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My opinion on the graphics


DiddyHop's picture
Fluffy Bunny
Posts: 6
My opinion on the graphics
#1 Submitted: Mon, 25/07/2016 - 18:44

First of all, i'd like to make it clear that this is just my opinion and it in no way effects the overall quality of the games game play! A few of these improvements could improve how fun the environments are to explore, or improve the visual feedback (some more than others) but i feel like i have to say that i absolutely adore this game and have been having an absolute blast with it!!!

I also have not yet played Max Damage, as i'm waiting for the PC release.

As many people have commented, the graphics in Carmageddon: Reincarnation aren't really the best... Many would just say this and leave it at that, without offering some meaningful criticism of the current visuals or going into detail about it. I'm looking to offer some actual criticism with this post while also giving my opinion on ways to improve the visuals! Now, again, this is just my opinion! Feel free to discuss this further in the replies. I'd love to see stainless improve on these things more based on community feedback in their future games or updates!

What they did right!

To kick things off, i'd like to talk about things i think were done excellently, starting with the cars. The cars in this game look awesome! The attention to detail with the inner workings of the cars and the quality of the modelling on them honestly looks awesome! To add to that, the lighting was very very nice too! Shadows seemed to all be realtime and overall looked very nice!

But, of all these, i must say the best thing here is the damage! It looks awesome, honestly and the addition of car splitting in Max Damage honestly makes it so much better in my eyes!

What they did wrong!

Well, here's the point in which i talk about the visual elements i didn't really like that much and how i personally think they can be improved.

  • Environments

I've spoken to a friend about this, and he agrees with me that although they are vast and they have got a lot of stuff crammed into them with a lot of hidden areas, visually the environments are a bit lacking... I don't know whether or not we're just being a pair of idiots, but for me when looking around in this game i always thought the world just seemed a bit boring... I get it, i've watched the livestreams and i understand that they want the game to look more realistic to punctuate the ridiculousness of what is taking place but to me, that doesn't really change the fact that the environments still seem a bit... meh (visually)...

I believe you can create a visually appealing environment without sacrificing the realism you're aiming for... I mean, look towards games like GTA V and Fallout 4. The environments aim to be somewhat realistic and yet have this overall look that makes them feel less... well empty i guess...

This isn't a major issue as most of the environments are fun to play around in despite their overall plainness, but it's just something i thought i'd mention. This could be improved by just making the visuals of the world far more on par with the cars. Am i the only person who thought that, while the cars looked amazing, the world which the cars were placed in looked like it was made for a completely different game? They just didn't really seem to fit together in my opinion...

  • Pedestrians

The peds look like shit... Much like the environments they seem like they were created for a completely different game but this time around, that game is a ps2 game... To me, the pedestrians look like they were created to be some sort of caricature (which i'm perfectly ok with, and to be honest it works with the game) but, again, they just don't seem to fit together in my eyes...

  • Effects

This is honestly my main issue, and i know that it may seem extremely small and insignificant to many many others but to me, the effects really add to the games visual feedback and currently... they dont look great.

I'm gonna go into more detail on this one as seeing that weird orange puffy explosion and the badly billboarded rocket flame effects over and over again is honestly what drove me to create this post!

The blood effects in this game seem really really flat. I'm talking about the particles here, because the splatters actually look great, although there really doesn't seem to be enough splatter compared to the amount of blood particles flying everywhere!

I feel like something to aim for when creating blood particles is something like Gears of War for example

The blood particles here look like they have a lot more shine to them and as a result fit in a lot better with the game world and look more 3 dimensional. Currently the particles have great animations, but are just flat and red... A little shine goes a long way in my opinion.

The particle effects on dismembered limbs dont look great in my opinion... i think they can be improved by making the particles act more like liquid with more dripping and inconsistencies. You can keep the over exagerrated anime blood splurt, but these improvements i suggested could really help make it look a lot better in my opinion.

