If you’re anything like us, the first thing you’ll notice are those trees. Stretching skyward in a lush forest, these barked behemoths are gorgeously detailed, with gentle moss clinging to the trunks, abundant pine needles draping downward, and fecund ferns dotting the ground. You can almost smell the rich green air, as you marvel at the varied lighting that gently nudges through the canopy above. Think we’re waxing a bit too poetic? Well, go ahead and watch the video featuring Snowdrop, the engine that’s powering the development of The Division.
So let’s get something clear from the start. These trees aren’t a hint of what’s to come in The Division. Instead, it’s a showcase for the new engine that developer Massive created to power its game, and a part of a talk given this week at the Game Developers Conference titled Empowering the Creators.
“The forest shots, turrets and giant flies that you saw in the trailer are not part of The Division,” says Rodrigo Cortes, Brand Art Director at Massive Entertainment. “This video is a technical demonstration, to display Snowdrop’s full capacities as a new generation engine. Snowdrop is capable of creating a large range of varied universes, procedurally, and in an unprecedented level of detail.”
OK, so maybe those trees won’t make it in, but one thing that’s undeniable – both in the video and in our chat with Cortes – is how happy the development team is, in large part thanks to the flexibility and agility of Snowdrop. One team member calls the work style at Massive “hectic fun.” Others gush about how much they enjoy Snowdrop’s ease of use, or the freedom it offers.
“Snowdrop was created in-house, at Massive, in response to a specific requirement: to do things better, not bigger,” Cortes says. “Triple-A game development projects are growing in scope exponentially, so we wanted to be smart and not rely on brute force. We needed an engine that would support how we work in the studio, promote creativity, and allow the freedom to experiment and prototype.”
We can go on about how Snowdrop is a node-based system. How it affects all the systems of the engine, from the rendering to the A.I. to the mission scripting and user interface. How the engine runs in real-time, meaning everything is playable. How the real-time global illumination lets the team achieve an unprecedented level of lighting. And, most of all, how everything can be checked at any time, allowing the content creators to focus on what matters most – crafting an amazing and immersive new-gen gaming experience. Or, as Cortes succinctly puts it: “Snowdrop is a dynamic, interconnected and flexible system where developers can create their assets quickly and interact with them in ways that have never been done before.”
But what’s most important for you and me? The big takeaway for us non-developer types? Snowdrop is helping Massive accomplish its ambitious goals for The Division. “Thanks to the power of our technology, we have empowered our artists and thus can reach levels of quality never before seen in videogames,” Cortes says. “With the usability of the tools, people really excel in what they create. This has resulted in amazing graphics, as well as unexpected new features and unique innovations that really push the engine, the power of the consoles, and the games we work on, forward.”
All of which means that even though those trees might not be in the game, we can and should expect all kinds of mind-blowing surprises and shocking delights in The Division. Now excuse us, because we’re gonna watch the video again and marvel at what Massive is creating using Snowdrop – including a few tantalizing glimpses of The Division as its being developed right now.
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Tom Clancy's The Division
ESRB Rating: RATING PENDING