With Great Power...

With Great Power...

I said last week that this new console generation threatens to bust the already tenuous budget problems that developers are having. But this doesn't mean that more processing power is a bad thing.

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I'm pinning my hopes on that last one. In particular I'm hoping the design savings might be enough to enable some more midbudget games to exist again and to allow larger indie's to push what they want to do

Question here: Has anyone researched the resources required to render numerous vector-based textures in a 3D space? It'd solve the "texture" problem as they can scale up and down with little to no loss in detail.

Two experienced points in a row? Wow this is a great turn up, i've been missing a more regular dose of you always excellent articles.

I think there is a difference between "Graphics" and "Technology" and we need to start developing the latter. You can make a really 'pretty' game but it just be a static, lame corridor because you are pooling all of your resources into being a really pretty corridor.

I always like to bring up one of my favorite games and one of the best examples of being bursting with pretty innovative tech whilst also not being traditionally graphically 'pretty', STALKER.

Here is a game that takes full advantage of being on a system like the PC with a pretty ambitious (if sometimes flawed) AI A-Life system that attempts to create a world not through scripting but through the interactions of various AI entities.

Progress in technology can do more than just make a game 'pretty' it can give you more characters on screen or in a certain area, greater scope for AI and psychics, day and night cycles, dynamic graphical systems to create more of a world.

People should use more Source-style engines.

Hear me out, I like pretty graphics as much as the next person, but just as Shamus pointed out, we don't need to squeeze every last byte the new hardware offers, we can perfectly use current (last?) gen assets and increase them!, imagine a game with tons of characters/objects/explosions on-screen in 1080p and running at 60 fps, with little to no loading times...

That's the kind of experience I'd like to have, instead of waiting for 30 minutes for the game to initially install itself, running at 30 fps, shooting in linear corridors and lasts for 6 hours. Wouldn't you prefer to compromise a little graphical fidelity for a quality gaming experience?.

That's what got me so mad when Capcom said game development has become more expensive with the new hardware. Seriously, fucking idiots.

In GTA we could have streets packed with traffic and sidewalks packed with pedestrians.

That sounds like a really cool idea. Somebody just needs to remind Rockstar how to actually complete and ship a game properly again so they can get some consumer trust back. If GTA VI, whenever it comes out, isn't a fully completed game with all major bugs removed on day one (for example, my cars don't go fucking missing from my garage which was a blatantly obvious and easily reproducible bug that never should have existed in a game that got a 6 month delay so they could "polish" it) with a fully functional online mode with all advertised features present if they do another online mode, then I won't be giving them a penny again.

But yeah, maybe that's another idea that might be nice. Do all the tips in the article to get your game done quicker and with less money spent. This will let you focus less on stupid stuff that doesn't matter and more time on shipping a completed product!

SupahGamuh:
...imagine a game with tons of characters/objects/explosions on-screen in 1080p and running at 60 fps, with little to no loading times...

Or if we did squeeze the hardware a little bit through max player counts (although I imagine bandwidth is the limiting factor there in most cases). Red Orchestra 2 and Battlefield 4 can handle 64 players, but imagine if they could raise that limit; you could have massive battles on a simply huge amount of land!

One of my favorite ideas I've heard from the podcast was to take new technology to not make, say, Skyrim look better but to keep the level of graphics the same but removing and shortening some loading screens between houses and areas.

SupahGamuh:
People should use more Source-style engines.

For that to happen, Hammer's problems need to be fixed (the program itself needs major updating), and plugins need to be created for popular software that can access Source's files.

For one, a lot of frustration would be absolved if it was possible to build and modify conditions for trigger primitives through a node graph instead of having to put all the needed entities on the map itself, along with the option of mipmap and pathing nodes being automatically generated (although finally upgrading to navmeshes + helper nodes would be better). Secondly, something as simple as extrusion & subdivision would be well-appreciated by everyone since they can now easily work from a simple primitive to make the commonly irregular shapes more interesting maps utilize.

