Square Enix worldwide technology director Julien Merceron realizes the Agni's Philosophy tech demo shows off impressive graphics that could drive next-gen Final Fantasy games, but he also knows that, as a developer, focusing on graphics alone is "a big mistake."
"Focusing on graphics only would be a huge mistake," Merceron tells Games Industry International. "You start to have super-great graphics, characters look really good and you end up in the uncanny valley, but you don't have animation at the same quality level. Same thing with behavior and AI; it animates well and looks good, but it is making stupid decisions. It simply won't be immersive."
As graphics improve, other problems arise, such as facial animations, physics and AI not hitting the same level and creating an obvious uncanny valley, where on-screen actions are disturbing to watch. The uncanny valley will always exist, and balancing engaging gameplay with upgraded graphics and other elements is key to player immersion, Merceron says.
Another key aspect is the hardware itself – this generation of consoles has lasted "way too long" and has helped usher in alternative forms of gaming, via browsers and mobile devices, Merceron says.
"Now you don't need to manage longevity by complexity of programming, because your longevity is ensured by your online model," he says. "And I would suggest that maybe we don't want long generations. We have Sony and Microsoft talking about this generation lasting seven, eight, nine or even 10 years and it's the biggest mistake they've ever made."
Square Enix has recently focused on developing high-end 3D experiences for web browsers, a platform Merceron sees as "instrumental in the world of tomorrow."
"We shouldn't underestimate the kind of experience that you can have in a web browser. Immediately you can play from anywhere. You have browsers all over the place. These cloud storage and computing interfaces will provide better ways for consumers to interact with the experiences they want to have."