EA previews next-gen content

Just found this in my Drafts folder. I wrote it a while ago: obviously the news item this was inspired by has long been superseded by the next-gen revelations at E3. But my point is, I hope, still valid.

At the recent Credit-Suisse First Boston Technology Conference, Electronic Arts, further pushing its status as the games industry’s leading protagonist, showed some images it claimed are representative of what next-generation home consoles will be capable of.

EA spokesman and CFO Warren Jensen presented two images, one of Madden and one representing future Need for Speed software, both renders of projected graphical output.

“Imagine that the characters in a football [game] will be capable of showing real emotion,” said Jensen. “That’s what’s going to be possible with the next generation of technology.”

That’s the whole article at SPOnG.com – all that’s missing are the screenshots, which are pretty pre-rendered screens. This is only newsworthy because it’s EA saying it, and because it’s happening now (I refuse to take this seriously).

Any major developer must be doing more or less the same thing: think of what is probably going to be possible, let artists do mock-ups showing how cool that would look, keep it pinned to everyone’s walls. It’s a good way of setting a stretch goal. (See also what I wrote about the Killzone 2 video recently.)

At least, for visual quality. This is going to be the first generation shift where the diminishing returns should become pretty obvious to everyone (see here for another opinion). As was pointed out by Jason Rubin a while ago, an Xbox game looks better than a PS1 game to a degree that it impacts the experience, but apart from that games haven’t changed that much. We’re used to 3D now, we know what works, we can crank stuff out pretty quickly. It’s mature. We have new gadgets, such as the Eye Toy. We have online if we want. What will be the USP for next-gen? HDTV? Whoop-dee-doo.

More on this later.

Comments 2

  1. petsounds wrote:

    I have to disagree with your position that we’ll see the law of diminishing returns in full effect this generation. For one, I think visuals will actually look like CG this time around. But I also believe this generation of games will focus more on physics, AI, and other computing tasks which have taken a back-seat to the untiring march of visual progress. The next-gen machines pack so much processing punch, that eeking out every bit of visual complexity won’t necessarily be the limiting factor. There are a lot of areas of gameplay besides visual prowess that can still elicit some jaw-dropping.

    Of course, this all depends on the game publishers, and we all know they get nosebleeds when they head for the high road. The Law of Diminishing Gameplay will be in effect this generation as well. It is just too bad that the Law of Diminishing Profit isn’t proportional to that law.

    Posted 22 Jun 2005 at 1:03
  2. Aubrey wrote:

    My personal issue is not particularly coming up with the technology to present realistic looking emotions, but how to tie that technology into a non trivial, interactive system. We can surely find excellent ways to use emotional feedback as part of a game, but shouldn’t it be in some kind of soap opera game, rather than its relatively superficial implications on a sports franchise?

    I mean, so what if Madden’s players can snort or cry. Are you going to have to change their dypers in response? Probably not. It’s just there to make the same game shinier.

    Another comment was flying about that “Boxers in Fight Night will have such realistic expressions that you won’t need a health bar”. Bull Shit. I need a health bar in a game with a health metric for the same reason I need a fuel gage in my car. Abstract representation is far cleaner and easier to interpret than noisey realism. Don’t take my word for it. This has been researched by smarter people than I:

    http://playcube.org/index.php/2005/04/10/p275-Visual_training

    Posted 22 Jun 2005 at 12:44