Most games releasing right now are cross-gen titles, as is usually the case with console generation transitions, and that’s likely going to continue being the case for at least another year or so, if not more. When Ubisoft’s Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora launches next year, however, it won’t be releasing for PS4 and Xbox One. So why exactly is that the case? According to its developers at Ubisoft Massive, who recently spoke with IGN, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is leveraging the hardware of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S to do things that would not have been possible on PS4 and Xbox One.
For instance, the game puts a large emphasis on flying through its open world, which is much more technically demanding. Creative director Magnus Jansén spoke about being able to add extra detail to environments even in the distance, rather than just things that are up close. “[New consoles allowed] us to have much better object detail up close to you, but also when you’re flying high up in the air – to have a lovely vista and far-distance rendering, where we can even use the ray tracing to do shadows super far away, you know, three or four kilometers away from you.” said Jansén.
Meanwhile, technical director of programming Nikolay Stefanov explained that being able to stream data at fast speeds to keep up with the pace at which players will be moving through the world was also crucial. “You’re flying at enormous high speeds on a Banshee over this very, very detailed landscape,” Stefanov said. “It doesn’t matter how much we can render, unless we can stream it in as fast when we’re moving very fast from one place to another. So just this shift to these newer hard drives, it can’t be underestimated because, and it really has a lot of implications.”
The developers also explained that working with new hardware exclusively has allowed them to go about designing the open world of the game differently as well. No longer being bound by older constraints, Ubisoft Massive has attempted to create a more organic world. Said Jansén: “With the old hard drives, they had to be spaced out very far [apart], because you had to stream out the old and stream in the new, so it just created a formulaic world. So, there’s a ton of stuff like that.”
On top of that, Ubisoft Massive is also implementing changes and improvements in AI and interactions with in-game NPCs and creatures that leverage the more powerful hardware of the new consoles. “The wildlife, the AI, the way that they track you, the way that they attack you, the advances in technology and the way that we are taking advantage of the power with our in-house Snowdrop engine is allowing us [to] do amazing things that would not be possible [otherwise],” said Jansén.
“For the big creatures, whenever they are calm, they would obviously walk around trees and things like that,” Stefanov explained. “But when they are fleeing, or attacking you, or whatever, they will just go straight through the bamboo and other vegetation and just completely destroy it. I think it’s really cool to be able to see all of these effects that the NPCs have on the environment, as well as you having an effect on the environment too.”
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will launch next year for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Stadia.