Last but not least, i honestly love the sheer amount of blood that peds bleed out everywhere when hit by a car, however the amount of splatter that appears on the environment doesnt really match up with the size of the particles. This improvement is simple, more splatter please!

Fire and explosions:
This is my biggest issue with the games visuals at the moment!!! The explosion when destroying your opponents just seems pathetic... I mean, you drive full speed into an opponent, ruining their car, sending pieces everywhere as nobby shouts "Wrecked 'em" but all you see is a pathetic orange phut and a ps2 era fire effect...

It honestly doesn't seem like a very good payoff...

I mean, compare this:

To this:

Defeating the opponent should be a spectacle! Have killing them create a massive boom! Maybe even add a shockwave! Give us that payoff for slamming that fucker into the wall!

Imagine that explosion clearing to reveal their flaming wreck slowly dribbling oil onto the ground below it... It'll be awesome!!!

Anyway... That's all i have to say really. This is just my opinion and i am no expert on game design or anything... These are just some visual improvements i'd love to see implemented into carmageddon because the game is awesome!!!

To those who've read this... thanks, and feel free to respond with your opinions on graphical improvements.

Tonrac's picture
Kickstarter Backer
Posts: 556
Submitted: Mon, 25/07/2016 - 21:14

One part of the problem is the budget ... you compare the graphics with game that have minimum ten times the budget of Carmageddon. Obviously you will have more artists on those games that have more times to do better visuals and effects.
The second part of the problem is the balance between cartoonish style and realistic style ... even in a perfect world where Stainless have a AAA budget, i doubt that they will intend to do photorealistic graphics like GTAV ... because they need to keep a distance between what are displayed on the screen and the reality.
I am agree with you: cars and damage system are awesome and it will be great if they could make environment more detailed and with better effects ... but it need more money for that.

DiddyHop's picture
Fluffy Bunny
Posts: 6
Submitted: Mon, 25/07/2016 - 22:10

I understand that completely! But the point behind this was to offer a more detailed description on what i believe the pros and cons of this games visuals are as it's not really discussed in detail by anyone.

I'm not talking about photorealism, i'm talking about various improvements that could make the game more visually appealing and i understand completely that it is a very low budget game!

What i at least hope is that stainless take some of this stuff and improve apon it for the next installment. My biggest problem really is the explosions and i believe improving that could do wonders for the games visual feedback. The rest really are nitpicks that could be improved apon.

Many improvements i listed (except the environment one and maybe the blood shaders) could be improved without really making much of an impact on the budget. Particle effects are nice because they can be tinkered with easily and altered very very quickly.

Trent's picture
I was in the War!
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Posts: 3039
Submitted: Tue, 26/07/2016 - 13:17

Disclaimer: Large technical post in-coming...[b]

This is a good, well thought out, constructive take on criticizing the graphics, but it does unfortunately fall into quite the same traps as the unconstructive takes on criticizing the graphics. For example:

The peds look like shit... Much like the environments they seem like they were created for a completely different game but this time around, that game is a ps2 game...

The whole "looks like a PS2 game" notion which seems to be thrown about when people talk about how "bad" C:R/C:MD looks really is just an awful argument to make and it annoys the piss out of me. The peds aren't especially detailed, no, but they are of a far higher quality than a PS2, in fact it would be physically impossible to render a single C:R ped on the PS2, the main body diffuse texture of a ped is 2048x2048, which would take up 16mb of memory, where the PS2 only has 4mb of video memory and 32mb of main system memory. Dropping that one texture down a mip level would make it fill up the entire video memory. The base ped 2 materials, one for the head/skin texture and one for the body texture. In total there are 5 textures, including normal, diffuse and specular, 2 are 2048x2048 resolution and 3 are 1024x1024, not including additional textures for "props" such as hats, hair, etc. To put this in perspective, the main character from an approximately comparable PS2 game (GTA:Vice City) uses a single 256x256 texture for the [b]main character.

In terms of polygon count the average C:R ped also uses twice as many triangles as the aforementioned main character from a comparable PS2 game, which may not sound like much but when you consider the PS2 character is unique and close up on screen all the time while the Carma ped is usually only taking up a few thousand pixels at a time and is often moving off screen at quite a rapid pace.

