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bowendesign
04-11-2005, 05:31 AM
Hey, you probably don't know, but what the heck!

I've been checking out the shots of late, and I can't say I've been too impressed with the selection of pics that've been floating around. They're compositionally rather bland, and much of the scenery doesn't contain the same strong silhouettes (as in shapes, not actual silhouettes) as the other Myst titles. Now that little whinge is over, I just wanted to know how far Myst is going to push my machine.

Recent games have used HDR, stencil shadows, parallax mapping and pixel shader 3.0, and are able to disable them for lower-end gamers to be able to use them. Games like Far Cry, Thief 3 and Splinter Cell all have very well realised backgrounds utilising such effects and help lift the game up just that little bit extra.

Seeing as Myst V is the last in the series that's always pushed technical boundaries since it's inception, it'd be a shame to leave such atmospheric and effective effects behind, particularly when the game doesn't have any AI requirements of any kind.

To those who might "bah humbug" these kind of effects, I can tell you they can make a game look amazing. Enabling the higher settings on EQ2 and Splinter Cell Chaos Theory can make a world of difference to the atmosphere and realism of the game. Particularly Parallax Mapping, which makes textures appear like raised bumps and react to light.

http://www.brandonfurtwangler.com/index.php?m=200408

http://www.step2ice.com/pics/chaos2.jpg
Above shows PS1.1 and 3.0 on the right, including the above effects mentioned in my post.

For more info on these effects check out this piece on Splinter Cell 3 -

http://www.3dvelocity.com/reviews/splintercell/chaos_3.htm

mszv
04-11-2005, 09:37 PM
Hi Ben, glad you found us. I remember you!

As you know, Cyan often isn't super forthcoming about their games, before they are released. Oh good - I see you got here in time to add your questions to the list for Rand Miller.

Stick around - there's ususally someone around here who knows a bit about the graphics technolgy, the game engines they are using, and has some theories on how it will work!

Personally, I think that the screenshot of the tunnels is rather pretty. Then again, I've been wanting to see those tunnels since a potential screenshot was released, back in the olden days when Uru was called "mudpie".

Alahmnat
04-12-2005, 03:53 AM
The real question with regards to this technology is whether or not the programmers at Cyan have, in the past year since the last Uru expansion pack was released, had time to actually implement all of the new shinies that seem to ooze from the realtime world on an almost daily basis anymore while still having to port the Uru engine to a new game that would be cross-platform-compatible and not connected to the internet.

Answer? I've no idea. You'd prolly have to ask Chogon (MarkD), but I think he's still in his office and probably hasn't left since January http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif.

bowendesign
04-12-2005, 04:55 AM
Thanks, I got the feeling no-one would be sure on this. I'm sure Myst V will look good, but it'd be a shame if it was behind the technology curve if only because things have come a long way this past year in terms of environment rendering.

Sure, the story's important, but as we all know it's also the backdrops that're a big draw! No stress though, it'd be nice to know but it's not important.

@mszv - HIYA! ;D

Deg__
04-12-2005, 08:49 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by bowendesign:
Thanks, I got the feeling no-one would be sure on this. I'm sure Myst V will look good, but it'd be a shame if it was behind the technology curve if only because things have come a long way this past year in terms of environment rendering.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

But it's also important that as many people as possible can play Myst V. Most Myst fans, unlike Half-Life and Splinter Cell fans, don't had cutting-edge computers. By not having the latest technology, more people can play the game.

I'd love for Myst V to be using the Unreal engine (that powers Splinter Cell). But right now I don't think Cyan has the time or money to implement it.

Cheers,
- Deg -

bowendesign
04-13-2005, 02:36 AM
LOL, not quite what I was saying. Most engines have options to turn off such computer-bending properties as HDR and to choose different shaders altogether. Besides, to be honest, when Uru was coming out the argument for it being in 3D was that Myst originally pushed the boat out technologically with the first title.

I'd imagine, as with most engines given time, the engine Uru used has been worked on and optimised, and effects like these would be added into that engine. Just because these effects are (hopefully) there doesn't mean people have to use them.

Most games, as I'm sure you know, can disable options such as Anti Aliasing etc. or lower the resolution to be able to play on older machines. Especially something like the Unreal Engine. It'd just be nice, as it's the last game, to have such options available in this new one for those who can use it.

And when other's catch up, hopefully it'll look as beautiful in ten years time as Riven still does now.

the_fibber
04-14-2005, 03:34 AM
I've heard of fan additions to projects that add filters to add high end visual effects to projects, so if Myst V doesn't include all the whizz-bangs you'd like, find some technical bods to add them in. Have a good computer though, it's more power consuming than having them integrated by 1st party.

