‘Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice’ developer Ninja theory recently revealed a four minute video outlining their upcoming psychological horror game, ‘Project: Mara’. Tameem Antoniades, “Chief Creative Ninja” at the studio, gives a behind the scenes look at the technology used to create their most immersive experience to date.
The studio went to great lengths to recreate a real world upscale apartment building for the project. Taking various samples of materials used within the apartment, from wood to carpet. Photographing said materials in various lighting conditions, as well as running the items through a studio built scanner. With the samples they then proceeded to create procedural shaders for the items. While the shaders took months of hard work to develop, the results speak for themselves. “Materials, for us, are no longer simply flat things, they are things that blend between shaders and 3D geometry.” Antoniades explains. Using the technology to create flat surfaces that once zoomed in on show three dimensional materials, from dust to individual strands of carpet.
Clear Angle Studios was next contacted to develop three dimensional scans of the apartment complex as a whole. Working on major Hollywood productions, from ‘Tenet’ to various Disney projects, Clear Angle Studios is no stranger to this kind of project. Using LiDAR scanners, Clear Angle spent an entire day in the apartment complex and was able to provide the most detailed scan Ninja Theory has ever seen. Every single detail of the high end apartment was captured allowing for the most accurate dimensions. The video shows off these point cloud scans and just how accurate they are.
With the LiDAR scans in hand, the studios artists took on the challenge of taking what they learned from the smaller samples discussed earlier, and applying it onto every surface of the apartment. Using the theory that art is not simply there to create an object, but to create systems that can create infinite variations of that object. Allowing the studio to procedurally generate immensely detailed surfaces throughout the whole of the apartment.
The video ends, showing real world pictures from within the apartment next to in-engine photos and the results are absolutely stunning. Antoniades goes on to explain “We’re aiming for an experience that feels real. That doesn’t feel like a game and it doesn’t feel like a movie, but something all together different.” Ninja Theory may not only be changing the way that surfaces and materials are designed for a game, but they may be changing the very way a game is experienced. Further blurring the line between fiction and reality.
Ninja Theory is hard at work on ‘Project: Mara’, as well as ‘Hellblade: Senua’s Saga’.Ninja Theory joined Xbox Game Studios in 2018 and both releases will most likely becoming Xbox exclusives upon release. If they apply this new method to all their projects, one thing will be undeniable, we are about to get the most realistic and mind bending experiences they have ever created.