What Defines "Next Generation" Graphics?

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Edited By pythagreon

Hey folks, new guy here. Seems like the next generation of consoles is a bit of a hot topic. On thing that really surprised me, even more than all of the indignation over what are at this point little more than rumors about the Xbone, was the response to the new Call of Duty game. Now, I do agree that things don't really seem to be evolving on a gameplay side, but it's not really sensible to assume any of that because we didn't even see gameplay really. In fact, we barely saw the game at all. It was a lot of wireframes and renders.

I usually use IGN as a place to go laugh at ridiculous rumor posts and the awful community, and to keep up on any news that they might catch onto first. I spotted an article titled "Call of Duty: Ghosts Isn't Breathtakingly Next-Gen and That's OK" and honestly, I was surprised to see something so reasonable posted to IGN. Because, while I could certainly see why everyone was saying that they weren't blown away by the engine improvements, I also didn't think it looked bad by any stretch. I mean, early 360 games looked bad in a lot of cases. Really bad. Tenchu Z looked like a PS2 game. Perfect Dark looked like... I don't even know what it looked like, honestly. Kind of looked like the sort of fake horrible video game you'd see on a show like NCIS, actually. And those games weren't targeting 60fps, as I remember.

But Call of Duty Ghosts? It looks fine. Now, compare it to a PC game, and obviously you'll be disappointed. Compare it to that spectacular supposed Dragon's Dogma PS4 demo, and yes, you'll be disappointed. Because those games are either running much better hardware, or targeting a very different point on the spectrum.

Read the comments on that article. There are a few folks seeing reason, but most of them are saying that there hasn't been any change. One comment compared the Call of Duty engine to Frostbite, saying that there were almost no changes to the Call of Duty engine over almost a dozen games, but that Frostbite has evolved hugely.

So I thought "Hold up, lets think back to where these various games started."

So, we come to two games. And I'm going to stick to consoles here because it's really the consoles we're talking about, so don't bring the PC versions into any of this (even though I'll be using some shots of the PC versions set at approximately console settings in cases where I couldn't find a good comparison). The first game to really start the current generation of Call of Duty tech: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and the first game made with Dice's "Frostbite" engine: Bad Company.

Think back to playing Call of Duty 4. Think back to the visual fidelity of that game, the talk of the resolution the game was running at (confirmed to be 1024x600, by the way. Pretty damn low, isn't it?), and the framerate that the game was running at on consoles. At the time, especially for how well it ran, the game looked fine. Didn't blow anyone away really, and obviously in still moments it couldn't hold up to the better looking 30FPS games of the time. But it looked fine for a 360 game at the time.

Time hasn't been kind to Call of Duty 4. In fact, even when running on a very powerful PC with as many fancy doodads as you can cram into it, it still looks roughly like "a hairy ass."

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This is the game running at 1920x1080, with 8xSSAA for transparencies and 8xMSAA. Forcing nVidia's Ambient Occlusion at Very High Quality. All in game settings as high they'll go.

Here's an approximation of what it looks like on the 360:

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Running on the PC with medium settings, accurate MSAA (2xMSAA) and at the correct resolution (1024x600) to match the 360.

Not much of a looker in either case, is it? The textures are downright messy, especially that grass, which if not for the interpolation I'm guessing would look just like the grass in the 16bit Minecraft skin I use.

Now, lets compare that to the newly announced Call of Duty: Ghosts.

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Notice: the grass is so detailed it has actual, well, details. And as for the textures on this guy's uniform? That Multicam's larger features looks better than some of the smaller details on the MW1 character. Oh, and did I mention the part where while Call of Duty 4 was displaying 614,400 pixels per frame, Call of Duty Ghosts appears to be running at a whopping 2,073,600 pixels per frame. Woah. Now some quick math: 2,073,600 / 614,400 = 3.375. That's right. almost 4 times as many pixels on screen per frame. That means edges will be cleaner, sharper, and smoother. It means that texture detail will be noticeable at greater in game distances and the distance you can make out objects will be greatly increased as well. Do a little math to find the difference in pixels per second, and you'll be flabbergasted. So much so that you wouldn't likely be able to even finish the rest of this blog, so I'll leave that to you!

Now, I know some folks are bound to point out that this "nearly 4 times the resolution" talk is a bit misleading. So let's split it up into vertical and horizontal because those ratios are a bit more important in things like aliasing.

So then we have 1920 / 1024 which is 1.875. That's still a nearly doubly wide image, and a pretty big improvement especially on the larger screens consoles are usually attached to. And 1080 / 600 = 1.8, also nearly double. I'm not saying edges will be twice as smooth and clean and crisp: because there's more to it than just "Hey, more pixels means my eyes see a less jagged edge." Even without Anti-aliasing, the image will look cleaner and smoother. Here's a very simple exaggeration of what causes jagged edges in real time rendering, and how much something like doubling of the density of pixels can do:

As you can see, as the number of pixels per segment increases, the line appears
As you can see, as the number of pixels per segment increases, the line appears "smoother." Try focusing away from the image, until the image blurs enough that you can't see any jagged edges. You'll notice that you'll still be able to see the teeth at the bottom but the top set will be easily blurred to the bount that you can't really tell it isn't a straight, smooth line. And that's with three pixels per tooth. With one pixel per tooth on a high resolution display, it'd be much smoother.

