It’s not just super-speedy loading times, next gen consoles will be all about hyper-realistic hair if EA and DICE have anything to say about it. In a preview of technology coming to the Frostbite engine, they’ve shown off some rather impressive demoes of how the next generation could push hair rendering to the next level.
The blog post explains how this game to be, as a small group from the Frostbite development team at DICE (and one chap from Criterion) worked to bring real-time hair rendering up to the level of movie and offline renders. It’s an impressive demo that blends together a lot of lighting, shading and physics technologies. The hair now has melanin and smoothness parameters, artificial hair colouring, and plenty other options to get some very dynamic looking hair, even if it drops into the Uncanny Valley sometimes. There’s one bit where the model turns her head and literally every single strand of hair seems to move, to the point that it suddenly stops looking realistic.
The last major jumps that we had in hair rendering came through the rebooted Tomb Raider series, which sported AMD TressFX to give Lara (and nobody else in the game) more dynamic hair that reacted to her motions and would fall fairly naturally over her shoulders. At the time it was limited to the PC version of the game, but was brought to the console Definitive Edition a year later. Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider then went further, but traded in AMD tech for NVidia Hairworks. Both solutions have to be added into the engine, but if it’s built into Frostbite from the off, it should be easier to wrangle for developers.
This is obviously still work in progress and a pure tech demo running on the tippy-top tier of rendering hardware. Whether or not we see hair like this in-game on the next generation of PlayStation and Xbox might be a more sparing implementation. As neat as it is, Frostbite’s gained a reputation for being a pain in the backside to work with, contributing to some of the development difficulties of Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem.
Still, nice hair, right?