After the initial announcement of Metal Gear Solid V, the team working on the game went on to describe how the FOX Engine allows them to make such detailed environments running in real-time. They went over some really interesting things in the presentation and if you’re a fan of seeing behind-the-scenes, you should definitely read on…
This started with them displaying a render of their own conference, which looked almost identical in lighting, though there was still a noticeable difference in the assets displayed around the room. This room is essentially a hub for testing the lighting with various characters, which is a great idea.
Then they described the PhotoScan system, which allows for models to be generated from photographs of real-world items, including humans. This is done by creating a cast, then adding special makeup effects to it before scanning it in. They couldn’t show the final character right now but they showed a very genuine-looking model that had been taken from the cast directly, involving a complex wireframe which allows wrinkles and other blemishes to be kept faithful to its real-world counterpart.
Their texture system also seems very innovative, allowing for automatic texture rendering onto objects. An example was shown and all it took was a simple virtual painting of the object to make a very detailed item. Likewise, Marvelous Designer has allowed them to make very detailed cloth textures, which are almost photo-realistic when combined with the lighting in the engine.
The lighting and shading was touched upon next, and showed that they’re can make extremely realistic ambience with the FOX Engine. This is achieved by viewing different materials’ lighting in the real world, including where the light is distorted depending on the surface. They’ve dubbed this “view dependent roughness” and it’s a very intricate system; it seems as though they’re trying to emulate lighting only found in the real world.
Ambient lights and sky lights are equally as precise at their indoor counterparts, which allows for an impressive day to night cycle in the FOX Engine. A time-lapse was shown and the shadows and colour-balance were extremely effective in creating an authentic environment.
They also touched on the fact that cameras can never pick on different shades when up close. They’ve implemented an auto-exposure system to prevent this from happening in-game, with various effects such as motion blur and colour correction also being implemented into the engine. Translucency also allows for characters – particularly their hair – to seem almost unquestionably real.
They went on to displayed the same Ground Zeroes trailer from last year, only now with the lighting set to during the day rather than at night. You could really see the difference, even though nothing but the lighting had been changed. This alone proved just how important their meticulously designed lighting system could be; it changed the scene entirely.
Again, they reinforced the fact that they had been studying real-world lighting, but noted that they didn’t always find that it looked the best, so stepped away from simply reproducing the real world (it “would only be a traced image” they quipped) and described the necessity of an artist’s eye to create “photorealism through the eyes of a FOX”.
With all of this, it seems that Metal Gear Solid V is going to be an absolute technical marvel – not only will the visuals look good thanks to the high detail with the PhotoScan software but the textures and the clothing will be very precise in their design. The lighting seems like a big focus and with that day to night cycle, it really has to be.
Kojima came back on stage to essentially end on the note that the FOX Engine is the next step in game development. And, from the presentation, it definitely looks that way.