More pixels also means more data for Anti-aliasing to sample from and to use to do it's magic. It also means it needs to do less magic to get a similar amount of smoothing. Below I'm showing Call of Duty 4 at various resolutions, blown up to match the full 1920x1080 resolution. This is with no transparency AA and 4xMSAA, which is probably comparable to what many next gen games will use.

Even when viewed in this smaller state, you can start to see the noise on things like the power lines or distant treets, or the corrugation on the truck and blue building. If you blow this up to it's full resolution, you'll see that the far right third is very smooth, clear, and crisp. The center third (1280x720) still looks smooth, but has a lot of rough edges and a loss in detail. The last is similar to what you'd see on consoles, at 1024x600. The distant trees look very poor, and the side of the blue building shows off the
Even when viewed in this smaller state, you can start to see the noise on things like the power lines or distant treets, or the corrugation on the truck and blue building. If you blow this up to it's full resolution, you'll see that the far right third is very smooth, clear, and crisp. The center third (1280x720) still looks smooth, but has a lot of rough edges and a loss in detail. The last is similar to what you'd see on consoles, at 1024x600. The distant trees look very poor, and the side of the blue building shows off the "crawling" effect that aliasing causes, even with decent AA applied to the image.

As you can see, the resolution can play a pretty big role in how the image looks without any correction for aliasing, as well as benefiting a more from that correction because it's closer to being seen as just a smooth line and because there's more data to work with.

And there's likely more we don't really know much about. Compute based effects, for example, could play a big role in the next generation, and we don't have a great idea on how the new Call of Duty might use these. Chances are, explosions will look more wicked, and even little things like bullet impacts will have more bite as they tear up the environment and spew debris. They may not be on the same level as Battlefield 4's volumetric fireball of awesomeness, (or maybe it will be, compute is one of those weird untapped things that we really have no idea where it might take us, which is exciting!), but they will be above and beyond the particles of MW1 that don't even collide with the floor.

Hopefully this little comparison will help folks see through the rose tinted glasses to remember A) just how limited the hardware of the PS3 and 360 are, and B) just how much "little" things can matter, especially resolution or framerate. I know people were underwhelmed. And I can understand why. But put this into a context that actually makes sense. Remember what MW1 looked like, and look at how much better Call of Duty looks on the same hardware, many years later. The faces look not only exponentially better than they did in MW1, but they also actually look great just for this generation in general. I've included a couple of shots of what MW1 can look like on a modern PC with all of the bells and whistles, including SSAA and other driver forced features. Here are a few shots of what they've done since then: Black Ops II. It's an excellent looking game, and still incredibly easy to run. Even running at 2880x1800, with 4xTXAA and everything at max settings, the game runs flawlessly, and looks very sharp.

As you can see, the game looks so very much better than previous entries in the franchise. The faces look not only very sharp, but extremely expressive. Very few games do actual expressions beyond smiling and grimacing, let alone animate the facial expressions for specific events. The environments are much more detailed, and look at that grass! It looks smooth and grasslike, instead of like a bunch of weird ovals! But it still doesn't compare to the new Call of Duty, which will have much better textures, higher polycounts, and hopefully a few other goodies for us. And if not, eventually they'll get to the Black Ops 2 of the next generation, that perfects the tech on that hardware, and I'm sure it'll look impressive as hell for a game designed to run at 60fps on 6 year old hardware (or 8 year old for this generation).

So come on folks, don't be so cynical and bummed out. Truth is, what little we've seen of the Ghosts engine is just fine. Especially knowing the increases in the "numbers" like resolution and the high framerate. It won't be that ridiculously unbelievably believable Dragon's Dogma thing, sure. But it'll look fine and play the way a Call of Duty game should.

For those concerned about the gameplay, it sounds like they are trying to expand upon the "choice" of Black Ops II to provide for a less linear experience. So if you're not totally sick of Call of Duty, don't lose hope that this one won't catch your attention. We have no idea what's coming. It might be awesome, might be boring, might be somewhere in the middle. But lets stop pretending we know anything more than we do, slow down, and consider things in the proper context. Using reason and logic, not gut reactions.

Anyway, if you read this and enjoyed it or disagree or like pancakes or whatever, let me know! This was really just me passing time because I couldn't sleep, so it's probably a bit rambling. I'd love to hear what you guys think about the next generation and if you agree with me that most reactions to these things end up being hyperboles born of not thinking past the first gut feeling.