Personally, I wouldn't care if the game looked worse than the original Myst, so long as the story is as strong and immersive as it always has been. But I can see your point of view.

bowendesign
04-15-2005, 12:57 AM
Well, the new shots allayed my fears from the original ones a little (didn't like the design). Here's the JA+ link, scroll to the bottom for Qrious' post -

http://www.justadventure.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=AdvGameDiscuss;action=display;num=1 112359304;start=30

Besides, I know HDR bloom is a little overused nowadays, but personally I think these shots - at least the outside one - are crying out for it!

Alahmnat
04-15-2005, 08:39 AM
I still say it's not the tools but what you do with them that actually counts when all's said and done, and Cyan's style and design, while not as photo-real as other games on the market, have a certain aire of mystique and an aethereal nature to them which is quite absent from other games, and I'd take what they've got as-is over an effects-laden game with the best bells and whistles in the industry, because it just wouldn't... feel right. Granted, yes, Myst has always pushed the edges of technology, but there is a point at which throwing more technology at a game which doesn't need it is a waste of time, resources, and can potentially impact the time spent on implementing story (and with a production cycle as rapid as the one for End of Ages, you focus on getting the game *built* first and foremost, and then stick new technology in when you can).

The problem, as I see it, with implementing a ton of high-end effects in End of Ages is that only a very, very small number of people who play the game will actually see it as intended by Cyan, because the people who play Myst these days are not, typically, the kind of people who want to, or can even afford to go out and plunk down 350 bucks on the latest and greatest video hardware. And unlike a lot of companies who either don't care if older systems can't run the game as intended or implement a stripped-down, very visually inferior way of viewing the game on older hardware, Cyan wants as many people as possible to see the game the same way. Because of that overall quality decision, certain high-end effects are likely not goig to be implemented because, well, there's just no way everyone will be able to see them. Taking Uru for example, there's only one thing that comes to mind in that game that actually looks any different on older hardware: water. Anything above a GeForce 2 will display the sort of water you see in the game's screenshots, while anything less than that will display the sort of water that was used in realMYST: multiple planes undulating and sliding around. Based on that decision, it would appear that Cyan's target system is one that has something between a GeForce 2 and a GeForce 4 or even an FX (and the ATi equivalents), which means that a lot of high-end hardware shaders and pixel effects are going to fall outside that range, and are just likely not going to be used.

mszv
04-15-2005, 11:28 AM
I like those screenshots, also available at http://www.cyanworlds.com , as listed in the Myst V spoiler section of this forum. So far, we don't have the new screenshots on the Ubisoft Myst V site (though that site is very nice, you can get to it from http://mystworlds.ubi.com/us/ , left side, click on Product Sites, then Myst V.

Oh, I don't know. The Myst series games are all about beautiful worlds. Aside from good design, you want them to look as good as possible, which to me means using the latest technology. I want those worlds to really seem alive, and I want to feel like I'm actually in them, and I want the game to help me out with doing that, as much as possible. You know what I mean, you can read words on a page and start to feel like you are really there, but I want the visuals and the sound of the game to suck me in!

So, I figure that Cyan is, maybe, implementing as least some of the optional high-end features on the new cards because that's what they do. They are know for their visuals, so it makes sense to me that they would want to keep up, if for nothing else for the way that implementing the new features of the game cards would help them with their next project, both in showing they can do the stuff and in selling their next project.

bowendesign
04-15-2005, 11:30 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Alahmnat:
I still say it's not the tools but what you do with them that actually counts when all's said and done, and Cyan's style and design, while not as photo-real as other games on the market, have a certain aire of mystique and an aethereal nature to them which is quite absent from other games, and I'd take what they've got as-is over an effects-laden game with the best bells and whistles in the industry, because it just wouldn't... _feel_ right. Granted, yes, Myst has always pushed the edges of technology, but there is a point at which throwing more technology at a game which doesn't need it is a waste of time, resources, and can potentially impact the time spent on implementing story (and with a production cycle as rapid as the one for End of Ages, you focus on getting the game *built* first and foremost, and then stick new technology in when you can). <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Personally I feel Cyans design style is mainly to do with the top-notch work of Richard Vander Wende. Riven was great because of the way the world "came together" and all the games since then haven't fused the game with the environments in as nearly a successful way. Including Cyan's own Uru. Why Vander Wende hasn't been used since is beyond me - you just need to look at the Making of Riven to see how big an impact he had on the design.

Now the landscapes feel empty, ethereal and dreamlike, rather than full of visual cues. Gehns world was designed around him. Now the latest titles just feel like pretty hubs with action taking place in them.