Even when you compare the peds to a main character from a 360/PS3 game (Saints Row 4) released a year after C:R's kickstarter (6 months before C:R hit early access), this specific Carma ped has half the triangles of the SR4 character, but almost half that character's triangles are in it's hands due to the cinematic requirements of the character needing to have fine hand movement close to the character, the "quality" of the rest of the mesh is comparable between the two. The C:R ped actually has more triangles in it's face than the SR4 character does, despite not needing the complex facial animation which the SR4 one has. All the SR4 character's textures can also fit into just the face texture of the Carma ped. Again, this is comparing a unique main character which is used for up-close cinematic cut scenes from a big budget triple A game to a non-unique ped of which hundreds can be on screen and aren't seen close up during normal gameplay.

Here's some comparison pictures between the PS2 main character, the 360/PS3 main character, the random Carma ped and a GTA5 ped: (click for larger versions)

What is even more interesting is the overall detail of the Carma ped isn't actually that much different than the GTA5 ped. The GTA5 ped has 4 times the triangle count, though over half of that is in the face and hands which, again, are a requirement for the character potentially being close to the camera and needing complex hand and face animations as is expected of a GTA game, the triangle density of rest of the mesh is only like 1.5 to 2 times that of the Carma ped. Ironically the Carma ped has higher resolution texture for the body, as the GTA ped uses a 1024x1024 texture for the shirt and a 512x512 texture for the trousers, while the Carma ped uses a single 2048x2048 texture for both, effectively using 2048x1024 for each. On the other hand, the Carma ped uses a single 1024x1024 texture for the face and all the skin showing while the GTA5 ped uses a 1024x1024 just for the face and another just for the hands and arms.

Ignoring production and budget issues, you have to consider that quality of characters and their textures is optimized to the worst-case-scenario for scene complexity, memory usage and amount of said characters used on the screen. Carmageddon has the potential of having hundreds of characters on the screen at one time and so they need budget the game's resource usage on that upper limit even if most of the time that limit is not hit. GTA5 has a very specific limit in the dozens, not hundreds, and the game won't spawn more for that.

It's the same for the environments, the complexity of environments is limited by not only the detail of the environments but also the detail of the characters and cars and effects. The environments and all their accessories have hundreds of quite high res textures, and tons of models accounting for millions of triangles, add in the extremely complex cars and hundreds of peds and large amounts of effects. Making the environments too graphically complex would mean cutting down things like the amount of peds, the complexity of cars, etc. It's a very fine balance and something which needs to be decided at the very start of development. As the game started development in 2011 and went into full production in the latter half of 2012, the complexity of the assets is actually quite reasonable given all the factors involved. Just taking a small level like the Island, for example, that uses about 1.7 million triangles, if you throw all the cars, peds and effects and that's over half the maximum theoretical triangle throughput of a PS3, which is why the game uses some high end culling algorithms to cut down how much is being rendered. If environments were much more dense with detail then culling would be far more difficult. Even still, they have increased the "detail" of environments by adding things such as foliage into Max Damage.

It's not just a hardware resource issue, though, it's also a matter of development resource and I'm not just talking about the budget. Stainless' Carmageddon team is tiny for the sort of game it is, the entire time (production, design, development, art, testers, everyone) maxed out at only 50 people. They only had roughly a dozen artists working on the game at one time, sometimes less. In about 4 or 5 years they made:

  • 12 environments, most of which are large and complex
  • about 1000 accessories for the environments
  • over 60 characters with up to a half dozen skins each
  • over 200 props for the characters
  • over 470 animations
  • 32 vehicles (29 of which are extremely complex) with multiple skins and multiple wheels
  • All the user interface artwork
  • And a more on top...

