The next generation of games machines will be driven to new levels of graphics realism, says Julien Merceron, worldwide technology director at Square Enix.
"I think that we're still going to see a big leap in graphics," Merceron told VideoGamer.com at Develop this week. "In terms of technology I think we'll see developers taking advantage of physically-based rendering, physically-based lighting. I think people will take advantage of global illumination, or at least some form approximation of global illumination, so that could have a significant impact on graphics quality.
Physically-based rendering and global illumination are techniques that allow coders to create photo-realistic effects. Both processes are already used in CGI film-making - and this in turn could benefit game developers.
"It's going to enable new forms of art direction, but it's also going to enable deeper convergence between multiple media - being able to share more assets horizontally between movies, TV series and games," said Merceron.
"This means that when you're doing a cartoon, or when you're doing an animated movie, you could think about an art direction for the game that could be far closer [than current tie-ins]. Obviously it won't be the same, because the processing power won't be there, but you can think about art directions being way closer. And you can think about assets being re-used."
But merceron believes that graphical advances will be most evident in games that strive for a realistic appearance.
"There's a lot of room for improvement, and consumers will be able to see that in future graphics innovation techniques," he said. "Now, if you take most of the Pixar movies from the last five to six years… do you see a big difference between one that was released five years ago, and one that was released last year? I'm actually not sure we see a huge difference.
"But if you take a film like Avatar, there's a huge leap in the graphics techniques that are being used and the level of realism. The conclusion I would draw from that is we might end up seeing the difference way more in realistic-looking games, rather than those trying to achieve a cartoony look. At some point, with all these games [that are] going for a cartoony look, consumers might get the feeling that it's plateauing. But for games striving for a very realistic look, it's going to be easy to see all the improvements, all the time."
During the same conversation, Merceron expressed his belief that social networks and similar experiences will play a major role in the future of gaming.