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BioWare: Next-Gen Graphics Leap Not As Significant As Before

Based on the newly announced PlayStation 4 hardware, statements like this do make plenty of good sense.

While the PS4 is certainly powerful, skeptics have noted that it doesn't boast that next-level tech we're used to seeing from the PlayStation brand. And now, BioWare art director Neil Thompson echoed those suspicions by telling OXM that this generational transition won't boast the same significant leap in graphics.

"For the next generation there will be a big leap, but it won't be as obvious. People will do things in a cleverer fashion--and I have to be careful here as there are non-disclosure agreements involved."

Thompson added that technology offered in the last generation "caught folks by surprise," especially in regards to how many people was required to produce a decent product. Hence, at the time, the perception was that "it was going to be a ten times improvement over the previous generation." This resulted in huge budgets and overall development costs soared. Undoubtedly, part of the reason Sony didn't go nuts with the PS4 specs is because, as Thompson said, if they had, making games would've been almost impossible. And that'd be catastrophic.

At the same time, you have to sacrifice a little something power-wise. Finished Thompson:

"I think they'll be better prepared, shall we say--but we can't see a ten-fold team increase again as the budgets would just be ridiculous. You'd have to sell 20-30 million copies before you broke even."

Yeah, all this really does make perfect logical sense.

Tags: next gen, next generation, next gen consoles, bioware

2/25/2013 10:52:37 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (25 posts)

Douchebaguette
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 11:11:14 AM
Reply

They are right; we've reached a limit to achieving further revolutionary photo-realistic graphics. Perhaps it could add to the reason why this generation has lasted longer than expected.

It seems my friend was correct, the next generation will see less of a graphical upgrade and instead allow more room for bigger maps. This is good, finally we can see a realm where perhaps the budget won't be impossible for smaller publishers and indie devs to make a great game. I am liking the prospects of the 8th generation.

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Xombito
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 11:22:57 AM
Reply

Cost of development is an ongoing issue. One of the things I thought when Sony revealed the PS4 hardware was that development costs shouldn't be that much higher. In an old issue of PSM they had a poll asking developers what was the one thing threatening the industry. The answer by far was cost of development.

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Highlander
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 12:45:17 PM
Reply

There is little difference in developing for the PS3/360 platforms and the PC4/Next Xbox. Both require HD visual and audio assets and both rely heavily on the same libraries for the games. the biggest change from Ps3 to PC4 is that coders that cut their teeth on the CellBE and parallel processing on SPEs will have to re-think in terms of a homogeneous CPU, which is easier, though they will have fewer cycles to play with, and more instructions to handle. Much of that will be done by the dev tools.

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ryu
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 1:01:35 PM
Reply

if i can play what you make on a ps3, why would i buy a ps4

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Highlander
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 1:10:06 PM

Because after 1 wave of games PS3 will no longer get AAA titles from AAA devs, they will all go to PS4. Basically within 12-18 months of launch, you will want to move up if you want to continue getting the AAA titles.

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Lord carlos
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 2:11:46 PM

As long as The Last Guardian releases on PS3 in that 12-18 month span then i'll happily upgrade.

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Beamboom
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 2:29:36 PM
Reply

I'm really intrigued by this little excerpt:
- "People will do things in a cleverer fashion - and I have to be careful here as there are non-disclosure agreements involved."

What exactly is it he can't say due to NDA? What's left to learn about this machine that he can't say now, that enables developers to do things in a "cleverer fashion"?
Hmm?!

Last edited by Beamboom on 2/25/2013 2:30:30 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 4:58:47 PM

indeed

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Temjin001
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 2:50:05 PM
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This has been the ongoing concern for several years. I first noticed it when Nintendo's Iwata was preparing to unveil the original Wii. The exponential growth rate in game development costs would be catastrophic for the industry in the coming years. This Bioware director suggests a similar thing. Only the biggest, more highest profile games will push these new consoles to their absolute limits. Limits not just in visual fidelity, but in being restrained of their vision due to technology constraints. But very few will ever risk to arrive at that point.

