Ubisoft: AI is the "real battleground" for new consoles
Developers "extremely limited" by the current generation of consoles
Ubisoft's Yves Jacquier believes that improved graphics will not be a "strong feature" of the next generation of consoles.
Jacquier, executive director of production services at Ubisoft Montreal, has been working with students at Montreal University following the creation of the Industrial Chair on Learning Representations for Immersive Video Games earlier this year.
Ubisoft is investing $200,000 a year for the next five years with the aim of developing "other ways of thinking" about game production. Jacquier demonstrated the group's work in the field of procedural AI, telling GamesIndustry.biz that innovation in this area is vital to the future development of videogames.
"AI has always been the real battleground. The challenge is that, if you see an AI coming, you've failed. And that's a problem we have to overcome as we create the impression of flawless, seamless worlds."
What's the value of making something more realistic and better animated if you have poor AI?
Yves Jacquier, Ubisoft
In the past, consoles have been marketed principally on the strength of their graphical capabilities. The Wii broke this trend, and Jacquier believes that the next generation of consoles will all follow suit.
"In general the industry expects that graphics will not be a strong feature any more... Obviously, graphics are better for marketing purposes because you can show things. AI you can't show."
"Our challenge with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox  is that we're extremely limited in what we can do. It's a challenge for the engineers to provide nice graphics and nice AI and nice sound with a very small amount of memory and computation time."
"We think that the next generation of consoles won't have these limits any more. Games might have more realistic graphics and more on-screen, but what's the value of making something more realistic and better animated if you have poor AI?"
Jacquier's comments chime with those made by id Software's John Carmack in a recent interview with Eurogamer.
"The better games get the harder you have to go to give a delta people care about," Carmack said. "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."