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baldgye

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When trying to talk about graphics using Call Of Duty for any example or comparison is kinda pointless. CoD4 looked good when it came out, but it no way pushed the graphical boundaries of what is capable on current console hardware, Ghosts looks to do the same.

You'd be better off trying to compare the Killzone's

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selfconfessedcynic

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Although this was a pretty cool writeup, I wanted to say that I was still very unimpressed with the COD demo shown.

Alternatively, I was quite impressed (in spite of being entirely disinterested in the game itself) with the Killzone: Shadow Fall demo. The big difference here is, of course, 60fps vs 30fps - and I belive Carmack is quoted in saying that when running at 60 frames you actually have about 1/3 of the computational power to throw into graphical fidelity.

Makes me happy that film has conditioned me to 24 frames/second, so I'm quite comfortable with 30fps gaming.

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@baldgye said:

When trying to talk about graphics using Call Of Duty for any example or comparison is kinda pointless. CoD4 looked good when it came out, but it no way pushed the graphical boundaries of what is capable on current console hardware, Ghosts looks to do the same.

You'd be better off trying to compare the Killzone's

Well, considering I'm comparing Call of Duty to... Call of Duty, I think it's perfectly fair. I also think the relative difference in fidelity between Killzone 3 and Killzone: Whatever is about the same as, say, between Black Ops 2 and Ghosts seems to be.

This isn't about proving that the next generation will look amazing or saying that Ghosts actually should be blowing people away. It's about reminding people that, when you consider what Ghosts is: a launch game for a new platform, it's actually not that bad.

I did consider going and comparing something like Bad Company, the first Frostbite game, to Battlefield 3, but I didn't feel it'd really help push my point to much more. Honestly, the first Bad Company still looks really damn sharp. In some ways, it actually looks sharper than Battlefield 3/4. It has it's downsides, obviously, and I think it's actually a pretty good analogue to the comparison between MW1 and Ghosts. The bump up from Bad Company to Bad Company 2 was significant (as was from MW1 to MW1), then it saw another big bump up in BF3 (as did the Call of Duty engine from Black Ops to Black Ops 2), and now it's seeing a smaller step up as it sort of pulls itself up onto the next tier, much like from Black Ops 2 to Ghost. Some might even say the difference between the console of Black Ops 2 and Ghost are bigger than the difference between Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, especially on PC where things like resolution won't be changing much because they were already nice and high.

But people are convinced that somehow the improvements to Frostbite are bigger than those to the Call of Duty engine for one reason: they aren't comparing it to the right things. You can't compare a frame from Call of Duty to a frame from Crysis 3, even if their both running on PC at their highest settings, because one is designed to run really smooth and consistent while the other is designed to make your PC work for it's frames and to look as good as possible at any given moment.

Although this was a pretty cool writeup, I wanted to say that I was still very unimpressed with the COD demo shown.

Alternatively, I was quite impressed (in spite of being entirely disinterested in the game itself) with the Killzone: Shadow Fall demo. The big difference here is, of course, 60fps vs 30fps - and I belive Carmack is quoted in saying that when running at 60 frames you actually have about 1/3 of the computational power to throw into graphical fidelity.

Makes me happy that film has conditioned me to 24 frames/second, so I'm quite comfortable with 30fps gaming.

Hey, I was more impressed by the image quality in Killzone too. But that's because it was built with image quality in mind over the quality and responsiveness of motion and input. I actually thought relatively, Killzone wasn't mind boggling because while it ran at 30 and certainly looked nice, it didn't look like it did much that was all that different from a nice looking PC game today, like that Dragon's Dogma demo which had some very impressive looking characters, not to mention all of the gouts of fire that blistered around objects!

My point is that Ghosts isn't somehow less of a jump forward that it should be considering it's a launch title being built to run at 60 frames per second 100% of the time, or that choosing framerate over frame fidelity is somehow lazy because the game looks "worse."

As you said, most people who really understand these things understand that 60fps is a very difficult thing to accomplish when you don't have the raw power of a GTX 680 and top of the line PC components, like the PC I used to take those Black Ops 2 shots. It's not easy to make any game run at 60 frames per second on a console, but I do believe it's worth it. Not just for the better response times and smoother controls, but because it comes with it's own set of visual fidelity perks, specifically that it's easier to pick up on details at a higher framerate because there's more varied data to help your brain construct the image as objects move about.

I'm glad you enjoyed the write up and thanks for the response. I'm a bit of a tech nut and I am pretty interested in real time rendering, so it just disappoints me when people feel that stuff like Ghosts is somehow less impressive just because it doesn't produce as pretty of a bullshot as something like Forza or Second Son. I think Call of Duty's tech is just as cool and worth being interested in as something like Star Wars 1313 or what have you. A little more variety in how folks try to push the bounds of our hardware is a good thing in my opinion :)

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selfconfessedcynic

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@pythagreon said:

Although this was a pretty cool writeup, I wanted to say that I was still very unimpressed with the COD demo shown.