What I've seen so far is much the same as Uru - strong silhouettes, a little too clean, but otherwise just pretty backgrounds. Hopefully I'll be proved wrong.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>The problem, as I see it, with implementing a ton of high-end effects in End of Ages is that only a very, _very_ small number of people who play the game will actually see it as intended by Cyan, because the people who play Myst these days are not, typically, the kind of people who want to, or can even afford to go out and plunk down 350 bucks on the latest and greatest video hardware. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yes, perversely, Uru required it. Cyan don't think that way - they make games the way they want them, and quite rightly too. They didn't let the technicalities stop Uru's development. We all required broadband connections, we all needed new graphics cards... at the time the game was pretty high end. Ambition eventually overwhelmed the project, which was a shame, but I'm one of the older school of thought who didn't like the way Uru's story brought in the slightly too religious/new age element which ended up overcomplicating things. But I digress...

Point is, Cyan have never compromised their vision. And to be frank, having higher end option available (if they can be made available) would be a way to go to future proof it that little more. As long as it looked good on the low-end, then it really doesn't matter.

Besides, your argument could be applied to the move into 3D as well! Many people are going to be playing it with lower textures, fewer options ticked and low resolutions. They're not seeing it the way Cyan intended either.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>And unlike a lot of companies who either don't care if older systems can't run the game as intended or implement a stripped-down, very visually inferior way of viewing the game on older hardware, Cyan wants as many people as possible to see the game the same way. Because of that overall quality decision, certain high-end effects are likely not goig to be implemented because, well, there's just no way everyone will be able to see them. Taking Uru for example, there's only one thing that comes to mind in that game that actually looks any different on older hardware: water. [quote]

Anything above a GeForce 2 will display the sort of water you see in the game's screenshots, while anything less than that will display the sort of water that was used in realMYST: multiple planes undulating and sliding around. Based on that decision, it would appear that Cyan's target system is one that has something between a GeForce 2 and a GeForce 4 or even an FX (and the ATi equivalents), which means that a lot of high-end hardware shaders and pixel effects are going to fall outside that range, and are just likely not going to be used. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Again, I had a good midrange system and Uru was quite a strain at the time. Lower-enders would have to do more than turn off water to see it without the dreaded FPS hit. I had an Athlon 1800XP with a Geforce TI4600 and it had moments where it wasn't smooth at all. I very much doubt a Geforce 2 is going to even run Myst IV, and would be highly suprised if it did to any degree of quality...

I can see the points in your arguments, but otherwise I haven't seen any moves by Cyan that validate them. They've always aimed high. Uru was high at the time, even the games made by other companies like Presto and Ubisoft were pretty system intensive - mainly on the processor.

Hopefully, the options will be there for at least some kind of effects. Playing Splinter Cell with HDR on is a real treat. The game plays with the light anyway, but having extra elements like focal adjustments when stepping out into a bright area from a dark space pulls you in further.

Imagine walking through the bottom of a crevice (spelling?!) with a bright line in front of you, not being able to see the detail beyond because your in a dark, claustraphobic space. Stepping out, you're momentarily blinded, but the light clears from your eyes as you adjust to a breathtaking vista.

If anything, seeing as the more intelligent production design of Riven has taken a back seat to breathtaking backdrops and dreamlike spaces, I'd say keeping the high-end of the game high would be wise.

Dark Screen
04-16-2005, 11:48 PM
I don't know what you are talking about but Uru still has awesome graphics and it's old now. Contrary to what many people think, Uru does have high quality graphics.

Most likely Myst V will have even better graphics so it's going to be awesome.

bowendesign
04-17-2005, 03:24 AM
I never said Uru didn't have good graphics, it does. It was also coupled that with an outrageous control scheme despite beta testers noting the problem and an overcomplicated backstory. It truly is a triumph of production design above all else. I'm not a massive fan of Uru, but it has more visual imagination than most games in recent memory.

Point is, Uru required many, many Myst fans to upgrade archaic computers to play it. Myst V will need the same IF you want to see it with all the bells and whistles. My comments are purely in the "what if" range - if Cyan were to include high-end effects, not only would it "future proof" it a bit but they'd add to some of the superb images we're seeing. Lights glowing in the mist, the iris adjusting from place to place making for beautiful reveal-moments, stone walls that don't just look like textures but look like you can reach out and touch them.

I don't pretend to know the technicalities of implementing this into the older Uru engine. But I'll tell you this - another Ubi game, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory looks superb without these effects, it truly does. People who don't have them won't miss them.

