The Problem With Working Across Different Console Generations...

We're at a crossroads. The install base for existing consoles is high and, commercially speaking, developing for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 is as attractive a proposition as it has ever been. But next generation consoles are close to release and people want new games to play on their brand new box. How do you juggle these different demands? Do you develop solely for existing platforms or be first to market on the shiny new platform?

Why not both?

We recently checked out Dying Light, Techland's promising first-person-survival-horror game that harnesses all the buzzwords. It looked great. Sizeable in scale without sacrificing detail, it looked like a proper next generation video game — but Dying Light is also being developed for current gen consoles. We asked Tymon Smektala, a producer at Techland, how this affected the game's development. Does creating a video game with both console generations in mind change the end goal? Does it affect the game? Is it frustrating when certain aspects of the game have to be restrained?

"No, it's not frustrating," said Smektala. "We are happy developing games for PC, PS3 and 360 and we think that Dying Light plays well on these platforms.

"But then when you work with next gen consoles, the amount of processing power that they have, you really see there is a new frontier. It is a little bit disappointing that you aren't able to use that power in the current gen consoles, but the gameplay isn't affected."

According to Smektala the gameplay isn't affected because most developers are still focusing that added horsepower on visuals upgrads. The advances in gameplay, he says, will come later.

"I think the games you will see over the next 12 months that appear on next gen consoles, you will only see the difference in terms of graphical fidelity — maybe some different things being done with the AI systems. I don't think we will see the real advancements in gameplay systems until after that. Developers have to learn how to use these platforms smartly; they have to learn what is possible beyond just graphics.

"We have lots of ideas about what we want to do on next gen, so I think in two years we will see some really exciting stuff."

Two years. That's a long period of time. There's already a sense that people are tempted to sit out next gen's grand opening, won't the fact that many of next year's big hitters are appearing on current gen consoles slow that process?

"I think for developers it's easy to use next gen consoles and for gamers it's easy to see the difference in visual," explained Smektala. "And these new consoles aren't that expensive, so I think people will buy them in the beginning just for the crispness of the graphics. Just for the better experience. Then they will start to demand more. It will slowly build up."

Assassin's Creed IV, Watch Dogs, FIFA 14, Dying Light — plenty of big 'AAA' titles are set for release across multiple different consoles — does that change your enthusiasm for next generation consoles? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

    I am a sucker for a launch night, but I have missed out on a PS4 pre-order, and have still yet to commit to an XBox One. Torn, for the first time in about three generations. Simple fact is I have so many games to play on the current gen systems, and am loving what the WiiU is offering up at the moment too, not to mention the Vita. In some ways I almost don't want a shiny new thing to get in the way, especially as time is a limiting factor as well. It really is only my desire to have the 'latest' thing as early as possible that is tempting me. None of the launch titles really wow, and almost everything that does look good is getting a current gen release.

    Having said all of that I will probably cave. Because I am a hopeless sucker.

    Last edited 09/10/13 2:43 pm

      I'm really keen to try out the media functions of the XB1, but I'm not '$600 keen' since I've already got a good working media arrangement with XBMC. For me, the games are what will tip the balance - solid games on the XB1 that aren't available on PC, that I'll be frothing at the mouth enough to not want to wait a year for a PC release. If GTA5 had been a next gen only game, I'd have put a preorder in for the XB1 already.

        I really wish GTA5 was coming to next gen, it's gorgeous as it is, but goddamn next gen would set it off.

      Same, i don't see myself getting a PS4 but somehow i can see myself one day walking into Eb Games to look at the games, chat to the staff and next thing you know walking out with a PS4 haha.

      Dick Smith still had a bucket load of day 1 PS4s. Have you tried them?

        Cheers for the tip. I'll pop in to Moonee Ponds and Highpoint tomorrow.

      yep i feel exactly this way, though i did put in a last minute PS4 pre-order. but as it will be a Christmas present i wont be playing until then.
      which in any previous generation would bother me but this time around i am happy to wait.
      likewise my vita is getting heaps of play time, the wii u is picking up, wind waker HD yay, plus a new zelda for 3DS, mario for wii u actually looks good now and still a few 360 games.
      i havent even put pikmin 3 in the wii u yet.
      so im in no hurry

        So why bother pre-ordering?

        You could've just waited until after xmas and gotten one on sale.