This is why I feel this next console cycle is a dawn of a new standard. The powerhouse console 'cold war' is over. We have achieved visual realism and capabilities that exhaust the marketable ability of most publisher's capabilities.
Going forward, new consoles will be less about specs and more about what kind of entertainment they offer us. The real reason why we're all gamers is to enjoy amazing games, right?

Last edited by Temjin001 on 2/25/2013 2:50:59 PM

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Athrin
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 4:10:40 PM

as the cost of developing games dops, hardware power will rise, both must folow each other or one will kill the other

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Temjin001
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 5:10:43 PM

I look forward to less emphasis on specs and hardware going forward. Hardcore PC enthusiasts always love that of course but I think consoles have a different market, seeing that console tech goes old and gray relatively quickly. And lots of power mattered a lot when we had to put up with pixelated, jaggy, blurry, and simple visuals but now that we're at the grain direction of fabric on a car steering wheel, and the rainbow banding in headlights and such, I don't think we ought to be all that concerned about massive processing gains.
I say cool new ideas that takes the game design experience forward. There's no complaints now that the memory is seemingly infinite.

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Gordo
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 3:56:43 PM
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No offence to anyone but when I hear statements like "we have achieved visual realism" or "we have reached the limits of technology" I am reminded of the IBM guy who said "there would only ever be the need for up to 10 computers in the world".

The technology gains in the next 20 years will be the same if not exponentially more than the gains in the last 20. I don't think we can comprehend what is coming up technology wise. That is why it is so exciting!

Granted that gameplay, context and content are always important but I don't think we have hit any sort of technology ceiling. We may plateau for a few years but there will be so many new advances in the next generation that looking back to a PS4 from a PS6 may be similar to looking from a PS4 to a PS1.

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Teddie9
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 4:05:18 PM

I think the other issue is that so many people only consider the photorealism of graphics and neglect improved AI, larger sand boxes to play in, and innovative ways to interact with the world on-screen. Those things are only appreciated

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richfiles
Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 3:38:03 PM

And that's an area where I fear the PS4's processor specs. It just doesn't seem like enough of an improvement. Just cause RAM is upgraded, and the GPU is far superior to the PS3, does not make me comfortable with a CPU that is a marginal improvement.

I don't just want graphical improvements. I'm actually quite satisfied with my PS3 right now. I'll welcome the improvements of a future console, but I am more worried about the NON graphical limitations it could encounter. I am reminded of the issues with Skyrim on the PS3. What manner of epic fail will we see a few years down the road when we have all the pretty, pretty pixels, but not enough brains to know what to do with them?

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Snaaaake
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 4:35:18 PM
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The day we can play games in FFIV:AC graphic is the day I declare that my gaming life is complete.

I wonder if the PS4 is capable of that.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 5:01:17 PM
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Well we keep saying "How much better could the graphics get?" Looks like we have our answer. I'll be happy with the moderate increase in graphics and much more in-depth worlds.

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Crabba
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 7:00:41 PM

Well, the resources and assets for more in-depth game worlds is the most expensive part of game development, not adding some more polygons to a character's face, adding jaggies FXAA filters or processing at a higher resolution...

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Temjin001
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 8:59:23 PM

I semi-agree Crabba. I do absolutely agree that the volume of asset creation is most expensive. Though, the modeling part of creating higher levels of shaders and material creation can and does take time. Like the Drive Club demo noted, their cars are so real that they captured the grain of the fabric etc. The way the light hits it from certain direction. Skin and clothing shaders will require more artistic control as well. Also such features are written into the rendering pipeline etc. so a programmer needs to work more for the greater layers of detail these models will carry. Similarly as the facial mesh increases in polygons an animator is given more 'rigging' points to animate, thus creating more realistic facial gestures. Joints are a massive area that needs help here and we'll see it improved with the added power as well. So basically if we want to see the full power of the next-gen tapped developers will need to either make their team work harder or higher in more personnel to accomplish this. And if I remember right, quite a few job openings happened within the past year from various studios to work on 'unannounced' next-gen projects.