Alternatively, I was quite impressed (in spite of being entirely disinterested in the game itself) with the Killzone: Shadow Fall demo. The big difference here is, of course, 60fps vs 30fps - and I belive Carmack is quoted in saying that when running at 60 frames you actually have about 1/3 of the computational power to throw into graphical fidelity.

Makes me happy that film has conditioned me to 24 frames/second, so I'm quite comfortable with 30fps gaming.

Hey, I was more impressed by the image quality in Killzone too. But that's because it was built with image quality in mind over the quality and responsiveness of motion and input. I actually thought relatively, Killzone wasn't mind boggling because while it ran at 30 and certainly looked nice, it didn't look like it did much that was all that different from a nice looking PC game today, like that Dragon's Dogma demo which had some very impressive looking characters, not to mention all of the gouts of fire that blistered around objects!

My point is that Ghosts isn't somehow less of a jump forward that it should be considering it's a launch title being built to run at 60 frames per second 100% of the time, or that choosing framerate over frame fidelity is somehow lazy because the game looks "worse."

As you said, most people who really understand these things understand that 60fps is a very difficult thing to accomplish when you don't have the raw power of a GTX 680 and top of the line PC components, like the PC I used to take those Black Ops 2 shots. It's not easy to make any game run at 60 frames per second on a console, but I do believe it's worth it. Not just for the better response times and smoother controls, but because it comes with it's own set of visual fidelity perks, specifically that it's easier to pick up on details at a higher framerate because there's more varied data to help your brain construct the image as objects move about.

I'm glad you enjoyed the write up and thanks for the response. I'm a bit of a tech nut and I am pretty interested in real time rendering, so it just disappoints me when people feel that stuff like Ghosts is somehow less impressive just because it doesn't produce as pretty of a bullshot as something like Forza or Second Son. I think Call of Duty's tech is just as cool and worth being interested in as something like Star Wars 1313 or what have you. A little more variety in how folks try to push the bounds of our hardware is a good thing in my opinion :)

I think, for me, what it actually came down to for the COD demo was their allocation of resources and art direction which killed the demo rather than anything else. I agree that their added model quality, AA, etc are large benefits - and impressive considering it'll be locked at 60 - but in the end it looked like just another military 1st person shooter.

Killzone did look like another 1st person shooter, but it did so with the wrappings of this beautifully rendered sci-fi city, impressive lighting/shadows and having tonnes of things on screen at the same time. Perhaps if I were to name one element, the lighting in that demo was spectacular. Whether it be the numerous reflections, the way it diffused / refracted of different materials, or simply lit the world in the case of gun shots and fire, it looked amazing.

On the other hand, COD just looked... grey. Grey, muddy, and with "random ass fake sunshafts" as an infamous screen cap says.

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Makes me wonder what a new developer would do if given a crack at COD and told to make it look more visually interesting...

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Question: Why are you comparing in-game footage of a 6 year old game to what's obviously a pre-rendered still? Isn't that an apples and oranges kinda thing?

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#6  Edited By haggis

We'll have to wait for E3 to see if there are any stellar examples for the Xbox One--I suspect there will be a few great looking demos. But like last gen, I think it's going to take a year or so before we see anything outstanding graphically on either next gen console. We'll see the easy stuff first--higher resolution textures, faster framerates. Compared to current PC titles, they're just not going to look all that great. The same goes for gameplay. We won't see anything truly new at launch. Most of the games we'll see over the first year will be safe, derivative titles that will sell well and cement the financial stability of the developers. So I'm not expecting fireworks the first year on graphics. Things will look better, but not mind-blowing.

The difference between 30fps and 60fps is often a bit subjective. Obviously 60 is better if you can get it and not sacrifice fidelity, but I'm not quite convinced either console will be able to do it--at least not at 1080p with the textures and effects people seem to want. At least not yet. If I was supposed to be wowed by the COD:G demo, then they failed. It looked good, but not jaw-dropping. Killzone looked cool, but gameplay-wise a bit stale. That's how most of these games are going to look to me. Like stuff that I'd have been happy with on current-gen consoles.

I've yet to be truly impressed. That'll probably change at E3. At least, I hope so.

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#7  Edited By Rowr

THIS JUST IN

Games look better at 1920x1080 than 1024x600

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#8  Edited By Jimbo

Whether it's 'ok' or not really depends on whose perspective you're looking at it from.

It does look 'fine' but does 'fine' get it done if you're trying to convince people to drop $500 on a new console? Obviously that's not a problem for Activision, because selling consoles isn't their priority. Acti won't much care whether you buy a copy for next gen or current gen.

