At this point, Svensson turned the discussion over to his technical team. Capcom Japan's Jun Takeuchi is the video game director and chief producer of RE5. He echoed the idea that while consoles used to be the primary focus for Capcom, they are increasingly focusing on PC games as well. "When developing a title for the console, the hardware specs are fixed," he explained.
"In some ways, this makes it easier to develop. Conversely, this keeps us from implementing new technology and driving the leading edge. Furthermore, with the current console hardware now several years into its cycle, the gap between current PC capabilities and consoles is widening. We may begin to start developing with the PC as the lead platform, to take advantage of these higher capabilities, and then port to a console with lower specs later on. I have a feeling this approach may become more popular, even in Japan."
Takeuchi worked closely with Intel in the early days of the RE5 project. He credited the close relationship as instrumental in tackling issues and making improvements. The teams were able to evaluate game performance under various environments, such as different combinations of processors across chipsets and with various operating systems.
Takeuchi explained that Capcom was concerned about getting their MT Framework engine tuned for multi-threading, and Intel engineers helped with the heavy lifting. "We had a hard time in the beginning creating efficient parallel processing, due to the complex relationships in the game's logic. But we now have a better parallel processing ratio, and the scalability is increased when the number of available cores is increased."
A huge focus was to increase game performance no matter how many cores were present, easing the technical issues behind subsequent ports to other platforms. "It is not difficult to utilize multiple CPUs when we start thinking about parallel processing at the very beginning of a game's engine design," Takeuchi said.
RE1 had centered on one core processor and a good graphics card from the very beginning of its Pentium processor life, and even RE4 didn't scale beyond one CPU and one GPU. Now the team had to handle one, two, four, and eight threads, and keep their options open for the future. Takeuchi admitted he can do the math, at least near-term.
"We think that the practical number of logical threads will be around eight, due to the requirements for synchronizing game logic via parallel processing. The combination of four-core, eight-thread CPUs with a 32-core GPU will most likely be the best combination in the near future."
Takeuchi's team assigned the maximum eight threads in this way: two threads, starting with zero, went to rendering, with threads 2 through 7 taking care of everything else, including networking, artificial intelligence (AI), physics, animations, thread scheduling, sound and object locations, and more.
The team used the additional horsepower to drive gameplay and entertainment value as far as they could. "We have been able to drastically increase the number of objects, such as enemies and items, on the screen at one time," Takeuchi said. "This really increases immersion. Also, it has allowed us to display the terrain even more naturally, further engrossing the player into this universe. AI processing power has increased so much that it is not even comparable to the previous title."
Finally, there's the physics. Capcom is a big customer for the Havok Physics engine, an excellent choice for demanding, multithreaded titles. "In addition to all of this," Takeuchi stated, "we were able to implement a better physics engine to make the actions feel more real. All of these elements benefit from the threading and multi-core enhancements."
In closing the conversation, Svensson returned to his discussion of the changing market. He said that while Capcom will always be strong in the console world, the changes in PC gaming are exciting to him. "There are market reasons to be strong in the PC; there are several territories all over the world where our content has relevance and where consoles are never going to be a major player. Korea, China, Brazil, Russia, India -- those are PC gaming markets. They're not console markets."
For years, the gaming message boards and chat rooms used to resonate with the argument over which is better: consoles or PCs? With so much time between console releases, however, the technical superiority of a constantly upgrading platform such as the PC is obvious. Svensson certainly gets it.
"The PC is an amazing platform for staying current with emerging technology trends," he enthused. "Even if your core business is consoles, staying relevant and current and cutting edge with what's happening in the PC space will make you better ready to weather the next console transitions, which tend to be very abrupt."
So expect Svensson to continue to make great games for the PC and to continue to work closely with Intel as new hardware evolves. "The PC is always at the cutting edge," he reiterated. "If you're always good on PCs, you're always going to be fine on whatever happens to be thrown your way on the other side of the business model. Intel makes sure that the biggest games work well on their hardware; they spend a lot of effort reaching out to developers and making that the case. As a result, if you've got Intel hardware, you're pretty assured that if it's a big game, it is going to run well.
"We want to please that PC enthusiast who is interested in the latest and greatest technology and how it's being used on their platform. We love those folks. They make the effort worthwhile that we put into all of our special effects and all of the new features that we build in. If they've got the right hardware, they're going to get the best experience. If you're looking for something to play on your [Intel] Core i7 processor that will push it to the limit, Resident Evil 5 is going to be a great showcase for it."