Graphics plateau?

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It’s usually at about this time in the console life cycles (4-5 years in) that the PC begins to pull ahead with raw power, and we start seeing noticeably superior games (graphically). Moore’s Law is still in effect, but being able to see large graphical improvements in games is getting harder to discern. There is usually always one developer who steps up with an amazing looking game on the PC, even if it’s only for bragging rights, but at this stage the two year old Crysis still holds the crown and there is not much else in the pipeline except maybe Rage, Project Offset, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, although from the trailers I’ve seen none of these look better than Crysis.

This raises some questions. Have we reached a plateau with graphics? Is what we have “good enough”? If the PC is a barometer of where graphics are heading, as it has been in the past, then things are definitely slowing down. There is a case of diminishing returns as you get closer to photo realism and you don’t need any more power to make the side of a building or a race car track look more realistic than they do now on current technology. But surely there is still a long way to go with animations and rendering people? and physics could still be greatly improved. Maybe it’s just another indicator that the PC is a shadow of it’s former self as a major games platform?

Intel are hoping that their new Larrabee graphics cards will revitalise the market but unless they are blindingly fast and developers get on board with them they will only add to the problem because they have a different architecture to current GPUs which will mean more development costs when making games for them.

I hope we haven’t already had all the great leaps forward in visual fidelity and further improvements prove to be only incremental. I still want to be blown away. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next-gen of consoles to find out how significant the improvements can be.

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5 Responses to “Graphics plateau?”

  1. It’s an interesting point. I believe the universality of games on consoles today is watering down the graphics somewhat. I also believe the emphasis has shifted from PC to console a lot and developers are being coaxed into making more console games than high-end PC games.
    Also the recession deserves a mention in all of this, with companies perhaps opting to make games for the easiest format.

  2. phyzznick Says:

    I agree with Mr pct that the emphasis has moved to consoles (me coming from PC only (rarely PS2) is an example). And this may have put to a halt to advancement, games need to be Multiplatform nowadays.. PCs advance in tech, PS3 and 360 just dont – only remodels and increases to HD and accessories, but not tech power, hence the slowdown.
    But also it is getting to a point where it is getting very good, depending on the engine used ie Unreal.. so maybe more time needs to be spent on improving the software engine to match Unreal or better it, until the next tech/platforms arrive.

  3. Yeap, you’ve covered it all already. There’s not much more to add. It really is a combination of so many different factors which include also increased cost of development. Today games cost tens of millions of dollars to produce and part of that is that you can achieve so much with the latest hardware that a limiting factor is how many more millions do you want to pump into creating higher and higher res textures, more detailed anitmation/mo-cap etc etc. Also as you said there are other ways you can enhance a game outside of pumping up the graphics and increasingly gamers are expecting advanced physics models, decent scripting/story and amazing Hollywood level cinematic’s. These all take millions to add into a game and that’s money that’s not being put into the graphics especially when as you say they are “good enough” now and I’d much rather effort and therefore funding was put elsewhere in places where games haven’t exactly shone in the past like voice work/acting which can do much more to draw you into a game than pushing more polys and having fancier shaders. Uncharted 1 & 2 shows what can happen when the dialogue is delivered in ways that are a cut above the usual b-grade cheesiness you get in games. They entertain on a whole other level and that’s just with dialogue akin to a fairly standard hollywood action movie, it’s not the best script ever but it just goes to show how lacking the script and story is in most games! There’s a long ways to go yet but there’s a change in emphasis away from just making the graphics look better and more towards bringing the rest of the experience up to the same level of polish and I’m all for that!

    • phyzznick Says:

      There’s not much more to add he says… yet he follows it up with a 5000 word essay lol 😛

      • How did I know that it would be YOU that would pick up on that LOL couldn’t be assed going back and editing it!! 😀

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