NEWS - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Next-gen Is Not Just About Pretty Graphics

LucasArts’ Chris Williams has declared that next-gen gaming is about more than "pretty graphics" - conceding that games have yet to reach the level of movies when it comes to visuals. Williams, who is project lead on LucasArts’ new Indiana Jones game, made his comments in a speech at GDC London this morning. He talked extensively about the studio’s relationships with sister company Industrial Light & Magic, observing, "Film and game technology really compliment each other." However, he went on, game developers still have "a lot to learn from film". As an example, he cited the CGI character Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean 2. According to Williams, it’s highly unlikely that such a high level of character detail could be recreated in a game "for next-gen, or even the generation after that". For LucasArts, he continued, "Next-gen is not just about pretty graphics, and we’re okay with that." Instead, the studio is looking for ways to change the gameplay experience - for example, by simulating instead of scripting characters. To demonstrate this, Williams showed a level from the Xbox 360 version of the Indiana Jones game. He highlighted the many different and unpredictable ways enemies will fall when hit, or grab out for something to hold onto when falling. "There are different payoffs for every action in the game," Williams explained, adding, "When you are creating these moments that are truly your own, you are telling your own story." Williams then demonstrated some impressive physics effects in a new, as yet unnamed Star Wars game from LucasArts. R2-D2 was shown being repeatedly thrown into planks of wood, which broke in realistic and different ways depending on their thickness, and a similar demo followed featuring the character of Jar Jar Binks encased in carbonite ("arguably where he belongs"). To conclude, Williams played a short video highlighting ’force power’, which allows gamers to release bursts of power, pick up enemies and objects and slam them into walls. According to Williams, LucasArts’ "core underlying simulation technology, we think, is really going to change the way people play games". However, he continued, "We think this is just the tip of the iceberg."


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