Switching Down a Gear
If last week’s news post caused the hearts of Nintendo fanboys to sink, then this one will be a doozy. During the week Digital Foundry published an exposé on the clock speeds that the Tegra X1 powering Nintendo’s Switch will be running at, and the news is not great for anybody wanting third party parity with Playstation and Microsoft. The X1 chip itself is not completely terrible; in the Shield Android TV it features a quadcore Arm Cortex-A57 CPU running at 1900MHz, a GPU clocked at 1000MHz, and a memory controller running at 1600MHz. On the other hand a fully docked Nintendo Switch is set to offer a far less impressive performance profile; with the CPU clocked at 1020MHz, the GPU clocked at 768MHz, and the memory unchanged at 1600MHz. Essentially the chips maximum GPU speed has been cut by about a quarter, while its maximum CPU speed has essentially been cut in half. From here if the system is removed from its docking station then memory speed will fall to 1331MHz, while GPU speed falls to just 307.2MHz, which 40% of the speed it is running at when docked. This is crucial because developers will target this low-power portable configuration of the Switch hardware when designing their games, so the system’s full theoretic capability (even the reduced capability of the docked Switch) will never be able to be fully realised because of the requirement that every game be able to run in portable mode. The extra capabilities of the docked system will be able to make these portable games look prettier, but games cannot be designed from the ground up with the system’s full spec in mind.
It is no surprise to see console components being downclocked in order to improve heat dissipation, yield, and (in the case of portable systems) battery life – yet the Tegra X1 is a mobile phone chipset, meaning that it should already run cooly and efficiently. The eight core CPU that powers both the PS4 and Xbox One had to be downclocked from 2GHz to 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz respectively, but that is because it is part of an APU that was designed to power entry level gaming laptops [circa 2013] – so it is pretty much expected to produce way more heat [and performance] than a mobile phone chipset. Regardless, the downclocking of the PS4 and Xbox One eight core CPUs can be seen to be far less severe than the downclocking of the Switch’s own four core CPU. Nintendo’s system will be fine for getting your first party Nintendo fix, but just forget about PS4 ports, as they just are not going to happen to any sufficient degree. The Switch’s full capabilities are held back by the system’s need to be a portable system, which is kind of funny given how inadequate it seems for portable gaming.
A Company in Crysis
Once upon a time in 2004 there was a studio that made a bit of a name for itself after releasing a fairly decent FPS called Far Cry. The game was not amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a lot more open than shooters tended to be at the time, and this won them a certain degree of acclaim. The studio in question was named Crytek. Crytek followed up their initial success by developing an engine called Cryengine and a tech demo called Crysis, and the success of this lead to Crysis receiving an expansion along with two mediocre sequels. Crytek also developed the critically lambasted Ryse: Son of Rome, which served as an Xbox One exclusive at the system’s launch.
Other than this Crytek has only developed a scant handful of other games; some of them mobile phone games, some of them free to play, and some of them VR titles – all of them virtually unknown. In 2014 Lusipurr.com reported on the fact that Crytek had stopped paying their employees. This eventually led to Crytek closing their US and UK studios, and selling Homefront 2 to Koch Media. Recently rumours again began to circulate that Crytek were not paying their employees, and then just this week Crytek announced the shuttering of a further five development studios: Hungary, Bulgaria, South Korea, China, and Turkey. This leaves the company with two remaining studios: Frankfurt and Kiev. Never has a developer concurrently operated so many development studios with so little to show for it. This really is ridiculous.
Atlus Reveals New Traditional Fantasy RPG
With Persona 5 already released in Japan, and with its Western release right around the corner, Atlus has this week seen fit to reveal the very first information about their next big project. The game has been tentatively named Project Re Fantasy, and it looks to take place in a traditional fantasy world – which is something of a departure for Atlus. Sure some of their smaller mobile dungeon crawlers like Etrian Odyssey have been set in a traditional fantasy world, yet their bigger console RPGs have tended to be contemporary urban fantasies.
Atlus has formed a new internal studio named Studio Zero, which has been tasked with developing the game. The project will be headed by the Persona series writer/producer/director, Katsura Hashino, while the art is being handled by Shin Megami Tensei artist, Shigenori Soejima, and music is being composed by Shin Megami Tensei series composer, Shoji Meguro. The project is to be a completely new IP rather than a gaiden offshoot of the Shin Megami Tensei series, but given the talent involved it sounds like it will have a reasonable budget behind it. No platforms have been announced as of yet, but PS4 and Nintendo Switch would both have to be fairly strong contenders. For many years Atlus has stood against the trends toward traditional fantasy by using more urban settings, but now Atlus company director Naota Hiraoka has indicated that he wishes to challenge the genre. Honestly, this cannot come soon enough given that big RPG franchises like Final Fantasy have been abandoning fantasy in favour of realism. This may just be a pipe dream, but one would love to see Atlus chase after what Squaresoft accomplished with Final Fantasy IX.