I've had to upgrade my card recently for work and got an Asus Geforce N6600GT, the best my aging 333MHZ FSB motherboard can use to full effect (most new computers ship with 800FSB or so). I have an Athlon XP3000+ and 1GB of PC2700 Ram. It's all mid-range, cheap stuff if you're building a computer.

But the addition of the N6600GT allows for pixel shader 3.0, and turning it on has turned an already great game into something more akin to an experience. The first level set in the rain really benefits from parallax/bump mapping, and a later ship level is doubly atmospheric thanks to the more subtle use of light.

Look at those shots of Myst V. Now tell me they won't look better with these little, realistic touches - textures that look raised, wet walls that glisten, the glow of distant lights which bleed around objects in front creating eerie silhouettes. Myst has always been about - at least in the general adventure gamers eyes (come to JA+ and AG'ers to find out) - eye candy and solid puzzling. The story of Atrus and his family is great, but it's not the centerpiece. If the graphics can be made that touch more convincing on high-end machines, then why not? As long as everyone else can use it and the design is strong enough to look good sans effects, and you know it will be, then really it's not much of a debate. Myst has always been at the forefront of certain technologies and used them to its benefit, without compromise and not just to dazzle, but involve. Having now seen these effects in action myself, I'm excited at the prospect that Myst V might use them to it's advantage.

And why not?

Dark Screen
04-17-2005, 11:08 AM
I look at the Myst V screenshots and see awesome graphics. I guess some of the lighting does look kind of like Uru. The beems of light that were 2d. You can't always tell from screenshots though. In Uru, there were some lighting effects. One of my favorite parts in Uru is the level that has rain. There are fireflies, plants that shoot particles, cool trees, and then it gets darker and starts thunder storming. That rain is one of the best "digital experiences" I have had. There were light things that faded in and out, etc.

I guess I'm just saying with Uru already looking so good, I don't know why you think Myst V will have outdated graphics. The screenshots look like they have improved reflections, lighting, water, etc.

mszv
04-17-2005, 03:40 PM
Yeah, Uru looks good, but it doesn't have all the stuff Ben talked about. If the "other games" have that really nifty new stuff, I want it in Myst V too! I admit, shallow Myst series games fan that I am - to me the Myst series games are about how they look. I make an exception for Myst IV, the only game in the series where I really cared about what the heck was going to happen!

Wait - where's Alahmnat - is the game engine the same or different from Uru - graphics engine, physics engine. He always knows that stuff. Alah, where are you?

GadrenURU
04-17-2005, 04:43 PM
i can answer that for you. the physics library (the thing that was preventing a Mac Uru) is being replaced, but it's using the same graphics engine: Plasma.
well, actually, it's an updated version of Plasma..

mszv
04-17-2005, 06:35 PM
Thanks GadrenUru!!

Mowog
04-21-2005, 09:33 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> One of my favorite parts in Uru is the level that has rain. There are fireflies, plants that shoot particles, cool trees, and then it gets darker and starts thunder storming. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>Yeah, I vividly remember the first time it rained on me in Eder Kemo. I just sat back and laughed out loud, it looked so good. The lightning illuminating the valley, the lights along the walkway, the rain streaking down, the clouds in motion, etc. made for an unforgettable show.

Since then I've integrated my audio system with my PC (http://www.ketcherside.net/deskpic_small.jpg), so I can now enjoy the sounds through a pair of Infinity 3-way speaker cabinets. The thunder is awesome... plus, adding in 3D stereo via a pair of eDimensional LC shutter glasses has also greatly enhanced the experience. I'm hoping that I can use the glasses in Myst V as well.

Alahmnat
04-21-2005, 02:29 PM
Just an aside...

I know there's been a lot of hubub about the bubbles that appear in almost all of the screenshots released so far, but I've yet to actually see anybody point this out, so I thought I would.

There's two ways to do these bubbles. One would be to build actual geometry for the bubble, animate it, and give it some obscenely complicated transparency fall-off texture with some fancy Bloom or glow or whatever you want to call it applied. This would, presumably, be the high-end, Unreal2 way of doing it.

Alternatively, you could build the bubble seperately in MAX with all of that fancy high-end stuff applied, render it out to an animation, and then drop the animation onto a plane with a basic opacity map and lock the plane to look at the camera (and look, you've also just saved yourself a couple hundred polys, which is a Good Thing(tm) http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif). This, presumably, would be the low-tech way of doing it. It also has the side-effect of creating a little bit of a clipping effect on the ground where the plane intersects the surrounding geometry, but I would say it's a small and barely noticable sacrifice for increasing the ability for people to view the bubble the same way even on older computers that can't handle that kind of glitz in realtime. Now, I may in fact be wrong about this since I'm not sure if the bubble would be able to handle being walked right up to in this way, but it looks for all the world to me, speaking as someone who just spent 2 straight weeks in MAX finishing a demo reel, like Cyan used the low-tech way of doing things to make those bubbles.

