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.
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.
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.
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: