How PS4 and Xbox One Will Yield Better Creativity

Why does next-gen matter? Devs tell us what the extra power will allow them to do

With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on the scene, the next console generation has finally begun. While a new generation usually brings the promise of more graphical power, great graphics are only part of the gaming equation. What will these new consoles allow developers to do creatively?

GamesIndustry International reached out to a few developers to ask them how next-gen will help them on the creative side of equation. Is it a huge creative leap, or merely a slight evolution?

In its last two titles, Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, independent developer The Chinese Room focused on pushing the first-person game away from the shooting mechanics that usually dominate. The studio's next title, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, is coming to PlayStation 4 with some help from Sony Computer Entertainment. For The Chinese Room, next-gen helps their creative juices just by being easier to work with.

"The blunt reality is that easier production equals more creative freedom and opportunity"

The Chinese Room creative director Dan Pinchbeck

"I think the major thing, from the perspective of actually building games, is less for us about the power - that's brilliant of course, and having significantly higher budgets makes a big difference - but it's more about the ease of working with PS4," The Chinese Room creative director Dan Pinchbeck told GamesIndustry International. "So far, it's just been a dream bit of kit to work with. We've got the advantage of working with CryEngine, another great piece of tech of course, but even then it's been remarkably smooth to get things up and running quickly. That's worth its weight in gold from a production standpoint, and the blunt reality is that easier production equals more creative freedom and opportunity."

According to Braid creator Jonathan Blow, aiming for a single, next-generation set of specifications allowed the team behind The Witness to settle on a single visual style for the game. That title is also heading to PlayStation 4 in 2014.

"Creatively, we build and we assume that we have enough power in rendering," explained Blow. "When we were planning the look of the island, we had a couple of choices. Do we target the PlayStation/Xbox 360 class of machines or do we move to next-generation consoles? Because development was going long, we decided we were going to be in the next console cycle anyways."

"If we'd ended up on lower-spec machines, it wouldn't just be that [The Witness] would have lower-poly models. It would've affected the style all over the place; the style of the game would've been different. I don't think it would've been as nice."

For Ghost Games, the new shepherd of EA's Need for Speed franchise, next-gen does come down to "more power". This power - and the new set of expectations that come with it - frees the team to think outside of the box when it comes to gameplay innovation. A new generation allows developers to think about what's possible instead of wringing more blood from a worn-out stone.

"It makes us think differently. Every time there is a transition we start thinking about what would be possible."

Ghost Games executive producer Marcus Nilsson

"It makes us think differently," said Ghost Games executive producer Marcus Nilsson. "Every time there is a transition we start thinking about what would be possible. We are not locked into old boundaries anymore. From that we get great innovations like AllDrive. The systems are giving us power to do more, more AI, more particles etc. Just turning everything up really."

Nilsson also noted that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One provide other options, including social networking features and second-screen modes, which "opens up creative solutions around cross-platform play."

One of the highlights of Sony's launch window slate for the PlayStation 4 is Infamous: Second Son from Sucker Punch. While the game simply looks amazing, improved graphics and horsepower also mean the human element of Infamous can be pushed forward.

"[Infamous: Second Son] is all performance captured," Sucker Punch co-founder and director of development Chris Zimmerman told us. "We actually use all kinds of cameras, with dots on the actors' faces getting mapped through 3D scans. As you see people in the game, you'll see their faces move in realistic ways."

"See the wrinkles appear?" Zimmerman pointed out in a demo of Second Son, "we are actually animating 15,000 vertexes in his face 30 times a second to get that to happen that well. The thing that really matters for a game like this is you can actually see the characters act. You can read his face. You have a million years of human evolution that's trained you to read people expressions and their faces; now we can bring that to you. That is the expression that these actors had when they did the scene. If we show you the video of their faces and then show you the in-game feature, you'll be like 'that's the expression that guy had on.' It seems dumb, but it matters."

In some case though, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will just allow what previous generations have allowed: more, better-looking things onscreen in our games. And even that can improve the player's experience. For BioWare Edmonton and Montreal general manager Aaryn Flynn, next-gen means a more immersive and interactive game world for BioWare fans.

"With the next generation of consoles, the most important question we ask ourselves is 'How does this help our storytelling?' As we've worked with them, we think it starts with a density and dynamism that wasn't possible previously," said Flynn. "'Density' in the sense of more interesting things on the screen that help immerse you in the game world, and 'dynamism' in that they are more interactive than ever before."

