The blasted remnants of the gambling capital of the world form the basis for the latest in Digital Foundry's World in Motion time-lapse presentations. Fallout: New Vegas's post apocalyptic vision of Nevada, its many and varied locations, plus of course its impressive day/night cycle were ideal subject matter for our efforts. In addition to that, the chance to put together a full-on 1080p presentation at 60 frames per second proved to be irresistible.
Unfortunately, as we discussed in the recent Face-Off, there's little doubt that the tech itself is showing its age, its underpinnings dating back to the 2006 release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Even with PC settings ramped up to the absolute maximum, there's no doubt that the lighting model is somewhat harsh on the environments, textures are of a fairly low quality, and the lack of dynamic shadows makes the renderer look positively ancient. The Gamebryo engine does support changing weather conditions (as seen in Fallout 3) but New Vegas appears to be somewhat one-note from a meteorological standpoint. Probably the most bizarre aspect of the video is the engine's somewhat medieval outlook on the positioning of the Earth in relation to the sun and moon...
Despite the outdated engine, the world of Fallout: New Vegas is still extremely impressive in many ways. The accomplished implementation of HDR makes for some superb-looking sunrises and sunsets, and the draw distance is simply phenomenal. And just like the game itself, the concept behind the world is just so much more important than the tech that powers it.
There's a sense of almost infinite adventure in New Vegas; that new things to discover lie in wait wherever you may choose to go. Fallout 3 did it better, but there's still a certain sense of unease when you chance upon a recognisable landmark reduced to wreckage and rubble in the aftermath of the apocalypse. As for the world famous Strip, not much is left, and what remains is a tiny, heavily policed area for the super-rich, surrounded by slums filled by those deemed too poor to enter...
In producing the video, we decided right from the beginning to use the PC version of the game. While it's probably the buggiest of all three SKUs (necessitating plenty of restarts during production), its "ultra" level settings produce a visual fidelity way ahead of the console games, plus of course we can run the game at 1080p with 8x multi-sampling anti-aliasing for the highest possible visual fidelity. As usual, captures are taken at 1FPS, with the resultant clips sped up to 60FPS for input into the editing system. From there we adjust the speed factor still further - the clips here run at anything from 200 per cent to 400 per cent faster depending on what looks best.
Using PC also means we can make extensive use of the in-game console. This allows us to move into free camera mode, go anywhere on the map, enter god mode and speed up time as much as we want. We used it pretty much exclusively for the Fallout 3 time-lapse, and while it does the job, only certain elements of the scene are actually accelerated: cloud cover doesn't move, for example. This time we wanted to do it right. We used the accelerated time factor to pick shots, but then moved back down to normal speed and captured video in real-time to get the correct look for all elements of the scene.
This in itself presented another difficulty. Fallout games have the annoying tendency to switch into a third-person "vanity" camera after two minutes of inactivity, but thankfully a skilful mod from the New Vegas Nexus community disabled this, allowing us to get perfect, uninterrupted shots.
With the edit locked down, the process of encoding begins. For the video embedded on this page, a downsampled 720p version at 30 frames per second was despatched to the Eurogamer back-end but in many ways it is a substantially cut-down version of the original work. For higher quality and better frame-rate, there's a 720p60 version, which should produce good results on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. For those with 532MB of bandwidth to spare, there's an ultra-deluxe 1080p60 encode which should work fine on any fast dual-core PC, as well as PlayStation 3 - though we'd recommend copying the file to hard disk to ensure that playback is as smooth as possible.
Other games in the Digital Foundry time-lapse collection: