The developer of the Callisto Protocol explains the technology behind the game’s gory details

The developer of the Callisto Protocol explains the technology behind the game’s gory details

When it comes to developing a new game, the decision between using an in-house proprietary engine or one of the established and well-supported game development platforms is an important development decision. In the case of Striking Distance Studios and the upcoming game The Callisto Protocol, the team chose the latter – specifically Unreal Engine version 4.27.

I had the chance to speak with Mark James, Striking Distance Studios Chief Technical Officer, to discuss the business and development side of developing a new game, why and how Unreal has helped, and some of the bespoke improvements the team is making made to the engine.

IGN: Given the immense challenge of building a new studio and team, how did using Unreal Engine prove to be game-changers in your three-year plan?

Mark James, CTO, Striking Distance Studios: Starting with an engine that has shipped hundreds of games is a huge benefit. Workflows and tools are well known and experience with a commercial engine makes recruitment easier. There are always specific changes you may want to make to the base engine based on the needs of the product, and we identified key areas we wanted to improve at an early stage. Not that we did this in isolation, we’ve been communicating regularly with Epic about these changes to facilitate integration. When you start a project you want to take engine drops throughout the development cycle and consult with Epic on how best to make their changes to make later integrations much easier.

They use Unreal’s Simple Demolitions system and have adapted it for the Callisto protocol. What are some of these adjustments and does this extend to the in-game dismemberment system?

This was an area we created from scratch. We knew we wanted a gore system that had all the ingredients of a great horror game. Our gore system combines blood spatter, chunk creation and dismemberment to create the most realistic system possible. We wanted Gore to be a dietary health bar for each enemy, depicting realistic flesh, muscle, and skeletal wounds. Not only was this used for enemies, but we also used it to represent the bloody death of players. In Callisto Protocol, even losing is a feast for the eyes!

The game uses ray tracing for some of its visual elements. Can you share if these are light and shadow based elements from Unreal Engine 5 or have you gone in a different direction?

It was important to us to achieve a physically consistent light and shadow model in the game. Contrast and occlusion cause great fright.

Using our corridor-based scale of about 20 meters, we found that about eight lights could affect a surrounding surface. Unfortunately, we found that UE4 was limited to four shadow-producing lights, so we first worked to modify the engine so that we could support a larger number of lights at a lower cost per light.

We looked at the UE4 ray tracing solution back then and realized that for the number of shadows we wanted to create, we had to create our own solution. Instead, we developed a hybrid ray-traced shadow solution that applies ray-traced shadow detail to areas of the screen that are important to the overall quality of the scene.

UE5 took a very different approach to lumen lighting that didn’t match the internal corridor model we wanted for the game, but I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the UE5 demos so far.

The Callisto Protocol – State of Play 2022 Official Screens

As this is a cross-gen game, how did the team find the transition to PS5, Series X and S based on the previous gen?

We designed TCP with the new generation of consoles in mind. We wanted to focus on the advanced hardware features that these consoles offer. We considered technologies like positional audio, blazing fast storage and of course the ray tracing capable GPUs as part of the design.

That said, we’ve always maintained a scalable approach to content generation to ensure we’re able to deliver a great-looking and sounding game no matter what generation you’re playing.

Were there any major hurdles to overcome with the previous generation versions?

The biggest change to the new consoles was the speed of the storage device. With the SSD in these new consoles, we could have seamless loading throughout the game.

Fitting this back into the slower previous generation HDD was the biggest design challenge. We had to figure out where to put loading volumes and in some cases loading screens where we didn’t need them on the current gen.

Do you plan to expand the console and/or PC versions with other technical improvements beyond ray tracing, loading and possibly framerates? For example, do you have denser geometry or similar for current generation machines?

As a team, we want to get the best out of any hardware spec given to us. We represented far more material detail, geometry density, and lighting interactions than any of our previous projects. One of the goals we had when we started the project was “every step was different”. We wanted to depict an inhabited world and show the practical design of a space prison. This meant investing in a modular-based geometry and a complex material system to represent the diversity.

You mentioned that you incorporated Unreal Engine 5 elements into your custom UE 4.27 offshoot. Can you please provide details on this?

As we worked to finalize TCP on UE4, we looked at areas of UE5 that we felt would be useful for both development iteration and new console features. Epic even helped us move some of these features back into our bespoke version of the engine. There aren’t any major components that stand out, rather a lot of smaller tweaks and workflow improvements that have helped over the past few months.

The character models, post effects, and overall visuals of characters, faces, and movement surpass almost any other game I’ve seen, with the main character Jacob (Josh Duhamel) really looking like a live actor on video at some points. Here are some of the key technical improvements that make this happen?

The goal of photorealistic characters starts with capturing models and materials with the right light response. We’ve invested heavily in a capture validation system that allows us to switch from photo setups to easily check technology and authoring status. With this approach, we focused the technical investments on areas that differed from the photo reference and character rendering. For example, one of the key areas of technology investment for us was the correct rendering of translucency. This is evident in simple areas like the depiction of light behind a character’s ear, but also in our enemies depicting the translucent membranes on their skin.

The horror and suspense in the demos really comes out. How much has your sound team worked with the gameplay and rendering technology to improve this and are they using new techniques with the new hardware such as B. Tempest 3D Audio?

Audio is such an important part of the horror film that we wanted to give it as much technology development as rendering. We think of audio as if it were a gaming feature.

Our goal was a physically based audio model that represents both directional audio and audio interactions with geometry and materials. Traditionally, these models were too CPU intensive to be deployed quickly for real-time gaming. With the new dedicated audio hardware in the new consoles, we now have the ability to do this.

The sound alone gives us an enormous sense of space even without a visual component. Getting this right will help you become more immersed in the game. Whenever possible, we use sound to create fear and tension.

What key area of ​​the game are you most proud of, be it gameplay, technology or something else?

There’s so much I’m proud of in the game we’ve delivered. Be it our lighting techniques, immersive audio, or our combat gameplay, it’s hard to pick a favorite. The team is what I’m most proud of. We built a studio and a new IP in a global pandemic without compromising on quality. It takes real passion to do that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.