Elements of real-time VFX commonly need to be adjusted for multi-platform releases, and its quality is scaled up or down depending on the platform itself. Each platform has different process power, and VFX quality needs to be adjusted accordingly for each. There are challenges with each target platform but with enough time spent planning and understanding them, performance and visual optimization are very achievable with diligent work.
Out of all possible platforms, mobile devices arguably need the most care and attention to optimize performance and VFX. Mobile devices are low-powered compared to consoles and PCs and can’t output the same level of performance or visual fidelity. Though developing a mobile game from the ground up might not be as taxing, developing a mobile version of a game or porting it to the platform can prove to be challenging due to the real-time VFX considerations required for the most well-optimized version of the game possible.
Significant planning, adjustments, testing, and optimization are required to ensure a balance between performance and VFX quality. Advanced lighting techniques such as raytracing are of particular note, as it’s not yet possible for mobile devices to utilize it yet, though the functionality is predicted to arrive by 2024. Though feature parity with more powerful platforms isn’t possible at the moment, it helps as a starting point when optimizing for mobile devices. Raytracing, advanced shaders, and more aren’t possible and this knowledge can help mitigate issues around testing and optimization.
By comparison, consoles, and PCs have significantly more processing power compared to mobile platforms. Due to this, real-time VFX is generally going to be far more visually impressive on these platforms meaning that not only will your games look better, but the VFX will effectively communicate with players too. The hardware has an easier time handling much higher pixel counts, raytracing, illumination systems, and high-quality textures, among other advanced game development techniques.
PC is often considered to be the best platform to play games on due to its capability of having unparalleled processing power and graphical output, but it does present some challenges for managing VFX quality and performance. There is virtually limitless hardware variability for PC so it’s impossible to know exactly the setup players will be using. Naturally, there will be minimum requirements and recommended settings to play any game on a PC, but other than these conditions, there are countless combinations of GPUs, RAM, and cooling systems possible. To accommodate this, it’s standard practice for PC games to include a range of options to determine VFX quality and performance settings, ranging from low to ultra quality. These settings commonly include options for particle effects, lighting, weather effects, and shadows.
Even for modern game consoles like PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S, quality and performance modes are becoming increasingly popular. Performance modes tend to favor the smooth operation of a game and aim for 60 FPS and up with lower-quality VFX, whereas quality modes enhance visuals at the cost of performance.
Virtual reality games have several challenges that need to be addressed to ensure good performance and safety for players. Motion sickness can be an issue for many VR game players, and there are certain actions related to real-time VFX and performance that developers can take to ensure this issue is minimized. Firstly, low latency between player input and actions in-game is a must. This ensures no delay between movements and actions, mitigating the chances of motion sickness in the process.
Certain visual effects measures need to be taken as well. Though it would sacrifice visual quality somewhat, lower particle effects counts have been proven to help prevent motion sickness. Motion blur, a common effect among games, especially racing games as it enhances the sense of speed and momentum, should be minimal or turned off entirely if possible. While it can enhance immersion levels in traditional gaming experiences, it can have adverse effects on players using VR headsets.
Throughout the Magic Media group’s extensive experience working with VFX in gaming, we’ve learned that testing and optimization need to be a top priority to have the best VFX possible for games on all platforms. It’s a painstaking process, but one that is necessary to iron out possible platform-specific VFX bugs and to ensure smooth performance across the board.
Moreover, extensive testing and optimization need to be carried out for all target platforms. Some platforms might not be able to support certain real-time VFX techniques, such as lighting effects and engines, for example. Lighting can be taxing on a platform’s processing power, so certain lighting systems available during the PC game development process might not be usable on consoles, and more than likely not on mobile devices. Intricate testing helps developers identify these incompatibilities and resolve them before your multi-platform game is released.
Magic Media is an experienced veteran of the entertainment and gaming industries, and we’re thrilled to offer our expertize across VFX, full-cycle game development, cybersecurity, and more services. As your complete service provider, we endeavor to deliver the highest quality work possible to ensure your projects live up to their full potential. If you’ve been looking for a trusted partner to collaborate on your projects, get in touch today and let’s create magic!