A couple points are somewhat moot. I know I am being pedantic but I must point out that making textures higher res (such as for a keyboard) is not at all more time intensive, in fact it is much, much, much easier!

These textures range in size from 512x512 all the way up to 4096x4096 and the larger ones are always easier because you do not need to screw around with the ungodly artifacts that occur when you strategise a low resolution texture from scratch. It is ultimately easier to do it all highres then scale it down in Photoshop. It is likely that, that keyboard texture was higher resolution but scaled down before being imported into the engine.

Lastly, models from 2008 are just as detailed as the ones today. The only difference is that the 1-20 million polygon projection model gets baked onto a slightly higher resolution base mesh. With more processing power you could bake less of the high resolution mesh (stuff like bolts instead of whole sections of stacked detail) and use it as the base instead of creating a brand new low-poly one and have the engine dynamically decimate it the farther away you get where you cannot see artifacting.

"If you've got even a mid-range computer with a decent graphics card, then your computer has more processing power than every computer that existed before the year I was born. (1971) That's including the supercomputers built by world governments and all the computers involved in sending humans to the moon. That's a lot, you know?"

Out of curiosity I decided to see just how powerful a modern graphics card is and it is wow.

The Radeon R9 290X produces 5.6 TFlops the 1993 top 10 supercomputers combined produce 250.5 GFlops.

So a $600 graphics card from 2013 is 22 times more powerful than the top 10 fastest computers on earth combined back in 1993.

I agree completely Shamwow, we need more detail. This is the main reason why Supreme Commander excited me so much when I played it. The models weren't even that great looking at the time but you could have so many on-screen that the game was a blast to play. Unfortunately, people complain about pixels too much for any AAA devs to risk it.

Ey Shamus you're still on your crusade against post-Doom3 graphics?

I don't believe there's just 1 or 2 or 3 points for game makers to adhere to. There are tons of ways to use better hardware. Last gen brought us stuff like Bastion and Trine. Now where would we be if the devs of those games rather used some older assets - keyboards and clutter? We'd get what, another 2 COD clones? Nah. Trash all the old assets unles you're doing a direct sequel/addon and make a completely new game. Use the hardware as you need. No more generalizations need to be said I think.

Also I may be wrong but I don't believe this console gen will be THAT much more expensive to make games for. Many prev-gen games were originally made with a much higher target and than were scaled down in quality to fit for consoles (such as GTA IV). At least the big studios already have the workflow in place to use the current gen 'well enough'. I mean, it's not like the current consoles are so powerful anyway.

Sure, the requirements go up higher than the observable enhancement in quality, but the change from PS3 to PS4 is much lower than was from PS2 to PS3 for example.

Seriously, if making a game for new gen is so impossible, than how come small studios can release games like Metro 2033, Arma III and (previously) STALKER, all graphically way ahead of the current consoles? Not to mention Crysis, the game which leapfrogged the new consoles of the time, sold like crap yet didn't bankrupt the studio.

Apparently good management can pull the stuff off without needing a budget in billions.

What always bothers me is that there are games out there with amazing graphics, that don't sell nearly as much as Call of Duty (and comparable blockbusters). How do games like the Crysis and Witcher series (with extreme graphical fidelity and custom engines) still make money, if graphics are so expensive according to devs? I assume it's the same unfounded whining as they do with piracy, everything is always "killing the industry", which I find increasingly hard to believe.

Edit I see Sgt Sykes above me ninjad me...

