How the Next-Gen Snowdrop Engine Empowers The Division

Here’s the thing about game engines: They might not seem all that sexy… but without them you’d have a whole lot of nothing. Or, to put it another way: That lovely Ferrari you’ve been lusting over? Good luck taking it for a test drive without an engine inside.

The Division

So it is with The Division and the all-new Snowdrop engine, which was shown off in a stunning new trailer during this weekend’s VGX. In case you missed it, take a look at Snowdrop and The Division in all its glory…

So what exactly makes Snowdrop stand out? And why is it the right engine for The Division? We dug in with the team at Massive (the game’s developer) and uncovered a few new details about Snowdrop and The Division.

For starters, Massive is a more intimate studio than its name might suggest, so they needed to build a next-gen engine that would allow the team unprecedented efficiency and flexibility. “We re-evaluated the entire development workflow to refocus on a smarter, rather than bigger, way of doing things,” they told us. That resulted in three pillars for the engine:

    Empowerment. Thanks to Snowdrop, everyone involved with the development can more readily realize their goals. “When using Snowdrop, the artists, the designer and the animators have the power to achieve their ideas and vision, simply by accessing the game directly within the engine,” Massive said. ”Snowdrop is a dynamic, interconnected and united system.”

    Real time. “Each thing the creators develop need to be instant and in-game, so that they know exactly if it will work, with no baking time,” Massive says. That means lightning-quick iterations, with the team testing and evaluating new game features in an extremely short amount of time. The result is the ability to develop game features faster than ever. “We built Snowdrop in a way so that the game is always playable during development,” Massive shared. “We conduct frequent playtests at Massive to ensure it’s constantly tested at every stage of production. Not only does this allow us to obtain the best quality possible, this enables us to achieve a high level of coherence within the game.”

    Fun. Hey, games are fun, right? And yes, development is hard work, but it should also be fun. “If the tool is not fun, you kill individual creativity,” Massive says. “We get all kinds of crazy, fun and unexpected results from an intuitive and powerful tool like Snowdrop. That’s exactly what an innovative gameplay experience is about.

The Division

In terms of innovation, the VGX trailer teased out a few tantalizing glimpses of next-gen features. First and foremost is the destruction system, which will be a key aspect the game’s tactical cover-based combat. “We developed a very visceral and accurate destruction experience using procedural techniques,” Massive says. “The destruction effect is not pre-baked in the game; it reacts differently depending on the physical forces at play.” That means when you see glass exploding or wood shattering, it not only looks different but it is different – and it all happens in real-time. So be prepared to plan out your cover (and your attacks) accordingly!

Also intriguing is the lighting system, which is inspired by film production techniques. “If we move one object in the game, the light in the environment will immediately react accordingly, thus obtaining the most realistic effect,” Massive says. This applies not just to the indoor and outdoor lighting, but to the time of day as well. While Massive is being tight-lipped on additional details, we can’t wait to see what this means in terms of gameplay. We can easily imagine the possibilities great lighting can add to the experience, and we suspect the ambitions here go far beyond the cinematic atmosphere it’ll lend to the game.

The Snowdrop engine also offers the team unprecedented speed and accuracy when building the city itself. And, perhaps most important of all, it’s completely dynamic and unified, meaning any change or feature developed in one area of the build will trigger the change throughout the entire game, ensuring a coherent experience not just for the development team at Massive but ultimately for the gamer as well.

The Division

It’s all part of Massive’s drive to create a stunning and immersive world that’s only possible on the next-gen of consoles and PC. “Tom Clancy’s The Division has been designed specifically for and on next-gen, using our 100% next-gen Snowdrop engine,” Massive says. “This new generation of consoles has opened many new opportunities to create more immersive and dynamic worlds, and enabled us to create the universe we had envisioned for The Division.”

For more intel on The Division, check out these other UbiBlog features:

The Division – Classless Characters, Second Screens and a Mid-Crisis World

Tom Clancy’s The Division – First Look at Genre Redefining Action RPG

The Division Confirmed for PC

Tom Clancy's The Divison

Tom Clancy's The Division

Release date — March 8, 2016
Developer — Massive Entertainment
A devastating pandemic sweeps through New York City, and one by one, basic services fail. In only days, without food or water, society collapses into chaos. The Division, a classified unit of self-supported tactical agents, is activated. Leading seemingly ordinary lives among us, Division agents are trained to operate independently in order to save society. When society falls, your mission begins.

