While the release of The Order 1886 may still be a long way off, I must admit it was somewhat disappointing not to see something more of the title than I did in an exclusive preview session last week.
The game is set in an alternate history London, in a darker and very transformed 1886. Electricity is far more prevalent here for one thing, the tube more advanced (and probably more reliable than it is even today), weapons thoroughly more imaginative and inventive compared to reality, and there are hints at mystical or inhuman beasts with whom humanity is at war with.
In order for the team at Ready At Dawn to craft this setting, they went on an extensive research and reconnaissance trip to London. It wasn’t just about taking photos of the grand scale of the place, but also getting very close in to the specific materials and intricate details. Of the thousands upon thousands of photos taken, many were actually of close up brickwork and the sophisticated ironwork on gates.
Needless to say, this kind of strange behaviour, not to mention a little play acting of cover systems and other game mechanics, occasionally attracted strange looks and a bit of attention from the local coppers. However, it was necessary to tie their vision to what is a lovely bit of engine technology that they have been working on.
RAD Engine 4.0 is their own internal development system, and sees them taking a fresh look at the new PlayStation 4 hardware, without the legacy of thinking and without the existing systems which many teams would be porting across from PlayStation 3 development.
In particular, they have created a materials system, which combines just a handful of basic core textures in various permutations to recreate everything from leather and stone to wood and metals. They’re crafting their world without covering models with textures and it’s a system capable of some stunningly realistic effects. It is, however, quite a similar concept to what was been shown recently for Unreal Engine 4, considering that they are coming from such a different position.
It goes hand in hand with a new physics engine, entitled ABEL, which uses soft body physics as its basis, compared to the current standard of rigid body physics. Materials will have their own specific properties, such as the deformability of metal or the buoyancy of a ball.
It’s worked in such a way that destructible objects are able to break apart and stay within the world with ease. The demos showed a wooden fence being blown to shreds and a teddy bear being taken to pieces. In both cases, what was initially a single physical body within the physics system would easily break apart and continue to exist in the world separately. No shards of wood disappeared and everything stayed interactive for further bullet impacts and forces.
Further to this, they showed off their metal deformation systems, and how a single force of wind in an area would affect hanging flags in an individual and different manner.
This was all very nice and impressive technology, and it looks as though it might go some way to fulfilling Ready At Dawn’s goal of pushing past the uncanny valley, with regards to objects and physics interactions. I just wish they’d been able to show a little more of the actual game, though it’s clear they aren’t quite ready for that just yet.