Tech step


The early years of a con­sole gen­er­a­tion of­ten see de­vel­op­ers try­ing a lit­tle too hard to jus­tify their work’s ex­is­tence on the new plat­form in­stead of the old one. We’ve suf­fered through count­less screen-ob­scur­ing par­ti­cle showers, puz­zled at crowds of thou­sands of on­screen NPCs con­spir­ing to push an open-world game’s fram­er­ate through the floor, and rolled our eyes at games that are im­pos­si­bly beau­ti­ful, but stag­ger­ingly bor­ing. On this month’s ev­i­dence, that is, at last, about to change. Fi­nally, with the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion al­most two years old, mod­ern hard­ware is be­ing ex­ploited in ways de­signed to serve the end user, not just the mar­ket­ing depart­ment.

Crack­down 3, for in­stance, makes good on Mi­crosoft’s cloud com­put­ing prom­ises, us­ing re­mote servers to power a level of en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion that Xbox One sim­ply couldn’t man­age oth­er­wise – and in the process has the po­ten­tial to birth a new spin on mul­ti­player com­bat. Stel­laris devel­oper Para­dox is do­ing some­thing sim­i­lar with pro­ce­dural gen­er­a­tion, tak­ing a tech­nique beloved by devs and some­times eyed with sus­pi­cion by play­ers and us­ing it in a way that serves both. By wed­ding it to the strat­egy genre in which Para­dox so ex­cels, the un­pre­dictable work of the pro­ce­dural al­go­rithm can en­liven a set of deep, con­sid­ered sys­tems. Not ev­ery­thing need be so grand, of course. Planet

Coaster uses con­tem­po­rary pro­cess­ing grunt for im­proved an­i­ma­tion, let­ting visi­tors to your vir­tual theme park show you what they think of it – a job usu­ally handed over to a busy UI. And there are still plenty of tra­di­tional gen­er­a­tional leaps be­ing made. Fall­out 4 and Mafia III are sim­ply big­ger and pret­tier than their pre­vi­ous out­ings, and that will prob­a­bly be more than enough to get them into our disc trays and to the top of the charts. But fi­nally these pow­er­ful pro­ces­sors are be­ing used for more than fancy mar­ket­ing ma­te­ri­als, giv­ing us games, not just graph­ics, that wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble be­fore now.

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