Ubisoft Takes a Swipe at Shadow of Mordor to Defend Their ‘Next-Gen’ Credentials
The gaming industry has been in deep decline for the majority of the seventh generation of console platforms, a fact that has changed little in the industry’s slow crawl to the eighth generation of console hardware, and so it will come as no surprise to readers that this week has once again been plagued by terrible news. Not just terrible in the sense of news that is mildly disappointing, but rather properly crushing. Readers may well ask themselves why they even bother with this moribund hobby at all – with the answer likely being because they deserve nothing better in life. To illustrate this point an anonymous employee of those miserable fucks at Ubisoft this week decided to send out an email addressing the controversy surrounding Vincent Pontbriand’s confirmation last week that his team had deliberately sabotaged the resolution of the PS4 version of Assassin’s Creed Unity in order to maintain parity with the Xbox One.
“I’m happy to enlighten you guys because way too much bullshit about 1080p making a difference is being thrown around. If the game is as pretty and fun as ours will be, who cares? Getting this game to 900p was a BITCH. The game is so huge in terms of rendering that it took months to get it to 720p at 30fps. The game was 9fps 9 months ago. We only achieved 900p at 30fps weeks ago. The PS4 couldn’t handle 1080p 30fps for our game, whatever people, or Sony and Microsoft say.”
Essentially they are making the case that Assassin’s Creed Unity is not running at native 1080p on the PS4 because of gross incompetence on the part of Ubisoft, rather than because of any genuine malevolence – this obviously flat-out contradicts the admissions of the game’s senior producer, Vincent Pontbriand, who at least had enough confidence in his statements to put a name to them. The anonymous Ubisoft developer is not finished here though, and goes on to talk about Monolith Productions’ recent hit Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor:
“By the amount of content and NPCs in the game, from someone who witnessed optimization for lots of Ubisoft games in the past, this is crazily optimized for such a young generation of consoles. This really is about to define a next gen like no other game before. Mordor has next gen system and gameplay, but not graphics like Unity does. The proof comes in that game being cross gen.”
Shadow of Mordor is an attractive game featuring high detail textures and lighting, which runs at the tidy 1080p native resolution, which has fast become a staple of the ‘next-gen’ aesthetic [at least on PS4] for many people. More importantly, the game takes gameplay systems which were developed for the Assassin’s Creed series, and meaningfully evolves them well beyond the myopic ambitions of team Ubisoft – such an overhaul is likely well beyond the abilities, inclinations, and time constraints of the miserable thralls who are working on Assassin’s Creed Unity. This calculated slight feels like nothing so much as sour grapes on the part of Ubisoft toward a game that is almost certainly better than their own, and one that is likely prettier too.
Ubisoft Developers Reveal Why the Company Is So Awful
When game developers cannot even bring themselves to care about the state of their products then why should the gamers? That is a question that has been hanging over the entire seventh generation like a pall, and one that looks set to endure throughout this eighth generation mulligan. Time and again we see instances of developers churning out technically homogenised iterative sequels, many of which liberally pilfer assets and gamecode from previous iterations. This is an inclination which has direly crippled the entirety of the gaming industry, yet no developer is more guilty of this artistic violation than Ubisoft. Grenoble INP Ensimag is a prestigious French school which specialises in Mathematics and computer programming. Last week three Ubisoft employees [a game architect, an online programmer, and a someone from HR] attended this school in order to discuss the profession, this presentation was then translated and paraphrased by a Reddit user named Timois, as he felt it shone some light on several high profile multi-platform cock-ups that Ubisoft has made this year.
One of the big mysteries of the year has been the question of precisely how Watch Dogs went from looking like a technically ambitious eighth generation powerhouse to a decidedly mediocre cross-generation title, with a swathe of visual effects seemingly left on the cutting room floor. When asked “So what the hell happened with watch dogs?” the students were told:
“During the presentation, the Online Programmer said that just before they release a game, they have to send a copy to console manufacturers, which then tell them what to keep and what to throw away (sooo yeah Watch Dogs maybe ?).
