For those gamers really passionate about the versatility of next-gen graphics, Ubisoft's weekend demonstration of their impressive next-gen Snowdrop engine in upcoming title Tom Clancy's The Division was certainly one of the high points of the VGX awards.
Now, Ubisoft has published a blog post in which it discussed the engine with developer Massive elaborating on the details of its Snowdrop Engine, and what this next-gen technology really means in practical terms...
You can see the graphical potential of this engine in the trailer below, in case you missed the weekend's awards:
Massive spoke of three "pillars" of the next-gen game engine; "Empowerment" "Real Time" and "Fun". Massive - in spite of their name - are actually not a large studio, meaning that Snowdrop is required to not only be powerful, but also efficient and flexible. The "empowerment" aspect of the game engine allows "the artists, the designer and the animators have the power to achieve their ideas and vision, simply by accessing the game directly within the engine" and Snowdrop is "a dynamic, interconnected and united system". Massive also spoke of the fun involved in the system, how the engine was able to deliver unexpected results within an intuitive system. But whilst simple and fun development tools benefit gamers indirectly in terms of producing - hopefully - a lovingly crafted game, it is the real time "pillar" of the engine that should be really noticeable to gamers.
What does this "real time" mean in terms of the gaming experience? Because the Snowdrop engine is unified, any effects rendered in one part of the build triggers the change throughout the whole game. Of course, this makes it a quick and versatile development tool, but it should also be good for gamers, ensuring consistency of graphical and physical experience throughout the game. This, in theory, allows the developers to build a more consistent game more quickly, as well as allowing the game to be playable during development, which (at least, we hope) could lead to a more thoroughly and effectively tested game.
The procedural techniques built into the game's destruction experience is particularly interesting in this respect. What this addition effectively means is that when you shoot or destroy something within the game, it responds according to its material. So wood splinters, glass shatters, metal warps, and so on. Twinned with the Snowdrop engine's Hollywood-inspired dynamic lighting system, this could be something incredibly special to behold; light would, for instance, shine through a newly-created bullet hole, or reflect of a metallic object as it falls. This all happens in real time, and can affect your gameplay and how you plan attacks and covers.
This applies to weather, too; the demonstration video shows some impressive footage of the way the lighting technology works together with dynamic weather. This kind of realistic physics system looks like it could become one of the major advantages of next-gen games; The Order: 1886 - which uses the next-gen RAD 4.0 engine, is boasting a host of interesting in-engine physics, including realistic wind and destruction effects.
The new tech is specifically designed for PC and next-gen, and, according to Massive can be used to make "more immersive and dynamic worlds", although it looks like that will probably be reliant on PC gamers having something of a monster rig available to them if they want to appreciate the best of the game's particle rendering and dynamism in full.
What do you think of the new The Division trailer? Does the Snowdrop engine look like it might have something interesting to offer developers and gamers alike?
Tell us what you think of all this, along with your thoughts on how Tom Clancy's The Division is looking, in the comments.