ESRB Rating: Mature
The Author

Gary Steinman has won numerous editorial awards, but you probably don’t care about that. He also ran multiple industry leading publications and websites including PlayStation: The Official Magazine,, PC Gamer and Newtype USA – but that’s all in the past. The real truth about Gary? He loves cats, he takes too many selfies on Facebook (according to one co-worker, at least), and he occasionally crochets. And now he’s helping share stories about Ubisoft’s amazing games and their incredible creators in his role overseeing the UbiBlog and other select Ubisoft social channels. Follow him on Twitter: @GarySteinman

Thomas 5pts

Will you make your engine availible for others? It will be awesome, if there will be something, where young teams can make on your engine awesome things, which, at least, can be sponsored and sold by the Ubisoft.

p.s. CryDev expirience is an example of it :)

William 5pts

When will this be available for public purchase and how much will it cost?

gregory M
gregory M 5pts

This was a clear PC version, not a next gen one. It isn't unusual for a console game to have a PC build which is of much higher quality than the platform it is being released for. This build is usually used to showcase the game (ie. Demos, press events...). Such occurrence was more noticeable on previous consoles due to difference between consoles and PC. Next Gen consoles and PCs are closer now which make ever so more confusing.

suman 5pts

i have played many several games but i want games on pc

suman 5pts

the engine is totally good and bring a new prince of persia and indie game using it

zack 5pts

I'm more forward to seeing this game engine used in other games, GTA, Fallout, and many others come to mind!

n0rstar 5pts

The reason that a console will display and play games consistantly at it's max visual settings is so obviously simple to answer I can not believe that this argument is still being made.

A console is dedicated to the gaming purpose, while the next-gen consoles have implemented PC features (i.e. browsers, social media etc.. which is mostly likely in a phone APP construct) they are hardly a strain on the hardware. All the hardware in a console is geared towards a single purpose, games!

A PC on the other hand has the human element hindering its' performance. Give 5 people an identical laptop for a year, ask them to install a game and then benchmark it and I can guarantee that all 5 will have a noticeably different result, Due to the human element.

On a PC people install/uninstall hundreds and thousands of apps, they watch thousands of videos from various hosts, some try their hand at getting cracked software and end up infected with various forms of malware. All the while the greater majority of people neglect in properly maintaining their system with properly removing software, keeping temp files, cookies, history, registry, start up clean. people don't realize that when you install/uninstall something there's MB some times GB of files left behind in various folders. And this is just a small example, think about all the crap you have, had on your PC for a moment, I'm willing to wager that 90% of the people who reads this hasn't defragged their hard drive in months let alone performed the a fore mentioned weekly recommended maintenance.

The hardware of a PC is geared towards general performance, not video quality, which is why there's a slew of apps for tweaking, overclocking, cleaning/clearing memory & cache on a timed or sized interval.

Now I hope the ignorant can understand why the specs of a console, put against a superior PC in specs is able to out perform the PC in continuity, both visually and in stability (max graphics and fps)

Tasi Alabastro
Tasi Alabastro 5pts

Power to the players. Power to the developers! And most of all, fun, freedom and power to the artists involved.

John 5pts

Doesn't really matter what platform this prerendered stuff was playing on, it will look better on a decent pc. Its not difficult to hit 120fps at 1080p with a $250 graphics card.

Consoles have their advantages - great for easy use in the living room, you don't have to build a pc, cheaper, etc. Also have plenty of great exclusive games. Less piracy = higher roi for developers.

Big Boss
Big Boss 5pts

Wow. This is a breeding ground for assholes and the unitelligent stop bitching about platforms and play th fucking game! No matter what you think, being a dick to others won't helo you!

passingthru 5pts

Idk where it was displayed, PS4 XB1 or PC. I just want that thing in my room with a 1080p 52'' HD plasma after having a nice joint and with friends, or alone as well.

Snowdrop looks AWESOME!!

Wait, what is Snowdrop again O.o? Is it a CPU or a console O.o?

LTS 5pts

The trailer probably is shown on a PC, but it may look very similar to the console versions. I think the PS4 and XB1 are powerful enough to pull it off! But it's just an educated guess...

Remember this is still a prototype an not the final game!

PhantasmX7 5pts

It's funny that some of you PC elitist think everything that looks good is on a PC.

The Division was originally being made for just Next-gen Consoles, The trailer you see is being show from an PS4 dev box. It wasn't till the PC community cried enough to bring it to PC that they agreed. Stop being so butt hurt that the PS4 and Xbone are just as nice and smooth as your $1000 pc.

Save some money and stop your crying. The tech in these next gen consoles are just as nice as any $1000 machine. Do some research before you bitch.

Khafchaa 5pts

We have some vehicles to drive in this game ?

Stoikr 5pts

Very impressive. Is there a downloadable version of this trailer? Would be awesome!

Sam 5pts

I honestly couldnt care less what platform this was played on, It looks stunning on all of them, I will have more fun playing it then caring about what is better Xbone, PS4 or PC

miracle 5pts

find that kind of funny when people ask if it's showed on PC, PS4 or XB1. do you really think your $399 box can have this? seriously are people that stupid? i kind of facepalm that these people paying peanuts expecting a ferrari in return.

