“We should not be in a business that sells itself on the flavour of like, gadgetry and technology.”
1080p or not 1080p isn’t an “interesting question”, according to Far Cry 4 creative director Alex Hutchinson, who spoke to OXM at length about the commercial efficacy of rad graphics at a preview event earlier this month.
“It’s certainly not something I care about in a game,” Hutchinson told me, after confirming a target resolution and frame rate of 1080p and 30 frames a second for the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game. "It feels weird to me that people are cool about playing a sort of retro pixel game, and yet the resolution somehow matters. It’s like: is it fun, is it interesting, is it new, is it fresh, are there interesting questions?
“With the 4K TVs and things - somebody was telling me that with a 4K TV, to even see it, your living room has to be big enough to sit like 12 feet from the screen. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it starts to get a little crazy. I’m just in it for the experience, I’ll play a SNES game if it’s cool.”
Hutchinson feels that consumer enthusiasm for high-end visuals is waning - echoing Crytek’s Nicolas Schulz, who opined in early October that it’s getting “difficult to really wow people” with flashy graphics.
“Exactly,” said Hutchinson, when I brought this up. "And also I think it’s a bad axis. We should not be in a business that sells itself - we are, a little bit, but that sells itself on the flavour of like, gadgetry and technology. I think that’s a bad sign.
“If our thing is ‘woo, the same exact thing you had before, at twice the resolution, instead of a new thing’… A new spin or an evolution, I think is much more interesting.”
So when, assuming it ever happens, will players cease to obsess over fidelity? "I think they already have secretly. Think about how things used to be - it used to be the graphics on the back of a box that sold a game. And even since the Xbox 360 and the PS3, that sort of era, like early 2000, I feel like 99% of the time it’s gone away.
“It’s a rare question for you to ask now about resolution or something,” Hutchinson went on. "It’s [only brought up] because of the disparity, the idea that one version is being held back. I don’t think that has sold consoles for a while now.
“I think experiences have been selling them, and that’s your challenge, if you don’t have a new cool experience, or a social experience - like Call of Duty sells consoles, even though art-wise, it’s not exactly… like Call of Duty to Crytek’s games, one sells a metric s**t-ton and the other doesn’t.”
Is this really a fair assessment, though, in light of the frenzy over screenshot comparisons in the run-up to Xbox One’s launch? “Well, I think that’s more people trying for a story. It’s the same challenge we had all across the business, where five per cent of the audience is online commenting, and 95 per cent are just buying them or not buying them. We create these weird echo chambers for those issues, and sometimes I wonder, I don’t think this is real.”
Check out my Far Cry 4 hands-on for more about the black heart that beats beneath those austere Himalayan looks. Suffice to say that the elephant in the room here is, indeed, an elephant.