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GoatLord

New school console graphics

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This is about visuals, plain and simple. I enjoy tracking the progress of real-time graphics and comparing them to previous generations of consoles. I fully understand that we're currently in a diminishing returns stage, given that developers leapt over the most significant hurdles nearly 20 years ago (the transition from wireframe to flat shaded, textured polygons being particularly significant). But most of the footage I've seen of the PS4 and XB1 has looked very last-gen, in some cases shockingly so--I was particularly amused by an XB1 racing game that featured still sprites for small crowds, when fully polgyonal, animated crowds were the norm a decade ago. Are there any examples of new games that clearly show the improvement in hardware? Or should I instead be looking at the newest PC games?

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GoatLord said:

I was particularly amused by an XB1 racing game that featured still sprites for small crowds, when fully polgyonal, animated crowds were the norm a decade ago.

Daaamn, that's putrid.

The new wave of consoles suck. I'm pretty sure consoles on the whole are on their way to destruction - they're already practically PC's, featuring a desktop, internet, downloadable content, etc. There's no longer the easy appeal of "pop it in and go", and as you mentioned, the grahpics don't actually seem better this time around..

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Polygonal? For a crowd? I'd rather have a smoother game even if it meant a flat sprite crowd.

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Doomkid said:

Daaamn, that's putrid.

The new wave of consoles suck. I'm pretty sure consoles on the whole are on their way to destruction - they're already practically PC's, featuring a desktop, internet, downloadable content, etc. There's no longer the easy appeal of "pop it in and go", and as you mentioned, the grahpics don't actually seem better this time around..


Consoles still have the advantage of a fixed standard meant for at least a couple of years. If there is a game for PS3 and you own PS3, you can be sure it will play as smoothly as the devs wanted it to be. No worries about upgrading CPU/GPU/RAM, updating drivers and tampering with settings to get optimum performance.

That's a HUGE advantage if you ask me.

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Patrol1985 said:

Consoles still have the advantage of a fixed standard meant for at least a couple of years.


Way more than that: the Playstation consoles were "refreshed" with a roughly 5-year cycle, and that still didn't mean that the older ones were phased out, but rather, that they coexisted.

Imagine if today, there were mainstream, AAA titles designed around typical 2001 PC hardware specs, set in stone by some standard. It certainly could be done (it was the norm for fixed-specs home computers of the 80s, well into the 90s), how would such titles be received?

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Patrol1985 said:

Consoles still have the advantage of a fixed standard meant for at least a couple of years. If there is a game for PS3 and you own PS3, you can be sure it will play as smoothly as the devs wanted it to be. No worries about upgrading CPU/GPU/RAM, updating drivers and tampering with settings to get optimum performance.

That's a HUGE advantage if you ask me.


Depends on the developers. Perfect Dark has frame-rate issues sometimes, and Skyrim on PS3 is just a mess. Cross-platform titles are often made to work on the weakest platform where they barely work, and then suffer on other platforms because of missing features. It's easy to see that happening in every TES game since Morrowind.

Back to the original question. It usually takes a generation or two of games on a new console before the graphics really start to shine. Developers have to learn the system and work on (and with) their tools for a time. It's true the N64's capabilities were immediately impressive compared with SNES, but it took a long time for things like Perfect Dark to appear.

imagine the first batch of games for the new consoles go after some low-hanging graphical fruit in order to have something on store shelves right away. I don't play many console games, but iirc the first generation of 360 games often looked mostly like XBox games with higher resolutions.

Mainstream developers never get the full graphics potential from a console. It's not worth their time, and in any case the very best graphics will usually limit what other features can be built into the game on systems with tight memory constraints.

This all brings me to a mostly unrelated rant: the world needs the source for Red Faction: Guerrilla. It's an awesome game that needs some patches.

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GoatLord said:

I was particularly amused by an XB1 racing game that featured still sprites for small crowds, when fully polgyonal, animated crowds were the norm a decade ago.

I'm pretty sure Forza Motorsport 3 and 4, which were about as good-looking as games get on the XBox 360 had either empty seats, incredibly simplistic models or decidedly blank sprites for the audience as they were never a point of focus. The environment, cars and drivers got all the attention and resource, whilst the audience was a nice-to-have. They're about 6-3 years old and exclusive to that console, so it stands to reason that the same approach would be taken on the relatively minor improvement in hardware that the XBox One constitutes, when the focus is again on the cars and environments.

I'm happy to let sprites for unintrusive stuff like that slide of it means a reliable framerate.

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Best implementation of a "crowd", ever: in Indianapolis 500: The Simulation, the crowd actually looks like a texture (!), in what was otherwise a polygon-graphics game, in 1990 (!).

Even more impressive was the fact that this "texture" didn't seem to pixelate at any distance: even at the closest possible observation distance, there was always one-pixel detail.

