The face of tomorrow: How PS4 and Xbox 3's visuals will change gaming

What does the next-gen hold? We ask the man who knows...

The latest issue of Xbox World is on sale now.

Today's consoles have given us at least three generations of games. Despite being told time and again that hardware is 'maxed,' devs have found ways out of almost every dead end.

That the machine you bought in 2006 can play Battlefield 3 is a miracle. Just imagine what those people could do with six times the power... With the help of images taken from existing games, on a hi-spec PC, we ask Codemasters lead artist Mike Smith to show us the future...


Image: AMD ladybird demo

Why it will change gaming
Edge-smoothing techniques such as FXAA (Fast Approximate Antialiasing) and SMAA (Subpixel Morphological Antialiasing) are fast making 'jaggies' extinct, but that's just part of the equation. We never did get that 1080p standard they used to sell us all those televisions - many games can't even manage 720p, especially in 3D - so next-gen has an obvious target. Question is, though: does it really need to hit it?

The developer says...
"You'd expect 1080p will become the norm, but again it's down to perception. You could probably get away with a lower resolution if your image quality elsewhere was up to scratch. Nice blurring on edges so you don't get jaggies; good gamma range for things like HDR; representation of light levels that's more filmic; then things like framerate and smooth gameplay."


Image: Eve Online

Why it will change gaming
For all the buzz about L.A Noire, its vaunted facial capture folded under questioning, much like its suspects. Their movements were meticulously recorded, for a start, which limited them to strictly scripted dialogue and saw them 'swim' atop bodies that were captured elsewhere. What you really want is an animation rig that can morph through an entire performance seamlessly and dynamically.

The developer says...
"More memory to run more bones, and more processing power to run more bones on each character - then every part of every limb can move differently. You can have more bones for skinning, so that muscles can roll over bones correctly, so that stuff we approximate at the moment can have higher fidelity. That's really obvious with faces, where you have all these nuances that humans are programmed to see."


Image: GTA IV

Why it will change gaming
For game artists - like any other artist - lighting is everything. It binds scenes together, turning them from a patchwork of textures, boxes and spotlights into a natural, cohesive and evocative environment. Light from just a few sources can now be bounced between objects, creating an interplay of light and shadow that echoes reality and that gives the materials lives of their own. The quality of light is what defines both time and place, and is as vital as the details it illuminates.

The developer says...
"If you look at the amount of effort that goes into lighting at companies like Pixar, we're quite some way away from being able to leverage that control. It can be very expensive to bounce light around as you would to render a scene offline. Once we have a toolset to do that, art directors can go crazy with effects and deliver very different and very impressive aesthetics for games. So, rather than photorealistic or cel-shaded, you'll be able to have lots in between, just like they do in cinema."

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