games today and that takes resources.

Read Full Article

Tricks like bump mapping and dynamic AI cleverly used can reduce the costs significantly for example, simple rules can work just as well on the new games as they did on the old ones (and the kinks can always be worked out with a large enough budget). Also a consistent art style is way better than trying to reach photo-realism, fail, and try to pass a yellowish-brown for "gold" in HR's case. The result is pleasing to the eyes but a lot of the details are really uninteresting or superfluous, and that means a waste of money.
I understand how time consuming all those textures and 3d models are but it still seems like a disproportionate part of the efforts goes toward them. If there's no way around that it means something has gone wrong in the way games are designed and programmed today on a methodological level.

On Human revolution, if I have to chose one nitpick it would be the music. It isn't bad, really, but bland. The contrast with the original Deus ex' musics is jarring when you hear them re-used throughout the games with the radios, and especially at the very end after the credits.
For me that ilustrates the difference between HR and the original very well.
No matter how big, the graphic design budget does not justify that difference. Especially when it still tries to hide behind a "gold" tinge.

Dexter111:

Shamus Young:
The Big Cost of Small Places

There's just more to design in games today and that takes resources.

Read Full Article

Wait, are you actually complaining that games get closer to looking realistic, more in line to the actual concept art/creative vision for something and err... better here?

Not to say that for the various things you have mentioned clever people have worked on making their implementation easy. While in the early days developing a game often meant starting from the bottom by figuring out what it wants to do and developing an engine nowadays there are enough commercial (or even free) choices for many game types one can start working on. Not only that but there are increasingly more APIs to make things easier...

Lighting was a pain and placing all the light sources at the right spots to get *just* the right way something is supposed to look? No problem use Enlighten!
You've been having trouble creating realistic trees and general plants to populate your game world with? Use SpeedTree. Need an easier way to develop and change your UI? Scaleform to the rescue! Over short or long as the industry grows even further, there will be a large number of integrated Tools, Middleware and options to use, likely full-grown APIs for lip-synching (or entire face-caption techniques like L.A. Noire), natural animations and body movements (didn't DICE use some sort of proprietary EA animationn system called ANT for that reason only used largely for sports games in Battlefield 3?), fully integratable and customizable AI systems (actually know someone working on a prototype of one) and more, which makes the games not only look a lot better and realistic but in the end might even make some of the steps required to start one of these projects easier. Technology doesn't just develop laterally.

That aside scaling some of this stuff down on to a console level and basically "making things" work on old hardware requires about the same (if not sometimes more) amount of time as making it in the first place. They could've likely crossed off 1-2 years off the development of RAGE if it weren't for the constant problems iD was standing before of actually getting their stuff to work on old hardware.
I'm convinced that that is a part of games nowadays being smaller, another perfectly viable reason would also be that there's simply no headroom to actually implement larger levels that work and look good at the same time to load up and stream on 256-512MB of RAM available.
See the difference between Crysis --> Crysis 2, the latter having the much bigger development budget.

You also left out the point that some of these people want to push the envelope of what they can do and create/engineer the "next best thing", a good analogy would be the film industry that could likely create perfectly fine films just based off of characterization and acting talent, yet some are still going to push and create the next Star Wars, Jurassic Park or Avatar at great personal expense.
There's actually some game devs already discussing: http://timothylottes.blogspot.com/2012/01/games-vs-film.html if they should rather go for the obvious improvements they can get from a new console generation and do 1080p/60 or stay at 720p/30 and rather use the additional power to push more pixel operations for a "movie/pixar"-like picture instead. Would you have stopped Michelangelo from drawing the Sistine Chapel or Tolkien from writing The Lord of the Rings, because you thought that simple paintings with a certain amount of colors or a book with a certain word-count is "enough"?

It's not like there's always the choice to create smaller projects instead or do Indie games, i've heard they've been doing rather bad lately.

Also yeah, write some more articles :P

You seem to have completely missed the point. The point is that games are much shorter and more limited because higher attention to graphical details means more money needs to be invested. With the tools we have today, we could be making games twenty times as long if not for the ridiculous attention to inane details that developers are virtually forced to take. Frankly, I don't know what point you are arguing.

