Every week it seems there is a new graphical comparison between the XBOX One and the Playstation 4. Each time it is noticeably different to varying degrees between each system, with the PS4 typically coming away with the slightly better texture improvements and lighting differences. Most of the developers recently interviewed about the consoles have insisted they are both equally strong platforms that are fairly easy to develop for. So why does the PS4 keep getting the graphically stout games like No Man’s Sky and Horizon, while the XBOX One continues to struggle with increasing resolution and frame rate? The difference between the systems isn’t a matter of which is stronger, but where they are stronger.
Don’t skip leg day
A common joke about guys who spend a lot of time in the gym is that they always seem to skip leg day. It starts to look a little silly if you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger from the waist up, but then have the legs of Pee-Wee Herman. Now while that is a bit hyperbolic, it gives us a visual for what I’m about to talk about. When stacked against the PS4, the XBOX One actually has a stronger processor, or CPU. Sony has been pretty tight lipped about the exact numbers for their processor, but a recent interview reveals that it is weaker than the XBOX One. Jesse Rapczak from Studio Wildcard, the team behind Ark: Survival Evolved, said that their game requires a bit more CPU processing power and that the XBOX One’s processor being stronger was a plus. He made note, however, that the GPU, graphics processing unit, was stronger in the PS4, which ended up balancing things out. The interesting thing to note here is that both of the big dogs in the console war have a slight edge over the other in one area. Sure, the PS4 has a stronger graphics processor, but when they pushed Tomb Raider to the limit of what the console could do, performance wasn’t as consistent as what the XBOX One offered. The challenge for developers, as I see it, is striking that balance with systems that, when paired together, create an imbalance. If they throw too many textures and lighting effects at the XBOX One, it may struggle or be unable to carry the load. If they push too much rendering at the CPU of the PS4, it may not matter that the graphics processor is stronger.
A three-legged race
Developing a game for both platforms should kind of look like a three-legged race. There will be give and take on both sides to ensure a game both looks amazing and runs well. This reinforces a point that I have consistently made about lowering the priority of graphics in video games. If developers felt just the slightest decrease in pressure from both the consumer base and the publishers with respect to graphics and pushing the consoles to their limits, they could find that happy medium and spend more time on creating content or innovating new ideas within the worlds they are making. For the master race trolls this revelation about the XBOX having a stronger CPU will assuredly have them furiously typing comments and blog posts about how “games still look better on the PS4”, and to a certain degree that’s fine, let them. If you want graphics to look as good as possible without having to buy a PC then enjoy your PS4. But just keep in mind, especially once ARK launches and you get to play it, that the Playstation had its own limitations that affected development, just like the XBOX One. And the result? From the looks of the beta and community response we will get a great and hopefully very stable game out of it.
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