    My enthusiasm is unchanged. I have a feeling that many developers doing cross-generation games are dumbing down the PS3 / 360 versions rather than souping up the next-gen versions. Take Digital Foundry's look at Battlefield 4 for example. I for one do not want to settle for a 'meh' game experience when I could have all the bells and whistles of next-gen, even if it is cosmetic.

    I do realise you can get the aforementioned bells and whistles on a decent PC, but I gave up PC gaming many years ago. Still like the odd game of Dawn of War, Blood Bowl, Civilization etc...

    I'm picking up AC4 and WatchDogs for both the 360 and the XO. My wife plays as well, so in order for the story to stay unspoiled, we pick up 2 copies. We usually trade one in when one of us has finished the game. This time round though, I'm pretty sure we'll keep both copies as we're only buying one XO at launch. We'll see what happens with other cross gen games later on down the line, however Quantum Break may be what sells a 2nd XO console in our house - <3 Remedy games.

      I read XO as 'executive officer' at first glance. I think I might have too many Navy friends.

    I don't think the PS4 and Xbone will have immensely successful releases for this reason.

    The jump from PS3 to PS4 isn't as great as the jump from PS2 to PS3 was. There's no new media format to help justify the additional cost, and no real killer apps yet, as all of the best launch titles are multiplat and on the previous gen consoles too.

    I'm excited for next-gen because games won't be 'dumbed-down' so much overall, but I'm a realist and know for a fact that they will still be behind what PC can accomplish. So, I guess, here's to some less-shitty-than-usual ports. *cheers*

    "We are happy developing games for PC, PS3 and 360 " Why lump the PC with the PS3 and 360? Surely the modern PC rigs can handle whatever the next-gen consoles can. I would be putting the PC in the PS4/Xbone field personally. Especially with a titan.

      Why lump the PC with the PS3 and 360?

      Because the platform is only the means and your statement alone lists three of them.

      Granted, devs no longer exploit the capabilities of the target system (most likely because publishers are so desperate for zero-risk investment) but as I have always said if a game stinks on a console it is going to stink on a PC and vice versa.

      It isn't the hardware that makes the game. It's the design, the gameplay and how it has been implemented on a given platform.

        Cross-platform is a double-edged sword. On one hand it is good because your audience is much larger, on the bad side it sets the average quality of the title to be lower. Optimize all you want for the PC, but a title designed primarily for a console is still going to look/feel like a console game when played on a PC. Titles going from PC to console are becoming increasingly rare, because less AAA titles are being developed primarily for the PC platform. Its a different story when you talk indie titles though.
        Its true that current-gen PC is equal (and greater) than the incoming next generation consoles, but that is no longer important when it comes to development.

          Cross-platform is a double-edged sword. On one hand it is good because your audience is much larger, on the bad side it sets the average quality of the title to be lower.

          That's if it is developed wrong. The title should have the same quality (and if need be for different reasons) irrespective of the platform. If the quality differs then it was not built/designed right in the first place.

          Its true that current-gen PC is equal (and greater) than the incoming next generation consoles, but that is no longer important when it comes to development.

          Again, you are playing the hardware card. It was never important in the first place. Look at the Atari 2600, the Commodore 64 and even the original NES. Both outlived their advanced competitors and in the case of the first two even outlived their successors (Atari 5200 and 7800 and the Commodore 128). Years ago, what was important was how a developer used the hardware and what expression of creativity the designer had.

          Optimize all you want for the PC, but a title designed primarily for a console is still going to look/feel like a console game when played on a PC.

          Actually no. A console game ported to the PC can still be a great game. *IF* and that is a if 12 feet high and lights to stop planes crashing into it, the game is retooled to use the keyboard and mouse while still keeping the overall atmosphere and gameplay engagement and enjoyment as the original. The same goes for vice versa.

          At the end of a day, saying a console game or a PC game is a misnomer. The only type one should say console or PC is when one described the platform. The game should be independent first and take advantage of the platform second.

          Unfortunately, everyone seems to only code to Direct X or write in Unreal Script then call it a day before lunch time now.

