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P L A Y S T A T I O N   2
PlayStation 2 Graphics Info

Polygons no more?

26-01-1999
Area-X
In a move which in many ways mirrors that made by upstart VMLabs, Sony Computer Entertainment is reportedly considering a departure from the traditional polygon-based graphics engines for the next generation PlayStation. Should we kiss console graphics as we know them goodbye?

During an interview with engineering trade publication EE Times, SCEA Chief Ken Kutaragi laid bare his feelings on conventional, polygon-centric architectures -- such as that proposed for Sega's forthcoming Dreamcast console.

"Graphics-chip vendors in Silicon Valley today are all doing the same thing. They are obsessed with the polygon race. Their Research and Development goals are so near-sighted that they are only paying attention to gradual changes in graphics technologies that can be developed in lockstep with the short-term PC product-development cycle," said Kutaragi.

Does this mean we can anticipate PlayStation 2 (or whatever it's eventually dubbed) to signal the dawn of a new era in visual quality? That appears to be the goal.

According to Kutaragi, "Today's videogame graphics look like computer graphics. Our goal is to achieve a film-like graphics quality that won't make viewers conscious of or annoyed by the fact that they are indeed looking at computer graphics." And for that to happen, it will take a major re-thinking of how visuals are produced. One which may very well mean and end to the polygon.

It's no secret that polygonal graphics are fast approaching a performance plateau. Sony realizes that if it doesn't break from the pack, PlayStation 2 may perform neck-and-neck with Dreamcast. And for the machine to truly create consumer mindshare, in effect looking like the "hot thing to have," it needs to do much more than that. Good software is still key, but we all know that sizzle sells.

Project X creator VMLabs has departed from the norm by embracing voxels, a long-standing -- yet seldom used -- process of generating visuals via three-dimensional pixels. Whether Sony takes a similar route, or utilizes its mammoth engineering resources to produce something entirely proprietary, remains to be seen.

Despite the hurdles, the potential the PlayStation 2 presents remains immense. I'll continue to keep close tabs on the machine as its gradual slip from the shadows continues.

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