Have we reached a point where graphics and hardware power are less important?

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#1 Posted by TheMisterManGuy (189 posts) -

8th generation of consoles is an interesting beast. While it was a step up over what was offered by the previous generation, it was possibly the first time in gaming history that the leap wasn't big enough to warrant instant adoption. Sure, facial expressions are more detailed which means we no longer have to excessively rely on pre-rendered cutscenes as much, and Open World games no longer have to sacrifice visual detail for their massive scale. But generally speaking, not much from current generation looks light years better than what 7th gen could put out vs say, going from the PS1 to the PS2. In fact, a lot current gen games could be put on 7th gen level hardware and not loose too much in the process. The main improvements this gen have more to do with improvements made to RAM, architecture, and development tools than fancy processors.

I'd say the cracks of this started forming last generation. 7th generation ushered in the HD era, and was the biggest leap in technology we've had yet. But it showed there was still a large market for 6th era visuals as well. HD didn't become standard until later in the gen, and 6th generation was when 3D games really started to become fully realized, so it was good enough for a lot of more casual consumers. Just look what was out that generation. The DS and PSP were the most successful handhelds have ever been despite vastly weaker hardware (DS especially), the PS2 was still selling very well, even through most of the generation, and the best selling home console at the time, was an enhanced GameCube with a TV remote known as the Wii.

Even the HD twins themselves were elongated. 7th Generation had the longest lifespan of any console generation to date (8-9 years vs. the 5-6 of its predecessors), and even then, the PS3 and 360 still kept getting plenty of great games, including many AAA releases, even 3 years into current generation. 7th generation was the point where graphics were really becoming good enough for a lot of people, and adoption rates of next gen-level tech are growing slower and slower. That, and with consoles and AAA games getting increasingly expensive to develop, consumers are becoming less and less wowed by each new generation leap. Even now with current gen consoles fully in the spotlight, the best thing you can say about them is that they can finally do Open World games proper justice. There's still plenty of 7th gen era games that with a few improvements, can look presentable as current gen titles, it's a big reason why publishers still keep re-releasing games from that era and even 6th generation games on current systems. Hell, just look at some of the most popular titles this gen. Minecraft, Fortnite, Rocket League, Shovel Knight, Sonic Mania. All games that don't really have bleeding edge graphics, but are able to win over the hearts of gamers with gameplay and visual style alone.

Things are only going to get worse next gen IMO. While there will always be improvements made in graphics, how big of a leap next gen will actually be is looking pretty questionable. Even when PS5 and Xbox Scarlet arrive, will most people really sit and say "Oh yeah, I really need to upgrade right away!" Not really I don't think, many gamers and developers will still be fine rocking 8th gen consoles for quite a while before they abandon them, likely even longer than they did with 7th generation. At the moment, current consoles have more than enough power for everyone but the AAA developers who need to keep pushing the envelope. Even the comparatively under-powered Nintendo Switch is still good enough to run the majority of modern games and remasters at lower settings. I feel major improvements going forward will be focused more on AI, physics, etc. and even then, that tech will still be too expensive to be adopted by anybody but the AAA crowd for quite a while. So what I'm trying to say is, are generational leaps becoming less and less important these days?

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#2 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (25253 posts) -

Nope. Not until we get proper shadows and reflections. This sucks.

Edit: If developers want to fake it, do it right. Like below. ;)

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#3 Edited by KBFloYd (21845 posts) -

for consoles this has always been the case.

For PC that is the selling point. among other things.

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#4 Posted by JasonOfA36 (1284 posts) -
@jun_aka_pekto said:

Nope. Not until we get proper shadows and reflections. This sucks.

May soon happen. Realtime Raytracing is now a thing haha. It sucks now, but it will work wonders in the future. I dunno how consoles would be able to handle such large computations anyway.

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#5 Edited by JasonOfA36 (1284 posts) -
@KBFloYd said:

for consoles this has always been the case.

For PC that is the selling point. among other things.

True. I never expect my PS4 and Switch to blow me out of the water technically. The games are impressive as it is in the gameplay department, especially from Ninty.

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#6 Posted by JustPlainLucas (79339 posts) -

Things can always improve, but as Nintendo has shown us, technology has never really been THAT important. It's all marketing.

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#7 Posted by Mandzilla (4109 posts) -

I think we passed that point last gen honestly.