There's a high chance that people who want a new console will pick up Ghosts to go with it, but I'm not convinced that people who want the new CoD will be desperate to play it on a new console... if you see what I mean. I don't think a 'fine' looking Ghosts is enough to drive console sales, even if it will inevitably have a high attach rate.

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From the videos I've seen, I'm just not blown away by any of the graphics I've seen for the next gen consoles. I remember seeing a screen shot of Oblivion and was blown away. Nothing I've seen so far has really impressed me from a visual standpoint.

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Now, lets compare that to the newly announced Call of Duty: Ghosts.

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Notice: the grass is so detailed it has actual, well, details. And as for the textures on this guy's uniform? That Multicam's larger features looks better than some of the smaller details on the MW1 character. Oh, and did I mention the part where while Call of Duty 4 was displaying 614,400 pixels per frame, Call of Duty Ghosts appears to be running at a whopping 2,073,600 pixels per frame. Woah. Now some quick math: 2,073,600 / 614,400 = 3.375. That's right. almost 4 times as many pixels on screen per frame. That means edges will be cleaner, sharper, and smoother. It means that texture detail will be noticeable at greater in game distances and the distance you can make out objects will be greatly increased as well. Do a little math to find the difference in pixels per second, and you'll be flabbergasted. So much so that you wouldn't likely be able to even finish the rest of this blog, so I'll leave that to you!

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#12  Edited By TyCobb

There is one flaw that you may want to go back and fix. Your showing Xbox screens at 1024x600. The problem is that it is not shown at the resolution on the TV. Your comparing the internal resolution instead of the actual output. You should take your screenshots and then stretch them to fit 1920x1080. You will then get a true comparison that will look even shittier =)

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@pythagreon: I just wanted to commend you on this extraordinary write up. Not only are you a tech whiz, but you also are a very good writer. Your prose is smooth and flowing; Your grammar excellent; and your structure is impeccable. You're very talented.

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NEXT GENERATION GRAFICS

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#15  Edited By pythagreon

@jouseldelka:

Lets be honest now, Battlefield 4 is Battlefield 3's engine with maybe some better assets (Though not much better, look at the hands, look at any of the screenshots showing faces, etc) but mostly just pumping up a bit of the "density" of scenes and a couple of cool tricks, like water "physics" (looks like it'll just be a polygonal version of what's normally a normal map effect though, not really actual physics in any way) and that very awesome fireball effect. It looks pretty nice, but I've already played plenty of Battlefield 3, with lots of AA and full settings and at 60fps. It's going to be tough for Battlefield 4 to really impress me. I'm sure it'll have it's moments when it does, and it certainly will look very nice indeed, but it's a pretty insignificant increase in fidelity. And if the community gets it's way, it'll likely not change much from a gameplay perspective either, just some rebalancing and hopefully optimization of CPU code and networking.

@selfconfessedcynic

:

I sort of take issue with the "Oh it doesn't please me aesthetically" argument. I mean, I don't blame you for not finding it visually interesting, but some people don't find games like Borderlands 2 or Dragon Age 2 aesthetically pleasing either. It's not really fair to say "Oh, this looks realistic but without blowing me away, not impressed." I wouldn't want Call of Duty to look cartoony. I'm happy with it looking like the real world.

As for Killzone, if anything I think it looked less unique and interesting than previous entries in the franchise, so I'm not sure that's a great example. Again, I thought Killzone looked very sharp but it looked sort of like another fairly impressive PC title. Nothing about the aesthetic stood out to me, and the visuals were impressive in the way that the Battlefield 4 visuals are. In a sort of familiar way.

@tycobb said:

There is one flaw that you may want to go back and fix. Your showing Xbox screens at 1024x600. The problem is that it is not shown at the resolution on the TV. Your comparing the internal resolution instead of the actual output. You should take your screenshots and then stretch them to fit 1920x1080. You will then get a true comparison that will look even shittier =)

Actually, the comparison image does that! :3 If anyone wants to see the simulated console quality shot blown up, there's always CTRL+Mousewheel!

Question: Why are you comparing in-game footage of a 6 year old game to what's obviously a pre-rendered still? Isn't that an apples and oranges kinda thing?

Obviously? How is it obvious? You've no idea if that is pre-rendered and even if it is likely the only difference is the AA, which won't be nearly as big of a jump as it has been in the past from bullshot to ingame quality, as I've explained. Using the right kind of AA, you can easily erase the majority of aliasing for about the performance overhead of 2-4xMSAA. I'm not talking FXAA either.

And I'm not just comparing it to a 6 year old game. I'm comparing it to the game in the same franchise that was in the same position for this generation. It was the first engine of the generation using that engine. It looked okay, but never blew any minds. Sure gamersyde wanted us to all believe it looked "stunning" and "Unbelievable" when they did their cover story on it, but it didn't, even for the time, except for the excellent framerate. Ghosts is in about the same situation. In fact, it has the added disadvantage of being a launch title.

