A game that looks realistic may not be as overtly "artistic" as more stylized titles, but in order to portray convincingly authentic visuals, game artists need to have an innate sense of nuance -- and an arsenal of technology -- in order to translate realism into interactive gameplay.
Joel Emslie, lead artist on Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 tells Gamasutra
that high polygon counts aren't the most important aspect of creating a game with true-to-life visuals.
"First and foremost, it's getting animation right. The human eye picks up on everything. It doesn't need very many pixels of movement to realize that something looks fake, so the movement is first and foremost," he says.
Activision-owned Infinity Ward has equipped itself with the means of improving the original Modern Warfare
. "We've improved all of our rigging," Emslie says. "We've improved the way we make faces. We've really been tightening the screws with what we've been doing this whole time on the PC, Xbox 360, PS3 -- just really stepping it forward each time we make a new game and learning from all the mistakes from last time. But to set it in reality, the first thing is the animations, getting it to move right."
For Emslie and his team, creating realism is also about looking to other forms of entertainment, and discerning consumers' perception of what's real. "To get things to read properly in a combat environment with the fog of war, particles, tracers, and whatever else, you need to step into a thought process that's almost more from a theatre standpoint. So you're looking at costume design. You're getting parts of your characters to read properly, or to make things look more realistic."
Enabling this commitment to visual realism is powerful technology. "We have texture streaming; that really helps," says Emslie. "The variation that we have in this game is a step beyond what I've ever worked with in my career. So we have that fidelity, but fidelity is nothing if you're not using it properly -- the way we lay out our characters, the way we're packing pixels into their arms and legs and packs. We're really pushing how we do ambient occlusion, so the packs and the gear sit on the character properly. They settle in to look more realistic."
For more about the visual style of Modern Warfare 2
and how Infinity Ward approaches the challenge of realism, read the full Gamasutra feature interview
, available today.