Monday, 8 February 2010

Tech Analysis: Dante's Inferno

Dante’s Inferno may be a blatant God Of War rip off, but it is also one of the best examples of platform parity across PS3 and Xbox 360. It does so not by playing to the strengths of each machine, but by simply having an engine which barely taxes either system, making some concessions to alleviate the issue of PS3 having a lack of available bandwidth, and 360’s need to fit the framebuffer into it’s 10mb worth of EDRAM.

You could almost say that Visceral Games effort is an almost exemplary example on how to get a game running and looking identical on both platforms, or rather almost 100% identical. The only exception we noticed to that being a slight blurring of the image on 360, but more on that later.

Dante’s Inferno runs at a flawless 60fps on both PS3 and 360, with no noticeable sign of screen tearing or framerate drops, which in it self is quite impressive for a multi-platform title. However it does this through using only a limited number of memory and shader intensive effects. So what we have here is mostly flat looking textures, with bump mapping reserved for the characters and only certain parts of the environment.

The game is rendered on both PS3 and 360 in 720p (1280x720) with no anti-aliasing of any kind. This allows the framebuffer to fit into the 10mb EDRAN found on 360’s GPU, whilst making the conversion to PS3 much easier as it doesn’t put a stain on the bandwidth. The resolution of transparencies and particle effects usually lowered on PS3 due to the lack of available bandwidth has been compromised on both versions. So instead of 360 having the usual advantage when it comes to displaying loads of multi-layered effects, it’s merely equal across the board. Again this basically allows the smooth running of the game on both platforms whilst keeping the actual look identical; certainly, it’s how Visceral have achieved the constant 60fps on display.

Anisotropic filtering and texture detail is like for like across both versions, demonstrating clean and clear characters and vistas, though the overall sense of scale is rather small, and the detail itself is somewhat simple when compared to the likes of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. Serviceable is how I think you could best describe the overall look and technical application.

Now earlier we mentioned that both PS3 and 360 games were almost identical, except for a slight blurring on the 360 version. This blur whilst being hardly visible during fast moving scenes can be clearly seen in the still screenshots above, and during more sedate moments of gameplay. It seems that there is a horizontal 1-pixel wide blur on all edges, with no apparent reason as to why. It could be that the developers still wanted some sort of AA solution, but seeing as 720p 2xAA may not have fit into the EDRAM, they thought a simple blur approach would suffice. It’s perhaps the only blemish on what can be considered one of the best multi-platform conversion examples available on both consoles.

Overall, Visceral Games have shown just how to successfully accomplish a good multi-platform conversion without sacrificing too much from each version along the way. Sure they could have played up to the 360’s strengths and added higher-resolution effects and more particles, or had extra HDR lighting on the PS3 game, but it would have taken longer to develop and required more optimising for both versions. This is a problem most would rather avoid, so it’s easier to go down the safe route, and keep your development budget under control and get good results, rather than having it spiral out with two different versions, each having their own tweaks, and neither achieving parity.

Date’s Inferno shows you don’t need to achieve a massive technical accomplishment when creating a game, but rather just a well thought out approach and a solid underlying engine, which can perform on both systems without needing to radically tailor features to each one.

In this respect Visceral have been successful, and I imagine that more developers will go down the same path seeing as it can work so well.

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