The Uproar about Assassin’s Creed Unity’s Resolution

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On my drive home from Kansas City on Monday, I noticed a ton of tweets using hashtags like #Parity and #PS4NoParity, and so on, but I had no idea what was happening. Then, when I got home and was setting-up to record the podcast, I started doing some digging.

What started it all was a post by Videogamer.com quoting Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand about how Assassin’s Creed Unity will run at 900p/30FPS on both the XBOX One and the PS4, in an effort to eliminate online arguments about differences on the different consoles.

Quote:
“We decided to lock them at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff,” senior producer Vincent Pontbriand told VideoGamer.com while explaining that it’s the consoles’ CPUs – not the GPU – that prevents Ubisoft Montreal from improving the game’s performance.

“Technically we’re CPU-bound,” he said. “The GPUs are really powerful, obviously the graphics look pretty good, but it’s the CPU [that] has to process the AI, the number of NPCs we have on screen, all these systems running in parallel.

“We were quickly bottlenecked by that and it was a bit frustrating, because we thought that this was going to be a tenfold improvement over everything AI-wise, and we realized it was going to be pretty hard. It’s not the number of polygons that affect the framerate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we’re still limited to 30 frames per second.”

Seems pretty cut-and-dry right? He doesn’t actually say which system is the culprit when talking about this “bottleneck”, even though the entire Internet knows already. The problem that a good majority of those that are upset about this quote is that it seems that Unity wasn’t allowed to flourish in its full 1080P potential on the PS4 because it had to be “limited” so that it would be “in parity” with the XBOX One version, because the XBOX One couldn’t run the game at that same level. It’s something that I think is probably, at least somewhat, a product of some pent-up frustration since things like this would happen on a regular basis in the past generation when a cross-platform game would usually perform better on the 360, at least in the early years of that generation. But in this new generation, some PS4 owners feel that their not getting that same opportunity with their more powerful PlayStation 4. I get it, but to me, all of this emotion and bile just seems like wasted time.

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Anyway, the story isn’t over. Today I received Ubisoft’s “official statement” on this matter, which you can read right here:

Quote:
“We understand how Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand’s’s quotes have been misinterpreted. To set the record straight, we did not lower the specs for Assassin’s Creed Unity to account for any one system over the other.

Assassin’s Creed Unity has been engineered from the ground up for next-generation consoles. Over the past 4 years, we have created Assassin’s Creed Unity to attain the tremendous level of quality we have now achieved on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. It’s a process of building up toward our goals, not scaling down, and we’re proud to say that we have reached those goals on all SKUs.

At no point did we decide to reduce the ambitions of any SKU. All benefited from the full dedication of all of our available optimization resources to help them reach the level of quality we have today with the core Assassin’s Creed Unity experience.”

Josh and I talked about this on the podcast already, and now that we’ve gotten this statement, I still have to side with the angry mob on this one. This is masterfully crafted, but after you read it a couple of times, they say the game was never “limited” in any way. But, my take is that what they’re not telling us is that the original design was that they wanted both versions to run at the same resolution and framerate, and (from what we’ve seen historically) that because the XBOX One version would have to run at 900P/30FPS, so would the PS4 version. So sure, it was never “limited” because they always planned on running the game with those specs.

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Another argument that many like to bring up is that Black Flag originally ran at 900P, but that Ubisoft issued a patch on the PS4 to raise the resolution to 1080P post-release, and that “why can’t that happen with Unity?” Well, the biggest reason is that Black Flag was running an upconverted engine from the PS3, while Unity is running on a brand new engine, built to run on these new systems, so it’s Apples to Oranges in terms of a comparison.

The biggest question though, is does this really matter? Not running at a full 1920×1080 resolution can be a disappointment after spending $400 on a new console with a magnitude more power than its predecessor, but does that make the game any less fun? I submit that it does not. If you’re a fan of the series, I think that it’s a pretty good assumption that Unity is going to be quite enjoyable, and teh new engine will look really good.

My advice to the Internet masses is to stop worrying about the technical minutia, and instead, enjoy some games.

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  • vongruetz .

    I think a lot of the uproar comes from the messaging Ubisoft is giving. They first made it known that they were targeting 1080p/60fps. People were excited that this new, next-gen only game would finally be broken of the constraints of the previous generation of consoles.

    Then they reveal they are keeping the specs at 900p/30fps so that people wouldn’t debate about which system was better. Due to past examples of the XB1 not being able to perform the same as the PS4 (and the fact that MS has a marketing deal with AC Unity) it was quick to assume that the PS4 version was being held back.

    Then they said that no, they weren’t holding anything back, but they were “building up toward our goals, not scaling down, and we’re proud to say that we have reached those goals on all SKUs.” So now, in contradiction to an earlier statement, 900p was their goal all along.

    And NOW, Ubisoft tells Eurogamer that the final specs “aren’t cemented yet” and now they’re saying they could change before release.

    ?????

    So what is it? It’s one thing if it’s a technical limitation. It’s another if the company is telling little lies all over the place because they want to avoid the wrath of MS. If that’s the case, then just SHUT UP and release the game. They only keep shooting themselves in the foot, and then doing it again and again.

  • ChazzH69

    Before this generation (PS4 and Xbox One) people didn’t care as much about the now important ‘1080p 60fps.’ We had similar differences last gen but no standard to quantify it. Since every developer now has this number hanging over their game people seem to care about it more than the actual game itself.

    • vongruetz .

      Their problem is the messaging. If they had just said, “We were trying for 1080p/60fps and just couldn’t get there” then this decision would be fine. But then they throw in that stupid comment about ending the debate. And it’s all downhill from there. Then they come out and say that they hit their target goals, which is in contradiction to them saying they were trying for 1080p.
      They keep making contradicting statements and that comes off to many as they are lying. Nobody knows why or for what reason, but when you have two statements from the same company that don’t gel, someone is not telling the truth. And that rubs people the wrong way.

      • ChazzH69

        Indeed. If every publisher and developer stopped mentioning this 1080p 60fps topic it would die off, But as per usual someone has said something they shouldn’t and PR have to try and spin things, which more often than not, makes things worse.

  • cnpalmer

    I was a bit surprised that they lumped PC into the mix when speaking of the console releases. I wonder how the “PC Master Race” crowd feels about those same statements. Granted, they have a bit more flexibility sometimes when it comes to making graphical adjustments but to also hinder the PC release as well seems to point to keeping everything in parity. I haven’t seen any comments from the crowd regarding that viewpoint yet.

  • brianc6234

    This goes back to Watch Dogs. The PS4 version was going to be a lot better and at the last second it was downgraded. Now this. Is Microsoft paying Ubisoft so they make sure PS4 games aren’t much better than the Xbox One version? I think this is a big problem really. The PS4 definitely is more powerful. If games are being made to take advantage of the hardware Sony will have a big advantage. Now you see this and Sony won’t have that big advantage. These third party developers need to push the PS4 and stop worrying about parity. That isn’t their problem.