      The scope of what a PC is, is not as tight as a console. The high-end PC (<1yr old) can compete with the next-gen consoles, but the majority are on par or slightly better than the current gen consoles. Average age of a gaming PC is 3yrs old, so the majority of the PC market is 100-200% better than current gen-consoles (which is ~7yr old technology), but still below the next-gen specs (up to 400% better than current gen, by some reports).

        so the majority of the PC market is 100-200% better than current gen-consoles (which is ~7yr old technology)

        Have you done any reading at all? Consoles go though hardware versions. The 360 is close to double digits now. So no, it is not 7 year old hardware.

        The capacity may remain static (such as the amount of RAM) but the architecture does change (sometimes the buses are extended or sped up, the processor writing is reduced).

        I remember running Lost Odyssey on my 360 Elite and my brother's Halo 3 edition. On some scenes, the frame rate dropped out on mine while my bro's went fine. And both were patched to the same version in the game and OS.

        Quit playing the hardware card. More faster hardware does not mean better games. It is how you use what you have.

        Last edited 09/10/13 5:34 pm

          Again, its about the minimum spec. Of course consoles get revised hardware, better video chipsets, heat dissipation efficiency. But developers are still limited to creating a title that will work on all revisions of a console plaform.
          Nobody said that better hardware necessarily equals better games (and I'd be a fool if i said it), all it does is raise the roof for what is possible. decent developers will learn to do the best with what they have, which is always what you see at the end of a consoles lifecycle where the titles are always better than when the console was first released.

            Again, its about the minimum spec. Of course consoles get revised hardware, better video chipsets, heat dissipation efficiency. But developers are still limited to creating a title that will work on all revisions of a console plaform.

            They are not limited by the revisions. They are limited by the men in suits. I swear some of the games (I'm looking at you, CoD) will run fine even on a Dreamcast.

            And the men in suits? Why they be the publishers who love nothing more than to starve developers of wages and required funds to make new and innovative games. The possibilities are there but the men in suits want zero risk on their investments.

            No matter the platform, the sky is the limit. And right now, the likes of EA have set up a giant steal umbrella over the future of gaming.

      PC though they have to develop for low end to high end all in one go.

    some games might be fine, while others will be a bit gimped on the previous gen.

    Given that I'm yet to see 'Next Gen' visuals that look any different to current gen I don't see the need to jump until a game comes along that au must have and can't get elsewhere - last gen that game was GTA IV - I haven't seen anything yet - but it's early days!

    I have consoles for exclusives - and I mean actually exclusives that will never come to PC. I have a beast PC that I will play everything on because I'm a graphics whore and because you have far more options regarding mods etc.

      I have consoles for exclusives - and I mean actually exclusives that will never come to PC

      They'd be getting hard to find now. The term exclusive in general is nothing like it is suppose to be. Timed exclusive is more accurate.

        That's pretty much why I'm sitting out the next-gen launch. I'm like spoonie, where I use console for exclusives, and so far I haven't seen anything I'm interested in that I can't get on PC.

        Also, there's less problem of backwards compatibility, when I decide to upgrade my PC again. I know that Sony has mentioned a streaming service for PS3 games, but I haven't yet seen any mention of whether you have to pay for games that you already own. Also, I have no confidence in my internet connection for streaming games.

        At the moment I'm actually more interested in a Steam machine and controller, since I like to play some games on my TV, and I don't want a big dirty cable running through the house. Sure, I'll have to fork out for what is essentially just another PC, but I won't have to buy my games twice.

        What Valve is yet to show us is how the Steam Machines will stream games from Windows/OSX to the Steam Machine. Will the Steam Machines handle processing, or will it just relay the picture from my PC, which will handle the heavy lifting? I'm hoping the latter, cos I would rather have something small and quiet in the lounge.

        Not if you like Nintendo games :)

    NES: 4 years after release
    SNES: 2 years after release.
    N64: 6 months.
    PSX: 7 years.
    PS2: 2 years.
    PS3: 4 years.
    As you can see, I love new consoles. When they are affordable.

      it is not really feasible to the serious gamer to wait until something is affordable. By the time you wait several years, you now have several years worth of games to catch up on.
      Games have really, really short play cycles now (a game is "old" a week or two after it is released), so you might be looking at several dozens of quality titles to catch up on.

        it is not really feasible to the serious gamer to wait until something is affordable.

        Just because someone chooses to wait for the hardware to become cheap does not make the person an non-serious gamer.

        I too wait for the hardware to go cheap because I look more money in the bank, less bills in my mail and more food on the table.

