Posted 11 February 2006 - 10:19 AM
For the March 2006 issue of Computer Gaming World, we went toe-to-toe with Crytek for the aesthetic behind the action in its "not Far Cry 2" follow-up to Far Cry. We're all weary of watching these guys play visual leap-frog, so we pulled out our handy thumb-and-toe screws and managed to scoop the lowdown on the curious gameplay capers Crytek has planned for Crysis (that don't begin with "bump" and end with what you're supposed to use when you're lost), including: object- and foliage-aware AI, scads of propitious near-future-military-based projectile weapons, a special full-body suit (Master Chief wannabe? Bzzzztttt!) that's extrapolated from the U.S. Defense's very real and active "Future Warrior" program, and a gravity-physics system poised to radically metamorphose run-and-gun stereotypes.
Of course, it certainly doesn't hurt to re-craft your visuals from sand to sky as well, and though we crammed as much as possible on Crysis' "new FPS vision" into CGW's eight pages of screenshot-saturated spectacle, we know how much you enjoy pouring over the whizbang finery (we do too), so here it is, exclusive to 1UP: the progressive tech behind Crytek's CryENGINE 2.
Jazzed on Jargon
It used to be so simple. When Diamond released the Monster 3D sporting 3dfx's original Voodoo chip (50 MHz w/4MB memory!) in 1996 and id Software paralleled with GLQuake, the buzz was slapping textures on bare-assed polygons and alpha-blending checkered pixels to ice-creamy smoothness. Remember the Voodoo2 and the original SLI model? Two of those pixel-smoking puppies set you back a mind-boggling $600 in 1997. Today, a single Radeon X1900 XTX or Geforce 7800GTX will hijack your wallet for that or more, and let's not even talk twos. New mainboard and power supply anyone?
The upside of being poor and emaciated but 3D-almighty is bragging rights every six to 12 months with the advent of better looking virtual worlds. Ten years post-Voodoo, Crytek's Crysis has designs on your 3D hardware aimed at more than mere visual-gratification. The following list of technologies key to CryENGINE2 are about changing the way you interact with your environment at the grass roots level -- literally.
High Dynamic Lighting: You've probably read too much about this of late, notoriously with the release of the Half Life 2 add-on, The Lost Coast, but in case you missed Far Cry altogether, forwent patching it, or simply didn't have a video card that supported the technique, High Dynamic Lighting or HDR was actually added to Far Cry in it's 1.3 update way back in the waning days of 2004. What is it? Pick a number, any number, between 0 and 1 (decimal points please). That's how games have traditionally scaled colors between absolute black (0) and absolute white (1) when rendering a 3D scene. That technique fails, however, to allow the sort of real-world "super-range" effects that can occur when brightness (say sunlight) glints off corrugated surfaces or flares around foliage. The flaring effect is called "light bloom," though it can also be deliberately misused, such as in fantasy games like Fable or World of Warcraft, to make everything seem a bit "glowy." Crysis radically updates HDR to render around everything, from distant cliff peaks to the tree trunks right in front of you.
Motion Blur: In real-life you take this for granted every day, driving a car, riding a bike, even going for a run. In Crysis, the technique is used to emphasize character motion, enhancing "speed-up" or "slow-down" effects. We've heard reports of the technique making people queasy in Need for Speed: Most Wanted -- keep your airsickness bag handy.
Depth of Field: The oldest photographic trick on the books, this is the distance in front of and behind an object that appears in focus. You see it all the time on TV, used to shift your attention between speakers in a discussion between two characters (one in the foreground, another in the background). In Crysis, it enhances spotlighting key areas of interest.
Volumetric Clouds: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Heroes of the Pacific are two flight-sims that come to mind when talking about real-time cloud-generation, but a first-person shooter? It can only mean one thing: you'll be clocking some serious time up there. No longer using flat-images drifting in a "skybox," CryENGINE2 generates clouds and weather effects in real-time. Did we say weather effects? Try tornados.
Volumetric Fog: Similar to the cloud system, this is real-time fog capable of absorbing light that hits it, as well as sticking dynamically to the terrain. What's next, water beading on Gore-tex?
Spherical Harmonics: Futuremark's new 3DMark 2006 "Deep Freeze" benchmark implements this for the better part of that test. The buzz-sentence reads "arbitrary complex lighting info compressed for use in real-time." Translation: think time-lapse photography played back to give a sense of rapid temporal progression when applied in cinematic sequence. As light sources (say, the sun) change position rapidly, reciprocal lighting effects update dynamically, allowing shadows to slide and extend realistically.
Soft Shadows: Infamous for turning F.E.A.R. into a slide show on even SLI rigs, soft shadows literally "soften" the blocky edges of shadows, allowing much subtler lighting transitions through high contrast areas.
Soft Particles: Similar to "soft shadows," these are improved auto-illuminated particles capable of rendering much more realistic explosions and smoke. Imagine the contrails behind planes or the rocket flare during a space shuttle launch -- no more grainy clots of pixels or clipping along edges; arguably doing for particles what alpha-blending did for textures (smoothing) back in 3D gaming's infancy.
Breakable Objects and Foliage: Remember Red Faction? One of the first shooters to support wanton environmental demolition, but still very much "destruction on a leash," and no one's really bothered to expand much since. (Too unpredictable, that's what devs will tell you. Or "does nothing for the gameplay."). In Crysis it's all about the gameplay, and the CryENGINE2 scales it to entirely new levels, offering randomly breakable objects, trees, and wholesale buildings. Imagine running a bulldozer into a shanty and watching the walls randomly buckle, the roof shingling fall apart in pieces, and the sides cave at different angles. Crytek's rule of thumb: if it looks destructible, it probably is. Trees, too. Launch missiles at palm trees and witness them crack apart at arbitrary points; as the tree top falls, the leaves hit the ground and bend or fan in direct proportion to their angle of impact. And watch your backtrail -- too much bending of grass near enemies and they'll notice...and hunt you down, now based as much on visual as aural evidence of your transgression.
Backlighting: Leaves are translucent in real-life, but games like to pretend they're just static objects or flat-textures, thick as steel. Backlighting in Crysis allows shadows and light through the physical structures of light-permeable objects.
Caustics: Just a fancy name for improved light refraction. You remember your physics, right? The index of refraction was that annoyingly arbitrary number assigned to light-bending substances like plastic or glass or water. Light goes in at one angle and bends in another (ergo toys like the magical wonderful prism!). In Crysis caustics model the refraction of photons as they pass through surfaces like water and scatter on the sea floor, producing the wavy-glow effects you get in swimming pools or near shoreline through exceptionally clear water.
Sunrays: Quite possibly the coolest effect of all, sunrays model photons arriving from distant light sources, e.g. the sun! Put a large fern frond with dozens of tiny leaves between you and the sun and move slowly back and forth. In real life, the incoming sunlight will appear to flicker and flare around the edges of each leaf. So too, in Crysis.
Posted 14 February 2006 - 10:59 PM
Posted 15 February 2006 - 01:08 AM
Slowly becoming your entertainment dictator.
I hates me some sports games.
Posted 15 February 2006 - 01:12 PM
I'm pretty sure it's already headed towards the Xbox 360.
The game packs amazing visual interest. I hope it'll eventually turn into a console title.
Posted 24 March 2006 - 07:21 PM
Posted 03 April 2006 - 04:39 PM
Posted 07 June 2006 - 05:49 PM
Posted 07 June 2006 - 07:08 PM
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