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What The Series X Really Means For Open World Gaming

With the Xbox Series X fast approaching, developers are talking a bit more freely about what fans can expect from the next-gen console. With such a mind-blowing game library on the way for the Xbox Series X, it's always fascinating to learn more about the process behind these new titles. A recent interview with indie game developer Tomas Sala has revealed a bit about how the Series X is revolutionizing the way that open world games are made.


While speaking with Xbox Wire, Sala talked about the advantages afforded to him while working on his upcoming open world game, The Falconeer. He explained that developing for the Xbox Series X meant that "certain things which once required a lot of intense development become a lot more accessible."

According to Sala, this became much more apparent when dealing with an open world like the one seen in The Falconeer. Sala said, "In most videogames [sic] things just stop being alive at a certain distance from the player; if they're not on-screen they just cease to exist in the simulation, or some simplified simulation would take over." However, Sala feels like that's no longer the case, and now developers are able to make things with a much deeper degree of detail and finesse.


In other words, the various "lives" and daily routines of a game's NPCs don't necessarily have to stop when the player isn't interacting with them. This can provide for more natural interactions with a wider variety of characters and situations. On the one hand, that sounds like a lot of extra work for the developer. However, it also sounds as though this is exactly the kind of challenge that creators like Sala get excited about.

Sala continued, "When you wanted a more complex simulation you would have to spend so much of your time optimising the simulation just to make it perform. I think that's something the new generation offers – more complex enemies and ecologies filled with creatures and enemies all exhibiting more interesting behaviours." Basically, the next-gen hardware of the Xbox Series X allows developers to make more nuanced and detailed worlds for the player to explore.

"The big advantage I think will be in open-world games, where we can stop using smoke and mirrors to create an illusion for players, and focus on building more simulated worlds," said Sala.

The "smoke and mirrors" Sala referred to is likely the ways in which developers try to hide the seams of a larger world. For instance, many games will employ loading sequences that are masked to look like regular parts of the game world. Think about the long elevator rides between areas in Mass Effect, or the sequences of the Avengers hanging out in their Quinjet between missions.


As was recently seen in a tech demonstration from Xbox, loading times are pretty much over and done with heading into the new generation. This has been backed up by the first hands-on critic reviews for the Xbox Series X. Games like The Outer Worlds and Final Fantasy 15 have been loading within a matter of seconds, all but eliminating the need for the "smoke and mirrors" used to mask these load times in the past.

For instance, Sala talked about the ways in which he held himself back creatively before he had the chance to work with an Xbox Series X development kit. Upon getting one, however, it sounds as though the whole world of The Falconeer opened up for him in a new way. As Sala described in his interview, the process of developing a game for an unreleased console is usually pretty difficult. This is why sometimes games will look or perform significantly better when released later in the lifespan of a particular console. By that point, developers have a much better handle on the ins and outs of the platform they're building for.

Sala said the Series X made this entire process "much more effortless." He mentioned how sparse the world of his own game looked before he got his hands on the Series X dev kit. After that, he began filling in the environment, adding docked ships to the harbors in the game. He expects the final product to have a much more bustling environment than he previously thought possible. He said that the Series X enabled him to create the kind of complex simulation he had originally envisioned; one with "lots of dynamic and living entities moving through the world."


If it has truly gotten much easier for developers to fill their open worlds with more details and seamless transitions, it's not hard to imagine how this could impact the future of gaming. Think about how long games like Grand Theft Auto 6 or Cyberpunk 2077 have been in development. Perhaps the latest advancements made with the Xbox Series X could help perfectionist companies like Rockstar or CD Projekt Red complete immersive AAA products in a smaller amount of time.

Whatever the case, it appears as though the Series X is making developers very happy. Similar praise has been heaped on the PlayStation 5, which is apparently so fast it outpaced Unreal Engine 5. It's looking like fans of larger and more immersive gaming worlds are going to be very pleased when the new generation finally launches.