Great interview unearthed via a submitter on Patrick's tumblr. I thought about posting on the Ghosts board but his implications end up having a lot more to do with general journalist/publisher/manufacturer relations than Call of Duty specifically:
GC: So, just finally, I have to ask: why does the PlayStation 4 version look so much better than the Xbox One? Is the resolution really the only difference?
MR: (laughs) Yep, it’s the only difference. The TVs are different on some of them, but… they both have their different rendering engines but they’re as close as possible. It really comes down to resolution. Xbox is upscaled 720, it’s outputting at 1080p but it’s upscaled from 720. Whereas PlayStation 4 is native 1080p. So that’s really the only graphical difference. But it is enough. Some people here are saying they don’t really notice a difference…
GC: Was that the guy with the white stick?
MR: (laugh) But yeah, the PS4 looks really good.
GC: Is the PC version still better?
MR: There’s actually some features that we’ve added to the PC that are definitively not on any other generation. We worked with Nvidia a lot with this, but we have a different form of anti-aliasing that’s really new and advanced – that isn’t on current or next gen. We have a fur shader on the dog and on the wolves, they actually have a moving fur shader that works really well, for PC. And the third one, which I think is one of the coolest ones, is we’re using Nvidia’s APEX Turbulence tech to have smoke that actually wisps and waves and moves out of the way of objects.
GC: So is that something the new consoles can’t do or you just didn’t have time to implement it?
MR: No, it’s… well, you can do almost anything, almost. Tessellation can’t be done on current gen for the most part, because it’s a DirectX 11 feature, but we could still do it but you’d get a frame rate of 2. So that really becomes the reason we do everything: the reason the Xbox One is 720, the reason the PlayStation 4 is 1080 is we’re trying to make the game look as good as it possible can and making sure we maintain our 60 frames per second.
We maintain the latency and the speed and the things that people actually care about. Even if they won’t admit it, the thing that makes Call Of Duty popular is how it feels, because of those priorities.
GC: So the obvious assumption from all this is that the PlayStation 4 is definitely more powerful than the Xbox One, is that true?
MR: (acting very embarrassed) I can’t answer that.
GC: You can’t answer it on a technical level or because you’re being diplomatic?
MR: Can’t answer that.
GC: You can’t say whether you’re avoiding the question for diplomatic reasons?
MR: (embarrassed) I just can’t say anything…
(Even the attending PR guy is looking embarrassed by this point)
PR guy: It’s very hard for us to be…
GC: Are the console manufacturers leaning on you to avoid these sort of questions?
MR: (unsure - speaking to PR guy) I don’t know if that…
MR: (even more embarrassed to us) Yeah, there’s things that we… We sign NDAs with the first parties (i.e. Microsoft and Sony - GC) and there are things that we’re not allowed to talk about.
GC: So when John Carmack and Shinji Mikami say the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are almost identical, is that something you could agree with?
MR: Hmm… I would say that’s a bit inaccurate but I wouldn’t be able to tell you any detail of why that’s inaccurate.
GC: For diplomatic reasons?
GC: Okay, that’s fine. I think we can all read between those lines. But that’s absurd, how can they not except any journalist, any reasonable journalist, not to ask that question? It’s what everyone wants to know.
MR: (still feeling very awkward) The key thing is we try to focus people away from that sort of thing and try to focus them on the fact that the game is fun no matter what platform it’s on.
GC: Do you think with the next game you make there will there be such an obvious disparity between the two formats?
MR: Unknown… But over time… If you look at Call Of Duty 2 compared to COD 4 there’s a massive graphic difference, they look very different. So I think we’ll get better, yes.
GC: But will that same proportional gap always be there?
MR: Don’t know. Until we get there I honestly don’t know. To be not diplomatic or anything (laughs) we really don’t know. We’ve done as much as we can in the time we have to get where we’re at. Will they close the gap? Will they go off in the opposite direction? Who knows? But for this game it is what it is.
GC: Do you think everyone else will have these same problems? All these other cross-generational games that are out at launch?
MR: Well, I think they’ve already said they are haven’t they? Battlefield 4 is 720 on Xbox One and I think 900 on PS4? Titanfall has said they’re 720… So we’re not the first to say we’re 720 on the Xbox One.
GC: No, no. So they’re all obviously hitting the same wall.
MR: Yeah, so you’re reading that correctly in that it’s not specifically us doing something villainous. It’s a thing where all of us have to work at getting better at developing for both consoles. And that’s the fun part. I always use the analogy that the first game on a new console is always like an awkward first date, but once you know a lot more about each other it’s a lot better.
GC: Okay that’s great, thanks very much for your time.
MR: Not at all, that was interesting.