The next generation of gaming consoles hasn’t even hit us yet but that doesn’t mean we’re done dissecting the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ahead of their respective releases this November. We recently got a chance to speak to Interactive Data Visualization (IDV) which developed SpeedTree, a virtual foliage development suite. Along with being in use for current gen games, it’s been used to generate CG effects for films like Life of Pi, Avatar, Iron Man 3 and many more.
We talked to Director of Business Development Kevin Meredith about next gen consoles, starting with how the amount of RAM would help in generating realistic foliage.
“Any improvement in console hardware can result in better real-time rendering, but every SpeedTree customer makes their own decision about how to best utilize SpeedTree in their unique game. In general, though, the kinds of vegetation effects enabled by improved hardware include more photo-real, higher-poly trees, more convincing LOD transitions, better wind and lighting and, occasionally, dynamic destruction and other physics effects.”
Meredith also told us about the potential of Cloud computing within next gen consoles and PC for SpeedTree. “Out of the box, SpeedTree doesn’t have anything that will directly take advantage of cloud computing. This isn’t to say that SpeedTree clients can’t marry the two in their integration. Streaming procedural forest population for very large worlds comes to mind.”
Of course, there’s a lot of work to be done with keeping SpeedTree up to date with current graphical demands, and we quizzed Meredith on the features that need adding. What does IDV implement to differentiate between foliage seen in sequels for the same franchise, for example?
“Our favorite example is the first Witcher game, by CD Projekt, which came out in 2007 and made outstanding use of SpeedTree version 4, with lots of dark and foreboding forests of procedural trees. But for Witcher 2, CD Projekt got to use SpeedTree v5, a major rewrite of the software that enabled hand-drawing of trees and individual branch placement and editing. As you’ll see if you play Witcher 2, they made great use of the new features, for example with branches carefully placed so that the monsters could actually climb down them convincingly to attack the hero.”
Of course, the flora and fauna further evolved with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which will be releasing next year for PS4 and Xbox One along with PC. Stay tuned for our full interview with IDV on SpeedTree and let us know your thoughts on the potential that next gen consoles hold.