Tech demos that have marked the collective imagination


Recent tech demos seen for new generation consoles, such as the latest Unreal Engine 5 for Playstation 5, have rekindled the spirits and the desire for great graphics

The last tech demo shown to the public they certainly knew how to attract all the curiosity for future consoles arriving at the end of the year. The new Unreal Engine 5, shown with a real-time demo on Playstation 5, seemed truly impressive as well as some sequences seen in the Xbox Series X streaming presentation. But over the years what have been the tech demos that most impressed and made fans dream? We tried to take a step back in time.

Playstation 2 Tech Demo

It was the year 1999 and the videogame generation that was coming to an end had been worthily fought between Nintendo64, Sega Saturn and PlayStation. The first technical demos of real-time 3D graphics rendered with “next generation” consoles began to circulate, such as Playstation 2 which would be released in Japan in March of the following year. Equipped with the then futuristic and very complicated CPU Emotion Engine and chips Graphic Synthesizer, was capable of 6 GigaFLOPS of floating point calculations. A little monster for the time, trifles nowadays.

The fact is that Sony released a tech demo that left everyone speechless, until then certain things had only been seen in FMV movies. The small presentation of the PS2 games showed polygonal models very complicated for the time, an unrivaled fluidity combined with a crazy complexity of the scenes. Namco created a virtual catwalk of Reiko Nagase of Ridge Racer who left the stucco audience, and then moved on to a fabulous roundup of other games with incredible graphics. Reality and history have taught us that the console has rarely reached those qualitative peaks, and how tech demos represent only the maximum virtual “target” of what the machine can render. Net of the game.

CRYENGINE – Tech Demo Showcase – GDC 2015

Crytek has always accustomed us to appalling performances in the graphic and technical field. But probably no one expected, in 2015, a presentation of this impact and power. Let’s talk about the tech demo that the German house showed to the GDC of that year. Inside there was really everything: crazy physics, particle and volumetric effects, climatic conditions that changed in real time, a new way of rendering the vegetation, even more realistic and “alive”. Crytek showed not only graphics but also artificial intelligence and physics, factors that create a video game in its entirety in addition to just the visual and cosmetic aspect.

Project Reality Silicon Graphics Tech Demo

We are in the mid-90s and the console world is still torn between the old Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive machines. Almost out of nowhere came a fierce Sony with the debut of the memorable first Playstation, while Sega launched the new Saturn. In this climate of change and the arrival of new competitors, Nintendo went from its old 16bit console directly to 64bit, effectively skipping the middle generation that saw the competition compete. He did it thanks to the collaboration with Silicon Graphics, at the time on the crest of the wave, which allowed the development of a truly avant-garde graphics processor for the console world of the time. The first tech demos shown at CES in Las Vegas they were really impressive: nothing like this had ever been seen, except in high-end PCs. Nintendo was back on the market with a small concentrate of technology and power, the Nintendo64.

Shenmue – Realtime Demo Heads

Once the 32 / 64bit era has been archived, we all remember how SEGA and its Dreamcast made the video retina’s eyes palpitate. Titles like Soul Calibur and Ferrari F355 Challenge were simply unthinkable just a few months before launch. But it is after about a year that the Japanese house and study AM2 by Yu Suzuki showed a tech demo in real time that still all fans of the time remember, that of the first Shenmue. The demo focused on the characters of the game, in particular on the faces and their expressiveness, full of details previously unheard of in a video game. You could count eyelashes and eyebrows, wrinkles one by one, in some characters even every single hair was rendered independently. ShenMue, once released, immediately set new quality standards for graphics, while not actually reaching the polygonal complexity shown in that demo.

ATI Radeon E3 2005 Xbox 360 Tech Demo

Archive the first 128bit video game era and the premature departure of SEGA, was the moment when Microsoft made the leap in quality with its second generation, Xbox 360. Presented at E3 in Los Angeles in June 2005, the console would be released shortly thereafter, during the winter holidays of the same year. During the show, ATI (today AMD) and its developers showed an incredible tech demo based on the processor of the future Microsoft console. To the public, incredulous, it was revealed live how the graphics engine was rendering in real time by changing the view with a joypad, dispelling any doubt that the movie was pre-calculated. What immediately struck was the extreme fluidity of 60fps (in reality a value rarely achieved in-game) and the polygonal detail, combined with a higher quality texture. For the time, of course.

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