CEDEC 2007: Capcom on Lost Planet Part I

Thursday 27th September 2007, 02:00:00 AM, written by Stefan Salzl

During this year's CEDEC 2007 the technical manager, Takami Taki, and the programmer, Yasuhide Sawada, of Capcom's Production Studio 2 held a talk on the production of Lost Planet and MT Framework, Capcom's multiplatform developing environment. The presentation included details on both the Xbox 360 version and the PC version - we will detail the PC portion in Part II of this article.

Lost Planet, originally titled Third Planet, initially was in development for Sony's PlayStation2 from April to December 2004. The title, already featuring a setting similar to the end-product released on the Xbox 360, was targeted right from the start at the North American and European console game market. During this stage the 20-man team grew interested in an extensive particle effects system, ranging from snow storms to explosion. However, the project was moved to the Xbox 360 in 2005 due to severe performance limitations on the PS2. The fact that the MT Framework was already in development at that time made it the obvious choice for Lost Planet.

One of the main challenges in creating content for next-gen consoles outlined by Taki was not only the developing new techniques, but also reaching a mutual understanding between artists and programmers, especially with regard to lighting and shading. This was eased by the highly modular design of the MT framework. It combines a game engine with a Multicore- and Multiplatform IDE and a vast number of graphic tools that can be used in the development process, both commercially available and in-house developed tools (Slide). If necessary, new tools can be easily added to the package. Interestingly, the team behind the MT Framework and the team developing the game content were completely separate.

The talk also elaborated on the some the techniques used in Lost Planet, such as HDR lighting, normal mapping or per-pixel lighting. For example, normal maps were created by ZBrush whose output was subsequently fine-tuned by the artists in Photoshop. To create more detailed characters, normal maps derived from high-polygon characters were applied to lower polygon models.

Among other performance tweaks was the use of three LOD levels: Models in the foreground consisted of over 11,000 polygons while models in the background used only half that (Slide). Moreover, environment maps are only updated once every 60 frames by blending the old and new maps. Furthermore, the snowstorm particle effects are restricted to the surroundings of the player character (Slide).

Explosion and smoke effects use soft particles, smoothly blending the overlapping parts. Instead of using a full resolution buffer, a low resolution buffer keeps the framerate stable. Capcom also underlined the fact that using 30 fps and motion blur instead of 60fps freed resources for more visual effects. Capcom also used Inverse Kinematics to create more naturally animated characters.

Stay tuned for part II which will feature the advancements on the PC due to DirectX 10.

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