The current generations of consoles have opened our eyes to what we’d consider to be large, expansive open worlds that allow us to somewhat become accustom to these vast experiences. Thankfully, the next generation offers more. Gamesindustry.biz recently published the official specifications of the new Xbox Series X, but what does it mean, does it add value to what game developers can offer eager gamers?
With new technology comes rare terminology, and one that will be used regularly in the future is ‘teraflops’ – as we know, the Xbox Series X is bulked up with a total of 12 teraflops. Essentially, more teraflops mean more GPU to put to work across the game, and this means a game can do more impressive things at the same time, with fewer compromises. So developers can offer much higher framerates, for example. While the current generation of consoles offers 30 or 60 fps, the next generation will be offering 4k visuals at 60 fps combined with 1080p at 120 fps. Game developers can offer experiences that are slick and buttery smooth at high resolutions with the added bonus of promised power.
This tech, such as additional GPU; means that developers can push the processing power into overdrive with vastly impressive visual effects, enhancing even small details like improved lighting and shadows. The Xbox Series X’s power also allows developers to close in on photo realism and the uncanny valley for in-game graphics. For the team at Virtuos, we can increasingly blur the line between the work we do for games and the work we do for movies. For example, the quality of the graphics in the next Star Wars game probably will not be far off the computer-generated graphics seen in recent mini-series ‘The Mandalorian’. One key area that will most definitely see visual improvement is volumetric effects such as smoke, fog and clouds. These effects scatter light and have previously been presented in games with mixed results. What makes this all interesting is the effect that this graphical shift might have on gameplay. Yes, improved smoke effects will be awesome to look at, but barely being able to glimpse an enemy if the light catches them right after players have thrown a smoke grenade adds a new level of nuance to playstyles and evolves the potential for gameplay mechanics as well too.
We would not be surprised to see ray tracing at runtime become the standard for AAA games in the near future as well. Ray tracing allows developers to optimise the implementation of effects that rely on ray intersections. With the ability to improve reflection and refraction effects, it’s certainly something we’ll continue to use in our future projects to make games look even more impressive. One particularly interesting element of ray tracing is the effect on audio and acoustics. This tech allows for a more accurate spatialization of the sound, managing more sound positions- which opens up even more exciting new avenues for developers to make their games more immersive for gamers.
With the additional tech, developers benefit massively and are essentially being granted the power to do more with less – essentially working smarter not harder. This is a massive opportunity to push the envelope on what this new tech can do, and what new level of creativity can be reached. As there will be more power, more content can be pushed at any one time by developers.
The new specs of the Xbox Series X sound great on paper, and they are. But when looking at the next generation of consoles, developers need to think not just about additional power in numerical terms, but what they can put the power to work doing in order to deliver experiences like never before.