Cross-gen development “sucks”, according to Control devs

Making a game that runs on last and next-gen consoles sucks. Those are not my words, but the words of Control developer Remedy. In an interview with IGN, Remedy’s communications director Thomas Puha explains why cross-gen development is far from being fun, or easy.

The market is starting to fill up with PS5 upgrades and Xbox Series X Enhanced games. Of course, that’s all mighty fine for anyone who has one. But some of those games might lack the oomph. Some might even go as far as claiming that it really isn’t that much of an upgrade at all. According to Puha, there’s a valid reason: limitations.

“Whenever you’re in this cross-generational point, to be blunt, it sucks,” Puha explains. “You have to support the previous gen, make sure that sings, and then whatever you bring to next-gen is still limited by the choices you made years ago for the previous generation. It’s not a very realistic thing, that this old game, we’re just going to remake everything and then bring it to next-gen.

“It’s just not like that. It’s not a reality for us, because you’re literally taking away resources that are building the future games and improving the engine for the future.”

Puha does make a fair point there. Next-gen upgrades are still just upgrades or remasters of the original. In order to fully utilize the potential of next-gen hardware, a game should be totally remade. Then again, that would take a helluva lot more time to achieve, and time equals resources. Therefore, next-gen upgrades tend to stick to texture and lighting upgrades, which do have some impact. Take Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, for example.

So mostly, developers have to pick their poison when developing games close to a generation shift. Do you develop for last-gen only – maximizing its performance – but disappoint next-gen owners? Or should you develop cross-gen – tapping into both generations – but making concessions in the latter? Or do you go next-gen only – absolutely blowing minds with it – but excuse yourself towards a huge group of last-gen owners? Tough choices. I’m glad I’m not making a cross-gen game…

Plus, bringing an older game to a new generation isn’t as easy as it looks. Taking old code and dumping it in a new engine brings along compatibility issues, as Puha explained later in the interview. Things that worked great in the old engine might totally break in the new engine. In that case, a big chunk of the game needs to be coded again, and that’s a total bitch.

“When you get to the point where you have to get [a game] running on next-gen systems, on a new engine it takes several months just to get everything working,” he said. “Nothing works at first. The content looks wrong, the textures look wrong, the lighting is busted, because we’ve made all these improvements but then they’re incompatible with what we had in 2019. It took months — the game is running, we had it running back in summer of last year, but it didn’t have any of the nice things…it just took quite a while to get to the level where we had everything working that we had in the previous-gen version. Now we can actually start doing all that cool next-gen stuff.”

When it comes to future projects of Remedy, Puha promises that the visual bar is set absurdly high again. This would mean that Vanguard, Remedy’s next project, will be the stuff that melts brains. Of course, that’s all a bunch of marketing talk for now, but Remedy has proven not to b a company that disappoints when it comes to visuals. The other aspects of their games are debatable though.