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Xbox And PS4 Join Forces To Make Cutting-Edge Games Look Even Better

(Source: www.forbes.com)

While their rivalry is perhaps a bit more good natured than it used to be, it’s still not every day you find Microsoft and Sony working together in the console gaming world. Yet that’s exactly what they’re doing right now in a concerted bid to ensure that their respective Xbox One and PS4 consoles deliver better high dynamic range (HDR) gaming visuals.

The two console giants are part of a new HDR Gaming Interest Group that’s just unveiled a startlingly comprehensive set of ‘best practice recommendations’ for optimizing the HDR gaming experience.

The group also lists among its members most of the big-name TV manufacturers, and an impressive number of games publishers.

If you’re not familiar with HDR, it’s a relatively new video format that provides a much wider contrast range and richer colors (full details on HDR can be found here). When done well, HDR is a fantastic experience that elevates films and games to a whole new level of beauty and realism.

Unfortunately, though, doing HDR well isn’t easy. Especially in a world where the picture characteristics and capabilities of HDR-capable TVs and monitors can vary massively. As a result, many gamers have reported that HDR can actually make their games look worse rather than better on their particular TVs. I’ve posted numerous stories, for instance, about the HDR gaming situation on some of LG’s OLED TVs.

It’s been clear to game developers and display manufacturers alike for some time now that a concerted, industry-wide effort is needed to start making sure that HDR achieves its full gaming potential. So it’s great to hear that such a process is now seemingly well and truly underway.

Especially as the ‘best practice’ HDR gaming guide the Group has delivered turns out to be surprisingly in-depth.

The document kicks off with four guiding principles which I think accurately capture the key HDR gaming issues. The ‘Acknowledge Difference’ principle explains how HDR gaming needs to understand that not all HDR-capable displays perform the same, and that this means games need to make the best of each individual display’s capabilities.

‘Consistent And Fair Gameplay’ states that ‘game design creative content (eg a zombie appearing from the dark, an enemy shooter silhouetted in blinding light) needs to appear the same for consistent game playability, regardless of display performance.’

The ‘Forward Compatible’ principle posits that ‘the existing HDR game experience should not be deteriorated, but stable or even enhanced with the improvement of future HDR display performance.’

The final guiding principle is that practical and easy-to-use means must be prepared for game developers and consumers. So, for instance, ‘any processing should not consume resources that may affect real-time processing, and complicated manual setup operations (e.g. in-game calibration) should be avoided.’

Following on from these guiding principles in the 24-page HDR Gaming Interest Group’s thesis is a promisingly in-depth discussion of all the key issues associated with HDR gaming, especially around the areas of accurately tone mapping the brightest parts of HDR graphics to the real brightness capabilities of different displays.

It has to be said that the methodology for ‘fixing’ the HDR problem suggested by the HDR Gaming Interest Group is pretty labor intensive on the industry side, and depends on an awful lot of communication between notoriously uncommunicative brands and business lanes.

There’s one key name missing from the current HDR Gaming Interest Group member list, too: Nintendo. I know Nintendo hasn’t yet made an HDR (or even 4K) console, but it would still have been nice to see the gaming giant participating in such a key industry debate.

Nonetheless, the unexpectedly long list of participants in the group (I’ve posted the full list below) suggests more commitment to making HDR gaming better for everyone than I’d frankly expected to see at this stage in HDR’s development. So fingers crossed that Xbox, PS4 and Windows 10 gamers will start to see the fruits of the HDRGIG’s activities sooner rather than later.

Here’s a link to the full HDR Gaming Interest Group’s document, and here’s a list of the HDR Gaming Interest Group members:

•    Activision Publishing, Inc.

•    ASUSTek Computer Inc.

•    CAPCOM Co., Ltd.

•    Electronic Arts

•    Epic Games

•    HP Inc.

•    Koninklijke Philips N.V.

•    LG Electronics, Inc.

•    Microsoft Corporation

•    Panasonic Corporation

•    SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS Co., Ltd.

•    Sony Interactive Entertainment

•    Sony Visual Products

•    SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD.

•    Toshiba Visual Solutions Corporation

•    Ubisoft

•    Unity

•    Vicarious Visions

•    VIZIO, Inc.

•    WB Games

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More Info: www.forbes.com

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