There's actually all kinds of low-tech tricks in Uru if you look for them... lights don't glow, they just have planes intersecting with them with a glow texture on it. Metal isn't actually reflecting the surrounding environment in realtime (and neither is the water, often times... Gira is, I think, the only place where the actual pixel shader is used), it's just an environment map assigned to the reflect/refract channel (this is why the reflection of the feeder in Teledahn doesn't move when you activate the actual device). All of the shadows, with the exception of your avatar and the terrain shadows in Gira, are baked onto the environment, meaning they're part of the actual texture information, so you're not taking a performance hit by dynamically generating shadows on everything (and on top of that, it looks like there's no real displacement or bump maps being used for surfaces, it's just baked shadows, which likely came from more complicated original textures with bump and displacement and all that applied). Yet despite all of the low-end trickery, it still manages to look very, very good, and plays virtually the same (with the exception of framerate) on a GeForce 2 and a GeForce 6800. Rand actually had other developers asking him how they pulled off some of the stuff in Uru with modern tools, and he had to tell them they'd used some of the oldest tricks in the book. That's something that interests me, actually... that other developers have gotten so wrapped up in the lastes and greatest in effects tools that they can't even think to use a low-tech alternative for something as simple as shadows. What I find rather amusing, though, is that they couldn't tell the difference http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif.

I don't know how much new high-end stuff has been added to their Plasma engine in version 2.1 (Uru was built in Plasma 2), and I don't even know how much time they would have had to make additions like that since the engine was updated, AFAIK, starting in July of last year when PotS was released. The biggest change, obviously, is the physics engine, but beyond that I'm not sure how much new stuff has been added. It appears to have support for higher-res textures, though, so that's two changes I can point out just by looking at what we've got so far. I suppose time will tell, eh?

JustBrett
04-22-2005, 12:32 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Alahmnat:
I don't know how much new high-end stuff has been added to their Plasma engine in version 2.1 (Uru was built in Plasma 2), <snip> It appears to have support for higher-res textures, though, <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I don't know if we can be sure of that. I seem to recall hearing that Plasma 2 had much higher-res capabilities than we saw in Uru, but they couldn't push it to its limit for an online game.

DudeMiester
04-27-2005, 02:36 PM
What you would do for the bubbles is simply create a cubemap that contains what the environment looks like from each direction. This is then applied to the bubble, which can be animated however you want, in a single texture pass. Of course, you'll want to modulate the reflection and transparancy based on the bubble's material, probably with a fresnal term. Maybe throw in a diffraction term (splits up the different colours of the reflection like a rainbow), and a texture to represent swirls in the bubble. All in all, a fairly simple process with lots of existing examples, and not terribly hard on the graphics card. If you want to make the cubemap update in real time instead of being static, you can re-render one face per frame so the cost is minimised. You could also have an animated swirl texture, generate it procedurally, or distort it.

As for those higher-end features, Myst V better have them (optional of course) or I won't buy it. You can rant about how it's the gameplay not graphics, I don't care. In order for me to buy a game it must excell at both. If they give up artistic vision and quality, simply to appeal to some demographic group or low end consumber, then they have just thrown out their integrity in my eyes. I really hope someone from Cyan starts posting real technical info soon, and silence my complaining.

Dark Screen
05-02-2005, 11:45 AM
DudeMiester, have you seen the screenshots for Myst V?

DudeMiester
05-08-2005, 04:47 PM
Yes, and I'm unimpressed. The only good things are decent polycounts and texture resolution. Lighting is done only by aniquated lightmapping technology, and light blooms are done by aniquated billboards. Overall, it looks very very old, worse then HL2 even, which is already very outdated. If you want to see the kind of calibre graphics I would be satisfied with, then just take a look at these websites:

http://www.artificialstudios.com/media.php
The countless Unreal Engine 3 games
http://gametrailers.com/gamepage.php?id=292

Of course, these engines offer features and visual complexity far beyond the capabilities of modern hardware. However, such things can be scaled back as far as necessary, enabling the engine to be run on a huge range of hardware. This is what I strongly believe Myst V not only should have, but absolutely needs to have. Incredible visual quality is one of the founding principals of the series, but I fear in this latest version this principal has been violated. If such fears turn out to be true, it will be a tragedy indeed.

Dark Screen
05-09-2005, 12:12 AM
"...worse then HL2 even, which is already very outdated."

