Next-Gen Epic: Mark Rein Talks Unreal Engine 4, Kinect 2, iPad, Batman
Besides improved visuals, how else will new gaming experiences make use of the performance increases in next-gen consoles?
Mark Rein: I think you’ll see games that are more interactive and have lots of little details layered on that weren’t practical given prior performance and memory limitations. I also think you’ll see games able to scale more effectively from mobile devices up to consoles although, in the short term you’re likely to see limited versions of that. For example, the new iPad has 1GB of RAM – that’s more RAM than what’s individually available in Xbox 360 and PS3.
If that trend, along with better GPUs and CPUs continues, then it will be possible to scale the same game between tablets and consoles. Obviously, the console is going to have a much larger power footprint, so you’ll be able to do the most amazing things there, but tablets and phones will also become pretty incredible within the life cycle of the next-gen consoles.
Fortnite: The first Unreal Engine 4 game, and coming to PC. Pretty, isn’t it?
How important are improved visuals to new and emerging gameplay mechanics?
MR: Pushing the visuals will always be important. Humans evolve very slowly (over millions of years) but their tastes evolve at exponentially faster rates. This is true for pretty much all forms of entertainment and media. During my own brief lifetime thus far I’ve gone from watching the Adam West Batman shows of the ‘60s to watching Christian Bale’s Dark Knight today. It’s hard to go back to watch the older series, and people generally don’t.
Their expectations evolve as new technologies become commonplace. Think of what mobile games looked like before the iPhone came out, and that was only five years ago! For my friends in the UK, just look at the various Doctor Who series and you’ll know what I mean – it’s like watching the 1930s black-and-white Flash Gordon movies compared to watching Avatar.
Batman: A good analogy for evolving audience expectations, as it turns out.
The 32-bit generation of consoles popularised 3D gaming and analogue controls, while this generation will be remembered for connected-console gaming and motion controls. What significant evolutions do you think the next-generation of consoles will bring to gaming?
MR: With Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Microsoft and Sony really upped their game in terms of the services around the consoles for games, media and social uses. I expect this trend to be even more improved for next-gen. They’ll add phones, tablets and PCs to the mix to ensure that your media, games and friends can follow you everywhere. It’s going to be very exciting. I think SmartGlass gives a just brief glimpse into the kind of integration we can expect to see over the next few years.
With Wii U, Xbox SmartGlass, and PlayStation 3 / PS Vita, dual-screen gaming looks here to stay. How big an impact will systems like SmartGlass have on the way we experience games and gaming content on next-gen systems?
MR: In terms of their effect on gaming, it remains to be seen how consumers take to the idea of dual screens. But I’ve really enjoyed some of interesting demos on Wii U and for certain there are emerging non-gaming applications, just as Microsoft showed on stage at E3 with SmartGlass, that will be here to stay and will help make the next-gen console the connected hub for your gaming and media life.
Kinect: Expect more to come from the successor to Microsoft’s motion sensor
Kinect has been a controversial late addition to current-gen gaming – how do you think that type of tech will improve and evolve in the next few years, and how might we see motion games evolve beyond the current crop of dance titles?
MR: Prior to Develop, I had a chance to meet with the folks making Kung Fu Superstar – a triple-A motion game, made with Unreal Engine 3, where you’re a Kung Fu movie star. It really helped bring home how more can be done with Kinect and it made me excited to think about the next generation of that technology. We’ll have to wait and see what Microsoft has up their sleeve for the future.
From your point-of-view, what feature of next-gen systems is most exciting and why, with respect to the potential for new gaming experiences?
MR: What I mentioned earlier, with respect to being able to layer on more detail in next-gen games, is the big thing for me. Unreal Engine 4’s next-generation Unreal Kismet visual scripting system provides new capabilities to artists and designers to implement complex game features that previously required extensive programmer support. With additional processing and graphics power this will be a dream come true for designers who can now place their unvarnished creative vision directly into players’ hands.