The generation has only just begun. Developers still have plenty of time to learn how to make the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One dance and sing. What's been shown so far is pretty damn good, so let's sit back and enjoy the future.

Latest comments (8)

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 5 years ago
Not wanting to be picky here, but creativity comes from people, not machines.

The best a machine might be able to do is support creativity. But as such, it needs to stand in the shadows, out of the spotlight.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 27th November 2013 4:49pm

9Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Gregory Hommel writer 5 years ago
In game, fully voiced and motion captured cut scenes might be new to some people but PS3 owners have been enjoying this form of animation for a long, long time. From Heavenly Sword and MGS4 to Beyond:Two Souls and The Last of Us. It is always amazing and appreciated but it is also common technique.

I want to know how this generation is going to continue to impress us. Looking at Killzone: Shadow Fall it is evident that the graphical boost is more than significant. Within a year, that aspect will no doubt have evolved to a place I can't even imagine. My personal hope is that AI will make some strides this gen.

The Last of Us piqued my interest in this possibility. Even as games have evolved so much this gen., we are still content to wait for the bad guy to pop his head up almost on cue. The enemies in The Last of Is rocked my world. They didn't do what I fully expected them to do. The fact is, I'm not even sure what they did half the time because they ran from me. This is an area where a small amount of innovation could change every game that releases. Here's keeping my fingers crossed.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Rod Franklin Game Designer, Concept Specialist & Business Developer 5 years ago
The creativity better NOT boil down to how creative the approach can be in terms of getting more money out of consumers. Nintendo is focused on games, you get a complete experience in nearly all of their games (if not all of their games) not some partial game at full retail price that acts almost like a free2play model.

The creativity needs to be focused directly on the games, especially in terms of Microsoft, they talk a big game, and they have a lot of new school gamers roped in supporting crap that should already be there in the first place. I don't know what lurks behind the curtain, but any and everything set up to hinder gaming for the sake of gaining even more profit, its wrong.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (8)
Tosin Balogun Studying International Business, Anglia Ruskin University5 years ago
I am glad you mentioned this honestly. Nintendo gets a lot of flak but to be honest i think Nintendo and Sony understand the games industry way more than Microsoft can ever hope to do, perhaps it has something to do with Japanese corporate culture vs American corporate culture, i have yet to put a complete finger on it. But if you look at Nintendo and Sony, they actually understand that its not all about Flash, Flash, Flash and no substance, oversaturation of the market with clone products that could potentially hurt the whole industry and using dodgy business ideas.
I encourage people to compare these companies against each other and actually observe what i am trying to say, Microsoft needs to stop using the old dog capitalist corporate mentality used in other industries for their game segment or it wont last beyond this gen
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 5 years ago
I could not put it better myself Tim, that was exactly what I was thinking.

I mean look at the crazy processing power Journey took. *rolls eyes*
The consoles should be a tool or platform for creativity, power does not equal creativity.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
David Serrano Freelancer 5 years ago
I was a professional Photoshop user for 12 years and I can honestly say no new version of PS made me more creative i.e. expanded my creative skill set. New versions provide new and refined tools which allowed me to work more productively and efficiently, but on no level did the tools make me more creative. I became more creative over the course of years by working side by side with more talented people than myself, taking classes, constantly reading books, doing tutorials, listening to feedback, etc...

So will the PS4, Xbox One and new game engines increase developer productivity and efficiency? Yes. Will they allow developers to technically execute ideas and concepts they couldn't execute in the past? Yes. But will they improve on; or surpass the previous level of creativity? No, because new tools are not a philosopher's stone for creativity. They cannot turn lead into gold. Fatally flawed, derivative, overly esoteric and outdated ideas and concepts will still be fatally flawed, derivative, overly esoteric and outdated ideas and concepts. The new tools will simply make them easier to execute.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 29th November 2013 8:44pm

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tanya Rei Myoko Programmer 5 years ago
I disagree. Nintendo doesnt focus enough on games, they're stuck in the n64 era of development. Barely any of their games have cd quality music. They havent fully voiced a single game yet. They are a complete joke in anytrhing involving online.
I wish theyd go third party so theyd be forced to catch up to psp in terms of production quality
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 5 years ago
Late reply but as a freelance illustrator and animator I wholeheartedly agree with you there. I didn't suddenly become more creative with each Creative Suite upgrade that's for sure!
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.