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When Games Move Beyond High Definition

Jason Johnson Freelance writer and editor

Remember that fateful day when you finally splurged on a high-definition television and mounted it on the wall? Of course you do. The consensus among everyone in the room, even small children, even the dog, was a nonplussed “is this real-life?” There was no way it was getting any better than this.

A glorious, eye-popping, 12K gaming rig to prove us all wrong.

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As of right now, 12K gaming is the Holy Grail when it comes to games that are exceptionally pretty to look at. To understand how truly impressive 12K is, you first must understand 4K technology, which powers the impending swarm of ultra-detailed monitors that most prognosticators presume will someday saturate the market, surpassing the popularity of HDTVs.

These forthcoming 4K monitors offer roughly four times the crystal clarity as plain old high-def, getting even closer to the level of detail our actual eyes perceive.

The 4K Setup

One of the few 12K setups — that’s three 4K monitors, positioned on a long table, side by side by side — was built by Nicholas Gniech, demonstrated at the Intel Developer Forum 2014.

The wall of monitors looks like something you’d see a security guard dozing off in front off, except it plays video games, so he’d probably be having a great time.

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“No games really support 12K yet,” Gniech told me at the Forum, and, on cue, the game crashed. Still, there’s something admirable about this do-it-yourself pursuit to bring out games at their shiniest.

While developers are starting to include the option to play at 4K resolution, they won’t truly be reaping the breathtaking benefits for a long while. That would require an investment in art and assets that frankly isn’t worth it, since only the most formidable computers on the market can hang.

“In order to do 4K gaming you need a lot of graphics power,” he explains, pointing to a huge beast of a machine. “With this, we’re a little bit in the future right now.”

Games are still playing catchup

Advanced as it may be, 12K gaming is also held back by the present. Getting everything to display correctly can require a bit of alchemy and a stroke of luck. The visuals in a game like Crysis 3 are extraordinary, a sight to be seen, but seem a touch off-kilter at times. A player standing next to us, normally off-screen, may run through the jungle shooting at nothing.

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Certain parts of the screen are stretched out and blurry. Some of the greenery in the distance is hazy. Elsewhere, the environment looks crisp and razor-clean.

“The games could look a lot better than this, but right now they’re optimized for present-day screens,” Gniech admits.

“Some of the games ‘support’ multi-monitor support at 12k with tweaking, but I don’t know of any game that was developed with that in mind,” he said. “We had to keep buying games and testing them. Crysis 3 technically supported 12K as did Assassin’s Creed 4, but it was obviously not developed for it because the HUD (heads up display) doesn’t scale properly.”

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What makes it possible

“What makes this possible was Intel’s Extreme Edition processor, which has the ability to truly support the 4 PCIE lanes to allow for 4 graphics cards to be used,” he said.

“Otherwise, without the ability to have 4 cards, this would never be possible.”

It’s true that when we set out in search of supreme beauty, the things we once thought were beautiful turn out to be kind of ugly.

Then he comes to a cluster of rocks on the beach break. They are magnificent, a song in praise to rock-ness, with crevices that have their own crevices.

I would include a picture — but then, you’d need a 4K monitor to appreciate it.

Soon enough, we’ll all understand how high a definition can go.

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