Norix596:
One of my favorite ideas I've heard from the podcast was to take new technology to not make, say, Skyrim look better but to keep the level of graphics the same but removing and shortening some loading screens between houses and areas.

skyrim and rpgs in general desperately need improved AI. hell the npcs in skyrim actually so something each day other than stand their waiting to give you quests but you can tell they are following the same script each and every day of the game no matter what happens.

a dragon lands in the middle of the plaza.. its ok no one will remember in an hour.. goldfish memory

How do games like the Crysis and Witcher series (with extreme graphical fidelity and custom engines) still make money

As far as the Witcher is concerned: paying polish salaries and putting the company's head office assets in a tax heaven favored by russian mobsters

BrotherRool:
I'm pinning my hopes on that last one. In particular I'm hoping the design savings might be enough to enable some more midbudget games to exist again and to allow larger indie's to push what they want to do

I agree. "AA" Games are so much better more often than "AAA" blockbuster titles. They are also where the industry saw the most diversity back in the PS2 era. These days we see all "AAA" games are action-masturbation titles, but even the "A" indie scene is back to simply chasing and mimicking the latest fads. Last year it was pixel art games, this year it's Minecraft-like survival games. I mean, some of those are still pretty decent, but it's really exciting when a medium sized studio shows off a completely different game, gives clear reasons why they want to make it, and sticks to the plan to avoid budget and feature creep. /rant

I don't think "better AI" always naturally translates to "smarter AI", at least in the sense of "AI that consistently kicks the human player's ass". It's not hard at all to make AI that can always hit a headshot, and I don't think anyone wants to play against that. But people were very impressed with the way AI in F.E.A.R. seemed to do things like topple furniture for cover, fall back from weakened positioning, and flank. AI that can make intelligent assessments of the local terrain- especially without hard-wired foreknowledge of that terrain- could be great. AI that makes human-like mistakes is frequently more impressive than AI that shows machine-like efficiency.

As far as models go, I think someone needs to make a universal "doll" that works like the avatar modeling in a game like Skyrim or Saint's Row, but on a grander scale. If someone could make a model that could convincingly be a hundred different people without anyone recognizing it as the same model with different texturing, I think it could be as big an advance as Havok physics. But it would need more than variable textures, higher brow-ridges, or a fatter midsection- you would need to create a model that could have visibly different weight distribution that would effect how it moved, different centers of gravity, different torso-to-leg ratios. If you could make one model that could be Lara Croft, Andre the Giant, or Gollum by virtue of a few minutes of tweaking, I think you could streamline a significant amount of character design, at least for NPCs.

I'd like to see more games switch to the "everything is one gigantic seamless world" approach, which will definitely be easier to do this generation than the last one. Dead Space 2 and 3 and Dark Souls are both great examples on how this was accomplished last generation. This time around, we won't need as many hidden "loading elevators".

Norix596:
One of my favorite ideas I've heard from the podcast was to take new technology to not make, say, Skyrim look better but to keep the level of graphics the same but removing and shortening some loading screens between houses and areas.

Yes Ultima IX was able to do this like 15 years ago, with the new gen it's time for Bethesda to drop the load screen when walking into a simple house.

I also like the idea of filling the worlds with more people. Even if they're just milling about it creates better ambiance. It was on the dated Wii hardware but The Last Story is a good example of this, you still wouldn't exactly call it crowded but compared to other games the city had plenty of people simply wandering about. I actually haven't played any but I guess the Assassins Creed series does this as well.

I guess you have to ask yourself what's better. An TES:Oblivion style game where every citizen has a purpose and a routine they follow throughout the day, but you only have the processing power/time to put 30 of them in a town, or making less AI intensive/interesting people but filling that same town with 300 of them? Or better yet, since we're talking new gen now combine the two.

Unfortunately developers won't realize this unless there's a big crash due to unprofitable dev costs. Then they'll cut corners and experiment in other ways.

I honestly believe Skyrim wouldn't have been as popular if it still looked like Oblivion (and I guarantee the even prettier Elder Scrolls 6 will outperform Skyrim). The average bozo still buys the prettiest games, so publishers demand the prettiest games from developers. Art style can go a long way in making things pretty even if it's "lower" graphics power (Bioshock/Borderlands 2 still look good on lower settings), but that requires certain talents that are hard to come by. CoD: Modern Warfare 2 blew me away with its "ghillie suit sniper in the long grass" trailer because it looked so real to me at the time. Pretty graphics sell games. Just like how pretty girls sell everything under the sun.

 

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