Capcom: Next gen development is "eight to ten times" more work

Masaru Ijuin describes need for new tools as publisher considers rising dev costs

The leading authority on Capcom's game engines has claimed that AAA development for the PS4 and Xbox One demands orders of magnitude more work than the current generation consoles.

In an interview published on Capcom's website, Masaru Ijuin, senior manager of technology and consumer games development, explained the publisher's incentives for replacing its current engine, "MT Framework," for the new generation of hardware.

"We believe 'MT Framework' is a powerful rendering engine, but it's clear that heightened game quality leads to a rise in the number of man hours," he said. "The amount of work involved in making games for next-gen consoles is eight to ten times greater than what is required for the current generation of consoles."

Ijuin admitted that Capcom encountered "problems and limitations" when using MT Framework for next-gen development, which triggered the creation of the company's new engine, "Panta Rhei." According to Ijuin, the complexity of the new technology meant that a simple upgrade of MT Framework would not have reduced the extra effort required by a wide enough margin.

"Improvements to "MT Framework" might have reduced the work time from one hour to 30 minutes. We sought to go beyond that and shorten those 30 minutes to ten."

While several publishing executives have downplayed the issue of rising production costs in calls to investors - including, but not limited to, Take Two's Strauss Zelnick - the development community has been more cautious about the impact of new consoles on the already tenuous economics of AAA game development.

"We're trying to do a lot of procedural stuff in this next generation to keep costs under control. It's one of the ways we're trying to keep that down, but it's still a cost increase," he said. "Each asset needs to be so much better, so much more defined, than it was in the previous generation. No amount of procedural is going to change the fact that your underlying asset just has to be that much better."

And if costs are indeed rising, that is mirrored by the escalating cost of AAA console gaming for the consumer. On both Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the price of a new game is significantly higher than the equivalent on the previous generation of consoles, and the price of the digital version is higher still.

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Latest comments (19)

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
Time to sack it then guys. You won't get eight to ten more money at the other end.
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This is just silly. Sure all devs need better tools for a new hardware generation (especially Japanese devs...). But PS4 and Xbone are no more powerful than standard PC's these days yet there are legions of great looking low cost PC games doing very well on Steam. The "ten times the cost" mentality is more reflective of the AAA console dev mindset than it is of reality. Stop trying to win through size and weight and start developing smarter like everyone else is having to do. Even with a limited budget the possibilities are still endless. Less calculating, more dreaming please.
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Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital3 years ago
I have a feeling that Capcom may be the next major publisher going down. Not only some of their biggest franchises are progressively worse and worse, but this mentality of "fighting fire with fire" is not going to do much good for them.

If your game's name consists of only three letters, like for example G, T and A, or C, O and D, then you can spent virtually unlimited amount of money. Otherwise, it is time to face the reality. Next gen is no excuse for rising costs. Tools are getting better every day and talented studios in Eastern Europe can create assets for only a fraction of the cost of Japanese or North-American studios.
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Show all comments (19)
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
"Each asset needs to be so much better, so much more defined, than it was in the previous generation. No amount of procedural is going to change the fact that your underlying asset just has to be that much better."
So, to offset the costs, why not go the true multi-platform route? XOne/PS4/PC? Considering the recent kerfuffle over CoD:Ghosts' poor quality textures and not-1080p resolution, it's fairly obvious that 1) there's still some limitations to work through on the new consoles and 2) not everyone who has a console cares that much about quality. Create high-quality assets on the PC, for the PC version, downscale on the consoles.

Though this does require a major Japanese developer/publisher to care about PC, which is proving strangely difficult.
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Tudor Nita Lead Programmer, Gameloft Romania3 years ago
Next-Gen AAA will be more expensive, regardless of talented studios in Eastern Europe ( outsourcing has its own downsides and overheads ).

Ijuin didn't make a blanket statement either, he specifically mentioned AAA and although the interview seems to point at tech, it actually looks like he is talking about the workflow and pipeline. AAA polygons are not going to build themselves and unfortunately the art pipeline has not actually evolved that much (some would say at all) to cover the huge gap in visual fidelity required for next-gen AAA.

This doesn't exclude working smarter or adapting to sub AAA standards and products or the market in general.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tudor Nita on 13th January 2014 4:04pm

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@Morville "Though this does require a major Japanese developer/publisher to care about PC, which is proving strangely difficult. "
Not that strange. With so many cool consoles to choose from in the 80's/90's, the PC never caught on as a major gaming platform with Japanese gamers. I think Japanese devs just don't feel confident enough of their knowledge of the platform to release on it.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
Yeah, that's a good point (and actually borne out by the differences in approach that From are taking with Dark Souls 2 vs DS1 on the PC). :)
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee3 years ago
I can see why we would expect a generational rise in cost but I'm not sure why we're looking at them escalate by 8x. That said, opinion has been pretty varied on exactly how much work next gen development will take compared to the last.
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8 to 10? Really. So if you needed a team of 100 people, and 80 miilion to create a game, now you need 800 people and 640 million to create the same type of game on the new gen of consoles? Please that is just silly.

8% increase perhaps, 8 times, which is 800%? ummm no. Perhaps something was lost in translation, or at least I hope it was.
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Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster3 years ago
This has been worked to death. Last few generations we've saw widespread Dev adoption of tools that make the workload vastly easier. From the multiple-game single-engine (which compiles to 7 different end devices at will) solutions that save devs designing anything near one engine per game as was done in the past, to the custom built company IDEs that sit in some of the big AAA companies, to the more refined and detailed tooling out there, WYSIWYG and treemap shader compilers (UE3), in-engine animation (such as that in CryEngine Sandbox), scripting (Unity) and Treemap AI generation tools. Bolt-On feature implementations meaning that most people will buy tessellation or SpeedTree style animations and spend a few hours implementing and testing rather than buying. To go further back, there were times when games didn't use basic APIs to interface with the hardware and you actually had to create your own DirectX/OpenGL equivalent for every game you made.