"Of course, these engines offer features and visual complexity far beyond the capabilities of modern hardware."

Yeah, OK.

Most of those screenshots don't show environments similar to Myst. The ones that do appear similar don't look better. That site also features the misuse of some of the dx9 effects...items being overly shiny is the main thing.

Also, it's hard to tell how good a game looks from screenshots. It's often better when it's actually being rendered infront of you.

I'd agree with you that the game isn't a futuristic tech demo; no game is.

This game is supposed to come out this year, not a year from now or longer. That could change though I guess.

I'm impressed by the screenshots of Myst V.

Alahmnat
05-09-2005, 02:35 AM
I'm not entirely sure why I continue to waste my energy discussing this, but speaking as someone who is actually trying to get into the industry, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: it's not the effects you have at your disposal, it's what you do with them. The vast majority of the shots in the artificialstudios.com link are very poorly modeled and have bland or mediocre texturing compared to the stuff we've seen from End of Ages.

To use a few examples, first, let's consider this picture (http://www.artificialstudios.com/screenshot.php?pic=mn10.jpg), which actually has some pretty good texturing in it. Assuming that the shot is intended to show off realtime shadowing (since that's the only potentially stand-out thing I can see in this picture), all of the shadows could be done just as easily (if not moreso) by using the "old-fashioned" method of baking them into the environment before dumping the map into the engine. In fact, the "old fashioned" method actually has a *benefit* to its use, in that you don't have any overhead on the scene while it generates the shadows on top of the existing geometry 30 times per second (or however many your card can manage to eek out). Compare to this shot (http://www.dpwr.net/forums/index.php?act=module&module=gallery&cmd=si&img=1649) of K'veer, which is somewhat similarly lit.

Okay, water. Something that has definitely come a long way, even since Uru's beta test, where they were originally using the realMYST-style undulating planes with sliding textures. To compare, first, let's take an *actual* sunrise which I photographed a few years ago in Florida. http://www.deviantart.com/view/330213/

Compare that to Noloben (http://www.dpwr.net/forums/index.php?act=module&module=gallery&cmd=si&img=1340), which actually has similar sun placement and cloud formations.

Now compare that to these (http://www.artificialstudios.com/screenshot.php?pic=fi13.jpg) two (http://www.artificialstudios.com/screenshot.php?pic=fi11.jpg) shots from artificial studios. If you were to ask me (though I know you wouldn't, so I'll tell you anyway), I would say that Noloben does a better job of actually depicting what water *really* looks like when the sun hits it without going so completely overboard as to look ridiculous, as is, IMHO, the case with the two water shots I've brought up (especially the first, which looks like it's a cloudy day, so where's that enormous sun glint coming from?). To say nothing of how incredibly distracting that glint is (and I still can't get over how freaking ginormous it is either... seriously, it's like looking at someone's fog lamps).

More massively inapropriate sun glint from a more recent image (http://www.artificialstudios.com/screenshot.php?pic=dr3.jpg) for good measure, too. And I feel like I'm not wearimg my glasses... seriously, why would you want to blur out 90% of your scene? I mean, depth-of-field is cool and has its applications, yes, but this is just improper.

Maybe it's also just me, but there really wasn't anything that spectacular about the trailer for DarkSector either... the shadows are things that Cyan's done in Uru before, as well as the dynamic lighting (for shadows, check out the rooftop of Gahreesen, for dynamic lighting, check out Eder Gira [which incidentally has a much more detailed sky than the day/night cycle on artificial studios] or the pyramid chamber in Kadish Tolesa)... and they've done steam vents too, in Er'Cana, and they look just like the ones in the trailer (as well as slightly older-looking ones in Eder Gira). Perhaps the only really stand-out think in the trailer that could be remotely applicable to Cyan's environments is the rain, which I'll admit is better than what was in Eder Kemo, but then Eder Kemo is about 5 years old now http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif.