The Game Architect said that they aim for 60 fps but due to “limitations”, they have to settle for 30 fps in recent games.”
That latter comment certainly lends itself to proving the lie [which did not really need much proving] that Ubisoft were peddling last week about 30fps refresh rates being a stylistic choice, on account of them looking and feeling better than games which play at 60fps. The game architect then went on to explain to the student precisely why the AI in Watch Dogs was executed so dismally:
“The Game Architect said that they try to re-use code as much as possible. So that’s maybe what happened with the AI in Watch Dogs which was taken from AC.”
Finally, and most revealingly, Timois was able to ask these developers about their plans to lock the PC version of Assassin’s Creed Unity at 30fps:
“Are you aware of the negative response to the recent decision to lock your games (like AC:Unity) into 30 frames per second? If so, what do you think about that?
I asked this question at the end of the presentation, everyone laughed. The Game Architect said that on consoles, and for this type of game, they have to chose between graphical fidelity and smoothness. He implied that MS is making them lock the framerate on PC too. Then, he smiled, said “But our eyes can’t see past 24 fps anyway” and winked at me.”
Goodness. Ubisoft have become so entrenched in studio politics that Microsoft is able to request framerate locks on their PC ports [like Ubisoft ports even need to be crippled any further]. This certainly explains why reams of high quality effects were found deactivated within the coding of the PC version of Watch Dogs. Funny how needing to appease console manufacturers seems to be a uniquely Ubisoft problem to have. In terms of pure speculation, one would not be at all surprised if this were the net result of all the pack-in deals that Ubisoft does with Sony and Microsoft. Assassin’s Creed 4 had a PS4 bundle, Watch Dogs had a PS4 bundle, Far Cry 4 is to have a PS4 bundle, and Assassin’s Creed Unity is to have no less than two different Xbox One bundles [only one of which features a useless camera]. It would appear that Ubisoft have really managed to glom themselves onto Sony and Microsoft, with a diminished degree of autonomy being the price they pay for the luxury of feasting like parasites.
Ubisoft Physics Simulation Sees PS4 GPGPU Compute Outperform Xbone by 100%
There are few things more disappointing than products that are so technically unambitious that they are barely suitable to the applications they have been tasked. CPUs which could barely power an iPhone, GPUs which make 1080p an exception rather than the rule, it is all rather depressing. Caspius.com has not run a story about how technically shit the Xbone is for quite a while, but in a week where even the dismal news of the industry is in pathetically short supply anything will do. The Xbone GPU is shit. This is a well known quantity, and is part of the reason that so few Xbone games are capable of running at native resolution. Traditional thinking has the Xbone GPU pegged at being thirty percent less powerful than the PS4 GPU, yet for particular tasks the PS4 GPU can actually prove much more powerful.
Ubisoft have this week released the benchmarks for their new physics technology which will be powering the majority of their forthcoming games. This physics simulation technology was specifically created in order to shift a large degree of physics processing to a console’s GPU, so as to compensate for the extremely anemic CPUs of the eighth generation. The benchmark was conducted by having the consoles render dancing women, and seeing how many of these women each console could calculate the physics for within a five millisecond window of time. First the test was run using the CPU on all four of Sony and Microsoft’s seventh and eighth generation consoles, with the PS4 CPU incredibly managing to underperform the PS3’s Cell processor. The 360 was able to calculate 34 dancers, the PS3 was able to calculate 105 dancers, the PS4 was able to calculate 98 dancers, and the Xbox One was able to calculate 113 dancers. Let that sink in for a moment, the PS3’s CPU bests that of the PS4, while the Xbone’s only manages to beat it out by the slimmest of margins. However, once Ubisoft moves these physics calculations from the CPU to the GPU it is a completely different story, with the PS4 GPU able to outperform the Xbone GPU by almost one hundred percent – 1600 dancers to 830. Developers should hope that Microsoft’s cloud is able to become viable, as without it the Xbone is set to be a massive drag on multiplatform AI and physics performance.