The poor availability of hardware has accompanied us for months. Whether chaotic graphics card launches, anger about scalpers or possible solutions in the form of special mining cards – we looked at the topic from various angles.
However, we have not yet highlighted a perspective that is particularly exciting for us gamers: How do game designers deal with the situation? Will the development of new titles with better next-gen graphics perhaps even be thwarted? This is exactly what we will examine in more detail in this article.
What hardware is the target?
The decisive question is which hardware is the focus of development. With regard to multiplatform titles, this is also made clear by the term »lead platform«. While the performance of consoles is a constant, it can fluctuate significantly in the PC environment.
Cyberpunk 2077 is an extreme example. It was advertised as one of the top next-gen titles last year. The dystopian action adventure was supposed to take graphics in games to the next level. Above all, this meant ray tracing.
The real-time ray calculation devours vast amounts of performance and requires at least one RTX graphics card with the corresponding processing cores. In order to still be able to play smoothly, Nvidia’s DLSS is also required, which also requires an RTX 2000 or RTX 3000 with specialized processing units. You can find out more about DLSS in the following video:
What is DLSS? – Nvidia’s anti-aliasing explained in detail
This can quickly give the impression that Cyberpunk 2077 may have been designed for the latest hardware from the start. This is exacerbated by the poor condition of the console socket.
The version for Xbox One X and PlayStation 4, i.e. for the two weakest platforms, was so poor that Sony kicked Cyberpunk from its own store
Cyberpunk is therefore an exception in a certain way. In general, it is advisable for studios and publishers to get their games running smoothly on a large number of systems in order to sell as many copies as possible.
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“That’s why we don’t drive Ferraris”
Europe developers told us in a video series for GameStar Plus that things can go wrong when developing games, regardless of the targeted hardware.
Scarce hardware is a “minor topic”
The obvious focus on mainstream hardware can also be seen in the example of the Europe game developer Deck13, who is behind titles such as the highly acclaimed science fiction action game The Surge and the fantasy role-playing game Lords of the Fallen.
Co-founder and creative director Jan Klose gave us insights into the planning of new games. Since Deck13 develops for PC as well as for Xbox and PlayStation, the focus is usually on one of the consoles, as these are usually the weakest platforms.
“This is what we use as a guide for the general game plan. So we don’t plan a game that is so big or hardware-hungry that it simply doesn’t run well on the weakest platform.”
With this approach, the minimum requirements for the PC are usually also well covered. Based on this, we will see which features benefit most from more powerful PC hardware.
“A simple example would be higher-resolution textures due to more graphics memory or improved shadow effects / details, simply because of the computing power.”
The current generation of graphics cards is usually not aimed at. However, there could be certain exceptions. For example, when a graphics card is made available before it goes on sale in order to optimize a game on it or to support a new feature right at the start of sales.
“The current hardware shortage, on the other hand, is more of a subordinate issue, which usually relaxes again after a few months.
Game development is hardly slowed down
Even if in this case it cannot be assumed that the situation on the hardware market will relax in a few months, the most important weak link in the form of the current console generations is already known.
So it may be that one or the other game or a step in its development is delayed by the scarce hardware. Overall, however, the difficult situation on the hardware and especially the graphics card market with regard to technology will probably hardly have any effect on game development.
The game year 2021: our forecasts
Speaking of game development: The editors-in-chief of GameStar, GamePro and Mein-MMO reveal what awaits us this year in the video embedded above.