I think there's something else at work here with Cyan's quality of work compared to the general level of insanity that modern games are approaching, too, and it has a lot to do with the same reason Pixar's movies are more cartoony-looking than the competition's (though honestly, Dreamworks has lost it completely with Madagascar, and Disney's offerings are just terrible, but that's neither here nor there), yet regularly look "better". Again, speaking as someone with a bit of experience and strictly from my point of view, CG - especially realtime - is making a bit of a mistake by attempting to bridge the gulf between cartoon and reality by trying their best to mimic reality at every turn. A great example of what happens when things go horribly wrong is Polar Express... it strove for photoreality in so many ways that it never quite achieved (especially with regards to the characters), and as a result, watching it is a bit unsettling, like there's something wrong but you don't know what exactly, and you can't fix it, so it's just an uncomfortable oddness. I think Cyan does well by staying just shy of a photo-realistic environment in EoA, largely because realtime still just isn't there yet, frankly, but also because there's a degree of surrealism that has been present in all of their games (yes, even Riven, the most insanely photo-realistic game by about a mile and a half), and I think they're playing that quality to realtime's strength at capturing a caricature of an environment, which is what animation is all about (which, coincidentally, is why Pixar's characters, despite being arguably cartoonish, are far more believable as actual living things than the zombie-like people in Polar Express). The brain gets left to fill in all of the missing details, which the brain is a lot better at than the computer. I really can't tell you how many people remember there being moving water in Myst. There wasn't. Seriously. Go back and play it. The water never moves. It's rippled like it's supposed to be moving, and there's sloshing sounds on the shoreline like it is moving, but it never does. There's no pixel-animation, no realtime effects, no looping pre-rendered videos. Just infinitely-tiled bump-mapped static plane made to look like water. It worked pretty darn well for the time. And really, that's what I'm driving at... it doesn't *have* to be perfect, largely because I can guarantee you it never will be... nature is just too random for the computer to simulate effectively. The focus of CG should be on believability, not realism, and I was tranied on this concept. Heck, Cyan's entire gaming universe is built on believability over reality... how else would you expect floating water, singing crystals, and Linking Books to actually work? They don't, really, but there's enough contextual information available to us that we can make the hidden, unspoken (and undisplayed) connections between what's there and what's not and create in our minds a much richer picture than what the computer alone could create. CG in general, and animation in particular, is about caricature, not the slavish effort to duplicate reality. When you aim at reality at the expense of all else, you get flat, uninteresting, and oddish-looking scenes and characters. What Cyan is very, very good at is caricature... creating slighly exagerated, slightly cartoonish, yet still strikingly beautiful scenery that sticks in the mind a lot better than the "real world" of modern gaming as depicted in Doom 3 and Unreal 2.

And if your enjoyment of the game is so utterly ruined by the lack of a few extremely-high-end effects, I suggest you not go back and play Myst anytime soon. You're likely in for a disapointment. I would also suggest you save yourself the potential agony and just not buy EoA either... but I'm sure you will, and that you'll be back to complain about it again in the fall.

You'll have to excuse me, all of the criticism in this community is starting to get to me.

mszv
05-09-2005, 03:27 AM
Well, you know, Alahmnat, discussing how a game looks or should look is when everyone has their own opinion!

I'm not following the technical discussions, but I am enjoying this thread.

It will be interesting to see how the game looks, when we get to see if for real!

bowendesign
05-10-2005, 03:37 PM
I really don't see what comparing Myst IV to the rather brilliant visual design delights of Metronome has anything to do with it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personally I prefer Metronomes shots, as they have a hell of a lot of character within them.

I find the current Myst V images rather flat. Some nice HDR and bump-maps (maybe not shadows, there's no use for them) would add some real flavour to the scenes. Parallax mapping can also come off as incredibly realistic. As you say, Alahmnat, it's what you do with it that counts - and that's why I'd like to see Cyan implement such effects in Myst V as I know they'd use them effectively without overdoing it. I believe they could take them to the next level.

I completely agree with you about Polar Express BTW. But Myst has always been about striving for photorealism within an unreal world. Sure it doesn't have to be perfect, and it's totally up to Cyan to do with what they please, but to have post-processing effects available to who can use them can make a world of difference. SC:CS looks amazing with the extras on, moreso that playing normally. Just that extra edge of believablity to the environments.

You've also skipped over the fact Polar Express suffered from terrible use of "performance capture". 1) Technology isn't at a place where it can replicate nuance as yet in the human face 2) Tom Hanks was acting, who can't do nuance. The rigging was bad and hand-animation, which is tailored to accentuating the performance through various techniques, was left at the door. The backgrounds and directorial technique was superb though.

I work in animation. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Sure realism isn't important. But Cyan have always been at the forefront of technology, and even if it's just merely icing, then at least the effects are tasty.

It's not criticism. It's just merely suggestion. I'll end up buying and enjoying it whatever, but it'd just give me a warm fuzzy feeling one of the most "out there" companies in the world are testing the waters and coming up trumps.

EAX sound design would be nice too.

*runs*

Alahmnat
05-10-2005, 10:56 PM
Well, I know for certain that they'll be using EAX in EoA... it was used rather extensively in Uru (though I always had the problem of the echo not turning off after I shut the game down, so my music and IM sounds would reverb rather irritatingly http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif), and Tim has really harped on the Plasma developers to make sure he's got some wicked-cool audio tools and effects in place over the past few years.

