The debate on whether Wii U is a next-generation system or not continues to go on. Some would agree and others wouldn’t, but what do developers think? In the past, we have actually gotten some developer takes on this topic, but here is a more recent discussion from GameMaster magazine on the topic:
ZombiU senior scriptwriter Gabrielle Shrager:
“Next-gen? Or Next-next-gen? Depends what you mean by that. With the Wii U, Nintendo has definitely recognized the importance of fast chips speeds and cutting-edge graphics, but that is not the hart and soul of the machine.”
Frozenbyte’s Mikael Haveri:
“Wii U is next-gen in the way the Wii was. Clearly revolutionary in many ways, but possibly slightly less on the pure power side. It is a reasonable guess that the next round of competition will trump the specs by a bit, but the important question is if they will also implement a touch interface. So in this way the GamePad is the most important new addition, clearly combining the console experience with the now-very-popular tablets. All of the games are designed whit the GamePad as an integral part, and if that proves to be even nearly as popular as the Wii Remote, then Nintendo might actually define next gen.”
FIFA 13 line producer Matt Prior:
“The Wii U is an exciting new piece of hardware that offer opportunities that other consoles can’t, simply because of the uniqueness of the platform, in particular the GamePad. We wanted to ensure that we utilized that uniqueness and delivered features that utilized the GamePad, not just in a gimmicky way but in ways that added real value and improvements to the game. Just as important, we wanted to use the power of the GamePad to open up the game to more gamers. Graphically, the Wii U is on par with the Xbox 360 and PS3, and we were even able to make some key graphical improvements.”
Mass Effect 3 external producer Melanie Faulknor:
“The way that the GamePad works, where you can take the game that you’re playing on the TV and instantly transition it onto the GamePad, I think that in itself is going to become a household standard, because if you are sharing a television, this constant fight for the TV is no longer an issue.”
Here are some past developer comments:
THQ Employee: The Wii U is much more powerful than the other HD consoles, so Wii U doesn’t have a huge problem doing 1080p for the majority of its games. Will Darksiders 2 and Metro: Last Light be in 1080p on Wii U? I can’t speak for the teams behind those games. I don’t work on those specific teams so I can’t say what they plan to do with the Wii U versions of their games as far as graphics or content go. I do know based on the specs I’ve seen, the console is more than capable of graphics that surpass current consoles. It’s like I said before. Expect majority of third party Wii U games from most publishers to have true 1080p, additional content, and smoother framrates than what the PS3/360 versions offer. If you want the DEFINITIVE version of any game in your library, I would suggest either the PC version or the Wii U version…at least for now. This is not a knock against the 360/PS3 versions of any games either. Fans of the 360 and PS3 are the majority of the gamers who games…period. So publishers have to give them the best product we can.
At a later date, THQ went on to report a “horribly slow CPU” on the Wii U, but the claim became controversial over the internet, THQ later came out and clarified that Wii U’s CPU itself wasn’t slow, it was just one part of the CPU that didn’t meet expectations, but it didn’t mean the entire CPU was poor. THQ expressed frustration with the internet saying that they didn’t like how the story was spun out of context.
Epic Games: It will do things current HD consoles simply cant do its going to be a powerful box.
Not too sure if this is the full statement, but the original source has been buried. They went on to later say that the Zelda demo was gorgeous and that they can do even more than that. Either way, here are some more comments from Epic where Unreal Engine 4 is discussed.
Epic Games: Epic Games doesn’t intend “to bring Unreal Engine 4 to Wii U, but the engine could run on Nintendo’s upcoming console “if a customer decides they want to port an Unreal Engine 4 game” to the hardware. We have Unreal Engine 3 running on Wii U.
“I’ll state that I don’t think it’s our intention to bring Unreal Engine 4 to Wii U, but Unreal Engine 4 is going to be supremely scalable. “We’ll run on mobile phones and on a wide variety of things, so if a customer decides they want to port an Unreal Engine 4 game to Wii U, they could. But Unreal Engine 3 is a really good fit for that platform.”
In the same interview, Rein said that he would “rather [wait for] a massive leap in performance and capabilities” from next-generation consoles “than get something today.” Later on mark Rein went on to make some controversial statements about the Wii U and Unreal Engine 4 which left people wondering if Wii U could run the engine, but the controversial statement was later cleared up and apologized for bring us full circle back to square one being that developers can port the engine to Wii U if they wanted to.
5th Cell (On a topic relating to Scribblenauts Unlimited): We’ve kind of had this in the pipe for a while. For a couple of years I’ve been wanting to do something like this, and the Wii U is also really, really powerful—Oh, that’s cool. With the Wii U we’ve been able to make the game way bigger, because with the object creation—putting all that stuff together—the DS just can’t handle all that stuff…even the Wii couldn’t handle it, but the horse-power of this can really handle it.
5th Cell later went on to say that the Wii U is “definitely more powerful than Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3,” adding that he finds the argument over the console’s capabilities “frustrating”.
Crytek had a lot of comments to make about the next-generation nature of the Wii U that, being Crytek, could leave one feeling very hopeful for the future.
Crytek CEO Avni Yerli: The specs are very good. It’s a challenge for designers, but once thought through it can add value, and that’s what [is] ultimately important. Our guys in Nottingham, they are very happy with their tests on the dev kits and they’re excited about it.