As well as this, I did talk about Frostbite's evolution and stated that the changes weren't all that different, relatively speaking. If we were to say that from MW1 to Ghosts the engine now produces an image with three times the image quality as MW1's engine, I think that's pretty close to the jump in quality from Bad Company to Battlefield 3/4 (which look very similar, another point I made to remind people who were championing the very pretty Battlefield series as the proof that Infinity Ward is sitting on their asses doing nothing).

I also included the most recent and fairly contemporary game in the franchise, Black Ops 2 running at resolutions even enthusiast PC gamers rarely use with every possible advantage in it's favor including very effective AA and max settings. It's a sharp looking game and even with all of those advantages, it still doesn't have the quality of assets that Ghosts has.

@jimbo said:

Whether it's 'ok' or not really depends on whose perspective you're looking at it from.

It does look 'fine' but does 'fine' get it done if you're trying to convince people to drop $500 on a new console? Obviously that's not a problem for Activision, because selling consoles isn't their priority. Acti won't much care whether you buy a copy for next gen or current gen.

There's a high chance that people who want a new console will pick up Ghosts to go with it, but I'm not convinced that people who want the new CoD will be desperate to play it on a new console... if you see what I mean. I don't think a 'fine' looking Ghosts is enough to drive console sales, even if it will inevitably have a high attach rate.

It's like you said: they don't need to sell consoles, just software. In fact, they don't need to prove anything to anyone other than "Hey, if you're buying the console already, buy our game on the platform where it'll look best, and last longest." Most folks who are going to buy Call of Duty probably fall into two camps on that issue, if I had to guess. They either aren't buying and Xbox One/ PS4 early enough to get the game on those platforms, or they are and won't see much of a point to getting it on a console they likely won't even keep around beyond that anyway.

If you think they need to blow people away to sell the game, you're dead wrong. And I never said that the game would or wouldn't drive console sales. Which it almost certainly will, for better or for worse. Halo 3 was given shit for not looking very impressive by enthusiasts, and shortly after it launched along with Call of Duty 4, Microsoft sold so many bloody consoles that there was a genuine supply problem in the market that holiday season, at least in the states.

Sadly, it's not going to be the interesting games that really drive sales on consoles. Enthusiast gamers need to stop insisting that they are the center of the industry. They aren't. Yes, we are the reason the industry is here, and we are certainly instrumental in making it what it is. But ultimately, it's the masses that keep the industry growing. And they are who decide the victories, and the successes. Mirror's Edge 2 will probably blow Ghosts out of the water in every way imaginable, but the sad fact is that very few people will buy a console because of Mirror's Edge because they are sad and have poor taste or are bad at video games and therefore can't figure out how to jump before running face first into a wall. Ryan Davis I'm looking at you.

@jcgamer said:

From the videos I've seen, I'm just not blown away by any of the graphics I've seen for the next gen consoles. I remember seeing a screen shot of Oblivion and was blown away. Nothing I've seen so far has really impressed me from a visual standpoint.

Really? And you saw that supposedly Dragon's Dogma bit at the Sony event? With the guys in the cave with the torch and the dragon breathing fire?

I'm surprised, if Oblivion was enough to impress you that much, you haven't seen anything that really made an impact on you. I'm a PC gamer with a very nice rig and I was still impressed by things like that DD demo and the UE4 Infiltrator tech demo. Some have been more or less impressive, sure. But there's a lot of really cool stuff going on in a lot of the next gen stuff. Much, much better particle effects, particles that shouldn't be using particles actually being done properly (see: volumetric explosions! how awesome is that?), far more dynamic lighting (potentially even some real time indirect lighting!), reflections, real skin shaders, and all of that at a higher resolution with better assets. Sure it may not be night and dark with some of today's PC games, but I've been at least fairly impressed by a few demos out there. Maybe I just tend to pick up on the details though because I'm so interested in seeing all of the neat tricks they are pulling off in real time.

@pythagreon: I just wanted to commend you on this extraordinary write up. Not only are you a tech whiz, but you also are a very good writer. Your prose is smooth and flowing; Your grammar excellent; and your structure is impeccable. You're very talented.

Well I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm honestly not that much of a tech wiz, but I do try to know what I'm talking about. And again, I do really enjoy the field of real time rendering, it's pretty exciting especially with us being on the cusp of so many previously offline techniques finding their ways (albeit in "optimized" forms) to mainstream real time rendering.

I also wrote this in the middle of the night so I'm surprised anyone was able to see it as anything but a rambling mess! :p

@psylah said:

NEXT GENERATION GRAFICS

No Caption Provided

Man. My computer would be destroyed trying to run this. Brought to it's knees. I'm not sure I'm ready for the Next Generation!

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@pythagreon: That's why I said it depends whose perspective you're looking at it from. Proposing that 'Ghosts isn't breathtakingly next-gen and that's ok' raises the question 'Ok for who?' And the answer to that -and therefore the point this thread is trying to make- wasn't clear to me from your first post.

