Shiny Entertainment is hoping its new action/adventure game, Messiah (slated to appear on the PlayStation and the PC this fall) raises the bar on graphics quality in video games.
Messiah stars Bob, a cherub seeking to bring about the end of the world. He has the ability to possess the bodies of other characters and make them do his apocalyptic bidding to progress through the game. Aside from the game's carnage, what you'll really notice is the amazingly lifelike (and almost creepy) way the skin of the characters ripples and stretches as they move.
Messiah is All DAT
Messiah's violent and almost certainly Mature-rated gameplay might mean that some of you will never see it, but Shiny hopes that its new graphics technology will let you see Messiah-like graphics in other games. This new graphics technology is called Real-Time Deformation and Tessellation or RT-DAT. Deformation and tessellation are standard graphics techniques--it's the "real-time" that feeds RT-DAT's hype.
Deformation breathes life into game characters. This graphics process makes them move realistically by enabling the skin of a model image to bend and twist or change shape according to the movement of the skeleton beneath it.
Characters are often created by first constructing a graphics skeleton, sort of an animated 3D stick figure, to identify moving joints. Just like the bones inside our bodies, this graphics skeleton is held together by a system of muscle-like connections; then the skin is "stretched" over the skeleton in an attempt to make the character look and move in a lifelike fashion. The trade-off in processing time usually limits characters to flat, stony skin. In Messiah, however, RT-DAT streamlines defermation calculations so you can see the ripple of every moving muscle and the bounce of every mound of flesh.
Zoom That Zooms
Tessellation is the process of breaking down shapes in a 3D image into the basic triangles that compose it, and then adding or subtracting triangles to upgrade or downgrade the image. Tessellation puts pizzazz into zooms. It also determines at what point and to what degree of sharpness you can view objects as you approach them from a distance.
For example, during a game, you might see tessellation in action when you zoom in on an object. The long-range view requires only a few triangles to compose an image (which doesn't have to be extremely detailed) whereas the close-up view can be composed of several thousand triangles for sharpness and detail. Again, because calculating the math to produce tessellation puts a major strain on a game system's processors, many games cheat by having objects zoom in and out of view from a totally black shadow--but RT-DAT shaves the time it takes to calculate the math to produce each step in the zoom effect, generating anywhere from 30 polygons for long-distance views to 8000 polygons for extreme close-ups.
Whether or not Messiah fulfills its promises as a game, RT-DAT certainly seems to prophesize better game visuals for the future.