They made all of that from the concept stage right the way through to release, which, all in all, is an astounding feat to achieve given the detail and complexity of it all. Games like GTA 5 and Fallout 4 have over ten times as many artists with over twice the production time. To make the detail of the environments on par with the cars would require both substantially more time than they had and substantially more man power to do it, it's simply not feasible. Similarly with the peds, to create peds of substantially increased quality, ignoring the technical aspects, would require at least half a dozen artists dedicated to just making peds for the entire time the game was being made. Considering how few people made the art for the game the detail and quality of everything is absurdly high, especially when you consider the cars are far more complex than any other game of it's type.

Similarly with the graphical effects like blood and explosions. They had very few graphics programmers working on the game and they had prioritize the tasks they worked on. The same people who would be responsible for implementing high quality volumetric explosions like Mad Max has are the same people who were responsible for remaking the game's entire graphics pipeline, implementing higher quality lighting, reflections, etc. and optimizing the shit out of it. Spending time researching and developing such high quality particle effects would have taken them away from making the game look better overall and run better.

Ignoring the art side of the equation, it's also the case that it's unreasonable to expect a game like Carmageddon to match the graphical capabilities of top triple A games like GTA 5 or Mad Max because the people developing the renderers and effects for those games are at the absolute cutting edge of real-time rendering development. Taking the explosions from Mad Max, for example, Avalanche are at the forefront of developing effects such as those, it was an absolutely cutting edge feature only 10 months ago, they have a research team dedicated to developing new techniques like that. Similarly with the blood in Gears Of War, when it was first developed Epic spent substantial resources solely on developing the blood effects and The Coalition spent similarly as much time making sure the blood in that remastered version was suitably impressive.

A developer like Stainless, on the other hand, pretty much has to rely on established techniques rather than inventing cutting edge techniques like that and even then they have to weigh up the benefit of such technique, how well it will integrate with the game's systems and the development time involved. Another option to developing techniques themselves is to license middleware to do it (as they did with Yebis and Umbra for post process effects and culling respectively), but that can cost substantial amounts of money and leave less to make the actual game with and can add extra layers of complication. It certainly would be awesome to have proper volumetric pyroclastic explosions with full fluid simulations for oil and fire (yes, fire counts as a fluid simulation, as do things like smoke) but it's totally unrealistic to expect it in such a low budget game which was actually released a few months before the game containing the cutting edge technique you're pointing to.

And that's the biggest problem people have with the graphics, really. It's not that they're actually bad, it's just that they're not as good as the top end games they expect all games to look like, especially when they compare the game to top end games released after the small indie game was released. People say the game looks like a PS2 game or an early 360 game because they don't actually remember what those games are like and think anything which doesn't match up to the top games of today looks like a bad game of a decade ago. It's also a case of what works for one game may not work at all well in another, which people don't understand when comparing the games. Taking the GoW blood, for example, it was designed for a close quarters game with few instances of such blood sprays at one time, not a game with a pulled out camera which can have many, many instances of the blood effects streaming out of many characters on screen at one time. The amount of blood sprays not only limits the techniques for rendering the sprays (transparent particle effects can be costly to render) but also the amount of splats which can be added to the world geometry, as rendering the blood splats is also costly. Another common comparison is with the new Doom, because that looks so much better while having immensely high performance, but people don't understand the performance of a closed up corridor shooter with not much in the way of physics like that is entirely different to the performance of an large, open environment physics based car combat game. Even if Carmageddon ran on an engine made by some of the god fathers of 3D game engines (Carmack, Sousa, et al.) with comparable rendering and art quality, it wouldn't reach anywhere near the same performance.

In an ideal world it would be amazing to have Carmageddon game which could compete with the top triple A games from the massive developers, but that's really not going to happen any time soon as Stainless simply aren't big enough with no where near enough resources and run on pocket change compared to them. Like I said, what they've achieved in this time frame with the amount of people and resources they had available is extremely impressive, far beyond what should be expected in such conditions. It's just unfortunate the conditions aren't taken into account when a lot of people form their opinion of such a game, but rather they just compare it to the best looking games out at the time :/

Edited by: Trent on Tue, 26/07/2016 - 13:20

DiddyHop's picture
Fluffy Bunny
Posts: 6
Submitted: Tue, 26/07/2016 - 13:54

Thank you for the massive, detailed response Trent! You've made some excellent points and honestly, i can't really argue them.