In an interview with Crytek’s Avni Yerli:
Crytek CEO Avni Yerli: ”My opinion of the Wii U is very high,” he said. “It’s just that we didn’t have a business case unfortunately that justifies us making a game for it. “It doesn’t mean that CryEngine 3 doesn’t run on Wii U – it actually runs beautifully. In fact, there actually is a game in development from a respected developer that we will be announcing. I’ve seen the game running and it looks really great.” Yerli estimated that the Wii U hardware is “minimum on par with the current generation.” “From my perspective I do not understand the public’s concerns that the Wii U is weaker than PS3 and 360,” he said. “That I cannot see. From my perspective the Wii U is minimum as powerful as Xbox 360.” In the same interview the Crytek boss claimed his studio’s technology is already “way beyond” next-gen console specifications.
Crytek later went on to and revealed that they were now actively “working with Nintendo”.
Vigil Games: We had the game at the same level as high end pc version in a matter of days and a few lines of code got the game up and running on tablet in 5 mins.
Not too sure if this is the full statement, but the original source for this has been buried as well. Vigil went on to say that Darksiders 2 graphics on the Wii U are ”at least as good” as PS3, Xbox 360 versions.
Gearbox: The Wii U is a powerful, powerful machine and it can do a lot of cool new things. And so the game itself, moving it over to work on the Wii U was not much of a chore.
Gearbox went on to say in a video interview that Aliens: Colonial Marines will also run the best on Wii U.
As expected, one of the biggest backers of the Wii U, Ubisoft’s Rayman Creator Michel Ancel. had some positive remarks to make about the console explicitly stating that it was a “surprisingly powerful” console likely due to it efficient architecture as it embraces the new GPGPU graphics processing architecture.
Ubisoft’s Rayman Creator Michel Ancel: “What surprises me with Wii U is that we don’t have many technical problems. It’s really running very well, in fact. We’re not obliged to constantly optimize things. Even on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions [of Origins], we had some fill-rate issues and things like that. So it’s partly us – we improved the engine – but I think the console is quite powerful. Surprisingly powerful. And there’ a lot of memory. You can really have huge textures, and it’s crazy because sometimes the graphic artist – we built our textures in very high-dentition. They could be used in a movie. Then we compress them, but sometimes they forget to do the compression and it still works! [Laughs] So yeah, it’s quite powerful. It’s hard sometimes when you’re one of the first developers because it’s up to you to come up with solutions to certain problems. But the core elements of the console are surprisingly powerful.
“And because we’re developing for Wii U, we don’t have to worry about cross-platform optimization.
“We can push what the console can do; push it to its limits. And of course, we have a new lighting engine. In fact, the game engine for Origins was mostly just classic sprites in HD, but now we can light them and add shadows and all these things. So there is some technical innovation with the engine itself.”
Havok as well had a lot to say about the Wii U’s next-generation capabilities. Specifically:
Havok: The platform has its own unique features, and has its own challenges as well. When we come across any new particular platform, we optimize specifically for some of the advantages that those platforms offer over other platforms, and Wii U has specific advantages that no other platform has, and we optimize directly for those, right down at the level of accessing the hardware. I think we’ll see things done on the Wii U that we won’t see on another platforms… I think people will be genuinely excited with the range of titles they’re going to see come out.
The demonstration as presented at GDC can be watched in the following video. The demo shown used CPU-processed physics (as opposed to GPU), which, Gargan said, would be the case when the engine runs on Wii U. More Havok videos can be found on their website.
In an interview with GameReactor, Shin’en Multimedia art director, Martin Sauter defended the Wii U hardware by explaining that it was next generation for it’s exclusive hardware capabilities, which he outlined was what mostly mattered at this point in time.
Shin’en Multimedia art director, Martin Sauter: Of course the Wii U is not the big leap hardware power-wise but it is a big leap to the Wii and to be honest I think we’ve reached a point where we don’t need so much more hardware power – we need better games. For every game you can make it look so good that it’s good enough for everybody and I think the Wii U is a good compromise between price point – because don’t forget you have a tablet controller, you have a great hardware base and it’s much better than everybody reads. It’s better than Xbox – sorry, it is better – and you can squeeze lots out of it, but you have to really work hard on it and I think you can make great games with it.I’m not sure if a much more powerful PS4 will produce much better looking games. We’ve reached a point where good games will sell and I think the steps will be much much smaller in the next generation.
A couple days later, Shin’en set up an interview with HDwarriors.com and further commended the Wii U’s efficiency and GPU power.
Iran White: “Are there any crucial modern GPU features that the Wii U is lacking?”
Linzner: “The Wii U GPU is several generations ahead of the current gen. It allows many things that were not possible on consoles before. If you develop for Wii U you have to take advantage of these possibilities, otherwise your performance is of course limited. Also your engine layout needs to be different. You need to take advantage of the large shared memory of the Wii U, the huge and very fast EDRAM section and the big CPU caches in the cores. Especially the workings of the CPU caches are very important to master. Otherwise you can lose a magnitude of power for cache relevant parts of your code. In the end the Wii U specs fit perfectly together and make a very efficient console when used right.”
Even Nintendo NoA President Reggie Fils-Aime made a comment regarding Wii U’s power (I mention only power because we already know how Nintendo feels gameplay wise):
Reggie Fils-Aime (President of Nintendo America): We’re about to launch a tremendously powerful system.
While, ultimately, money talks, is always good to know how developers generally feel about a certain console as it is a good determiner of what you can expect from those developers on the system in the future.
We’ll keep updating this article as time progresses, but until next time!