I totally agree that it does what it needs to do as far as Activision is concerned, but most of the backlash against it wasn't 'That doesn't look very impressive for a CoD game', it was 'That doesn't look very impressive for the climax of your next gen console reveal'. I'd argue that, as far as Microsoft (and Sony for that matter) are concerned, it perhaps isn't 'ok' for the games they choose to show off their next gen system to not be 'breathtakingly next-gen'.

Halo 3 is a poor comparison because if you wanted to play that you could only do so on 360 - it's a textbook example of a system seller. I don't think Ghosts is going to be that game, because the masses / the millions who play CoD and nothing else will be able to do that on their 360 or PS3 for ~$500 less. Unless one of the consoles does something to really capture the public imagination (like Wii did) then it will be enthusiasts who drive the early sales, but I suspect they'll need to be shown something more impressive than a 'fine' looking CoD: Ghosts.

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#17  Edited By pythagreon

@jimbo said:

@pythagreon: That's why I said it depends whose perspective you're looking at it from. Proposing that 'Ghosts isn't breathtakingly next-gen and that's ok' raises the question 'Ok for who?' And the answer to that -and therefore the point this thread is trying to make- wasn't clear to me from your first post.

I totally agree that it does what it needs to do as far as Activision is concerned, but most of the backlash against it wasn't 'That doesn't look very impressive for a CoD game', it was 'That doesn't look very impressive for the climax of your next gen console reveal'. I'd argue that, as far as Microsoft (and Sony for that matter) are concerned, it perhaps isn't 'ok' for the games they choose to show off their next gen system to not be 'breathtakingly next-gen'.

Halo 3 is a poor comparison because if you wanted to play that you could only do so on 360 - it's a textbook example of a system seller. I don't think Ghosts is going to be that game, because the masses / the millions who play CoD and nothing else will be able to do that on their 360 or PS3 for ~$500 less. Unless one of the consoles does something to really capture the public imagination (like Wii did) then it will be enthusiasts who drive the early sales, but I suspect they'll need to be shown something more impressive than a 'fine' looking CoD: Ghosts.

Well, Sony showed off much more impressive stuff on their event, and Microsoft has yet to hold an event focused on games. If you're disappointed in the Xbone because of a third party, multiplatform game, that's on you for being unrealistic.

Halo 3 isn't a bad example because like I said, that success came from Halo 3 and Call of Duty combining forces. Remember, this was the holiday of 2007. The consoles hadn't been around for long, and a lot of people didn't see the need to get the new 360 quite the way they did after Halo 3 and Modern Warfare proved that A) the new consoles had some real banger games and B) that the new Xbox Live was bringing a lot more to the competitive scene.Those games both sold systems, and only one of them was designed to. I would argue that the holiday of 2007 is when the current generation Xbox planted the flag, if you will. If either of those games had come later, I think it would have been a very different holiday for the Xbox division.

I will agree that Ghosts won't be as much of a system seller as some of it's predecessors have been, but I was never talking about the game's ability to sell systems, or sell software really even. This blog was mostly about the tech and the misconceptions about the franchise because it's so popular to dislike it.

I don't think this will be a huge system seller, but I don't think it'll be incapable of bringing people up to the next generation. Especially depending on how the pricing for the Xbone and PS4 come out. The simple fact of the matter is that Activision is in the practice of selling software, not systems. The closest they get to wanting folks to buy systems is trying to get first time console buyers into the market, because that expands their market. Beyond that, they really do not care who buys which when as long as they make one of their million versions for the important ones. They will cover any major demographics, including the next generation, because it means sales. Just like they released games on the Wii occasionally. Not the focus, but worth selling for, because if it's the best you have, you'll probably buy the game on it. You're not about to buy the 360 version of a game you could get for your shiny new Xbone or PS4.

I wasn't really making this to address issues with people being underwhelmed by the systems themselves. The blog was in response to people saying that Infinity Ward was somehow being lazy by sticking to their guns with 60fps, something we almost never see on consoles. There were a lot of people who, not understanding A) how real time rendering works, B) how the ability to harness hardware changes over time, or C) just how bad those older 360 games looked compared to the newer ones.

I probably should have mentioned Gears of War as an example of when next gen games tend to really start to get comfortable with the hardware and do some really impressive things. That first Gears of War game looked superb at the time, and it came to the consoles the year after the 360 launched. It was probably the first game that made me look at a console game and say "holy shit that looks great." And then they did it two more times with Gears 2 and 3. And, surprise surprise, less so with Judgement. Seeing a pattern anyone?

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#18  Edited By Red

Whatever next-gen graphics are, I haven't seen any update close to being worth $400.

