A developer's perspective; the current generation of consoles

#1SigmaLongshotPosted 12/22/2013 10:24:11 AM
I am a developer working for a large games studio as I have been for several years now. When I finished my Masters, I started working on small PC and GBA games for tiny studios, and after that, I moved on into Xbox 360, PC and PS3 development for the longest period of time. In this time, PLAYING games were great, but DEVELOPING games got incredibly stale.

My explanation for this was simple; every console was the same. Our studios did not focus much on the Wii, so we ended up making the exact same game, but optimising it three times on very, very similar platforms. The PC versions were always simplest to implement, with the Xbox 360 being almost seamless, and then we'd hit a wall with the petulant PS3 version that refused to accept the simplest of textures or specular maps. But when it was done, that was it - we'd have three almost identical games on three unbelievably similar platforms.

Now, I am almost giddy that the big three console giants are taking unique approaches. The PS4 utilises the most PC-like, raw power approach, with admittedly impressive architecture that is miles easier to implement game content on than it's older, impossibly infuriating brother. The Xbox One uses multi-threaded user interfaces on a very marginally (and coming from someone that's implementing as we speak, I mean MARGINALLY) inferior to Sony's machine to allow for seamless multitasking and Kinect's vocal and gestural commands with exceptional accuracy compared to it's predecessor. Then there's the Wii U - a machine with a previous identity complex (as with all three machines if I'm honest) but is now fully realising the "Nintendo DS if it were a home console" touchscreen/dual screen setup. The Wii was always it's own beast, but the Wii U is probably closer to the original DS than it is to any home consoles, so to see similar experiences on Ninty's box would be a treat.

Thinking about it more and more, it simply reinforces that developers start to get stale when every platform is nothing more than a genital-measuring competition - everyone the same. This generation, everyone brings something really different to the table, and it gets the juices of the psyche flowing, imagination goes wild thinking about what would work where - and suddenly you realise that no oddball idea is totally outlandish for one of the three, or one specific console would suit that design particularly well. Instead of saying "this idea would never work on consoles" you instead say, "this wouldn't work on Xbox - but it would on Wii U", or "this wouldn't work on a Wii U, but I think the PS4 would knock that one out of the park!" - when you have many weapons, you can have many more strategies.

Embrace the differences of the three machines - the uniqueness of this trifecta will only lead to the return of console innovation in the long run. Stop wanting the consoles to be the same - with X just being a slightly more powerful Y - and be happy that this generation is full of options for developers.

In this race, we don't have a blue car(with a big engine) racing a green car(with a similar engine) racing a red car(with an engine that's almost the same as those other engines) - we instead have a ninja-copter racing a turbo-jetski racing a rocket pogostick.
---
Double Jump Game Comics: http://doublejump.thecomicseries.com/
#2SorbetowulfPosted 12/22/2013 10:45:00 AM
While I embrace the heart of your message, the problem at its base is that you provide very little actual perspective that's unique to a developer. Yay. All the consoles are slightly different in some way. We already know this. And we already know that programming game A will require different techniques to make it work on Console X and different again for Console Y.

The other problem with this racing yadda yadda is that a ninja copter will auto-win against a... whatever it was jetski and a rocket pogostick. It's got missiles. The pilot of the ninja copter might arguably suffer from Little Man Syndrome, but if I'm on a pogostick, I'm going to feel woefully inadequate against the competition.
---
GT: NE OBL1V1SCAR1S
#3SigmaLongshot(Topic Creator)Posted 12/22/2013 10:52:45 AM
I think it really was more the sentiment of the message; less about the mechanics and more about the psychology of it. It's difficult to be creative when it's always so binary - so "console yes" and "console no". But when each console provides something different, designers can ultimately start being a bit more daring again, and though I'm not a lead designer, my part as a cog in the machine can start being a bit more creative again too, which in turn raises morale and your output starts to become more impressive and fresh-feeling again.

