The projectors went out and the curtain fell on Sony’s presentation… and above all, let the ideas settle at the right time, the time has come to take a pause for thought that I want to share with you. With the doubt (which at times is almost a certainty) of not being the only one to think so.
The theme of this editorial is clear from the title: this new generation, sincerely, is struggling to take off. Indeed, of all the next people I saw in my career, this is the one that excites me the least. And the reasons are quickly said …
The first, and most obvious, is that the graphics improvements from one generation to the next are getting narrower and narrower. Or, to put it like the good Gianluca Musso did on Sony’s live stream, the photorealism curve is now approaching asymptote. The years when the transition from one generation to the next led to rubbing the eyes are long gone. Indeed, the current generation of consoles, especially in its latest “improved” incarnations, is already touching photorealism at times.
Paradoxical as it may sound, it was Sony itself that pulled its hoe to its feet: if the PS5 presentation had kept it a month ago, it certainly would have been more impactful. Seen after spending 34 hours on The Last of Us Part II, however, it has a completely different effect. At least to the press. And the reason is simple: some of the games featured at the conference looked graphically less beautiful than the Naughty Dog masterpiece.
Raise your hand to those who haven’t thought about it at least once, when presenting the PlayStation 5, something like ” yes, well, but this game would also run quietly on a PS4 Pro“And the problem, of course, isn’t with Sony or Microsoft: it’s that you can’t create something more real than reality, and the closer the graphics get to photorealism, the more the improvements in a generation to generation will be marginal.
Unsurprisingly, what is Sony and Microsoft marketing based on? 8K and ray tracing. However, some eyebrows make it arch: we are not American and 4K here is reserved for a few. The 8K less, also because to take advantage of it you need panels above 60 ″, but our salons are certainly not as large as those overseas.
As for ray tracing… for heaven’s sake it’s an extra graphic tinsel, something that will further improve the picture quality, but the feeling is it won’t have as much of impact that the advent of HDR. And, on closer inspection, we’ve lived well so far, even without the real-time refractions of the puddles.
The modest graphics improvements the new generation seems to be introducing collide with another technological problem: streaming. Why probably yes, the new Horizon: Forbidden West seen on an 8K OLED in the West Hall of the Convention Center in Los Angeles, would be more appreciated. But COVID-19 this year has left Sony and Microsoft only a solution to show off their consoles in live streaming. With the little problem, however, that Twitch and YouTube stream at laughable resolutions compared to 8K, and without HDR. The result is paradoxical: Sony and Microsoft talk to us about graphics improvements… then transmit them via tools that cannot show them.
This technological limitation, combined with the asymptote I was talking about above, is leading to the collapse of what has been the so-called “wow effect” over the past few decades, the one that alone sold consoles. Of course, there would be other ways to titillate gamers, and I can think of the words I exchanged exactly twenty years ago with Shiny Entertainment’s David Perry, who was launching the Messiah video game at the time.
I still remember it like it was yesterday: we were outside the ECTS rooms (the second most important fair in the world – at the time), sitting on a bench discussing the future of the game. which was considered normal at the time, as well as phoning Peter Molyneux to greet him and ask him how it was going. Today, however, it is difficult to get the response from some PR on the cell phone… but hey.
We were talking about the future, I said, and he said, “You know Stefano, the next thing I would like is artificial intelligence so refined that it makes us doubt that NPCs who we are talking to are real people. But unfortunately we don’t have the technology to do it. David was a visionary: it was no coincidence that he founded Gaikai, which in 2012 became PlayStation Now. For 380 million dollars. Twenty years later, sorry to see how nothing has changed: we have unthinkable computing powers at the moment, but NPCs interact with the usual set of predefined sentences. But hey… soon they will do it in 8K!
The problem is that today there is an exaggerated imbalance between CPU and GPU and I don’t think I am the only one trading ultra resolutions with more realistic and complex artificial intelligence. Above all, these would be innovations clearly visible even in 1080p streaming, and would push the purchase of the new generation far beyond 8K effects and graphics than you can only imagine.
The industry’s lack of ideas can also be seen from other things, starting with trainings. The first party titles presented at the Sony conference are already seen IP suites (Horizon, Spider-Man, Ratchet & Clank, Gran Turismo, LittleBigPlanet) or remaster (Demon’s Soul). So much so that some have been used to flesh out live broadcasting, but one could also say abuse, of indie games. Which, however, will not be exclusive to PlayStation 5, as Microsoft has not failed to point out. But let’s be honest: who would spend 600 euros (if not 699, as we say in these hours) for these titles?
We will answer that there was also Ghostwire: Tokyo, Deathloop and Project Athia. We are talking about exclusives on paper of a very different thickness but… with a console sold at 399 euros, we would throw the heart beyond the obstacle. So, however, no. And before being accused of bias, things weren’t that they’re better on the other side: Microsoft’s last Inside Xbox was a flop, which didn’t show off the much-advertised gameplay and relied on Assassin’s Creed. : Valhalla, which will however also be available on Sony consoles.
But the real manifesto of the times we live in is the opening of the PlayStation 5 conference, that is, Grand Theft Auto V. For charity we are talking about a unique and irreplaceable game, which Rockstar monetizes like no one has done before and which will span 3 console generations. But clinging to an IP address published in 2013 to open a press conference that would indicate the future of the game, is more than a little perplexing.
A perplexity that becomes awkward as the trailer starts showing outdated graphics… and ends the same way. Many expected a change of pace at some point, a leap forward that showed the power of the PS5… but no. Which seems mysterious thinking that in recent years mods have come out that have brought the game to the threshold of photorealism.
A remastered GTA V with evolved NaturalVision style graphics would be able to sell the PS5 on its own. However, as it is, it only seems like a gimmick in the name of maximum performance with minimum expense. But it is true that we are talking about a game that has been topping the charts for 7 years, so, most likely, people will buy it for the third time.
I end this long rant from an old game on another exemplary thing of the times we live in: the solid-state hard drive. I don’t know about you but every time I hear a developer say that ” no, well, but with the SSD of the PS5 you will see things that you cannot understand“, I want to return a table.
The most anonymous and ignored component in console history has become the cornerstone of the next generation. Now, given that I’ve been mounting an SSD on my PC for 4 years and the load times are really exciting, the idea that console war has to be played on a hard drive confirms the image of industry to industry. short of ideas.
We could have seen things that we humans could not have imagined; original ideas that would have made our imaginations travel to the ramparts of Orion, and new IP addresses capable of flashing sequels and remasterings in the dark. But all those dreams will be lost, like tears in the rain.
Source : Reddit