Creative use of assets in videogames

Models and textures are two of the most basic assets in a 3D game. From vast environments to collectable items, everything in a 3D game have to be carefully modeled and textured.

Shadow of the Colossus for the PS2 is a good example of how models and textures can be used to create new effects while working with hardware limitations.

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is generally referred to as one of the games that pushed the boundaries of the PS2 in terms of graphics, and one of the reasons for that was the way it could render fur in real time, an effect almost impossible to achieve with the PS2 hardware. The fur of the colossi play an important role in the game, since it indicates the areas the player can climb. This also means that these areas had to be very detailed, since the player would see them from a close distance.

The most basic technique to simulate fur and hair in games consists in using textured planes with opacity maps in a perpendicular position to the model.

In Shadow of the Colossus the effect was achieved with a combination of perpendicular and parallel textured planes. This technique was used to keep the effect visible in every angle.

A normal mapping of the hair texture was added to the planes to add highlights and reflections to the fur of the colossi. The finishing touch was the vector unit lighting system that creates the illusion of an anisotropic effect.

Example of hair shader with anisotropic reflections

While this technique was very economic in terms of polygon count, the resulting effect was very impressive.

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3 thoughts on “Creative use of assets in videogames

  1. squidrib27 says:

    Great review. This game was unarguably one of the most impressive of its generation. I really enjoyed that you broke down how they created the hair system, rather than just telling us how great it was. To me, even more impressive than the hair rendering was the sheer scale of the colossus. Each one was massive, and due to great animation and sound design, felt as large as it looked.

  2. Anthony says:

    Excellent review. You are very knowledgeable about this subject and have excellent examples. I have missed this gem of a game along with ICO but I have come to find that they are remastered in a combo pack for ps3. I am looking forward to seeing the difference between a ps2 version and a remastered version for ps3. This was definitely one of the best games on ps2. Below is a link to an article with interviews from top game developers on their list of all time favorite ps2 games. Shadow the of the Colossus has made it onto more than a few of those lists. Keep up the good work, very impressive.

    http://blog.us.playstation.com/2010/10/27/game-developers-list-all-time-favorite-ps2-games/

  3. Grace says:

    An awesome review for an awesome game. I haven’t played much of it, but from what I have seen/heard/read, you hit things spot on. Their method of texturing is beautiful and stunning.

    I’m glad you went into such detail about the hair rendering. Without such detail in the hair, it’s true that player’s would be confused, if not completely thrown-off on how to advance in the game by defeating the colossi. it’s amazing what just a dab of detail can do in a game. That’s one of the main reasons why I am so enthralled with sound. Without even just one little extra kick, things seem off or empty.

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