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LOS ANGELES — The graphical leap from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 isn’t as impressive as most of us were expecting. It turns out that our brains can’t really tell the difference between 5 million polygons and 50 million. That means the visual fidelity just can’t get that much better.
Software-technology company Havok is fine with that. It thinks that the next-gen leap will come from its products.
If the geometry in games can’t get much better, then the software that understands and calculates how that geometry behaves still can. That’s Havok’s specialty. It produces middleware that creates physics, cloth, and destruction in games. Havok optimized its tools to run better on older CPUs, and now developers can use the new console hardware to create even more dynamic worlds.
“[Havok on next-gen] is going to make destruction better,” Havok worldwide vice president of marketing Brian Waddle told GamesBeat. “I think when you talk about the next-gen consoles. I think destruction is going to be more of a player when you look at a lot of the games. Like Battlefield 4. What DICE does with Frostbite — those are the things you are going to see more of. When you talk about destruction. More interactive environments. That kind of thing.”
Gamers are responding to that. During Electronic Arts’ press conference, one of the biggest cheers came when a player used a rocket launcher to cause a tank to fall through the floor in Battlefield 4.
“You’re going to see more of that, and we do that very well,” said Waddle.
Developers have a lot of experience creating beautiful-looking worlds. That’s not something that will help games stand apart on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and powerful PCs. Instead, developers will likely look to increase the interactivity of the setting.
“Going forward, we’re going to see more dynamic environments,” Havok engineer Tim Mowrer said. “Not just dynamic objects like boulders rolling down hills, but the terrain itself being very responsive.”
Havok is expecting developers to realize the need for a world that feels more lifelike, and that they will come looking for solutions.
“That’s our sweet spot,” said Waddle. “That’s what we’re known for.”