To be perfectly honest, many issues i pointed out were very very minor and don't necessarily effect the overall fun of the game (Although improved explosions would do wonders for visual feedback, and i still stand by that!) and i spent less time talking about issues i have with the visuals on the peds and environments as to be honest, they're minor nitpicks. My point about them though, was that it seems like they were created for a different game... I would love to pinpoint what this actually is that's causing me to see it that way, but i honestly cant think of what it may be... A potential way to improve this without changing models or environmental details could be to alter the lighting positions and colours on the maps however i could be completely wrong and stupid.

The point of this post really was to offer my opinion on stuff that could be improved apon in future iterations. The way i see it, stainless now have a robust basis to build apon, which they have been building apon with games like Max Damage. The addition of the extra ped types and foliage on the environment is honestly a welcome addition and is the kind of "building apon the basis" i'm talking about.

Vehicles are perfect. The environments are great, expansive and detailed but seem to just be missing something... The peds don't seem like they are part of the world and the effects are pretty meh.

I dont expect this post to influence the game in any way, and if these changes are never made then the game would still be excellent. The examples i gave, like gears of war and mad max are rather extreme examples of what i'd like to see in an ideal world and i understand that completely.

Honestly, my reply here may be a bunch of rambling but i hope some of the points i made here are somewhat fair.

Trent's picture
I was in the War!
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Submitted: Tue, 26/07/2016 - 15:28

You definitely made a good post, it's great to have a proper discussion about this stuff rather than the usual one line "graphics are shit, fix it!" comments we tend to see, I'm just verbose and like to educate :) My reply wasn't really to shut down your comments, but rather that inform the less understanding readers about why things are the way they are.

Yeah future games definitely have plenty of room for improvement in these areas. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the next full Carmageddon game they make has explosions and fire at the quality of Mad Max, blood at the quality of GOW:Ultimate and peds even higher quality than GTA5. It's just by the time it's released the equivalent top games will have moved on even further! It wouldn't be "that game looks rubbish, it's like a PS2 game!" but rather "that game looks shit, it's like a PS4 game!" haha. On the other hand I wouldn't be at all surprised if the next proper game uses a middleware engine like Unity or Unreal Engine instead of their in-house engine, after all the issues they had developing the tech for the C:R on their own engine.

Speaking of changing the lighting, C:MD has a couple of different lighting and atmospheric settings which different races on each environment can use, which I think will go a fair way to making them feel more varied. I guess maybe if they added a better skin shader for the peds with proper subsurface scattering that may go a fair way to helping them "fit in" as they just use a basic specular shading model which doesn't really handle skin particularly convincingly. Another big improvement would be to go wholehog with a PBR pipeline rather than the half and half system they have now, as cars seem like they use PBR style rendering but everything else seems to be the old style specular method.

Maybe the renderer team will get the opportunity to improve things further in future updates, who knows. I definitely would love to have the current games improved graphically but I'm also of the opinion that C:MD looks plenty good enough for what it is and they shouldn't spend time redoing the rendering system for a third (or is it fourth?) time. Instead, while the content side of the team supporting C:MD with new levels, cars, peds, game modes etc. the engine side of the team should focus on the Next Game's tech and making sure that is up to scratch and ready for the core team to start making the game on straight away when the time comes, to avoid the issues they had with C:R where they were making the game while the core tech was still not ready to be used properly. That would probably be the best direction to go in. Of course, that is assuming they make another game, hopefully C:MD does good enough to get a sequel!

Tonrac's picture
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Submitted: Tue, 26/07/2016 - 21:12

Thanks Trent for all that technical explanation, we are lucky to have someone like You that have the skills and the patience to teach some of the game mecanics. If Stainless make a sequel, do You think it's not better for them to keep their engine... they do a hard work to make it multithread ... all that work will go to trash if they use a middleware engine in the future. And they also must hire new developpers that have skills with those middleware. I don't see the real benefit.