Shamus Young:
snip

I do have one question for you that I haven't really seen. What about games that don't really focus on looking amazing. I mean skyrim (Always comes back to Skyrim, does it not?) looks brilliant, but the cities are so damn tiny because they simply don't have the memory to process everyone at once. Surely if a new console generation came out, wouldn't the people who can use the new power use it and everyone who doesn't have the funds stick to making the already rather impressive looking games that are already coming out?

Nice to see you back anyway

This is one of the reasons I haven't been in a rush to play newer games, or have a newer generation of consoles. I have always been one to put graphics as the last thing I want in a game.

Revolutionaryloser:
You seem to have completely missed the point. The point is that games are much shorter and more limited because higher attention to graphical details means more money needs to be invested. With the tools we have today, we could be making games twenty times as long if not for the ridiculous attention to inane details that developers are virtually forced to take. Frankly, I don't know what point you are arguing.

I thought my points would be rather obvious... okay let me spell it out for you:

1) Middleware/APIs will (and do) make the complex/daunting tasks he talks about in his article much much easier and quicker and the workload sinks while the visual quality stays/goes up.
Of course you will need a certain amount of people to *make* that content anyway.

2) Certain developers want to push for something more, they don't want their rooms to look like "cubes", they only had to a few generations ago because of technological/hardware limitations.

3) Holding back a console generation artificially only increases their workload when it comes to optimization and trying to make things fit while looking as good as possible to very much the same effect of increased cost and product development, at the same time this also leads to small/limited worlds because of hardware limitations of there only being allowed to be so many objects/entities at a certain polygon count on the screen at once --> corridor shooters get popular.

I'm making a game right now with a team. Not professionals, just after school teenagers with skill on the subject. We have a time limit for when it must be done to enter in a competition and it is THIS very subject that is killing us. We cannot polish and finish the game at the same time. We have been forced into making an unpolished game and we know we are going to lose the competition because we didnt make something simpler. I understand major game developers far more now.

-Aka: It sucks that we gamers put our expectations so high on minor details.

OT: O_O everyone's avatar just became a picture of justin beiber. including mine....WHY AND WHAT HAPPENED??????? IT WONT GO AWAY WHEN I REFRESH OR CHANGE PAGES!!!

Dexter111:

Revolutionaryloser:
You seem to have completely missed the point. The point is that games are much shorter and more limited because higher attention to graphical details means more money needs to be invested. With the tools we have today, we could be making games twenty times as long if not for the ridiculous attention to inane details that developers are virtually forced to take. Frankly, I don't know what point you are arguing.

I thought my points would be rather obvious... okay let me spell it out for you:

1) Middleware/APIs will (and do) make the complex/daunting tasks he talks about in his article much much easier and quicker and the workload sinks while the visual quality stays/goes up.
Of course you will need a certain amount of people to *make* that content anyway.

2) Certain developers want to push for something more, they don't want their rooms to look like "cubes", they only had to a few generations ago because of technological/hardware limitations.

3) Holding back a console generation artificially only increases their workload when it comes to optimization and trying to make things fit while looking as good as possible to very much the same effect of increased cost and product development, at the same time this also leads to small/limited worlds because of hardware limitations of there only being allowed to be so many objects/entities at a certain polygon count on the screen at once --> corridor shooters get popular.

In case you haven't noticed, you are avoiding the issue. Nobody here is arguing that developers have it easier now to make convincing worlds. Hell, that innacurate. Game developers have the possibility of making convincing game worlds whereas before it was totally impossible. That does not affect the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that games are shorter and less interactive because so much of the developers work has to go to graphical detail and not gameplay related issues. You are clearly in the camp of "graphics are the top priority" and I'm in the camp of "as long as the game is playable I'm not complaining". I don't think games should have to be sacrificing that fact that they are games so that they can conform to the standards the industry sets. Games like Portal (and practically everything Valve makes), Shadow of the Colossus, Serious Sam, Painkiller, Killer7, Minecraft, Rez, Bastion, Beyond Good and Evil, Psychonauts, Katamari, Grim Fandango, Okami, GTA, The Elder Scrolls, Red Dead Redemption, or Silent Hill didn't conform to shitty, delusional standards and they are remembered as masterpieces that will live on forever because they chose functionality and gameplay over graphics.

I want more from a game than a "walking around a room simulator". I don't play games to contemplate ashtrays or admire carpets. I play games to jump on things and shoot stuff. Preferably I want to jump on massive, moving and interactive things and shoot varied and interesting stuff in a large number of imaginative scenarios. Adding graphical detail to a straight corridor is polishing a turd.