This whole end result is that games are sharing far more components that ever before. This will obviously continue. Maybe if you actually put all the man-hours devoted to creating everything past the hardware, from the console Hypervisors themselves to the kernels, to the Graphics, Sound and Physics API, right up the games very last touches you might be able to justify that 640m hours statement.

The truth is though, that 10 years ago it was seen by some as cheating when you shared engines between games which were not sequels to each other. 10 years before it was unheard of for developers to be sharing their own flavor of rendering code let along all be sharing the same. Those engines of progress move forward steadily turning per-game processes into per-company processes into industry-wide processes in order to regulate costs. The next thing to become a general standard is probably the core bits of the game engine and if someone happens to drop good enough code in the open source realm, I don't see it as being impossible that we get to a stage that using their bits and bobs allows enough of a saving in development time and money and is good enough code that it gets huge adoption.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany3 years ago
"The amount of work involved in making games for next-gen consoles is eight to ten times greater than what is required for the current generation of consoles."

And the news are?

This is quite normal in each generation jump: you start tampering with new hardware with limited tools and knowledge. It's like Rockstar said when they explained why GTAV was released for current gen; "We have more tools and we know a lot more tricks"

Remember how many studios complained back them about how incredibly hard was to program for PS2? Remember also how at the end of it's life every single small studio was releasing stuff for the console? :)
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany3 years ago
Less calculating, more dreaming please.
Man, the industry really needs more people with that mentality. My respect to you.
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Felix Leyendecker Senior 3D Artist, Crytek3 years ago
I think he may be talking about a hypothetical project that utilizes everything the new hardware has to offer. He doesn't say if such a project would actually end up getting made.
However, looking back at the time between 2003-2007, history shows that all it takes is just one big flagship title to push the boundaries, and everyone else is forced to step up their game.
I wouldn't say his assessment is unrealistic. We might consistently have film-cg like production values before the end of this generation.
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Hugo Dubs Interactive Designer 3 years ago
This is funny, cause as said by many other people here, next gen consoles are build upon existing hardware so I don't see why there should be a difference. Also, as a second and final point, even if next gen games require some additional in-game features to develop, next gen engine such as Unreal 4 or CryEngine 4 were built to make iterations faster and faster. It supposed to compensate with the improving needs next gen have. There were many articles on this when these engines were announced. So IMO, if Capcom is in trouble, it's not because of the new console gen...
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 3 years ago
I would like to have some of what this guy is smoking.

1) PS3 was a dog to develop for with its strange CPU and weak GPU.
2) We are experiencing no massive jump in resolution (that will come with 4K).
3) Development tools have got a whole lot better very suddenly. Years ago we had the jump from assembler to C++. Now we are having a similar jump to powerful development environments.
4) The two new consoles are pretty much the same as one another. Last generation the PS3 and 360 were incredibly different to each other.
5) The two new consoles are very, very similar to PCs, something we have been developing for since 1981. There is a huge mountain of transferable skills, tools, libraries etc.
6) Mobile and indies are teaching the industry to develop far more efficiently with more pre production and less wasted work. Surely the big console developers are taking this on board.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bruce Everiss on 14th January 2014 4:32pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
One point missed here by some is Japanese developers have been getting by with a "less is more" approach for YEARS and it seems that they're finally being outstripped by tech they need to learn how to use and paradoxically, can't afford to spend time and games experimenting on until they nail it. I can think of too many PlayStation and later era games that didn't look all that great, but in terms of artistic creativity and some gameplay elements, were outstanding and quirky little gems.

These days, the push to get visuals polished up to a certain standard seems to be sucking the fun out of game development for some developers who just want to do stuff that's less polished but still fun to play. I guess some will learn those new tricks and nail a few solid games, but I don't think it's the end of the world if we see some not so hot-looking titles show up that are a lot more fun than they look (critics and overly graphics-whore-y fans be damned)...
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Steve Wetz Reviewer/Assistant Editor, Gamer's Glance3 years ago

I think that's part of the problem, but I think another, more troubling part of this problem is that Capcom and companies like it spend an inordinate amount of time developing and updating game engines. And for the life of me I can't see why.

If Capcom had moved to one of the industry standard engines, their development time might have increased a little. The companies who create those engines regularly update to support new tech, taking that development time away from video game producing companies (or rather, companies who don't make games merely to show off and sell their engines).

Get on Source or Unity or Unreal. Then most of these problems will disappear. Instead at the beginning of every console cycle you end up burning time and money updating your own engines to adapt to the new consoles and not simply making games on engines which already support those platforms.
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Felix Leyendecker Senior 3D Artist, Crytek3 years ago
Japanese devs licensing western engines have a language barrier to deal with...
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
@Steve: I agree, although my experience with Unreal-developed Japanese games has been hit and miss. Square Enix had a few Unreal-based games I believe and there was Mistwalker's Lost Odyssey which was somehow amazingly bland visually (but had its moments here and there). I like Unity-based games because it seems a lot more flexible (based on the many different titles I've played from many different developers), so I think I'd love to see what Japanese devs can do with it as they hopefully discover they don't need to waste so much time.

I think there is a Japanese version of Unity on the way or already here, so it's not as if it's going to be impossible to see something coming (I hope).
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