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#8 Posted by Robbie23 (367 posts) -

Meh, I never cared about graphics from the beginning.

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#9 Edited by mrbojangles25 (44044 posts) -

Yeah, I don't really care that much about the bleeding edge. Crysis was really cool and all but ultimately I fell in love with it for the gameplay.

With that said, I really think consoles are slowing us down. Cliche argument, I know, but consoles are easily one-to-two generations behind a modest PC rig--please note the "modest", I'm not talking about these mysterious $10k dollar rigs you think exist--and I just can't find any excuse for them to be so far behind.

Meanwhile, engine development falters because multi-platform titles need to conform to the lowest-common denominator's (console) hardware, so there can't even be a legit way to upgrade a game's engine to push the limit of what a PC can do. Suddenly there's not a plethora of awesome engines out there, and the one or two amazing ones cost too much to license for modest studios to use (like they historically could back in the day), and things start to slow down.

So yeah, here I am, on my six-year old PC with a Geforce 980 (a card that is now TWO generations behind), pushing 60 FPS average (emphasis on average, not max) ultra settings on AC Odyssey at 1080p. Meanwhile, consoles with newer hardware can't even do 1080p right while simultaneously thinking they can do 4K right. If this gap existed from, idunno, 2004 to 2008? I probably would not be getting such good performance because there was more progress in engine development back then.

With that said, I much prefer what is going on now with a focus on quality gameplay and art direction. I would happily take a beautiful game with awesome visuals over a game that is photorealistic.

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#10 Posted by pmanden (664 posts) -

This generation has certainly been disappointing when you look solely at the technical advances, though the xbox one x has somewhat made up for it. Back in 2005 you could call yourself a proud xbox 360 owner in front of any PC fan, but that just doesn't work anymore. Especially the weak CPUs in the Ps4 and xbox one are really disappointing and I would gladly have paid 200 USD more for a stronger CPU.

That being said, graphics are not everything and I still sometimes play retro games with lousy graphics. But yes, graphics DO matter. After gameplay, that is. Some games were only possible because of graphical advances. How scary would Resident Evil be on NES? How immersive would far cry 5 be with ps1 graphics? It would never be the same.

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#11 Edited by BlackBalls (1498 posts) -

Consoles that have won their gens:

  • PS1
  • PS2
  • Wii
  • PS4

On handhelds - Nintendo has always won with weaker hardware.

^ all of them the weakest consoles. Other than PC fat nerds, most consumers just want to play games.

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#12 Posted by PC_Rocks (2464 posts) -

VR will save us.

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#13 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (25253 posts) -
@pmanden said:

How immersive would far cry 5 be with ps1 graphics? It would never be the same.

Far Cry 5's game world is among the most flexible out of all my games. I'd still play it if the graphics was weak. Look at the STALKER games. Their graphics are among the most dated even when they first released. Yet, I find myself drawn to them up to now.

But, this thread is about tech concerning graphics and hardware. If people didn't care, we'd still be buying and playing on the PS1, Saturn, and N64.

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#14 Posted by briguyb13 (3085 posts) -


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#15 Posted by enzyme36 (4215 posts) -

Naw they are still important.... but we certainly have learned that a game can look great and still be shit

....same can be said vice versa tho

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#16 Posted by with_teeth26 (9545 posts) -

I think we are at a point where talented artists who pack a lot of detail into each scene makes for a more impressive looking game than one using cutting edge technology with the best texture quality and most advanced lighting engine.

that is why some of the most visually impressive games are on consoles - big development teams with lots of talented artists obsessing over each scene trumps raw technical fidelity produced by more powerful hardware (though the very best looking games will have good tech to back that detail up as well)

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#17 Posted by pmanden (664 posts) -

@jun_aka_pekto: I gotta say that for me personally at least those lovely 4k graphics do make it a lot more fun to wander around in the world of Far Cry . Those beautiful trees, that idyllic lake with fish to catch, and an enemy to torch with the flamethrower. It just looks and feels really great. I play on the xbox one x.

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#18 Posted by Jag85 (13535 posts) -

We've pretty much reached the point of diminishing returns. From here on, graphics will likely be driven more by budgets and art direction than by hardware technology. Much like how the movie industry works.

