Next gen has been around for a fair bit; I did watch the reveal conferences around a year back and was a little underwhelmed. Yeah the graphics looked great but the jump in visual quality was nowhere near as drastic as the PlaySation2 to PS3. This was probably made worse by the fact that I have been a PC gamer for around a year and was used to on par if not better graphics. Microsoft tried to innovate a little by adding multi-functionality to the Xbox One but gamers accused them of focussing more on that and ignoring their gaming audience. That doesn't mean the games industry is without innovation, from kick-starter’s Oculus Rift to Epics Unreal 4 Engine, lots of people are trying to further the games industry in different ways.
For example, The Astronauts, a small dev company are currently working with photogrammetry to create amazingly realistic game assets the likes of which we haven’t seen in games before. The idea behind it is you take hundreds of photographs of the object or building you wish to model and put it in to the software and it will generate a base mesh for you. Obviously it’s far from perfect and requires artists to go over it fixing any errors with the topology and texturing it. As you can see below the asset looks incredibly realistic and detailed.
By the looks of it, it’s not just taking a few photographs and you are done. There is a considerable amount of work put in to these, I mean just look at that UDK material flow chart(see below); looking at that as someone that has just picked up UDK is beyond confusing. But from the looks of the assets the whole process seems very much worth it. Each individual crack, crevice, the wear and tear and the dirt look perfect on the finished rocks below; It looks so real mainly because it is so real, it’s taken from life.
The Oculus Rift is another innovative product that’s all the rage at the minute although it’s currently a bit of a controversial topic as it was originally a kick-starter product but was brought by Facebook so the company have more money to help develop the product. I was always a little wary of the Oculus, it seemed to be a good idea when I heard about it back in the day but the more I saw the worse it looked to me; like many other products (*cough*xboxKinect*cough*) the concept was good but the actual execution is a little lacking. Recently I attended the Gadget Show convention and I got to have a go on the Oculus Rift and as I expected It wasn't an enjoyable experience, I found myself feeling a little nauseous after just under 30 seconds of using it due to the lens’ used and it felt very uncomfortable ; at the end of the day it’s a product that is very much in its early days, it feels like it wouldn'treally add anything to your gaming experience other than inconvenience and you look like a bit of a moron whilst wearing it.
Software used to create games is always updated with new features to ensure the production process is smooth and up to date with the latest game technologies. The Unreal 4 Engine is an example of this; in fact it’s currently updated every month. The subscription fee they offer is actually for the updates, if you cancel your subscription you can keep the software but you don’t get future updates. The first time I saw this engine I was amazed at how good it looked, I saw it again at the Gadget Show convention but last years. There was a competition on between 4 teams of university students to produce a game in so many days and the people at the convention would judge which is the best game and the winner received a license for Unreal 4 which wasn't released at the time. I'm not going to list the vast array of new features in Unreal 4 as there are just too many but I aim to pick it up over the summer as it is rather cheap and I will probably do a more in depth review of it then.
It is good to see companies try to do something new, even if it completely fails, the games industry will probably be better for it. I look forward to picking up The Vanishing of Ethan Carter made by The Astronauts just to see how they pull such realistic assets in to the game space and I also look forward to using Unreal 4 as it looks really powerful. I am still on the fence as to whether or not I get a next gen console mainly because the games aren’t really any different from last gen, they just have a slight graphical improvement. If I was to get one now however it would probably be the PS4 as it is more powerful meaning it has more potential.