I just finished Killzone 2 and it really is graphically impressive. If you are reading this blog then you are interested in graphics which means you owe it to yourself to play this game. The other levels in the game I think are actually more impressive than the one in the demo. The level in the demo was pretty geometrically simple. Lots of boxy bsp brush looking shapes. The later levels are a lot more complex. In particular the sand level was very pretty.
There didn't seem to be much high poly mesh rendered to a normal map looking stuff. Most everything was made from texture tiles and heightmap generated normalmaps. Most of the textures are fairly desaturated to the point of being likely grayscale with most of the color coming from the lighting and post processing. This is something we did quite a bit in Prey and is something we are trying to change. You may notice the post changing when you walk through some door ways. The most likely candidates are doors from inside to outside.
Their biggest triumph I think is in the fx and atmospherics. There is a ridiculous number of particles. The explosions are some of the best I've seen in a game. There is a lot of dust from bullet impacts, foot falls, wind, explosions. There's smoke coming from explosions, world fires, rocket trails. Each bullet impact also causes a spray of trailed sparks that collide with the world and bounce. Particles are not the only thing contributing. There are also a lot of tricks with sheets and moving textures. For the dust blowing in the wind effect there is a distinct shell above the ground with a scrolling texture plus lots of particles. The common trick with sheets is fading them out when they get edge on and when you get close to them. Add soft z clipping and a flat sheet can look very volumetric. There is also a lot of light shafts done with sheets. One of these situations you can see in the demo. All of this results in a huge amount of overdraw. It has already been pointed out that they are using downsized drawing. This looks to be 1/4 the screen dimensions (1/16 the fill). This is bilinearly upsampled to apply it to the screen opposed to using the msaa trick and drawing straight in. Having the filtering makes it look quite a bit better. It looks like it averages about 10% of the GPU frame time. That would mean they didn't need to sacrifice much to get these kind of effects.
All the shadows are dynamic shadow maps. Sunlight is cascaded shadow maps with each level at 512x512. Omni lights use cube shadow maps. They are drawing the back faces to the shadow map to reduce aliasing. Some of the shadow maps can be pretty low resolution. This isn't as bad as Dead Space because they have really nice filtering. This is likely because the rsx has shadow map bilinear pcf for free. I can't tell exactly what the sample pattern is but it looks to alternate. They have stated there is up to 12 samples per pixel. There is a really large number of lights casting dynamic shadows at a time. Even muzzle flashes cast shadows. Lightning flashes cast shadows. At a distance the shadows fade out but the distance is pretty far. To be expected their triangle counts were evenly split between screen rendering and shadow map rendering at about 200k-400k. They should be able to get away with a lot more than that amount of tris.
I think this is the first game to really milk deferred lighting for what its worth. There are a ton of lights. The good guys have like 3 small lights on each one of them. That doesn't include muzzle flashes. The bad guys are defined by the red glowing eyes. These have a small light attached to them so the glowing eyes actually light the guys and anything they are close to. In the factory level you can see 230 lights on screen at once. I'm curious if all of these are drawn or if a good fraction is faded out. If there aren't any faded that is insane. 200 draw calls just in lights and that doesn't count stencil drawing that can happen before. Their draw counts seem to always be below 1000 so this is not likely the case.
A fair amount of their screen post processing is done on SPU's. As far as I know this is a first. The DOF has a variable blur size. This is most easily visible when going back and forth to the menu. There is motion blur on everything but the blur distance is clamped to very small.
Environment maps are used on many surfaces. They are mostly crisp to show sharp reflections. I didn't see any situation where they were locational. They are instead tied to the material.
Another neat effect was the water from the little streams. This wasn't actually clipping with the ground or another piece of geometry at all. It is merely in the ground material and it masked to where it should be. The plane moves up and down by changing what range of a heightmap to mask to.
Their profiler says they are spending up to 30% of an SPU on scene portals. I assumed this meant area / portal visibility. In the demo this made sense. After playing it all it no longer makes sense. There are many areas in the game that are just not portalable. I'm not sure what that could mean anymore. They could use it as a component of visibility and the other component is not on the SPUs. In that case I am curious what they used for visibility.
The texture memory amount stayed constant. This must mean that they are not doing any texture streaming.
They have the player character cast shadows but you can not see his model. I found this to be kind of strange especially when you can see the shadows at the feet z fighting with the ground but no feet that would have conveniently hid the problem. It's expensive to get the camera in the head thing to work really well so I understand why they didn't wish to do it but personally I would have gone with both or nothing concerning the players shadow. BTW, why is the player like a foot and a half shorter than everyone else?
For more killzone info:
It isn't quite to the level of the original prerendered footage but honestly who expected it to be? It is a damn good effort from the folks at Guerrilla. I look forward to their presentation at GDC next week. This is the first year since I've been doing this professionally that I am not going to GDC. I'll have to try and get what I can from the powerpoints and audio recordings. You are all posting your slides right? Wink, wink.