Naughty Dog Posted a new round of career opportunities for April, inviting more developers to join “the kennel,” and while the company is always very careful not to post specifics, we can catch a glimpse on the technologies that will be used on Uncharted for PS4 and The Last of Us Remastered (that are the only two games in development at the studio as far as interviews suggest) by looking at the competences required from candidates.
First of all, and this will come at no surprise, a lot of the work is done in Maya, Autodesk’s 3D animation suite, which is still an extremely popular tool between developers of high-end games.
The ad for a Lighting Artist is aimed to “develop the lighting scheme, color-palette, post-processing-fx, and general visual mood that turns unlit 3-D environment models into awesome looking and visually compelling 3D game environments.”
An interesting detail is that it requires experience in Global Illumination, which is a series of techniques used to add realism to a scene’s lighting. The concept is taking in account not just the effect of direct light sources on objects, but also light reflected by other objects, whether they’re actually reflective or not. In previous Naughty Dog games (since Uncharted 2) it was mostly pre-calculated, but the PS4 has already demonstrated to be able to take care of a degree of dynamic Global Illumination.
The ad also requires a “thorough understanding of direct/indirect light, luminance/exposure and color-theory,” but “experience with generating light-maps, pre-lighting or baked lighting is desired” means that we’ll probably see some degree of pre-calculated lighting. That’s pretty normal, as a large number of lights don’t really need the degree of variation offered by dynamic techniques, and the same resources are better used with a greater visual impact elsewhere. A mix is normally ideal.
An ad seeking an Environment Texture Artist requires the ability to “sculpt highly detailed 3D and 2D images,” but more interestingly it lists the kind of texture maps that the candidate will need to use for in-game environments:
- Color maps: your usual basic texture.
- Normal maps: textures that tell the engine to simulate the lighting of 3D detail without having to use polygons. It helps a lot with optimization and has been a standard for years.
- Speck maps: specular maps. They tell the engine what areas of an object are shiny and reflective.
- Height maps: a texture used to tell the engine the height of each pixel in a 3D environment.
- AO maps: Ambient Occlusion maps. They tell the engine how exposed each pixel is to light, creating deeper shadows. They’re used for pre-baked ambient occlusion, so it’s likely that we’ll still see a degree of that in future games.
- Detail maps: a texture layer with very fine detail that is normally displayed when the camera is very close to the object.
- Transparency maps: a texture that tells the engine what parts of an object are transparent.
That’s definitely a quite complex texture array, worthy of Naughty Dog’s level of visual fidelity. The ad also mention the development of new shaders, so we’ll probably see some innovative material shading techniques in the upcoming games.
A further post for a Character Artist, mentions that we’re going to (unsurprisingly) see “hi-res realistic characters, including organic and non-organic assets.” and a “high level of realism” is stressed. Experience in generating ambient occlusion maps is again mentioned, pointing out to a degrees of pre-baked AO. Interetsingly enough the use of scan data is also mentioned, so we can expect the use of performance capture or at least facial scanning.
An ad for a Character Technical Director/Rigger is quite interesting because it mentions not only rigging for characters, but also for vehicles. It also requires the ability to work with secondary dynamics systems. Maya’s Dynamics engine allows between the other things to pose and animate secondary parts of a character body like hair or fingers, giving characters a more natural look as they move.
A post for a Multiplayer Systems Game Designer mentions “player customization, weapons, progression and unlocks” while and a second ad also mentions player enhancement, so we’re probably going to see a form of progression system in the multiplayer. The single player should unsurprisingly be heavily scripted, as another post requires the ability to place “necessary objects, triggers, and scripted logic to fire off events in the gameplay flow.”
Finally, an ad seeing a Graphics Programmer states the mission of implementing “efficient and stunning industry-defining visuals,” but that’s pretty much par for the Naughty Dog course.
One thing is for sure: with 14 positions offered (not counting the ICE team and non-developer roles) Naughty Dog is stepping on the gas of next-generation development. E3 is less than two months away, and you can pretty much bet that we’ll see some of the results of that effort then.