You might think that porting a game from Last-gen to the new-gen is easy as pushing a button, but according to Naughty Dog’s creative director, Neil Druckmann it was hell.
Speaking with Edge, Druckmann said, “I wish we had a button that was like ‘Turn On PS4 Mode’, but no. We expected it to be Hell, and it was Hell.
Just getting an image onscreen, even an inferior one with the shadows broken, lighting broken and with it crashing every 30 seconds… that took a long time. These engineers are some of the best in the industry and they optimized the game so much for the PS3’s SPUs specifically.
It was optimized on a binary level, but after shifting those things over [to PS4] you have to go back to the high level, make sure the [game] systems are intact, and optimize it again.”
He adds, “I can’t describe how difficult a task that is. And once it’s running well, you’re running the [versions] side by side to make sure you didn’t screw something up in the process, like physics being slightly off, which throws the game off, or lighting being shifted and all of a sudden it’s a drastically different look.
That’s not ‘improved’ any more; that’s different. We want to stay faithful while being better. It still means rebuilding the assets, throwing them in, seeing how the new streaming works, working with the new hard drive and the new OS that you have to write whole new systems for.”
He went on, We knew the areas that were problematic on the PS3, where we were hitting a technical bottleneck, so they were the easiest areas to improve. We brought in all the hi-res models, and then it’s on par with what you saw in the cutscenes.
There’s an improved lighting model. After that, we started looking across the board; enemies look a little blurry up close, so that was pretty easy. We ramped those up and saw a pretty significant difference.
Our cinematics are now running at 1080p and 60fps, and that involved rendering them all from scratch. It’s interesting that now [instead of a technical bottleneck], the bottleneck is ‘Can we fit all this on the disc?’ How do you show it on the Internet? Any next-gen game?.
We have the game running in 1080p at 60fps, and YouTube brings it down to 30fps and does a compression on it, and it’s hard to tell the difference.
When you see it running on your big TV and you see all the hi-res assets running smoothly, it’s hard to go back to the previous version after that, but it’s hard to show all the work, the optimization and the artistry that went into it.
We’re still trying to figure out what the best way to do that is. We tried to put a non-compressed version of the trailer running at 60Hz for people to download, but it’s several hundred MBs. It’s a huge file. Maybe there’s something on PSN where we can make this stuff available, but it’s something we have to address.”
“We’re working on this re-release, but at the same time we’re working on two other brand-new experiences. When Blu-ray came out, the first thing is you buy all these re-releases of movies that you’ve loved, and then you see Gravity and you can’t wait to see it on your Blu-ray. There’s always room for a mixture of old and new,” Druckmann concluded.
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