Console gamers are used to not being able to play against others online on competing platforms, due more to business arrangements than underlying technical issues. But with Bungie’s MMO shooter Destination launched over two overlapping console generations, you might think PlayStation 4 users should expect to be able to play against their friends with the PlayStation 3 over the PlayStation Network (or across the Xbox One/Xbox 360 divide with Xbox Live).
Not even that kind of cross-platform play is available in Destinationa state of affairs that Bungie, however, attributes to a sense of fair play at different gameplay resolutions.
“I speak for the hypothetical player. I have a disadvantage to sneak around the map because [my opponent with a next-gen console] is just two pixels on my screen and I have four pixels on his,” Bungie engineer Roger Wolfson told Digital Trends. “You see that in the world of PC gaming, where people are always racing for the best graphics card to give themselves the advantage. .”
Indeed, the effect of resolution on gameplay performance has been a long-running argument among PC gamers, who can never assume a truly level hardware playing field when playing online. Many players anecdotally report that they can aim better at long-range shots at higher resolutions, but a scientific study of 64 players by Worcester Polytechnic Institute found that “resolution has little impact on performance” in competitive first-person shooters (frame rate, on the other hand hands, did).
Even if the resolution difference gives no practical benefit, the simple idea of playing Destination against those on weaker hardware could create the appearance of imbalance, Wolfson said. “Regardless of where the reality is, there’s definitely a perception among gamers that better hardware means you have an advantage. We don’t want to have to fight that battle, so to create the best, most level playing field, both factually and perceptually, we’ve separated it by platform.”
Just because you can’t compete directly between hardware generations doesn’t mean there won’t be a correlation between the different versions of Destination, Now and in the future. Players can take the characters built on one console to later hardware and even future games in the series, Wolfson said. That could be important for a game that already has a ten-year franchise plan before its first full release.