The "catch"? This was actually a kind of fixed-pattern fill on a polygon surface. This kind of fill doesn't scale nor is it corrected for perspective or geometry, you quite literally just write pixels from some data source directly to every visible pixel of a polygon, regardless of geometry. This resulted in the "crowd" looking like an irregular mess of random noisy color pixels, that would never stay the same (the pattern would literally change at every frame, even if you didn't move).

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I'd rather have something stylish all around than something that looks good but only goes halfway.

Which one looks nicer, Doom 64 or Goldeneye?

Personally, I'd say Doom 64.

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Personally I'm okay with the visuals of games plateauing for a little while, if it means that we get some actually fun and interesting games out of it. I mean, usually you get the more polished, interesting games nearer to the end of a console's lifespan, and if the new gen isn't pushing as much in the graphics department that might mean that they're going to use the horsepower for other innovations. One can hope.

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There's another aspect of visuals that isn't talked about as much. It's not just about how detailed a scene CAN be, but the amount effort it takes to make use of the detail available. The more detail you can render, the more work the artists have to do, and the more difficult it can be to fill in all that detail.

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geekmarine said:

There's another aspect of visuals that isn't talked about as much. It's not just about how detailed a scene CAN be, but the amount effort it takes to make use of the detail available. The more detail you can render, the more work the artists have to do, and the more difficult it can be to fill in all that detail.


Absolutely. I'm willing to bet one of the primary reasons if not THE primary reason for graphics fidelity to be plateauing right now is the fact that production periods are ridiculously long for anything good, diminishing returns on profit once it finally releases.

People complain about Call of Duty releases having few changes and/or shitty texturing, not taking into account the roughly two year (until the new studio was added recently) development cycles--these days two years is the absolute bare minimum to create the bare minimum of content to barely appease the CoD bros. Even then, there ends up being a lot of borrowed content across release because there just isn't enough time. I don't care for the CoD games, but I do feel bad for the devs being put on such strict timelines.

My hopes for this generation, aside from what I said before, is for new techniques and tools to surface that help artists and level designers do more work more efficiently without sacrificing their sanity. :P

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Aesthetics is more important than sheer graphical quality. I remember people fapping to Battlefield 3 and the Frostbite engine, it looked regular and dull to me, just higher detail regular. Games like Okami or Valkyrie Profile 2 still blow me away due to how the aesthetic details are done.

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geekmarine said:

The more detail you can render, the more work the artists have to do, and the more difficult it can be to fill in all that detail.


That's why most modern 3D games look impressive, but if you break their layout down you notice that they are essentially a restricted set of prefab structures scattered on an otherwise quite flat playfield. There are exceptions, and there are situations where this isn't bad (e.g. outdoors landscapes, forests, fields etc.) but by and large, 3D game art has become an extraneous body to level design and architecture (and viceversa).

Contrast this with Doom mapping: there, art/detail HAS to be part of the architecture, and the closest to 'non-architectural resources' Doom has are the various decorations, trees etc. but none would think of making a level just by scattering a few (or several) of those around, no matter how detailed. Or would they?

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How will artists and programmers deal with the fact that they will eventually need to model, texture, light and animate on a photorealistic level? Obviously, I'm talking about a longer timescale than the next console generation, which could be another decade from now.

In either case, I severely doubt that hardware will simply plateau when there's always an extra level of detail and physics simulations to be implemented. I suspect that particularly complex and subtle simulations, such as gravity, phase transitions, fluid dynamics, even quantum mechanics, could lead to new types of gameplay, making realistic rendering all the more imperative.

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As distant as the two games are, I love both Farcry 3 and Mario Sunshine's visuals. The mix of blues and greens feels so nice on the eyes, even if neither game is insanely graphically advanced for it's time. I'd take a game with simpler graphics but better colors any day over "realistic dingy alleyway" combat.

FPS games don't mix the themes enough, come to think of it. The best mix would be a few bits that are horribly grey and moody, to further emphasize the bits with splashes of color. The human eye tends to enjoy variety.

In either case, I severely doubt that hardware will simply plateau when there's always an extra level of detail and physics simulations to be implemented.

I agree completely. People said this same line about graphics "capping" in the PS2 era - lul. My eyes can hardly tell the difference between N64 and PS2 at this stage.

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Doomkid said:

I agree completely. People said this same line about graphics "capping" in the PS2 era - lul. My eyes can hardly tell the difference between N64 and PS2 at this stage.


The PS2 was capable of having decent graphics:

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Jaxxoon R said:

I'd rather have something stylish all around than something that looks good but only goes halfway.

Which one looks nicer, Doom 64 or Goldeneye?

Personally, I'd say Doom 64.


I agree 100%.

I particularly like the art-style of Doom. Not because they were the best graphics around, but the style of which they were done.

Another example would be comparing Doom to Quake. Quake may have had more advanced graphics, but Doom's visual style was more memorable and enduring.

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