It was pretty interesting to see the reaction of the internet when CryTek announced that the polygon count of Marius from Ryse: Son of Rome was reduced from 150,000 polygons to 85,000 due to optimization, but his initial numbers were actually much higher than that.
During a panel titled “Play the Cutscene: The Characters of Ryse” held at the Game Developers Conference, Senior Character Artist Abdenour Bachir and Art Technical Director Christopher Evans provided some very interesting details about the development and evolution of the characters of the game.
At the beginning of development the models were created with a mind-boggling degree of finesse similar to CG film production, with up to 4 million polygons per armor piece. Putting the pieces together the model for Marius had an almost unreal total polygon count of 130 million.
Textures were also incredibly detailed, with 4,096 x 4,096 pixel per part of the model, summing up to 147,456 × 147,456 for the entire model. That’s almost 22 billion texels.
Of course no console (or gaming PC) would be able to move that kind of models at an acceptable frame rate (or at all), so the characters went through multiple rounds of optimization, resulting in 40,000 polygons for mob characters, and a very maximum of 160,000 for main characters. The general average for characters in the PS3/Xbox 360 generation is 10-20,000 polygons, meaning that characters in Ryse have between 4 and 8 times as many triangles.
It’s worth mentioning once more that polygon count optimization is an indispensable and normal phase of game development, as many of the vertex are spurious (for instance they’re placed inside the model and invisible, or they overlap), and many more can be replaced by normal maps with exactly the same visual effect but much better performance.
Bachir and Evans also mentioned that physically based rendering was used to achieve top notch visual results with good performance, subsurface scattering was employed to make skin look realistically translucent. Movement of hair, cloth and fur used to decorate armor was also physically simulated.
The team went as far as physically simulating the motion of layers of fat in the chest and belly of characters, including a very large number of animated joints. Marius ended up with 815.
One thing is for sure: that’s definitely a step-up from the physically-enhanced breasts of Dead or Alive.
[Guest reporting: Matt Zardoni]