Written by Jussi Laakkonen, Business Development Director, Bugbear Entertainment Ltd.IT’S ALL IN THE ENGINE
Bugbear has been developing its proprietary, in-house developed Bugbear Game Engine for over six years. We focused on the racing genre from the inception of the company, and that has allowed us to continuously take the technology further and to build the team’s competence.
FlatOut is built with the Bugbear Game Engine, which consists of the engine that actually runs the game as well as all of the tools used to create, modify and tune the game content. FlatOut 2 has the latest edition of this engine, which has been greatly improved over the engine used for the original FlatOut title.
Specifically the key technological improvements in FlatOut 2 include:
• Optimization of the physics system as well as new physics interaction types
• Greatly improved visuals system (rendering and lighting)
• New AI driver system with personality profiles
• Optimization, optimization, optimization =)
On the physics side especially on the PS2 we’ve been optimizing like there’s no tomorrow. Our custom, in-house built physics engine has received a 66% performance increase by going from 3,000 to 5,000 dynamic, destructible objects per track. The basic principles employed in the engine haven’t changed, but we have found new ways of making the engine run more efficiently on the consoles. At the same time the feature set of the physics engine has increased and it now supports new interaction types such as explosions and chain reactions between lots of objects.
This increase on the amount of objects as well as new features has enabled artistic creativity in FlatOut 2. The player will encounter, for example, petrol stations where the petrol pumps explode on impact as well chain reactions such as landslides.
FlatOut 2’s physics engine is definitely among the very best physics engines on PS2 and Xbox. Especially in the racing genre, the game’s level of interactivity is leaps ahead of other games.
With the in-game visuals we’ve reworked a large part of the rendering system to deliver greatly improved visuals. Vehicles and environments really look outstanding. For the vehicles we are doing five rendering passes with, for example, simulated per-pixel lighting and scattering to make those cars look really nice.
The lighting system has also significantly benefited from the lessons learned with FlatOut 1, which contributes a lot to the improved graphics quality. The game also has much more pronounced day/night cycles. We also tapped into the different ways to do post processing effects such as motion blurring and blooming.
FlatOut 2’s AI driver system is really good at delivering convincing AI challengers for the player to race against. FlatOut 2 features seven AI characters with fully fleshed out background biographies, mugshots, skinned driver avatars (which of course fly thru the windshield in big crashes) as well as specific decals and colours for the cars they drive. Each of the seven AI drivers has their own driver profile which governs their level of aggression, driving skill, risk taking and many other parameters. By combining those parameters in various ways you get a variety of AI drivers. For example, very aggressive risk takers, skilled drivers avoiding direct conflict or drivers that do a lot of powersliding. Thus each of the AI drivers in FlatOut 2 drives with distinct cars and distinct driving styles and provides a compelling challenge for the player.
It is actually quite amazing how much power you can squeeze from an old war horse like the PlayStation 2, if you know how to handle all the eccentricities of the platform. We have already spent a lot of time optimizing code for FlatOut 1, and now we’ve had even more opportunities to make FlatOut 2 run very smoothly with much improved visuals and physics in the game. That optimization effort really is the key for delivering a greatly richer experience in FlatOut 2.
It hasn’t been an easy journey to get FlatOut 2 finished and we are hitting the hardware limits especially on the PlayStation 2. But you have to go for the limit and push the envelope if you want to create a really outstanding game. That hard work is now paying dividends as FlatOut 2 is turning out to be a top notch game that will be sure to impress a lot of gamers!There are more exclusive screenshots available in our FlatOut 2 screenshots section here.