Edited by: Tonrac on Tue, 26/07/2016 - 21:52
Trent's picture
I was in the War!
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Submitted: Tue, 26/07/2016 - 22:11

Well it wouldn't be a total loss as no doubt Magic Duels will continue using Beelzebub and they can integrate various bits of their core tech (e.g. their physics engine, vehicle dynamics, crushing & damage algorithms, etc.) into the third party engine.

It will require substantial work to move to such an engine and there will obviously be a learning curve, however everyone on the team would have had to learn how to use the current engine on the job for C:R in the first place as all the systems for car, level, peds, etc. setup were being developed during production and that was pretty much undocumented (as I know from many of my modding questions being answered with "that's not documented so we can't give you a quick answer"), so learning something like UE4 or Unity with the masses of resources available to them.

The time it would take to implement their custom tech into it would possibly be far less than it would be to get the rest of Beelzebub up to the standards of the middleware engine. If the engine team works on it while the content team supports C:MD on a long tail as I suggested then there shouldn't be a problem. They could even continue using the same tools and workflow if they wanted.

Edited by: Trent on Tue, 26/07/2016 - 22:14

flykas's picture
Cunning Stunt Licker
Posts: 412
Submitted: Wed, 27/07/2016 - 07:02

Hm, would be interesting to see what would they make with 3rd party engine, but do you know a good racing game made on Unreal or unity engine ?

also to the OP. Fair points I especially agree about the explosions, but I think I'd rather be complaining about these things than not having these great physics and damage, etc.

Edited by: flykas on Wed, 27/07/2016 - 07:07
Trent's picture
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Submitted: Wed, 27/07/2016 - 08:45

flykas wrote:
Hm, would be interesting to see what would they make with 3rd party engine, but do you know a good racing game made on Unreal or unity engine ?

GRIP is made with UE4, which is getting very positive reviews in early access, and there's various other racing games such as Moto Racer 4 in development using it. Unity has been used for various successful racing games but they have mostly been mobile games or kart style games, though Distance was made with Unity and that was well received. Both engines have full physics engines with their own vehicle dynamics system, both using PhysX. Racing games are relatively rare on them as they are generally a lot more difficult to make than, say, a shooter or platformer or survival game, but they can be made. Fighting games are similarly rare on the engines but that hasn't stopped the top games in the genre (Mortal Kombat 9 & X, Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear Xrd) using Unreal Engine.

The point is, though, that both the engines are extremely extensible, you can make any sort of game you want in them. Stainless can take their vehicle dynamics and physics engine they have spent two decades developing and integrate it into either of those engines. UE4 would obviously be more suitable in that respect as all developers get full access to the entire source code so it could be integrated deep into the core of the engine, while Unity would need it to be done as a native DLL plugin which is referenced by the C# component code, but that would still be doable. Like I said, the work it would take to integrate the systems Stainless need for Carmageddon would probably less than updating their current engine to meet the performance and quality of the third party engines and there are lots of other benefits too.

As it happens, Stainless did look at using third party engines for C:R but back then there realy wasn't any which were suitable without spending more money on licensing fees than the Kickstarter made. Back then Unity was still on version 3 and really not capable of what they needed to do (it is now reaching then end of the 5.X dev cycle and should more to 6 next year) while Unreal Engine was still only available as either the very limited UDK which was not extensible at all or the full source code with an extortionate licensing fee. Things are very different now and both are very strong options with different strengths and weaknesses.

Privata's picture
Cunning Stunt Licker
Posts: 371
Submitted: Wed, 27/07/2016 - 12:50

I was wondering , the textures for the blood in Carma are very volumetric looking. have a lot of depth to them.
Why in game do they look so flat?

I dont think it matters much , it still works as a blood FX but I was wondering after having looked at the sorce textures it a shame we cant capture the detail in game.