Upcoming vintage horror curio The Vanishing of Ethan Carter will use a revolutionary visual technique in which the artists take a boatload of photos then use the magic of technology to recreate digital 3D representations of said pics.
It's called photogrammetry and it's mighty impressive looking. Using something called Lowe's Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT) algorithm, the art team can transfer photos into game assets like magic. "Feed it with good photos taken around some object and you get the exact replica of that object, in 3D, in full color, with more detail than you could ever wish for," explained artist Andrzej Poznanski on developer The Astronaut's blog.
Poznanski suggested that this fancy new tech doesn't only look great, but it has a discernible subconscious effect on the player. For example, he noted that the following asset of a church in the game has a ton of environmental detail pertaining to its history. "If you really wanted it, you could probably make sense of it all," he said. "The floor might be more worn out around the front door, or where your chair wheels constantly scrub a patch of the floor, and the outer wall might be darker from the side that gets hit by the rain more often, etc."
"You could make sense of it all, but who cares? Your brain usually doesn't - it's real, it's normal, nothing to get excited about. However, your brain does take notice when things are not normal. Like in video games. Even if on the unconscious level, your brain points out to you all those perfectly tiling textures, all those evenly worn-out surfaces, those stains placed in all the wrong places."
He makes a good point as the church's various weather-worn details do look great, though we'll have to wait and see how big a difference that makes from an experiential point of view.
"Photogrammetry is incredible. I have been making games for 20 years, I have worked with amazing talented artists on huge AAA blockbusters like Bulletstorm or Gears of War, and you could say I am not easily impressed in the art department. But each new photoscan gets me," Poznanski exclaimed. "So much detail, so many intricacies, but most importantly, all of them just make deep sense. Cracks, stains, erosion - Mother Nature has worked a billion years on some of these assets, it's almost unfair to expect comparable quality from artists who spend no more than few days on similar assets."
"In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, you'll see some of the most realistic environment pieces ever created for a video game. Assets are no longer simplistic approximations of reality - they are reality."
It certainly looks wondrous. Get an eyeful of the work The Astronauts have been brewing up in the rotatable images below.