When you shoot a watermelon in a video game, how much detail should you explode with that watermelon?
After all, in theory, a developer could spend weeks building a fully dynamic fruit destruction engine (FDE) that responds to individual shotgun pellets and separates the skin from the seed. Or you could just soak the melon in a simple code that makes it sway like a lifeless rock when you shoot it. Isn’t a mango entitled to the sweetness inside it, sprinkling everywhere?
Some recent Twitter disagreements revolved around this peculiar question. Last week’s tweets comparing the games ’environmental interactivity, ranging from occasional observations to accusations of production practices, criticized recent versions of the previous version of Back 4 Blood and Halo Infinite while praising the apples of The Last of Us 2. "We're at the point of console warfare when fanboys compare the physics of fruit as a kind of measure of a game's craft," summed up Destin Legarie of IGN.
I'll just leave it here 🍌🍎🍉 #HaloInfinite pic.twitter.com/HdhcnFVQN7August 2, 2021
All the fruits of # TheLastofUsPart2 have been designed entirely in 3D and have their own physique. In fact, this fruit basket alone has more physics and interactivity than any other Xbox game. These clueless Xbox fans are beyond ridiculous 🥱 https://t.co/etZkj9UwZl pic.twitter.com/Rg6ZpnFUnmAugust 4, 2021
Let's be honest. # Back4Blood is on Game Pass for a reason. Imagine spending $ 60 on THIS. Detail ZERO. ZERO immersion. ZERO cure. pic.twitter.com/mt5FGJt2lrAugust 5, 2021
There wasn’t much knowledge beneath the tweets. But it made me wonder: how much development effort is needed to make a great high-fidelity fruit, a breakable windshield, or a disintegrating clay pot? And how do you make these crucial development decisions?
Virtual fruit experts weigh
Seeking technical wisdom, I asked Torn Banner Studios, the creator of a recent multiplayer game where you could kill fellow knights with a fish or a no beheaded, Cavalry 2.
James Arkwright, Torn Banner’s lead environmental artist, says that if we compare the effort it takes to make a piece of fruit that explodes with bigger obstacles to development, yes, it’s easier to blow the watermelon well. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a “complicated” multidisciplinary task.
"To make a banana explode, for example, you may need: a game designer to determine the rules and function of the banana blast, a 3D artist to make the banana itself, a VFX artist to make the explosion, an audio designer to make it sound like a banana exploding, an engineer to make everything work properly, a quality control tester to make sure the banana that explodes explodes properly and it doesn't block the game in the process and potentially (many) others, depending on the scope of the object, "says Arkwright.
This is a minimum effort of six people. Practically a banana destruction committee. And it makes sense: most studios don’t run their sound, art, design, and programming through the same person, so multiple developers should touch on that detail.
As Arkwright says, if you want to animate an object, you have to produce various forms of feedback for the player. Creating this feedback usually means hiring multiple departments. Arkwright goes so far as to say that "making these destructible background objects could easily be someone's full-time job, a luxury that most smaller studios can't afford," noting that larger studios, yes, they generally have more ability to make these things look better, if they decide to.
I also spoke to Sébastien Laurent, technical director of the Crytek gaming team, creators of Hunt: Showdown and a damn video game engine. Laurent accepted that interactive objects, unlike passive landscapes, are a multipersonal process. “When it comes to dynamic objects, a lot more departments need to be involved and there are broader ramifications,” he says.
If you want a video game sedan that snaps, breaks, and explodes, there’s no question of checking out some backend boxes that magically allow destructibility. How many different sounds does a car have to make when you shoot it? Does the fender make the same sound as the tires? What happens if you blow it up with a gun or cut off the hood with a melee weapon? While you may not give it more than a glance, a destructible car in an FPS like Back 4 Blood is essentially a small system of rules and layers of art working together in unison. .
“Technical artists should match (the car),” says Laurent, “animators should make appropriate animations for the doors, hood, and trunk, VFX artists should create particle effects for the various destructions (broken glass, dust off events, burning, smoking), audio designers should make the sounds (broken glass, creaking doors), UI designers should create indications of interaction and technical designers should establish all the logic that surrounds it. "
I think it’s interesting that the two developer respondents, who were unaware of each other’s answers, gave the same number of people to complete the job: six people.
And the task of creating something as normal as an empty car is further complicated by considering the relationship of this dynamic object with other gaming systems. "Can an open door block an AI? Do you need the AI to close the doors? Will the cost of this non-static object still fit into our performance budgets?" Laurent asks. "Therefore, game developers should make a call about which objects are static and which are dynamic and whether they serve the game / the overall game environment, as well as making sure that the game does not exceed the limits. so there is a good balance between objects that are dynamic and those that remain static, and we try to use that logic with our games as much as possible. "
The developers were eager to remind me of the interrelated work of introducing anything new, no matter how simple, into a game. "Every feature you add to a game adds potential future 'technical debt' in quality control testing and bug fixes," says Geoff "Zag" Keene, creator of Unfortunate Spacemen. "As complexity increases, other departments have to grow to account for it. Sum."
How do you like apples?
Responding to some of Twitter’s criticism of inert fruit, unbreakable windshields and other less realistic game objects, Arkwright believes this comment is specific to video games. Some players have "the expectation that games will grow more and be more immersive year after year," he says. "It would be very strange to expect novels, for example, to grow in the year, and at that time each novel would be 5,000 pages long. The same could be said for movies, television or any other. "For some reason the gaming industry has escaped the understanding that adding content for the sake of content is not necessarily a path to a better experience."
Keene went beyond embarrassing these comments from the Twitter armchair: “Stunning small graphics (like a bush that doesn’t swing when the character moves for it) and condemning the game as“ not doing well ”is just a something you would hear from someone without a passion of their own, "he says. "Unless his passion is an unbearable pedant, I guess."
Understanding the layers of work and the broader production considerations involved in creating dynamic and animated objects in games will hopefully help us gauge the harsh judgments we make about virtual fruit. Perhaps the opposite trend driving some of this baffling commentary is the growing fixation on the technical aspects of games between some corners of the community.
The impressive work of creators such as Digital Foundry and 3kliksphilip, who comb the technical aspects of the games, sharpens our vision for more details. The PC player itself performance analysis atomize how each individual graphics parameter affects the frame rate, per GPU. But this form of microscopic game dissection can also have the unintended consequence of causing some of us to inflate the importance of details such as dial rate, frame rate, and entry delay, which were not previously part of the our vocabulary.