inFAMOUS: Second Son: Particle and Performance Capture Tech Explained; Awesome Concept Art Revealed

inFAMOUS: Second Son: Particle and Performance Capture Tech Explained; Awesome Concept Art Revealed

inFAMOUS: Second Son is definitely one of the best looking games we’ve seen on consoles, if not the best, and Sucker Punch Productions hosted a series of panels at the Game Developers Conference explaining in-depth the “magic” (or better, technomancy) behind the beauty of the game.

Below you can see a summary of the most relevant points of two of those panels. You can click on the titles to see the original presentation slides for yourself.

In the “Sucker Punch’s Performance Capture for inFAMOUS: Second Son” we learn more about the facial and performance capture process that led to the spectacular expression showcased by the characters of the game.

  • Most cutscenes are in real-time, with hand-keyed animations.
  • Bodies/Faces/Eyes/Audio were captured simultaneously for  multiple actors for the best acting.
  • Muscle-based simulation is supported.
  • Each actor was scanned in 70 different facial poses.
  • Facial expressions were captured using a Head Mounted Camera Rig (HMR).
  • A Pose Space Deformation (PSD) method was used to get more natural and less “posey” expressions.
  • 3D marker tracking was used instead of 2D. It uses four cameras per rig instead of one but has better accuracy, visualization, silhouette, and provides extra dimensionality for lips.
  • The animators had a variety of animation controls and were able to directly manipulated key drivers and joints.
  • Display of compression and stretch of the skin is independent across the face using tension maps that simulate wrinkles and creases.

The second panel, titled “The Visual Effects of inFAMOUS: Second Son” was even more spectacular, and gave us a glimpse on the work behind the incredible particle effects included in the game.

  • A completely new toolset and rendering pipeline were created for the game.
  • Lots of pre-production concepts were drawn to qualify what makes smoke feel real and believable.
  • Reference revealed that the most important elements were wind and turbulence and lighting/compositing in the scene.
  • Sucker Punch created a real-time curl noise feature.
  • Since the early test didn’t feel powerful, it was decided to have smoke be the contrail but not the impacting force, while ash and lights aided in visual tracking.
  • In order to dematerialize Delsin into smoke and ash, a particle mesh system has been created. It has positional, UV, normal and color data and it’s basically a low-resolution version of Delsin. The same particles that spread when he enters the dash reform when the dash ends, while smoke ribbons give the whole thing a sense of directional motion.
  • The vent travel effect is similar, but wisps are created with ribbons that rotate and translate upwards for the whole effect, and they use curl noise and a velocity vector to blow away in the wind.
  • Curl noise was used in different ways with neon powers. Neon is simulated as a plasma and casts lights.
  • The neon drain effects uses a variant of Delsin’s particle mesh tech. Particles spawn only in areas above a specific brightness value. They take the color from an emissive texture and then swirl towards Delsin’s hand, condensing in a single point of light.
  • The Neon Dash breaks Delsin down into a strobing silhouette, and leaves behind a a lingering light-writing trail. Delsin’s body crawls with energy on exit. The effect works regardless of dash distance.
  • Using the GPU to calculate particles allowed for more complex simulations and expressions.
  • Particles in the game can cast shadows (not all of them), receive shadows, cast lights, bounce ambient light, receive directional sunlight, blend correctly with ambient haze and are rendered with HDR values.
  • Both dynamic and static objects cast shadows on particles.
  • Any particle can cast point lights.
  • Spherical harmonics probe data is used on every non-additive particle emitter. It simulated local and bounced lighting and has a great effect in shadowed areas that would normally look flat due to the lack of directional sunlight.
  • There are 8 different times of day, each with its own settings and HDR offset.

Below you can enjoy a gallery with all the pictures and concept art showcased in the two presentations. If you want to better place them with each element explained above, you can check out the slides themselves.