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The face of tomorrow: How PS4 and Xbox 3's visuals will change gaming

What does the next-gen hold? We ask the man who knows...

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DENSER PARTICLES

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Image: NFS Hot Pursuit

Why it will change gaming
If you think you've seen smoke when a tank blows up in Modern Warfare, pumping a neat column into a lifeless sky, you haven't seen half what a dynamic particle system can achieve. Enormously taxing for even the most powerful PC graphics processing units (GPUs), this is one area where consoles can gain significantly - and not just in explosive war games, either.

The developer says...
"A new console can do more stuff - more detailed smoke through more GPU power, so you can render more passes of things. There's lighting that as well; lit particles are even more expensive, which makes a huge difference when replicating something like fire. And then you've got physical simulations... the next-gen mindset will be that if you drive a car through some smoke, or if a missile goes through it, you kind of want to see vortices and reactions."

MASSIVE BATTLES

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Image: Shogun 2 Total War

Why it will change gaming
A game like Shogun 2: Total War (pictured) can stage vast battles worthy of history... or at least Braveheart. Units detailed enough for an intimate third-person actioner fill the screen in mo-capped battalions, duelling with swords and muskets while flaming arrows streak overhead. And the soldiers think, of course, thanks to AI pathfinding routines that can lead massive crowds around the battlefield. Current consoles simply can't handle the load at a respectable fidelity, preferring the comfier confines of a Spartan Total Warrior or Viking: Battle For Asgard.

The developer says...
"We're very limited at the moment, on a large war game like that, by memory as well as processing power - memory to store individual, unique units which you then want AI routines for. So, with increased specs you'd hope you can have more AI routines running on more AI units: more soldiers or monsters, basically."

THE FILMIC LOOK

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Image: Crysis 2

Why it will change gaming
You've seen it already in the lens flare, grain and other such effects in Crysis, Battlefield and Mass Effect. Just building, lighting and texturing a world brings you only the most basic version of what's seen in movies. Tone mapping, light adaptation, good-bokeh depth of field (attractive out-of-focus areas) and simulated film stock are fast emerging as the next steps.

The developer says...
"It's more the aesthetic of a game, but it's going to be a big one for next-gen. Slightly increased detail - but colour treatment and all that stuff are going to be the things people really notice. Because the overall scene is more considered and refined. It's pretty much about GPU horsepower. You can imagine backing up those effects on top of a scene again and again and again - that's a processing issue."

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