Next-generation consoles will certainly feature improved graphics and technology from what people see with current systems, and Epic believes there are plenty more improvements to be made to a game’s graphics.
According to a report from Gamasutra yesterday, Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney talked about the various possibilities that still lie within graphics and how gameplay can still be improved.
“Yes. We’re still at the point where improvements in graphics technology are enabling major improvements in gameplay.
“Just the ability to do real-time lighting on environments now means you can construct a completely dynamic environment — or destruct a completely dynamic environment — and have all of the lighting respond accurately. It turns out that the technical features you need for that are really elaborate and expensive.
“If you have your own support for real-time lighting like ‘Doom 3’ had, then all of your areas that are directly hit by light are bright, and all of the areas that aren’t directly hit by light are completely black.
“So you need real-time indirect lighting, which means calculating two bounces of light on them, and so on, which really is only becoming possible now with today’s GPUs, that are 2.3 to 2-and-a-half teraflops.
“Even if your thesis is that we’re getting diminishing returns on graphical effects, I think we’re still at the point where making graphics innovations greatly improves our capability of implementing new kinds of games,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney went on to discuss the fine line between creating games that look real and making something that mirrors reality.
“We don’t necessarily want to simulate reality because reality is pretty boring, right?
“Simulate realistic characters in a game, and they’re probably just sitting around sending their friends stupid messages on Twitter.
“You want fantastical environments and fantastical characters, and that’s really the big job of an engine — it’s not just to enable graphical realism but also to give our artists and designers the capability to really tweak things to create a custom look and feel for the game, and a custom enhanced version of reality that they can play around with consistently,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said the Unreal Engine gets better after each generation, but there isn’t enough hardware performance available to completely eliminate all flaws in the engine.
“Well, each generation, we improve. We greatly reduce the flaws that you see, but we’re still far from having enough hardware performance to completely eliminate them. The jaggies in shadows in Unreal Engine 1 were 3 feet wide, and now they’re just a few inches wide.
“And that’s great, but until they’re much smaller than a millimeter you’ll still notice those artifacts. Really, the amount of performance you need to solve this completely is immense. I think we’re just slowly moving in the right direction there.
“The technology is solving other problems. For example, texture streaming has been a huge challenge given optical media. When you’re playing ‘Gears of War’ off a DVD, sometimes you see textures popping in just because we can only move the DVD head four or five times a second in order to load the textures in.
“If textures are coming into view at a faster rate, then you’re screwed. If you look at what’s possible now with solid state disk technology and flash memory storage, you have a factor of 10,000 less latency,” Sweeney said.