PS4 Demo The Dark Sorcerer: Even More Impressive Technical Specs Unveiled, and a Little Mystery

June 29, 2013

A few days ago I wrote an article that unveiled a few of the impressive technical specs of The Dark Sorcerer tech demo by Quantic Dream, and today we learn more of the elements that contributed to turn what basically was treated as a “old man face” joke right after the PlayStation meeting in which the PS4 was unveiled into an extremely impressive demonstration of power that dropped many jaws at E3.

For convenient reading, I’ll add the new elements to what we already know in a single list, to give a proper overall vision of the specs, that were gathered from notes by our writers present at the demo’s showing at E3, this video, an article on the Japanese website 4Gamer, the official PS blog and couple tidbits from Quantic Dream’s official website.

  • The demo ran in 1080p native resolution. Texture resolution was 1080p as well.
  • The framerate was not optimized at E3, and ran between 30 and 90 frames per second.
  • The demo used only 4 GB of the PS4’s 8 GB of RAM.
  • The DualShock 4 can be used to dynamically move the camera position and switch lighting (between studio mode and film mode) within a single frame.
  • The set uses about one million polygons.
  • Each character takes a little less than one million polygons and 150 MB of textures (there’s a reporting discrepancy here. See at the bottom of the list).
  • The textures for the skin and face models were actually obtained by scanning the face of actors actually cast for the project.
  • The sorcerer is played by David Gant, the Goblin by Carl Anthony Payne II, the Demon by Christian Ericksen and the Director by David Gasman.
  • The vertex density of the 3D models is comparable to the CG used for film making.
  • Each character uses 40 different shaders.
  • The scene uses Volumetric Lightning, allowing individual beams of light to be displayed when the light shines through the environment.
  • Color Grading and Full HDR ensure that colors are truly vivid and realistic.
  • All particle effects are simulated in real time and emit light/create shadows.
  • Limb Darkening is used to naturally darken the edges of the screen.
  • Effects that would normally be applied in post production like Lens Flare, True 3D Depth of Field and Motion Blur are implemented in real time based on an accurate optical simulation.
  • Camera lens distortion and imperfections are also simulated.
  • Physics-based real time rendering is used for reflections and done by the rendering engine. When the lighting changes, the shaders don’t, but the reflection effect still changes dynamically based on lighting. This is a technique that was previously possible only for pre-rendered CG at this level of detail.
  • An advanced technique named Subsurface Scattering (SSS) is used to simulate the shading of the skin. It involves letting the light penetrate translucent materials and then scatter and refract a number of times at irregular angles and exiting the surface again a different points. It’s another technique that was previously only used in CG.
  • The same Subsurface Scattering effect is used for the green skin of the goblin, the the wax of the candles and the crystal of the wand as well, despite the fact that the final result is entirely different.
  • To simulate the effect of wetness of the eye surface, the engine applies to it a mirrored image of the surrounding scene.
  • The cornea and pupil are actually modeled in 3D inside each eye.
  • Each hair is drawn separately instead of being a texture applied to a polygonal model.
  • All clothes, accessories and hair (including the feathers in the sorcerer’s collar) are physically simulated in their motion and interaction with the environment, like they were worn by a real actor
  • Each human model has 380 different bones: 180 in the face, 150 for the body and 50 for the exoskeleton. This is three times the number of bones used in Heavy Rain and twice the number used in Beyond: Two Souls. 
  • The performance capture studio used for motion and facial capture has been built internally at Quantic Dream and uses 64 cameras tracking 80 markers attached to the face and 60 to the body.
  • The demo has been created by using the PS3 development pipeline used for Beyond: Two Souls, as PS4 development tools still weren’t available.

There’s also a bit of a mystery that we are still unable to solve. The article on the Official PlayStation blog talks about a little less than a million polygons per character, but our team reports that during the presentations at E3 “only” 60-70,000 polygons were mentioned. The other sources agree with that notion. I included the official PlayStation blog number in the list above, as it’s the most “official” source we have, but the discrepancy seems strange. We reached out to Quantic Dream for a clarification on the issue, and we’ll keep you updated if we hear anything relevant.

That’s quite a wall of text…I know. but that’s what you get when you try to describe a rather large leap in technological innovation. Now we just have to wait and see what Quantic Dream will be able to do with this kind of technology and proper PS4 development tools. One thing is for sure: seeing the demo in action it’s hard not to be excited for the next generation.

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Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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