        Your scenario only applies to gamers who aren't, or have never been poor. New consoles are a huge investment for me, and my natural instinct to never be in debt again means it has to wait until the money is available.

        I did that this gen and rather than put up with so-called software droughts I instead had an embarrassing amount of interesting games to play at cheap prices.

        These games are only "old" according to the hype cycle which drives the gaming press

        Games have really, really short play cycles now (a game is "old" a week or two after it is released)

        A week or two old and new games are still the same price as at launch. You can hardly consider them old, if they haven't even been discounted yet.

    The PS4 launch price is quite reasonable so I'm going in from launch this time. Any multiplatform games that I want I will buy the 'best' version so it's a combination of graphics and features.

    I would have gotten Watch Dogs for PC but the PS4 version apparently has some exclusive missions so it's PS4 version for me.

      exclusive content is where they get you, every time. the platform with the most exclusive content, wins.

    so basically we're putting up with a bunch of slightly prettier last-gen ports for a while from most third parties.

    I play on about a 6 month backlog. So half way through next year there should be an awesome bunch of ps4 games waiting for me.

    I think GTA5 is a perfect example of why we need next gen.
    Yes the game came out on current gen, but it wasn't really smooth sailing (install problems, low fps, online launch issues etc). The install problems and frame rate issues prove that GTA is butting it's head against the current gen ceiling.

    It's a great game, and rockstar have done great to bring it to current gen, but every time I look at it I see the game that could have been...
    I'm hoping I get that feeling with Watch Dogs. Something new, something different, a "wow" factor.
    Watch Dogs, Destiny, perhaps even Titanfall, feel like games that were designed with nextgen in mind and ported to current gen. And i think the article is correct, we will have to wait a while to really see the possibilities with all this new processing power.

    Pretty graphics shouldn't be the only thing you get. BF4, COD Ghosts are examples of current gen games ported to next gen. The PC and next gen versions will look prettier but will offer nothing new.
    Next gen (and PC) are needed to further expand past current gen's technical limitations. Bigger maps, more players, more vehicles, randomise cities, better AI, growing/living online worlds, (virtual reality?) etc...
    I can't imagine where gaming will go in the future, but it sure as hell isn't going to happen on current gen.

      I want to take issue with one or two things.

      First if all BF4 on 360 or PS3 allows 24 player matches which is really at the high end of current hardware capabilities.

      On PC and Next Gen machines: 64 players. I won't be getting BF4 until I get a next gen console because that's a tangible difference.

      With GTA - online issues, yes - but somehow I doubt they would've been any better on an x86 machine save for the lower install base.

      People crap on about FPS but last time I checked 30FPS has never looked bad (indeed does watching a movie at its unacceptable 24FPS look janky to you? If anything seeing a game play at 60FPS looks weird like way too fast to be natural)

      The last year has kind of been like the last year of the N64 where games were coming out like Rogue Squadron that were pushing the console beyond what people thought it could do

        I wish people would stop dropping that film frame rate comparison. It's like comparing apples and oranges. First of all, motion blur in film helps negate the framerate and interpolate frames, giving a smoother impression. Yes I know games are using motion blur now but they still have some way to go yet, and it uses a lot of resources. 2nd of all is input latency.

        Fair point about BF4. Probably a bad example, but just proves my first point.

        As for the FPS problem, i'm not just talking about frame rate, i'm talking about the texture problems, whole buildings not loading if you drive too fast. Stuff like that.
        I don't play too many console games, but I'm under the impression that they are usually optimised far better than that. They may look a bit worse but usually run very well.

        so yes, 30 FPS is enough, but having it drop to 10 when the screen is full of explosions is not enough.

          I hadn't noticed any pop-in (texture loading) on GTA V until the other night where I was online and got into a car another guy was driving and turned the camera around only to see a smudgy mess! But it's way better that San Andreas was on my PS2 that game had horrendous pop-in!

        To be fair, BF4 looks pretty much exactly like BF3 for the PC while using a new game engine. I doubt its PC that's forcing it to hold back...

      Yes the game came out on current gen, but it wasn't really smooth sailing (install problems, low fps, online launch issues etc). The install problems and frame rate issues prove that GTA is butting it's head against the current gen ceiling.

      Other games run fine so no it is not the hardware it is the fact the game was just not coded properly.