I am also really enthralled by your synopsis of that race - quite in-depth. However, I think we can both agree it'd be a fun as hell race to actually watch, right? (Metaphorically, and in the case of these new consoles, literally)
---
Double Jump Game Comics: http://doublejump.thecomicseries.com/
#4Ironman06Posted 12/22/2013 11:18:47 AM
Agreed, each console gives a different experience. I think we'll see a better variety in exclusives this gen. It makes owning all three consoles even better.
#5kakarot-uchihaPosted 12/22/2013 11:33:30 AM
ROCKET pogostick... rocket. one of the best feelings in the world is the shoulder-dislocating wide-open off the line acceleration of big ripped out two-strokes. i would absolutely jump on a rocket pogostick and pin it full throttle. about the 3rd jump i'd have the rythm, yank it left and time my next jump off the back of the stupid jetski-er blowing a whole in him launching right into a bee-line for the copter, do a no-hander, catch the top of the bay door and smash feet/stick first into the the ninja of the weak, leave a flaming whole in his chest like he jumped on a thermite grenade, then see how i can jump out from because.

course putting a jato rocket on a pogostick... 'ok.. all setup.. one foot on... on three.. just bounce out the rythm, one.. two..aaaannnd fastestmostbrutalfaceplantever.
#6SoulTrapperPosted 12/22/2013 11:54:12 AM
The problem is that most devs pretty much stopped making unique games for each console, since it's much more profitable to make one game and port it to all platforms.

All of this "three different platforms, three different approaches"-talk is nice in theory, but in reality, it's just going to be the same stuff we've seen last gen.

And it's a shame because, as you say, each console has it's own uniqueness and could become successful in it's own way if devs would want to/be able to get on board with the idea of lower profits.

I think the only real way we'll see each consoles strengths being used, is in indie games.
#7JchobotPosted 12/22/2013 11:56:04 AM
Don't believe you are a dev sorry
#8-FryShakeWad-Posted 12/22/2013 11:57:54 AM
Pics or it never happened.
#9SigmaLongshot(Topic Creator)Posted 12/22/2013 12:08:15 PM
SoulTrapper posted...
The problem is that most devs pretty much stopped making unique games for each console, since it's much more profitable to make one game and port it to all platforms.

All of this "three different platforms, three different approaches"-talk is nice in theory, but in reality, it's just going to be the same stuff we've seen last gen.

And it's a shame because, as you say, each console has it's own uniqueness and could become successful in it's own way if devs would want to/be able to get on board with the idea of lower profits.

I think the only real way we'll see each consoles strengths being used, is in indie games.


The sad thing is, though I am an optimist by nature, my colleagues and just... fellow gamers alike - the majority is with you. It's a truly sad thing but the unique qualities of each new console effectively changes how we as developers and gamers alike should view game development - less about adding a few more tris to a high-poly model, less about resolutions, ambient occlusion and shader properties .... and more about focusing on how to really make unique platforms shine.

Right now it genuinely feels like we've just gotten say, a trombone, a harpsichord and a glockenspiel, and because last-gen was like a trio of guitars, everyone's trying to play "Free Bird" by Lynard Skynyrd on their respective instruments, totally blind to the notion that THIS IS NOT HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF WHAT YOU HAVE. Though this mentality might change, they might still continue to try to pull off a Mark King Level 42 bass solo on an accordion. No matter how epic it might get, it's just... well, it's not making the best use of what you have.

By the way, the people that debunk my dev-status, though I'm nothing overly important (a meagre GUI designer and artist), can you not see the email address associated with my username? It's my work email. Which includes the name of the company I work for. As in, this is as many hints I can use without overtly telling you the company which under contract might be construed as an act of talking on behalf of my employers, which I am not allowed to do.
---
Double Jump Game Comics: http://doublejump.thecomicseries.com/
#10CKnightPosted 12/22/2013 12:21:08 PM
I think the exclusives will stand out more as each one plays to the consoles strengths and weaknesses but from what I'm hearing multiplatforms games will largely be the same with the main difference being some only being 1080p on the PS4.