Tomb Raider is definitely one of my favorites amongst recent games. Interesting gameplay, beautiful vistas – and a great engine which delivers both in visuals and performance. It really became a rarity for me to be able to play a game on medium settings on full HD with my old Ati Radeon 4850.
Anyways, I recently discovered another neat trick the guys at Chrystal Dynamics employed in their game.
But when I went in-game to me it looked like most of the shadows were still intact – and most importantly – dynamic.
It seemed strange to me that the tree shadows would be rendered in such detail and the character was not – and then I noticed the trees themselves are actually static. Unaffected by the wind.
And what we see here is quite genius in my opinion. The shadows themselves are precomputed in a sense, they do not update in any way at all apart from being translated a bit to simulate the movement of the trees in the wind. Moving the shadow maps is not free, but it’s a lot cheaper than recalculating the shadows. And the visual impact is great, the whole scene looks much more vibrant and dynamic.
Of course this technique would not work in a static artificial environment, but in this case it works like a charm.
Simon also wrote about another neat art trick over at http://simonschreibt.de/gat/tomb-raider-laras-hot-secrets/ – great read!