      And given Rockstar's reputation I think it safe to say that the programmers were not given the time and resources needed to make efficient use of the hardware.

      Furthermore, there is no current generation ceiling. That claim implies that consoles are a limiting factor which is a complete fallacy that PC zealots try to pass as fact to justify their preference over everything.

      Last edited 10/10/13 6:50 am

        Furthermore, there is no current generation ceiling. That claim implies that consoles are a limiting factor which is a complete fallacy that PC zealots try to pass as fact to justify their preference over everything.

        How exactly do you justify this?
        There are plenty of things current gen consoles just can't do, like support more than 24 players per server. That's is a ceiling. If current gen consoles could do everything, there would be no next gen. it's called progress. It has nothing to do with PC. PCs still get old and require upgrades. I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

        As for the GTA5 coding, I believe they had issues with the game performance because they were doing too much with the hardware. That may be a coding issue but it's also them trying to push the envelope. Lack of time could have been a factor, but it was in development for far longer than most games.

          There are plenty of things current gen consoles just can't do, like support more than 24 players per server.

          That's a server issue not a console issue. And support more than 24 players? Some tightly packed data structures with transparent compression should do the trick message passing wise.

          As for the rendering to the screen. Some tricks from Myst may help (look at the texture and force the pallet to have only the colours it needs to keep the size down) along with a memory manager that it built just for the 360 which takes into consideration the speed of the buses. Some streaming from other buses if they are deemed idle may help as well.

          Hardware is not the ceiling. The creativity of the designer and the ingenuity of the developer is. Sure hardware has its limit but as that old phrase goes (specifically from Austin Power's Dad) "It's not the size, mate. It's how you use it."

          That may be a coding issue but it's also them trying to push the envelope.

          That didn't stop developers back in the 90s and even early 2000s with the likes of the Nintendo 64. There was a tragic limit in the memory bus so some developers looked at the hardware and developed their own microcode that ran better than the code provided in the processor and even used some other buses meant for expansion to transfer additional data.

          So no, hardware is independent of one's ability to push the envelope. Just look at the guys at Naughty Dog and their Uncharted series. They continue to optimise and find ways to bush the Cell. BE chip beyond its limits.

          Lack of time could have been a factor, but it was in development for far longer than most games.

          That claim didn't work for Too Human nor Duke Nukem Forever so why should it be valid now?

          You want to know what the ceiling is? It's the publisher and some developer execs who hang on to their illusion of zero risk return on their investment.

          it's called progress. It has nothing to do with PC.

          Then at that case we don't need a new generation yet. Because this generation game wise is a joke.

          It started out well but with two years became the generation of ports and increasingly invasive DRM. All the next generation is offering is more hardware and more TV services. More hardware for what? No one is even being creative with the current hardware so how about we actually reach the point where hardware is impractical (despite my claim their is such a point but that is very far off) before moving to the next generation?

            Don't consoles use themselves as servers? I thought they didn't have dedicated servers?
            Maybe that's just some games, I don't know.

            Either way you seem to be very biased on the issue so I'm not going to bother discussing this further. I never said we needed a next gen but if every hardware limitation could be overcome with coding we would still be running Commodore64s. Everything you write seems to say that hardware doesn't matter.
            I don't agree.

            Respectfully, I don't think you understand what you're talking about when you say there's hardware isn't a ceiling. Not only is there one for console hardware, there is one for every fixed hardware there has been or for the foreseeable future will be. Everything in software comes down to a mathematical equation, there's only so far you can simplify and optimise the equation before you reach a hard limit.

            If you don't believe that, I've got an old 8086 Amstrad somewhere in storage that I'll happily donate to you, if you can find a way to run GTA5 on it. I'll even settle for you finding a way to run Quake on it. If there is no ceiling on hardware, as you say, then it should only be a matter of time before you find a way to optimise either of those games to run on 8MHz processing speed and 512kb of RAM.

            Or, assuming you can see how plainly absurd the idea is, then you must surely understand that current hardware is no different to old hardware - they both have their limits, and no amount of wishful thinking will cause them to be able to magically exceed those limits. That is a hardware ceiling.

            Last edited 11/10/13 11:17 pm

    Edit: Chrome glitched and put my post as a new discussion.

    Last edited 10/10/13 10:03 am

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now