Monday, June 20, 2011

The End is in Sight

Perfectly timed for my last post on rat pellets is an extensive interview with legendary developer John Carmack in Eurogamer where he says:
...the better games get the harder you have to go to give a delta people care about. That's going to be a challenge for the next-generation of consoles, to show that the pack-in title is going to look more awesome than what you get on the current ones that people will want to go spend $300 on a new console.

They'll be able to do it on the next generation, but it's going to be much harder. And whether it's even possible another generation after that is an open question.
And in an interview with CNET, Carmack says:
I can recognize the knee in the curve where I can do things that make the graphics better than what they are right now, but not as much better as if we put all that engineering effort into things that make it more fun.
This is huge.

Of course he's likely known this forever but it's nice to hear someone like John Carmack say that better graphics don't make games more fun, echoing what Chris Crawford said twenty years ago.

But more importantly, Carmack sees the end of the line for the improved graphics train that the industry has been riding all these years. He's saying the next generation of consoles will probably be the last to show obviously better graphics. For years improved graphics have been a major driver of sales for consoles and PC graphics cards, so this has huge implications for hardware vendors such as nVidia, AMD, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft.

It's been awhile now that I've been unable to see much (if any) difference in the side-by-side comparison images that purport to show the graphic improvements offered by the new offerings from nVidia and AMD. Since frame rates are decent, my main focus has been on power consumption as high-end graphics cards tend to be undesirably hot and noisy.

One of my pet peeves is draw distance. I always want to see further away, and for performance reasons most FPS and small scale tactical games have very short draw distances. So while improved hardware could offer longer draw distances, seeing tiny objects better in the far distance isn't going to offer a compelling reason for people to upgrade.

It's not just hardware -- as Carmack notes, the end of the improved graphics cycle will have a big effect on marketing games, too. Since so many games now are just old games redone with better graphics, publishers will have to find other reasons for people to buy new games.

The era of good enough graphics is almost upon us.

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