Core Design Studio UK’s Troy Horton looks ahead to the ways that new console hardware, the blurring of lines between platforms and external art development could evolve in coming years
Games come in all genres and styles whether for console, PC, VR, AR or mobile. One thing all of them have in common is a production pipeline – from design to release and continued support for DLC where applicable.
Regardless of what visual style of game you choose to make, on what platform or indeed what features of an engine you choose, the future of gaming requires that technology moves forever closer to realism – especially in the case of VR.
When you consider the potential of games you need look no further than Microsoft’s Project Scorpio – and no doubt Sony will come up with something way above and beyond its planned PS4 Neo in the not-too-distant future.
In the case of Scorpio, with six teraflops of power, several CPUs and 320GB/s of memory bandwidth, not to mention 4K, visual and processing capabilities will go far beyond what we have now, making that goal of total realism several hundred metres closer.
It will take more time and money to produce the kind of content that takes full advantage of its features, yet it can be minimalised to a large extent through smarter production.
Keeping an eye on the future and being ready for it now is critically important as consumers forever demand more in each hardware and software cycle, potentially pushing production costs far beyond your capabilities.
We all want to make amazing console games with the highest quality visuals, yet not many have the means. Mobile developers have more powerful devices than just a year ago and next year will have much more again – and so the cycle continues. Yet in an challenging and difficult mobile market, mobile users – like console gamers – will demand more of the titles they play.
We can see this future already in action today with huge strides being made with physically-based rendering and tools such as Allegorithmic’s Substance which allow for far richer, deeper and realistic materials.
Realistic clothing with a pattern-based approach can be achieved using Marvelous Designer, which notably takes out a lot of the handwork required to achieve realism.
Simplygon’s tools for optimising 3D models and auto-creating LODs is another fine example of technology that can ease a lot of the burden in art production.
The one thing the above have in common is proof that it’s possible to achieve more with less; although you’ll still need time to create amazing-looking game art.
One of the major things we forget is that major game engine creators are discussing with the GPU manufacturers the future of game technology years ahead of what we are creating for today.
Making incremental progress in our art pipeline, from an art service provider’s perspective, allows us to keep a certain pace and distance without getting out of sight of what’s to come.
Other tools such as the fast-growing Shotgun Software, JIRA, Hansoft, can and have proved in many cases to help smooth the workflow to create further efficiencies, especially if you collaborate internally with your artists or external service providers. This can reduce or maintain overheads at current levels in an already cost-heavy business.
There will be a time as game creators when you choose to – or need to, if the market demands it of you – try to create the kind of quality content efficiently that the top game makers can already produce today.
Next year they will be one step ahead of everyone else and we, and other vendors, have to keep up or some of our clients won’t be if we can’t match what they do. It’s a challenge, but a highly worthwhile effort to be at the front.
There are varying reasons why developers choose to use art created externally. It could just be for cost, although this as a reason alone would not have a positive outcome.
There is flexibility and expertise as we and others are geared up not just to be able to handle high quality 3D work, but also 2D and lower-spec requirements.
Quality vendors have experience across multiple engines, workflow tools and creation software, plus capacity that can scale up and down with your production so costs are kept precisely at the levels you need them at the right times.
A developer with a production culture that has a belief of the underlying reasons to outsource art will see all of the benefits it can bring to a business.
There are some amazing tools available to create content with, including the ability to collaborate more easily with external vendors; vendors who are already familiar with the technology being used for games released on the next generation of hardware.