In the wake of COVID-19, we're starting to see a number of notable game delays. Truth be told, development troubles started earlier on in the pandemic, but it feels like it's beginning to come to a head in 2022 with multiple AAA titles moving to next year. In a recent PAX West panel, Xbox's Matt Booty was asked about this very topic, and whether COVID really is to blame for all these recent delays.
As it turns out, it isn't entirely at fault. Booty discusses a number of other issues contributing to game delays, with the transition to next-gen consoles still earmarked as an issue for developers almost two years after launch.
"The teams have really leaned in and figured out a lot of great ways, and actually there's been a lot of innovation around that [working with COVID]."
"We're still on the front edge of a new console generation. The teams are still figuring out things like ray tracing."
The Xbox exec then goes on to discuss the CPUs within next-gen consoles, and how developers are still getting to grips with shifting power over from GPU-centric consoles like Xbox One, to the current CPU-strong systems like Xbox Series X and S.
"We spent 5 or 10 years figuring out how to optimize things for GPUs, 'we want to move all the work over to the graphics card and have the graphics card do all this work'. Now, as games get more heavy into things like simulation — and even some of the graphics workload — are actually more on the CPU side.
So now we've got teams trying to sort of back up and figure out 'what am I going to move over to the CPU, how do I balance between those two things'. We're still wrestling with that."
So, even as game console architecture seems to become less complicated over time, development teams are still finding it tough to move over to next-gen development, including bringing features like ray tracing into the mix, without delays.
At present, Xbox Game Studios hasn't utilised ray tracing in a big way, but that should be about to change. Forza Motorsport in set to launch in spring 2023 from Turn 10 Studios, which is working to deliver "real time ray tracing on track"; a first for the series.
Should we pull back on RT to help with game dev? Or is it important to chase these next-gen features? Leave your thoughts below.