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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...

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SMARTER ENEMIES

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Image: Rage

Why it will change gaming
AI has long been seen as the weakest link, but just how smart does it have to be? Do we really want enemies that think like humans, or just a compelling illusion? A true breakthrough is a long way off, making the suggestion of intelligence - creating a surprising but not horrifying enemy - of greater significance.

The developer says...
"With more CPU power you could put more into the AI routines and pathfinding, but AI is a tricky one because people think it's about decision-making. More often than not, it's about player interpretations. The way to communicate clever AI is to push more in terms of animation, so enemies might feel more human. They'll react when you shoot them, maybe go behind cover, and the animation system can make them flinch, and so on, which is just leveraging the memory to have more animations."

RICHER LANDSCAPES

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Image: Crysis

Why it will change gaming
Picture a world like Skyrim, where the landscape peters out to a blotchy green streak of land with a light scattering of buildings... or whatever they're supposed to be. A vast open world that doesn't even appear until you're close enough isn't really a vast world at all, but rather the impression of one.

The developer says...
"The key thing limiting game worlds is memory (RAM). You can only store a certain amount of textures on current-gen hardware. We use a lot of advanced level-of-detail (LOD) techniques to ensure that scenes are balanced; with more memory and more processing power, we can push that so that the high levels of detail you see close-up could go out further. So, more trees, denser grass, more detail in things like rocks and banks, and
a more natural distribution and variation."

PHOTOREALISM

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Image: GT5

Why it will change gaming
The kind of photorealism seen in Forza and Gran Turismo's Photo Modes will come a great deal closer to running in real time. Not all the way, perhaps - we'll have to wait for next-next-gen for that - but they'll at least clean up their numerous rough edges. Other games will choose to pursue believability over realism, for which next-gen hardware is actually more beneficial.

The developer says...
"There's nothing to stop crazy colour palettes in the current gen, but it's more the representation of how light falls upon materials and how that's output to the screen. We'll be able to see a lot more photorealistic approximations of things like skies through exposure changes and HDR, next-gen. That's more of an art direction thing, how the developers exploit the new toolsets."

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