Google Stadia and the next-generation consoles by Microsoft and Sony dominated much of the discussion at this year's E3 even without being technically present.
In a long interview with Larian CEO Swen Vincke, for instance, our Francesco asked whether the developer considered the addition of SSD drives in the next-generation consoles to be potentially revolutionary. Here's the reply of the Larian boss:
To be fair, people have SSDs in their PCs already, so it’s not that much of a revolution. Streaming is a very important technology for modern games, so the faster you can stream your data, you can put more of it, and you’re going to have higher quality assets, which is pretty much what everybody expects there to be. The big questions are going to be how much memory do you get to actually do that? Is there sufficient memory to fool around with? How much CPU power are we getting? Because that’s also important, but it’s the classic things that we see with every generation. I mean, how much GPU power do we get? But at the end of the day, it’s always going to be more, it’s going to be more detailed, it’s going to allow us to do more accurate simulations.
I think that the more interesting question is how stuff like Google Stadia will change things. It gives developers something different. In the data center, these machines are connected to each other, and so you could start thinking of doing things like elastic rendering, like make a couple of servers together to do physics simulations that may not be possible on current local hardware. I think you’ll see a lot of evolution in this direction.
Essentially, the Larian CEO seems to suggest the next-generation consoles will be much more powerful, sure, but they'll just offer more of what the developers are already accustomed to with current hardware. On the other hand, a cloud-only platform like Google Stadia can go beyond the limitations of local hardware and deliver far more complex physics simulations, and that's just an example.
It is, after all, what Google Stadia boss Phil Harrison teased a few months ago.
When you have an almost uncapped amount of computation sitting in a data centre that you can use to support your game design and ambition – whether it’s in vastly superior multiplayer, whether it’s in distributed physics, or massive simulation – there are things we can do inside a data center that you could never do inside a discreet, standalone device.
The prospect is enticing, to say the least. However, it might be quite some time before we see a sample of it in a real game; we reckon a development studio would have to design their game specifically around the capabilities of Google Stadia, to begin with. Still, we'll keep an eye on further developments in this area.
Are you more excited for Google Stadia or the next PlayStation and Xbox consoles? Tell us in the comments.