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#19 Posted by jun_aka_pekto (25253 posts) -

I think RTX is the next big push because it's actually a time saver for developers. Lighting, shadows, and reflections are rendered correctly each time versus having to fake them for each situation. Many regard ray-tracing as the high point of CGI. Beyond RTX? Not sure. Perhaps, really high polygon counts (CPU).

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#20 Posted by cainetao11 (36593 posts) -

I was there last gen. Not to say I don't appreciate a stronger visual but the gameplay has always been priority one for me. Resolution became the finger pointing ground this gen.

And the rest is remains to be seen

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#21 Posted by uninspiredcup (33644 posts) -

Production values matter alot more for AAA games now.

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#22 Posted by superbuuman (6400 posts) -

if you have the $$$$$ no...if you are talking about affordable gaming = yes :P

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#23 Posted by m3dude1 (2336 posts) -

we are actually at a point where hardware isnt fast enough to make it more important than quality art and polish

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#24 Posted by jeezers (3012 posts) -

The graphics we get nowadays leaves me more than impressed, I'm not worried about any graphical leaps, just give me cool new games and im good.

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#25 Posted by warmblur (2510 posts) -

For VR it's extremely important to add to the immersion for regular gaming it's not as much.

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#26 Posted by XVision84 (16209 posts) -

Nah going back to last gen is just blekh. Tomb raider 1 looked so dated when I played it on my PC (and that was on max settings too). Compared to Shadow it's a world of difference. I think graphics still matter quite a bit.

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#27 Posted by TheMisterManGuy (189 posts) -

@XVision84 said:

Nah going back to last gen is just blekh. Tomb raider 1 looked so dated when I played it on my PC (and that was on max settings too). Compared to Shadow it's a world of difference. I think graphics still matter quite a bit.

The biggest limitations with 7th gen consoles have more to do with Lackluster RAM and complicated CPUs, especially in the PS3's case. I'd argue the design of the PlayStation 3 was completely tone deaf to what the future of game development actually was. Sony learned it's lesson the hard way, and actually did their homework with the PS4 this time. Using a cheap, PC processor and adding some much needed RAM helped it in the long run, allowing games to look better and play smoother than last gen counterparts, as well as drive down development costs for smaller teams thanks to support for all the latest engines.

Point is, developers don't care about bleeding edge tech and fancy processors. They just want something simple, easy, and flexible, and the PS4 delivered.

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#28 Posted by BassMan (10365 posts) -

Hardware power is still very important. You need more powerful hardware so gameplay simulations can evolve and visual fidelity increase for more immersion. Also, displays are pumping out higher refresh rates, higher resolutions and ultra wide. We need the power more than ever.

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#29 Posted by XVision84 (16209 posts) -

@TheMisterManGuy: Yup, agreed. Seems like that'll be the way to go moving forward since it worked so well.

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#30 Posted by schu (10051 posts) -

hardware power is important, but the lack of competition in the GPU market is slowing things

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#31 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (25253 posts) -
@TheMisterManGuy said:

Point is, developers don't care about bleeding edge tech and fancy processors. They just want something simple, easy, and flexible, and the PS4 delivered.

C'mon. If that was the case, why bother with the PS4 Pro? The only company where that seems to hold true is Nintendo.

I see two differing standards in the arguments here. One is when the PC is involved. The other is when Nintendo is involved.

But.....That's fine with me.

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#32 Posted by sovkhan (1271 posts) -

Power was never important unless you need to brag about it!!!

Or unless you started playing yesteryear, in which case you know so little about video games.

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#33 Posted by SecretPolice (35326 posts) -

It stopped mattering precisely when it was learned, X1X MonsterBox was gonna stomp the crap outta PS Bore Poo. lol :P

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#34 Posted by APiranhaAteMyVa (4123 posts) -

Yes it matters a lot. It is a big factor in creating new gaming experiences. It's not just about looking pretty and the size of the map, but things like physics and AI improve with hardware improvements.

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#35 Edited by scatteh316 (10252 posts) -

It depends on the genre, racing and fighting games haven;t really been limited by technology for years now.

Open world games are still the type of game that will always benefit from a jump in hardware.

You also have to remember that PS2 was massively overpowered for it's target rendering resolution, it would be like using a GTX1080ti for 720p....it was huge.

Where as PS3 had to dedicate a lot of it's performance to the insane pixel jump to HD, PS4 also had to do the same with 1080p