Perhaps, and I'm just speculating on this point because I'm actually not up to speed on the hardware stuff, but it's possible that Cyan's not implementing a lot of dx9 effects because the Mac doesn't use DirectX, it uses OpenGL, and I'm not sure OpenGL supports the same stuff, or at least not as well or not in the same way (hooray for total lack of effects standards between platforms http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_razz.gif), and I'm pretty sure Cyan would be committing PR suicide if they came out with a second Myst game that wasn't Mac compatible or that had inferior graphics compared to the PC, given the rather disproportionately large percentage of Myst players who use the Mac.

I'll stop debating since, as you say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I rather prefer the vivid colors and vibrant landscapes that Cyan makes over the gritty industrial stuff. I guess my point is really one of performance... if you can get away with using an old-school trick that more computers will support and it ends up looking just as good as a brand-new dx9 effect that only works on the latest generation of prohibitively expensive video cards, more power to you (case in point: the ubiquitous bubbles, which are actually images or animations [tough to tell from a static image http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif] mapped to a plane if I'm not mistaken). Still, I think the engine has come a long way even since the release of Path of the Shell just last year. For the sake of comparing apples with apples, here's a couple of shots to illustrate my point http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif.

K'veer in PotS (http://www.cyanworlds.com/view.php?xml=tpots_10.xml)
K'veer in EoA (http://www.cyanworlds.com/view.php?xml=myst5_14.xml)

Mowog
05-11-2005, 07:07 AM
In case I haven't said before, I really enjoy and appreciate your postings, Al. It's great to have a mod who's not only a Myst enthusiast, but an aspiring world builder to boot. Thanks!

I wanted to throw this in, in favor of The Polar Express... the peculiar look of the characters was only partially the result of the technology, IMHO. Note that there was a serious effort on the part of the developers to capture the flavor of the original Chris Van Allsburg illustrations. I've been a fan of his for years, and own several of his books. Polar Express was the first one we bought. The stunning pictures were done in pastels (or maybe oil, at least it looks like pastels), and the characters have a typically Van Allsburg look to them, which is to say, just a bit surreal, soft-focus, and luminous. The combination of the Van Allsburg style with performance capture resulted in a strange hybrid that worked for the most part, but I'll admit that it was somewhat strange on the whole. I didn't mind that very much, as my chief concern was that the developers would capture the eerie dreamlike quality of the book. I think they got it down quite well, even if the characters came out a little wooden.

As for Pixar, I'm constantly amazed at what they do. If you compare them to Dreamworks (which is pretty easy -- think of "A Bug's Life" vs. "Antz," then "Finding Nemo" vs. "Shark Tale"), there seems to be a magic there that transcends the technology. The Pixar films draw you into their worlds, while the Dreamworks efforts have some nice moments, but on the whole seem uneven "wannabes." That's harsh, I know, but I've never really cared for the darker tone of the Dreamworks films. Plus, what's with them releasing Antz right on the heels of A Bug's Life, and Shark Tale shortly after Finding Nemo? Speaking of Shark Tale, the character design; vertical fish with necks and heads; really put me off. I never bothered to see the film, but again, that's just me. End of that rant...

I think Al hinted at this above, but one of the things I like about Cyan's worlds is not that they render realistic objects in a surrealistic way; rather that they render surrealistic objects in a very realistic way. That's what pulls us into the worlds, and makes them so believable.

Al wrote:
...and Linking Books to actually work? They don't, really... No they don't; especially if you're playing Until Uru and your Ethernet card dies. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/cry.gif

DudeMiester
05-13-2005, 11:06 AM
Of course I don't expect them to use the technologies to make Myst V look just like reality. Futhermore, I also agree with you that what you do with the technology is very important. However, technology is a tool, and the better the tool, the better you can make your work. Of course, if you suck then no matter what tool you use it will suck, but if you're very good then a better tool can make all the difference. I think it certainly does show too. In many of these images it would look so much more beautiful because of the added sharpness/softness/movement/etc that various high end technique allow.

Basically, to me this is like Micheal Shumacher (sp?) limiting himself to a Volkswagon Golf, when he should be driving a Ferrari F1 car. Sure he can drive both **** good, but the tool he uses makes a HUGE difference.

Mowog
05-17-2005, 09:09 AM
Of course, if you suck then no matter what tool you use it will suck, but if you're very good then a better tool can make all the difference. Ha... very good observation. I play in a band that is definitely a "just for fun" effort, although we have played a good many gigs for real money. One of my gags to the rest of the group was, "Considering how much our instruments cost, you'd think we'd sound better." Obviously, the same goes for technology.