The new benchmark in visual fidelity is no longer Crysis. No, instead, across all forms of digital and cinematic media the benchmark is now James Cameron's 2009 live-action/animated blue-people movie, Avatar. With that said, AMD has already mentioned that the next gen Xbox could produce Avatar-like graphics and the co-founder of Geomerics has followed in AMD's footsteps claiming that lighting capabilities could hit that benchmark as well.
In a recent interview we conducted with Dr. Chris Doran the co-founder of Geomerics, a company responsible for middleware engine Enlighten – the same tools used to power the lighting mechanics in Frostbite 2.0 games such as Battlefield 3 and Need for Speed: The Run – Doran mentioned some interesting things about moving forward with light mechanics and scaling the software for next-gen hardware, saying...
Enlighten already runs on current generation hardware. So you can imagine that on next generation hardware Enlighten runs without touching the sides! We have already proved this out in our GPU implementation, developed in collaboration with NVIDIA, which is an order of magnitude faster than current consoles.
By “touching the sides” he means that the software is already up to par and that now it's just a matter of waiting for the hardware to play a little bit of catch up with where the software development tools have already reached.
Doran goes on to talk about what we've all been wondering: how much more powerful will the next-gen consoles be and is the software capable of pushing the hardware to those Avatar-limits we keep hearing about? According to Dr. Doran, Enlighten is already on the mountaintop...
“So then the question is: what can developers do with all this extra power? With Enlighten there are a number of ways we expect to see the quality bar lifted.
“Where the graphics quality bar will end up is unclear, but I am confident that the lighting itself could get close to Avatar quality. Then the question moves onto other aspects of content creation. Is that level of modeling detail feasible, and will the animation, physics, and AI all be equally plausible. And finally, will the game be any good!”
The last part is probably the most important part, especially considering that it wasn't too long ago that 2K Games head honcho Christoph Hartmann told GamesIndustry [via Destructoid] that photorealism was the next step in game design. Even though in reality, photorealism isn't really the thing that makes a game fun.
Lighting, when used creatively, like in scenarios for games like Deadlight or Limbo, can help bring the game to life in unique ways that can increase both immersion and intrigue.
Whether developers will actually take the creative route with tools such as Geomeric's Enlighten as opposed to simply hitting Avatar-quality graphic fidelity and relying on Michael Bay 'Splosions™ to sell the game is a whole other story. At least for now we know that the software and design technology is there.
You can check out the rest of the interview with Dr. Chris Doran right here.