Resolutiongate continues as Infinity Ward’s executive producer Mark Rubin tries to explain why Call of Duty: Ghosts looks better on PS4.
Making the rounds on various websites today, Rubin tried to downplay the difference, saying that if both versions are placed side-by-side, the difference will be noticeable, however both the Xbox One and PS4 versions look great.
Rubin then described the nightmarish scenario to Eurogamer they’ve faced while developing Call of Duty: Ghosts for next-gen platforms, alongside current-gen and PC, and spoke of the new consoles’ OS, hinting that Xbox One’s the most challenging.
There’s stuff in the console’s OS that interacts with the game. So, for instance, voice chat is often supported by the hardware manufacturer rather than the software, and you’re just using their channel. When that stuff is changing – because they’re developing it on their side – and the resources they’re using are changing – your, from a game design standpoint, challenge is with trying to make enough room for those resources to be used but at the same time use as much resources as possible.
One of the greatest challenges the engineers have to deal with is memory management, or thread management. There are X number of threads in your CPUs. Where in those threads is the stuff that’s Microsoft or Sony? Where does it fall? How does it work? We don’t have the SDKs for those features yet, and then they come in and you go, okay, well it needs 3MB of RAM – oh, crap, we only allocated two! You can’t just take a MB from anywhere. It’s not like there’s just tonnes of it just laying there. You have to pull it from something else. And now you have to balance that somewhere.
It becomes a massive change internally for our entire engine, if they add a few MB to the amount of resources they need, or if they require all their processes to be on one thread. If it’s not multi-threaded then we have to put it on one thread. Now we have to find space on one thread, where that can live, that it’s not creating a traffic jam on that thread. Sometimes we have to be like, okay, we have to move all this stuff over to a different thread and then put that in to that thread, just to manage traffic.
That’s what engineers are often doing: managing the traffic of CPU threads and memory and where that’s going, allocating memory, what kind of memory is it? Is it dynamic? Sometimes what has to happen is we have to allocate the 3MB straight off the bat and just say, these 3MB, specifically, these actual memory addresses, have to be used for this. They can’t be used anywhere else. Whereas dynamic, it’s like, okay, I need 3MB but it doesn’t matter where those 3MB come from.
So all that stuff can change on the fly. And you’re trying to develop your system to match with that, and it’s two systems, now, not just one: Sony and Xbox. That creates a massive engineering nightmare.
When asked if that was the reason the Xbox One version of the shooter wasn’t 1080p, he said that was possibly the case, or it could have been other issues.
In a way. I don’t know if I can point to one particular cause. Early on, we didn’t know where exactly the resolution of anything would fall because we didn’t have hardware or the software to support it. We tried to focus in on 1080p, and if we felt like we were on borderline of performance somewhere… We tried to make the best decision for each platform that gives you the best-looking game we could get and maintains that 60 frames a second.
There’s no specific, oh, well, the VO chat on Xbox took up so much resources that we couldn’t do 1080p native. There’s no definitive one to one per se cause and effect. It’s just an overall thing. We took each system individually and said, ‘okay, let’s make the best game for each system.’
I think both look great. Some people might notice if they had them right next to each other. Some people might not. The Xbox One is 1080p output, it’s just upscaled hardware wise.
It was a late decision, too. That call wasn’t made until a month ago.
Asked if this was a result of PS4 simply being more powerful than Xbox One, Rubin danced around the question.
It’s very possible we can get it to native 1080p. I mean I’ve seen it working at 1080p native. It’s just we couldn’t get the frame rate in the neighbourhood we wanted it to be.
And it wasn’t a lack of effort. It wasn’t that it was like last minute. We had the theoretical hardware for a long time. That’s the thing you get pretty quickly and that doesn’t change dramatically. It was more about resource allocation. The resource allocation is different on the consoles. That huge web of tangled resources, whether it’s threads-based or if it’s GPU threads or if it’s memory – whatever it is – optimisation is something that could go theoretically on forever.
I definitely see slash hope both platforms will look way better the next time we get a chance at it. As an obvious analogy – and if people are not sure about this it’s pretty simple – look at Call of Duty 2 versus COD 4. It was a massive leap forward in graphics, and that’s just because it takes time to get through this.
First launch, first time at bat at a new console is a challenging one. That’s just the way it is. For people fearful one system is more powerful than the other or vice versa, it’s a long game.
Speaking to Edge-Online, Rubin said that they have to tread lightly now, because the situation might have created a bit of a discomfort between the relationship Activision has with Microsoft. However, he said, developers are away from the corporate back and forth that goes on.
[laughs] It makes us tread lightly, obviously. Regardless of the situations, we never want to really be negative towards any of the consoles so yeah it is obviously a tricky situation. But it’s not one that’s specific to this incident or specific to our relationship with Microsoft. We always want both the systems to be good and actually from our perspective having the two systems, having them compete and drive themselves to be better through that competition…we’ll see a lot of cool stuff come from both sides of the fence because of that competition.
Also, in general, the studio itself is pretty removed from the business aspect of Call Of Duty so we’re not always necessarily engaged with anything like that, the relationship stuff. We try to keep that stuff as separate as possible.
Later on he told IGN that the first games on next-gen consoles are like first dates; it takes time to learn each other.
The analogy I’ve used in several interviews is… the first game on a console is sort of like a first date. It’s very awkward as you try to learn what each other’s interests are. That’s how making a new game on a console is.