You may say that some developers "aspire" to make more realistic and immersive games and to that I say two things, 1) those developers can do whatever they want as long as they deliver good games and 2) if their main priority as game developers is realism and graphics they have their heads stuck too far up their asses.

In this edition of Experienced Points, Shamus says what anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of videogames knows. On the other hand, good to see you again. I suppose we'll see you again in a couple of months, writing a book is hard.

I think you're blowing this out of proportion.

Yes, bigger worlds add bigger bills, but not that much bigger.
According to your explanation, one would think that the costs increase exponentially, jet it's not even linear. At best and at worst, it's logarithmic growth of cost.

You will have to create furniture for the game. Why not just make (while you're at it) 5 variations of the same furniture. I'm not saying 5 completely different models for the same furniture. 5 Variations. Add 5 different textures for those models and you have 25 different items for every furniture for the game.
That's a HUGE number of possible combinations.

Also, not everything needs to be extremely detailed. Instead of adding a overdetailed supporting column, go back to the roots of architecture.
The 3 different types of columns are enough for the whole game.


If you really want more, just add 2 basic wooden and that's it.

NPC's... really? Look at Skyrim. They basically use the same 2 models just add different hair and face expressions. It's not even close to expensive. And even if it is expensive, the good thing is, you can just use the same models and textures in other, newer games. Just small changes would be required.

Actually, Skyrim would be a great example that we, the player, aren't as you say. I haven't seen much people complain that Skyrim uses the same furniture or models over and over again.

And then there is "you're happy that the next console gen isn't jet here" part.
I'm actually disappointed that you think that the next gen. brings only better graphics.
The increase of power of the console will bring a lot more than just graphics. One of the biggest weakness of the current gen is the low memory. It prevents bigger worlds, better AI, less loaded NPC's...

I (and I assume that many other think like me) aren't waiting for the next gen. just because we want better graphics. I'm far from a graphics whore. I LOVE Skyward Sword and Okami because of the graphic and aesthetics. Maybe just a bit more and I would be happier than anyone. But I want the next gen because I want some challenging AI, bigger maps, worlds...

Also, remember the Wii? I was always saying that the Wii was the perfect console of this generation. Until developing better graphics gets a reasonable price, much time will need to pass. Same goes for the hardware. That's why the Wii and the developing for it were cheap.
Now Nintendo announced the WiiU. It should be have 50% more processing power than the PS3, but it will have a lot more memory.
This will allow more complex AI and worlds, but it won't be to expensive to develop for because the jump in the graphics department isn't as huge as the PS2 -> PS3 was.

After thinking it over, I disagree with Seamus. Ok, I concede that to make the worlds more lifelike is indeed very costly - no question.

Here's the thing. Add 4gb of RAM, a faster GPU (even 5770 quality) and maybe a better CPU that what they currently have. Guess what? You don't need to add more fine details to the game to get it looking good. You just enable Anti Aliasing and pump the resolution to 1920x1080. Maybe make higher res textures. And lets not forget 60 frames per second. That's it, and the game looks great. That's why I like PC gaming, I can play the same game as people on consoles but it looks way better - with the same detailing.

There might be some demand for more detailed worlds, sure, that would be awesome. But I think it is a flaw to think that better hardware automatically means more detailed worlds when there's plenty of graphic options that cost the dev little to nothing to implement and drastically improve the look of the game.

Welcome back Shamus. It's nice to see you again.

A lot of these problems could be mitigated through the use of procedural content. Don't build window frames multiple times. Design an algorithm for making them once, and let the computer figure out the specific geometry for a given window with as many steps as practical for the amount of detail needed at a given distance from the camera. When the window is far away just use a hole in the wall, get closer and add a basic frame consisting of a dozen polygons, add rounded edges when closer still, and tessellation-controlled detail when the player is right up against it.

Procedural texturing could quite easily eliminate the need to make multiple copies of an object with slightly different textures, thus reducing memory usage. Heck, implementing textures entirely through shaders would probably allow the use of hundreds of variants on an object in the same amount of memory as the raster textures for a single object would use. Not to mention that tessellation controlled by procedural textures could allow massive variation on a basic object though geometry alone.

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