Evolution Studios gets tech chatty regarding MotorStorm: Apocalypse development

Wednesday, 30 March 2011 18:39 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Evolution Studios has said it overcame some “difficult technical hurdles,” while developing MotorStorm: Apocalypse for PS3.

Speaking with Digital Foundry, the game’s lead technical artist Andy Seymour and vehicle lead Neil Massam said once the team got the shader code and normal mapping ironed out along with balancing multiple vehicles, the team went on from there to create a game that could handle all these vehicles running around in a destructible environment.

“From an art perspective there were two major challenges,” said Seymour. “Firstly we knew that we needed to move from our in-house world editor to a DCC in order to craft the worlds more artistically. Prior to MotorStorm, Evolution Studios developed the World Rally Championship series of PlayStation 2 games with hundreds of unique stages, and we knew we’d need trade quantity for fidelity in order to show off PlayStation 3 visuals for launch.

“Secondly we were aware that the advent of next-gen techniques such as shader code and normal mapping were going to be a training challenge for the art team. So our render coders taught our key artists the basics of cgfx vertex and fragment code. This was made easier by a very early visual node-based shader authoring package called RTZen. Tech Artists could use it to prototype shaders and see the results instantly, and then analyse the shader code that was generated to understand the techniques in play.”

Massam added that the MotorStorm as a concept was an “ideal opportunity,” to set the game apart from the competition by “overcoming one of the genre’s most difficult technical hurdles”.

“Our vehicle rigging and suspension system had to cater for this broad range, many with exposed and highly visible suspension,” he said. “We settled for a technically complex real-time physics based suspension system to increase the level of realism. Havok physics and driver ragdoll tech were also key ingredients for the vehicles in MotorStorm and added an additional level of believability on the new PlayStation 3 hardware. Components that fell off the vehicles or hinged now looked convincing and the drivers being flung from their vehicles added further spectacle to crashes.

“The successful implementation turned out to be one of the games most defining features and achievements. Continual refinement of gameplay and visuals was invaluable in achieving final results, so it was key to have a process which allowed frequent reviews and frequent iteration.

“The biggest issues faced in preparing the events were pretty fundamental design challenges: how would the event affect gameplay before, during and after it had triggered? The events were designed with fairness in mind from the beginning: they should be triggered far enough away so that the fastest vehicle with a clear run at full boost would experience as much of the event as possible and not be disadvantaged.

“Another issue came about because of the sheer number of contributions necessary in preparing the artwork; from modelling, to animation, to VFX/particles, back to modelling, then to audio, etc. Getting the right person working on the right aspect of the event at the right time was initially a pain, but we were well-managed, and the team was amazing in producing 280+ events on a tight schedule.”

It’s a very techy read, to be fair, but an interesting one nonetheless. Get the full thing over on GI.biz.

Motorstorm Apocalypse will launch in the UK next Thursday.

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