Naughty Dog are crazy. That is the only explanation for the amount of work they put in for the most ridiculous kinds of minutiae in their games. Naughty Dog games are usually overflowing with all sorts of neat little detains, some of which are so specific, they probably won’t be noticed by anybody. And yet, they do it anyway.
That is the mark of the true artist- and it is what sets Naughty Dog’s games apart, and makes them a class apart from the rest. Take the sandbags in the upcoming Uncharted 4, for example- when the game had its gameplay demo shown off at E3 last year, the high speed chase the demo depicted involved bullets flying all around the place, causing some bags of sand and grain that were stacked around to explode in the most ridiculous ways.
It turns out Naughty Dog had put in an insane amount of effort into just that one small animation, using the Havok engine to define particle physics properly, and modeling the animation realistically based on the environment, the direction the show came from, the speed, momentum, and angle, and so on.
“[The technical department] pre set up the chunks that will disappear as you shoot them, and they physicalize and fly away. So that’s how we do that, alright? And then we have environment artists that populate those, like specifically based on where you’re gonna be shot from and all that, to help performance,” Naughty Dog’s Andrew Maximov explained in a talk at GDC.
“But as far as the grain bag goes, I’m pretty sure that was joints, and we played an animation when it got hit, but then as far as the pouring of the grain out, we had to do a bunch of other things. So there was a particle effect, that got spawned on one side, but then we didn’t have tech to spawn it on the other side, like with the bullet hole. So we had to hack around and basically do a gigantic decal that would go through, so we could project it on both sides.
“And then, we did a second decal, that was actually rotating 180º, but big enough to cover the radius of the grain. But then we just spawned a particle effect from the other side that would do kind of the sipping grain, and then we actually did a kind of mesh that would spawn at the probe collision from the ground from that point, and then it would start growing based on the animation of that effect. And then on top of that, we had to add a feature in the physical shader – we had separate shaders for particles and regular background geometry – so we had a feature for that that would allow particles to drive the animation of that pile of grain. So that it actually flows down as the pile gets bigger, and then when the particle stops, the animation will stop. And that was a lot of work for one tiny effect!
“And that is kind of how we do things at Naughty Dog, it’s very interesting, because one thing that I’ve had to very quickly unlearn working there is compromising- like any other place you work, they go ‘oh, we have that much time, so we can probably only get that many things done.’ Doesn’t work at Naughty Dog. No matter how much time you have, if it’s awesome, we have to do it, and we’ll make sure that it happens.”
It’s a truly little thing- no one would have minded or cared if Naughty Dog had come up with a general particulate dispersal model, you don’t even see it long enough to pay it much mind. But Naughty Dog don’t do things that way- they don’t half ass, if they do something, they do it properly.
Check out the video below, of an Uncharted 4 panel at GDC, to get more information on how Naughty Dog went about this, and other minute details in Uncharted 4. Uncharted 4 launches next month exclusively on the PS4.