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Dude you write a lot! Anyways, I wonder why you didn't compare either Call of Duty 2 or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Call of Duty 2 was in the same position as Ghosts while Black Ops 2 kind of shows the evolution between this generation's best efforts and the first efforts of the next. Regardless, the truth of the matter is that the Call of Duty engine is and has always been an updated Quake 3 engine, which was in turn an updated Quake engine. They've just layered new effects onto each iteration. They haven't built a new engine from the ground up ever.

My question is why use Call of Duty as your next gen reveal game? As you've said, Call of Duty focuses on fast framerates which can't be shown in a 30 fps video. So people see a game that doesn't look nearly as impressive as what Sony showed, and it doesn't look like it is running faster because of the quality of the stream. I thought it was a poor choice of game to show, but it is a huge leap from Call of Duty 2 and even Call of Duty 4.

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#20  Edited By pythagreon

@red said:

Whatever next-gen graphics are, I haven't seen any update close to being worth $400.

That's an entirely different subject, and an awfully... subjective one! See what I did there? Take for example me upgrading from a 5770 to a $680, back when the 680 cost about that many dollars. I considered that worth the money, and I also spent another $1500 building a completely new rig with that video card. Granted, I won't need to spend any money if I don't really want to for another 10 year at this point, but I'll probably do it anyway.

Ultimately it should come down to the games anyway. If you're buying the next gen consoles to see pretty lights, you're probably either like me and just want to investigate those lovely pixels, completely naive, or rich as all fuckin' hell so it doesn't really matter. Most of us I expect will either wait until the games come and then purchase the console, or purchase the console taking it on faith that more games worth having will come, and at least they won't have to buy like 10 "must play" games along with the purchase of their console all in one go to get caught up.

I'll be curious how you feel after E3!

@raven10 said:

Dude you write a lot! Anyways, I wonder why you didn't compare either Call of Duty 2 or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Call of Duty 2 was in the same position as Ghosts while Black Ops 2 kind of shows the evolution between this generation's best efforts and the first efforts of the next. Regardless, the truth of the matter is that the Call of Duty engine is and has always been an updated Quake 3 engine, which was in turn an updated Quake engine. They've just layered new effects onto each iteration. They haven't built a new engine from the ground up ever.

My question is why use Call of Duty as your next gen reveal game? As you've said, Call of Duty focuses on fast framerates which can't be shown in a 30 fps video. So people see a game that doesn't look nearly as impressive as what Sony showed, and it doesn't look like it is running faster because of the quality of the stream. I thought it was a poor choice of game to show, but it is a huge leap from Call of Duty 2 and even Call of Duty 4.

I thought about using Call of Duty 2, but felt that I should stick within the same "tech" because Call of Duty 2 came before what we think of as the contemporary Call of Duty engine. And I did include Black Ops 2, running at top notch settings no less. That gallery at the end there is all Black Ops 2 running on my PC with lots of AA running at a ridiculous resolution and all that good stuff. I even spoke about how it was a good point of reference for how far the engine has come since the first Modern Warfare, albeit briefly.

Also, no, it is not an updated Quake 3 engine. That is a fallacy spread by journalists that latch onto headlines far too quickly. It uses a bit of code for I believe the networking from Quake 3, but the tech isn't the same at all. It just isn't.

Quake 2 was probably the last real id Tech based game. Since then, the engine has seen such an overhaul that while it may share a few strands of DNA, it's not at all the same engine. The relation is greatly exaggerated.

Call of Duty was at that event because that event was trying to gather attention from the masses, not from enthusiasts. And the masses don't really care quite so much about visual fidelity as most enthusiasts pretend not to but actually do. You don't need Crysis, you just need to say "hey, it's call of Duty, it's much better looking, and it's still awesome!" and the frat boys, servicemembers, etc are all pretty happy. They probably won't pick up a new console just for that, but it's still important that Microsoft show them that Call of Duty will be available on that platform, for the well off part of that spectrum that'll probably buy it just to have the latest cool thing.

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@pythagreon: Call of Duty literally uses the Quake 3 engine. Each update after that has altered and layered things on top of that engine. The core of the engine is still based on the Quake 3 engine though. Obviously there have been massive changes over time. But Infinity Ward has never started over from scratch with their engine. They have admitted as much themselves.

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It's a little too early to say or show what these consoles can wholeheartedly do. Games early in a generation mostly look like last-gen games, and the coming games in the next two years usually show what the console has to offer in terms of hardware capabilities. Remember how amazing Gears of War looked back in 2006? Cliff said it only used a portion of the 360's hardware. Now compare that to games in 2007-08.

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#23  Edited By Rawkfist72s

@rowr said:

THIS JUST IN

Games look better at 1920x1080 than 1024x600

This.

OT: Very interesting read, thanks for the post, however, except for the grass, Call of Duty: Ghosts really doesn't look all that better, but that's only one image.

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#24  Edited By sins_of_mosin

It'll take a few rounds of releases before we start seeing something really better.