Over the past few weeks the team at Oxide Games has been making huge enhancements to Ara: History Untold’s living world visuals, specifically to make the terrain feel organic and lively.
Firstly, the team added “micro flora”, an element that adds small grass and plants to the terrain. Despite the name, the addition of micro flora has made a huge difference. Our micro flora is a particle-based system that scatters thousands of blades of grass across the entire landscape and is customized per biome, giving each area a distinct look and feel. The addition of these effects also grounds the other elements in the world, such as roads, buildings, and people, which creates a truly living world as a result.
Next, the team worked to create cloud shadows that roll over the various landscapes and added a whole new layer of depth. The approach to making this was simple, wherein they take the XY World position of the Pixel and use that to generate tiling UVs for a cloud map. That cloud map then modulates the actual shadow value of the directional lights, allowing ambient light and ambient specular to still have impact.
Most recently, the team was able to increase the resolution of the terrain textures in recent weeks to help ensure a more detailed look, but they didn’t stop there – updates have been made to normalize the lighting across all the elements of the living world to help ground the gameplay and natural elements, and the team also did a pass at regenerating the textures to balance colors and reduce noise, for a more natural look.
With all visual changes, the team is looking to ensure that performance and gameplay are front and center. We are excited to report that despite the increases made to resolution, the team was able to make the net render time 15% more performant due to simultaneous optimizations made to terrain blending, with the added benefit of further smoothing lateral camera movement, based on feedback from our recent Technical Alpha.
In our opinion, these changes breathe life into our living world, and we are so excited to share even more progress soon. You can let us know what you think on the Insider Forums.
Until next time,
The Ara: History Untold Team