By some strange paradox, E3′s lack of announcements regarding the next “next generation” of hardware has prompted many news sites (and publishers) so speculate as to when the next cycle will begin.
When I first began animating games at home in my highschool years and was invited up to the local game studio, DMA Design, back home in Scotland it was exacly at the time of the big shift from the 2D of the 16bit consoles (SNES and Genesis) to the impending 3D revolution of the as-yet unrealeased PlayStation and N64. I still clearly recall being informed by my tour guide (Art Director Oz, who by some strange twist of fate now works just up the road from me in Montreal at local studo A2M) that it would be “a long time before we’ll be seeing round edges in games again” with the move to hard-edged low-poly games like the original Tomb Raider and Tekken. As such, I promptly ditched my computer and all my 2D skills and instead decided to apply for art college to get drunk and meet girls.
On completing my studies and joining the industry proper it was 5 years later and the old-hands I learned from and I were wrapping our heads around the leap from the original PlayStation to the PlayStation 2, with its analogue input and superior power and memory specifications. During this period a lot of over-estimation of these specs on our part resulted in much trial and error, (with the latter being most prevalent), and the unfortunately disproportionate ratio of actual creative-to-technical work was quite the learning experience. But hey, I didn’t know any better…
4 years later and I make the jump across the Atlantic. After a brief stint with the Xbox, it’s on to the Xbox360 (at the time, known as Xenon) and the then unfinished Unreal 3 engine. Again, lots of over-estimation of hardware specifications despite being some of the first developers to receive the new hardware kits and being the UE3 early-adopters. Again, having to relearn how to create animation in games from scratch as we apply new methods such as blending, additive animation, IK and an entirely new facial system, not to mention the poor artists who had to completely rethink their workflows with the move to normal maps and Z-brush modelling.
So here we are once more. 5 years later and on the verge of when another hardware generation cycle is expected to be announced, so I’m going to put it like this…
Can you imagine how crippled the art of filmmaking would be if every time shooting starts the vast majority of the crew’s time is spent creating reels of film and re-designing how it works inside the camera? If every time an author sits down to work on his or her next bestseller they must first spend years establishing workflows for simply getting the words down on the page? And every new album is delayed months as your favourite band is holed up in the studio, luthering their own guitars?
For the first time ever I’m coming into work and purely creating art. Not worrying about whether I’ll get the tech in time to finish the workload. Not dealing with crashes, bugs, delays and instead just knowing that when I want something to work, it does. For the first time in my career I’m spending 100% of my day creating mature, thought-provoking content, and it’s really something of a marvel to be discussing character motivation and story arcs safe in the knowledge that everything else is taken care of.
To this end you can keep your new hardware and your fancy camera inputs and magic wands, because I’m concenrating on content.