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Battlefield 3's rendering architect details his dream specs for the next generation of consoles

Xav de Matos, @Xav

During the Game Developer's Choice awards, DICE took home the prize of "Best Technology" for its Frostbite 2 engine. After accepting the award on behalf of his team, we asked DICE rendering architect Johan Andersson what the next generation of consoles would need to include for Frostbite 2 to work 'perfectly and as intended on high-end PCs.' To Andersson, the answer is "pretty easy to answer."

"There's two things: memory and processing power," he said. "We need lots and lots of processing power. The more you can cram into a machine, we'll take advantage of that." While 'more power' is the obvious answer -- both on the CPU and GPU side -- we wondered what wouldn't be 'enough' to work with.

"Two gigabytes would not be enough when it comes to RAM [random access memory]" Andersson said. "Four gigabytes would work. Eight gigabytes? Yeah. I think that would be perfect when it comes to memory." Recommended system specifications for Battlefield 3 call for 4GB of RAM.

When discussing the feasibility of Andersson's dream specs with Tim Stevens from Engadget, the editor-in-chief said, "Presumably next-gen consoles will be rendering internally at 1080p, so they'll need much higher resolution assets than are commonly used for modern games (usually rendered at 720p and scaled up). Also, console lifespans have been getting longer, and presumably the next-gen units have an even longer journey ahead of them. More memory means more future-proofing. Finally, RAM is cheap. You can buy 8GB DDR3 modules for $40 retail. Buy the chips wholesale and it's easy to imagine the cost for 8GB dropping under $20."

But the current crop of HD consoles already do so much with the meager specifications they have, thanks in part to closed architectures of each device. The current Xbox 360 console houses 512 MB of GDDR3 RAM, while the PlayStation 3 includes 256MB of XDR Main RAM and 256MB GDDR3 VRAM, yet developers are still wowing players with amazing visuals.

While developing a machine built on Andersson's dream specs would assuredly create a graphical powerhouse to rival high-end PC rigs, Andersson says his specs aren't solely focused on increasing visual fidelity. To him, it's about the experience. "To build game changing experiences, not just pretty visuals, but game changing experiences? That's what we're really excited to do, going forward." Andersson wouldn't elaborate on what "game changing experiences" he had in mind.

When it comes to the GPU, Andersson says things obviously need to be faster but he doesn't envision consoles including multiple graphic processing units.

Andersson says there are "quite a few games" currently in development using the Frostbite 2 engine, but wouldn't go into detail beyond currently announced titles. Recently, EA revealed both Medal of Honor Warfighter and Command & Conquer: Generals 2 would be built on the technology.

When asked whether Mirror's Edge 2 was running on Frostbite 2 (because we're sly like that), Andersson quickly shot back: "If we were to build a Mirror's Edge 2, it would use Frostbite 2."

You win this round, sir.

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