If a game is only releasing on PlayStation 5, you'll notice developers talking up how the console's specs allow for more creative freedom. If a title happens to be cross-gen, pre-release marketing is always sure to promise the seven-year-old hardware of the PS4 hasn't held the game back. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora falls into the former category, only coming to PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Why is that? Ubisoft says it allows the team to expand the scope of its map design, AI, flight mechanics, and immersion.
Speaking with IGN, creative director Magnus Jansén and technical director of programming Nikolay Stefanov covered what developing exclusively for current-gen systems allows them to do. In terms of flying about the environment aboard a Banshee, Stefanov said: "[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 kilometres away from you." The PS5's SSD also represents a big improvement for the team over PS4, allowing them to stream in parts of the world much quicker.
And then there's the design of the map itself, something which Jansén says had to be restricted in order to work on old hardware. Open world titles on PS4 had to space some of their biggest locations far apart to allow for enough time to actually render and stream in those cities and settlements. That's apparently no longer the case on PS5. "If you look at, 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."
AI has also been improved thanks to the power of the PS5, allowing the developer to make animals much more realistic in terms of their movement and tracking techniques. Power boosts combined with advancements in the Snowdrop engine enables the team to "do amazing things that would not be possible" previously.
Finally, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will simply be much more immersive than if it was designed around the PS4. The folks at Massive Entertainment want to bring the world you saw in the movie straight to your living room, better simulating weather effects and animals. Stefanov signs off by explaining: "In terms of a new generation of consoles, the improved [hardware] just gives us so much opportunity to make sure that the game's as immersive as possible." One example given is a new lighting system that takes advantage of Ray Tracing — it handles the translucency of leaves, dictating how much light is reflected.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora launches for PS5 at some point next year. Are you interested in returning to the world we all first saw on the big screen back in 2009? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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