idiggory, King of Bards wrote:
The only title I can actually think of to compare is Oblivion. Looking up reviews of the game from March 2006, it was stuttering on the 360 and mid-low end PCs, but high-end PCs weren't having issues.
Yeah and that game was hideous compared to skyrim, which also runs OK on those two systems with no hardware upgrade.
Besides, the cross-platform titles never seem to be that great looking on PS3, but the PS3 exclusives generally look pretty spectacular in comparison, like uncharted 3 and most likely even moreso with Last of Us.
I'm going to bluntly point out that you're the one who said you wanted a side-by-side comparison which, by necessity, means using cross-platform games. So there's that.
Now onto the actual response: The thing to remember here is that they were running on different graphical engines. Skyrim uses the Creation Engine, where Oblivion was using the Havoc engine... I think.
To put it in its most basic form, that means that the engine allows wiser allocations of the power a system has. Your PS3 isn't using less power to run Oblivion than it would to run Skyrim, it's just using it more efficiently.
It wasn't limited by the systems all that much really, it was limited by its engine. As time has passed, developers of games and engines have learned more about how to optimize for the capabilities of the consoles, allowing them to produce better graphics over time, sure. What they can't do is make the system any better at churning out graphics.
So, when we say that "Oblivion stressed the PS3, but it didn't stress high-end PCs", it doesn't matter whether or not games have graphically gotten better over time. The PC had more blunt-force power to throw at that game at the time, where the PS3 was limited by what it was being asked to do. That's the point.
What has happened over time is that developers learned how to squeeze more juice out of a system without advancing the hardware. That's true of both consoles and PCs. Say you have a PC that has exactly the recommended settings for ME1. Even though those fall below the recommended settings for ME3, ME3 is still going to look way better than ME1 did.
Same hardware, used more efficiently. True across the board.