Epic Games' Tim Sweeney, the chief technical officer at one of the biggest independent studios on the planet and the mind behind the tech that is the Unreal Engine, had some interesting things to say at the Montreal International Game Summit, in which he stated that without proper content management, development costs could double.
As reported by GameIndustry.biz, Sweeney mentioned that it took Epic 30 people and four months to churn out the few-minute demo of The Samaritan, Epic's DirectX 11 showcase tech demo. Sweeney further stated that...
If we extrapolate that into creating an entire game, we were worried that the cost would go up by a factor of three or four or even five in the next generation,” ... “And of course, we felt that was not acceptable.”
For the Unreal Engine 4 a lot of the focus was on content creation efficiency and improved production cycles. In short, the Unreal Engine 4, as demonstrated in their lengthy walkthrough video, makes it easy to create all sorts of different kinds of high-fidelity assets, light sources, liquids and particle effects on the fly without pouring tons of resources into third-party effects studios or contractors.
As evidenced with Square Enix's walkthrough of the Luminous Engine, they too are aiming to make the design and content production process much more painless and efficient than in the past, enabling developers to churn out lighting, particles, character manipulation and CG quality assets at an expedient pace.
Take-Two Interactive's CEO Strauss Zelnick also put into words what Square and Epic showcased in their next-gen engine videos, stating that they're already prepped and ready for the next-gen with the appropriate toolsets and assets to make the jump cost-effective enough to actually bring research and development as well as development production costs down by a significant margin.
Sweeney's words should be taken as a word of caution for publishers and developers who plan on heading into next-gen development using “old-school” design methods for high-fidelity games. Hiring hundreds of artists and using canned assets and manual content, effect and particle creation will easily put a huge hole in the game production budget.
Thankfully, with lots and lots of cost-efficient middleware tools being made available and engines like Unity 4 making it easy to produce CGI quality games without requiring a bigger budget will definitely help make the financial transition for game production that much easier for next-gen consoles.