Ex-Naughty Dog Dev Talks About Next Gen Facial Animation, Explains Drake’s ‘Powdered Doughnut’ Issue

John Hable talks SHAO and tessellation use for next gen.

Posted By | On 01st, Apr. 2014 Under News

Programmer John Hable recently held a rather interesting GDC talk centered around next-gen facial animation with a particular focus on the Uncharted franchise. Hable worked with Naughty Dog on Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us – considering that Uncharted 4 is currently in the works, Hable’s presentation gives some information on the techniques being used for the PS4 exclusive.

In particular, Hable recalls an issue where titular character Nathan Drake looked like “a powdered doughnut”. Hable suggested using Spherical Harmonic Ambient Occlusion, which combined ambient occlusion with spherical harmonics to determine where light could and could not come from. Hable then showcased the result of no SHAO or shadows and SHAO with shadows, which you can check out below.

Naughty Dog_No SHAO or Shadow

Naughty Dog_SHAO and Shadow

Hable did outline the detriments of using SHAO, in that while it’s “way better than nothing”, it’s too expensive in terms of vertex cost to use everywhere and it’s “not as good as a shadow”. When it comes to unshadowed lights and forward rendering, it does make things easier but only by so much.

As for adaptive tessellation, Hable talks about having this feature for this generation even if used in the most extreme cases. So what about tessellating only the silhouette? Check out comparison shots of adaptive tessellation turned off and on.

Naughty Dog_tessellation off

Naughty Dog_tessellation on

However, even for the PS4, handling tessellation can be difficult. In most multiplatform games for the PS4, Xbox One and PC, it’s often the PC that’s able to make the best use of tessellation using DirectX 11.2. If Uncharted 4 does feature some kind of tessellation, it will likely be used in such a way as to not heavily impact performance.

All in all, Hable’s presentation provides some very interesting clues as to the future of Naughty Dog’s lighting techniques for Uncharted 4 on the PS4. What are your thoughts on the above? Let us know in the comments.

You can download the entire presentation here and learn more about it over here.

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  • “In most multiplatform games for the PS4, Xbox One and PC, it’s often the PC that’s able to make the best use of tessellation using DirectX 11.2.”

    Can’t wait for DirectX 12!! Gonna be [even more of a] game-changer!

    • cozomel

      WTF are you talking about. You do know that tessellation has been around since like around 1990, right? And that OpenGL 4.x has it right? So explain to me what DX12 means for this? It can already be done. What you fail to understand though is that these systems are using AMD GPUs and they are no good for tessellation, unlike Nvidia, who is much better at it. So explain this so-called “game-changer” to me.

    • TyroneTheWhiteWizard

      pc master race

    • Xtreme Derp

      He still thinks DX12 is some special sauce that’s going to save the Xboner and bring graphics parity.

    • Dakan45

      well to be fair sony fanboys think the same, they think ps4 has some special sony sauce in it that will make it beat high end pcs…buhahahahhahahah

      They use ps3 as example, as if the cell architecture has anything to do with x86.

      Long story short the x86 architecture is well known both consoles are weak and thus there wont be much of improvment in 6 years, there is nothing to unlock.

    • Dakan45


  • cerebud

    Big thing I noticed in the video up top is that the characters eyes never move from staring directly at the camera. They really should track that as well, because the performance comes off so much better in the original actor’s face.

  • joe

    wow that facial animation is incredible. just get the eye tracking and tongue tracking now and it will be amazing.


    MY DAD RUNS A GAY CLUB!!!!!!!!


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