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Temjin001
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 9:08:46 PM

oh, and to finish what I was stating. Yes, abosultey, creating those bigger worlds that are more detailed and complex due to the capacity of ram will mean devs will have to expend tons of extra effort to fill it.
This is the highest jump in RAM I can recall from a console generation. A 16x increase means that devs really will have to go out of their way to exhaust that amount and create that much more assets. That is, for traditional level based design, like a CoD for example. Those linear missions could do all kinds of staged set-piece moments that totally change landscapes and offer copious quantities of scripted events. We're talking BIG money. You better believe Activision will spend it and set the production bar so high no one will want to compete at that level... well, other than EA ;)

Last edited by Temjin001 on 2/25/2013 9:18:17 PM

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___________
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 4:23:12 AM
Reply

WTF!?
why would the power leap from ps2 to ps3 in the ps4 mean much higher development costs?
if anything it would mean lower development costs simply because the systems using a much simpler better known architecture.
id bet hes implying that would of happened if $ony stuck to their usual exotic architecture, which is true it would of, but they dident.
they could of easily made the ps4 as much of a leap forward as the ps3 was by sticking to X86 parts, thus if anything LOWERING dev costs!

after waiting 7 freaking years, and by the time the ps4 releases in EU, it will probably be EIGHT freaking years since the ps3 launched!
EIGHT freaking years, by FAR the longest time weve ever had to wait, and were going to be greeted and rewarded for our patients, by mild cheddar.
makes me wonder if thats the point of this generation though, to try and shorten lifespans of systems and give manufactures reasons to replace them more frequently.
because after seeing things like drive club, and comparing it to things like project cars, the ps4 most certainly will need replacing in only a few years!
in fact theres PC games out already which put the stuff shown on thursday to shame, let alone stuff thats going to be releasing around the same time!
let alone stuff that will release 6 months later, 8 months later, a year later, 1.5 years later, 2 years later, ect, ect.

ive flown to the tropics in the middle of summer, woken up nice and early the next morning expecting to open the blinds and be greeted by beautiful crystal white sand, sunny skies, and crystal clear warm water.
and in stead i find a snow storm!
thats the disappointment the ps4 has delivered!
i was very worried the ps4 would be nothing more than a playstationu, and im sad to see i was right!
AGAIN!


Last edited by ___________ on 2/26/2013 4:24:09 AM

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Beamboom
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 5:00:53 AM
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I really like the steps the next generation is taking.

The PS3 was ultra-focused on graphics. That was an advantage to some kind of games - the typical linear, "showroom shine" games. But I have often complained about the PS3 being *too* focused just on being a graphics churner.

This time around I think it is a much more balanced product, there are other areas who get an incredible - and imo much needed - boost. No, it might not lead to that same increase in showroom shine, but it *will* open up for new possibilities for the developers that were not in any way possible under the current generation consoles.

So for a gamer like me I really have to say that I am far, far more excited about the potential offered with this next console than I ever was with the PS3.

Last edited by Beamboom on 2/26/2013 5:02:48 AM

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duomaxwell007
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 10:15:30 AM
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well on the bright side theyre at least giving us a lot of ram so they cant blame it on the lack of party chat or other features we wont but dont have.... guess they better start coming up with better excuses lol

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duomaxwell007
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 10:15:31 AM
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well on the bright side theyre at least giving us a lot of ram so they cant blame it on the lack of party chat or other features we wont but dont have.... guess they better start coming up with better excuses lol

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PHOENIXZERO
Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 6:34:06 PM
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Of course there won't be the huge graphical leap again in the on coming generation, most of the "heavy lifting" was done this generation. We're going from 720p to 1080p this time on consoles and refining what was already done. This generation is going to be more about improving the technical aspects we generally don't see (and some we do) while still having a modest graphical bump for consoles. Developers have been making their multi-platform games with a PC counter part 1080p for years now.

There's not going to be a huge increase in production costs like before and with the hardware not being a nightmare to get a firm grasp on like the PS3 was costs are going to be further reduced by not needing months to get something working right.

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Caanimal
Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 9:39:20 PM
Reply

Well, all I can say is DUH... Look at PC gaming, the visuals aren't THAT much better than what is show on the PS3/Xbox360 today. They are better but not to such a degree such as PS2 vs PS3... The only truly "next big leap" in graffics that I can see is full emertions 3D...

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