Anthony Dawe
Anthony Dawe 5pts

What was that trailer running on? PC, xbone or ps4?

saluk 5pts

This is one crucial aspect - but I think in most cases the difference is not in the system (pc or console) itself and it's state. The bigger difference between a game running on a console and a game running on pc are the development process. Games on console are much better optimized because a developer whose games are not will not last long.

On pc, the developer can use whatever system they want, whatever they can get to run their game, produce the game, and ship it as is. But that game may conceivably not run on any other machine than the one they built it on - and who knows if anyone else has a similar setup. Consoles on the other hand are all the exact same specs and set up. Developers can actually know exactly where the bottlenecks are and work around them. Also, a console title that doesn't both run well and look good on that system, (most of the time), will not even be shipped. Dev's feet are to the fire to actually finish the game to a certain standard before releasing it. Certification on pc is not as developed, because every system has it's own unique quirks.

You can buy a ps4 equivalent pc for 600-700 bucks if you are careful, and spending a bit more you can do even better. But your experience with each game is going to be like tossing a die. Often you will do much better than consoles, often enough to make most pc gamers pretty happy. But other times you will do worse - and that has more to do with game code itself not being tested on your unique pc.

TheDark 5pts

It's a game engine my good sir, neither a CPU or a console. CPUs (or for this gen APUs technically) are used in consoles, so saying either a CPU or console is silly anyway.

TheDark 5pts

While I don't want to deviate from the topic of the blog post (I love the real time editing in the game itself), I do want to say that while you think you know what you're talking about, you really don't.

If you did ACTUAL research you would find that a $1000 budget on a PC would get you something that is tangibly faster than a "nextgen" console. Something that I kid you not could run these upcoming games at true native 1440p with reasonable framerates; maybe around 30 FPS or more (I get 60 FPS on Ultra at 1440p in BF4 with a GTX 770, so I'm being modest with my estimates). I'm sorry, I know you're trying to justify your console purchases, but you are spreading lies.

TheDark 5pts

Agreed. I'm sure it will look great everywhere. I just wanted it on PC because that's my preferred platform and I didn't want to purchase a nextgen console for a just a few games while it gathers dust in off time. Plus my friends are on PC, and while fairly minor I could get the game to look better on my PC in particular (yay 1440p).

santiago 5pts

I agree totally man, no way a ps4 or xbox can display this kind of power, new gen consoles processors were left behind years ago...

Speider 5pts

Yes, the 399$ boxes can do this. These are the things that happen when you go from focusing on tiny granularity things like "just" making it 1080p and 60 frames per seconds while cramming in a million polygons per animated character, over to something different.

Using object properties in new ways, reactive model mapping making objects more detailed as they get closer, intelligent use of lighting, post-process effects designed to mimic film cameras and the human eye, automatic reactive bumpmapping off detailed models layered on lower-polygon models etc.

The video you saw was running on the developer hardware for the PS4. The devs still have a long time for implementing more features while maintaining performance, and this is the beginning of the "next gen" cycle. As developers make smarter use of the hardware, this will improve even more.

Just compare the first and the last blockbusters that came out on "current gen" to get an idea. The hardware hasn't changed, but they way it's used has.

Joey 5pts

If it was running on Xbox One it was running at 30fps... but since this video clearly was running at a solid 60fps.. it was either PC/PS4. Since the Xbox One is inferior to PC/PS4.

Jake 5pts

While I agree with you for the most part, well..

a 400 dollar PS4 and a 400 dollar PC simply don't compete, with the Playstation taking it in strides, if not now, this remains fact for 4, 5 years from now. A 400 dollar PS4 is as good if not better than a 400 PC from the future, 4 years from years from now as well, in that optimization is key. NO, and I mean NO, PC can play Far Cry 3 (for example) with 512mb of RAM, such is the nature of the consoles. A lot is learned in optimization because of them, and games like Planetside 2 are fucking horribly optimized, and some games you need a high end pc while they're quite underwhelming. Think early minecraft.

But yeah, a 1000 dollar pc is likely (I dont have one) leaps and bounds ahead of our consoles. This all said, I have an 800 dollar laptop that's 2.5Ghz (to 3.5 via turbo) AMD A10 Radeon HD 8750 2gb(with integrated as well) and 8gb of ram and I struggle to run Metro: LL on high settings, so logic points to consoles.

But that Steam Machine..........

TYLES 5pts

This was 100% played on a PS4. When they first announced the game is wasn't even for the PC and at the E3 showing they used a PS4 controller.

Zer0w 5pts

There's no other way then this being run on a PC, I've seen how Watch Dogs looked on the PS4 and that was just not meeting the standards of as what we saw at E3 Watch Dogs, you could totally tell the difference on that aspect.

kris 5pts

running on ps4 as stated on official playstation magazine