In an interview on the latest PlayStation Blogcast, The Order: 1886 Game Director Dana Jan gave his opinion on the game’s graphics, and on how close the PS4 is to achieve photorealism.
Jan explains that when you watch YouTube videos of the game, they don’t do it justice. Playing on the monitor at his desk doesn’t do the game justice either. Then he plays it on a quality TV at home, and it’s a “night and day difference.” Watching the game on demo TVs blows his mind.
Incidentally, Ready at Dawn Chief Technical Officer Andrea Pessino just agreed with that point on Twitter:
Played @TheOrder1886 in our movie theater for a while, because I can. 😉 Still blows my mind. Play it on the BIGGEST screen you can. 🙂
— Andrea Pessino (@AndreaPessino) February 6, 2015
Jan recounts that early in development, the team wasn’t sure whether to go for photorealism or not. They threw around the idea of creating a hyper-real stylized London, but doing more research on the grittiness of the world they wanted to represent, they said “let’s just see how far we can go.” “The uncanny valley…can we cross it?” Jan feels that they’re not to photorealism yet, but he doesn’t think they’re too far off on PlayStation 4.
He doesn’t think it’s going to be a problem related to the hardware, but it’ll be up to developers to figure out how to push it a little bit further, and a couple more techniques that are going to get them closer to believable humans in-game.
Jan also feels that the fact that there’s no difference between models in cutscenes and gameplay and everything is rendered in-engine is a step in the right direction. If you get shot and wounded, and you enter a story moment with a cutscene, you’re going to see the blood on the character. Costumes carry on into cutscenes as well, and that wouldn’t be possible with pre-rendered CG, because there’s only so much space on the Blu-ray.
Towards the end of development the team was wondering if they’d manage to fit in the disk, but thanks to the fact that everything is displayed in real-time, they were left with room to spare.
A few months before release they were actually alarmed, because the game was over capacity. In that situation developers often start lowering the resolution of the textures and things start looking worse, but Ready at Dawn managed to do it just through optimization. According to Jan “it runs fantastic, it looks amazing” and the studio is really proud of how far they’ve been able to push it.
Additionally, he explained that almost all of the game’s animations are motion captured, but there are some traversal moves that would be very difficult to do like that. That said all motion capture data has been tweaked intensively but the animations and the programmers in order to make sure that it plays right and the controls are as responsive and possible.
According to Jan, no concessions have been made. They didn’t say “it looks good, so the gameplay can be sloppy.” They went the opposite way. That takes a programmer a designer and an animator tweaking the animation until it works properly. Due to that they redid the cover system from scratch several times until it worked right. It’s a system at the foundation of the game, so it needs not only to look amazing, but also to play amazing.
In order to find the right actor for each character, they came up with the characteristics they wanted, comparing their ideas with famous actors. They pit together a package for casting, which sent back head shots of possible candidates. The folks at Ready at Dawn looked for mostly imperfections, because they wanted characters that looked as human as possible. Jan explained that often CG characters look freaky because the modelers mirror the face, so they appear too symmetrical.
Some (but not all) of the characters of the game are actually 1:1 reproductions of the actor that played them, and according to Jan players will notice when they play the game.
He also mentions that the animators were “so good,” that he’s able to notice the acting nuances that he enjoyed when the performance capture session was held, but at times it’s on a different face, because the performance capture actor and the model for face scan were different, and that’s “really cool.”