New engine for the new Call of Duty

    One of the notable events of the past week was the announcement of the new part of Call of Duty - after all, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare , reboot of the hit of the same name in 2007, will be the first game of the series in 14 years that works on the new engine, and will also support cross- play on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. At a closed press show held for the press and streamers in Los Angeles, Activision showed 15 minutes of gameplay, which caused an unprecedented delight in the audience. The rest of the gameplay will be demonstrated only on E3, but, fortunately, this will happen very soon.


    Surprisingly, it looks like this is really a new engine, not the Activision marketer's promises you might have heard the past N times; this is confirmed by Digital Foundry , who talked with the developers and found out the technical details.

    Judging by the early reviews of eyewitnesses, the engine of the new Call of Duty will be able to compete with the current version of Frostbite, as the developers managed to achieve great success in terms of picture and sound. The development of the engine took 5 years; Infinity Ward Poland studio took part in its creation, which was opened at the end of 2017 with the goal of R&D. The veterans who left Infinity Ward after the release of the original Modern Warfare take part in the creation of the game.and those who went to Respawn, and now returned to work on reboot (which is funny in itself - because if not for the unprecedented success of Modern Warfare and the scandal that followed it between Activision and the founding fathers of Infinity Ward, then Respawn and Titanfall would never have appeared on shine).

    It is also intriguing that Jacob Minkoff and Taylor Kurosaki, who left Naughty Dog, where they took part in work on Uncharted and The Last of Us , joined the Infinity Ward some time ago , after which several other ex-Naughty Dog employees joined the company . Together they are responsible for the plot component of the new game, which will be devoted to "adult" topics and promises to be quite provocative.

    Technical details


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    The idea of ​​creating a new engine is unambiguous: in the near future, we are waiting for the next gen, which may come already in 2020 and will be compatible with the current generation of consoles. The developers of the new engine had the task of laying the foundation for further games in the series, without losing its merits. Considering that the technological priority of Call of Duty has always been the ability to maintain a frame rate of 60 FPS, this was not an easy task, but they successfully manage to cope with it.

    A distinctive feature of the new Call of Duty trailer is that (according to the developers) everything shown in it is “honest”, and the trailer itself is recorded on the PlayStation 4 Pro (no CG / in-engine footage).

    PBR and Photogrammetry


    Radical processing of the engine began with the creation of an advanced rendering system based on PBR and photogrammetry. Everything is pretty standard here - when scanning objects, not only information about their shape is saved, but also material properties like roughness / reflectivity ; this step is necessary to integrate with the new lighting system.

    From an artistic point of view, this allowed not only to achieve realism, but also the integrity of the visual image of the game - now, not only models of weapons and objects adjacent to the player, but also the whole environment can boast of a lot of details. Advanced culling algorithm(excluding the hidden parts of a three-dimensional image) allows you to fit on the stage 5 times more geometry than was possible in previous games in the series. The scene with the crowd shown in the trailer, for example, is as many as 8 million polygons.

    The lighting system received a major upgrade. Now the engine implements volumetric lighting , so each light source in the game is voluminous in nature, making it possible to diversify the atmosphere of game levels - for example, add the effect of dampness or fog spreading on the ground. Twilight rays ( god rays ) are also present in the game, but this is no longer the effect of post-processing, but a full-fledged result of the collision of rays with the geometry of game objects.

    Of course, the engine also supports raytracing on a PC - without it, nowhere is it.

    If you carefully look at the trailer and screenshots , you can see how much the new technological stack and art direction are tied to each other - for example, skyboxes and light levels are reproduced in real locations, and the post-processing system may be based on the latest developments in COD but once again improved - this time mainly in terms of integration with volumetric lighting .

    For reference: the competitor CoD and Activision - the Frostbite engine developed by DICE and used in Battlefield - has been working with photogrammetry since Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) , about which its developersmade a presentation at the GDC .

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    Spectral rendering


    An impressive innovation was the inclusion of what developers call “spectral rendering”. This system "sees" the Call of Duty renderer in real time outside the visible spectrum - that is, including thermal and infrared radiation. Due to the new system of realistic lighting in some conditions, a night vision device is indispensable. There is also a gameplay element - if you suddenly turn on the light, you can dazzle those who are now wearing night vision devices.

    Here, the developers completely surrendered to realism, so the device not only accurately conveys the shades of ambient temperatures and targets, but also simulates the low-resolution sensors used in various equipment, reliably transmitting JPEG compression artifacts.

    Realistic infrared lighting is something that no one else has ever done in games. It is not surprising that everyone was so impressed with the realism of night vision - after all, before IW, none of the developers included “native” infrared lighting in their renderer so that materials could realistically respond to it.

    Hybrid Tile Streaming System


    Some systems used in the engine were developed with an eye to the future and the next games in the series. In particular, the engine finally has the ability to stream levels, which potentially opens the way for creating much larger levels for multiplayer than we saw before in the games in the series. The described system details are largely reminiscent of the standard solutions used in other engines (for example, World Streamer for Unity), as well as the virtual texturing system implemented in the id Tech engine since version 5 (appeared in Rage, was brought to mind in the new Doom and Wolfenstein ) and other engines.

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    Optimization


    According to Infinity Ward, when developing COD, it is important to keep the following goals in mind: responsive management, quick player feedback, and 60 FPS. In order to achieve them, the company has changed its approach to when to optimize. The correct answer here is not to put it off until the last moment.

    For night builds, automatic performance analysis is enabled, i.e. for each build for the entire content of the game, for each level there is a statistic of what the average FPS in various parts of the level is. Over time, these statistics should improve, and if the opposite happens, then this is a red flag and evidence that the latest code base updates could create a problem. In order to prevent such problems, reviews are periodically conducted in order to fix hot spots when a particular frame drastically sags in performance.

    Infinity Ward has planned to allocate several months closer to release for performance optimization, but the engine already issues 60 FPS in the single player, although full-scale optimization work has not even begun. At the moment, this is achieved through the use of dynamic resolution scaling (DRS) , successfully run in Infinite Warfare and WWII , but the developers are almost sure that after full optimization it will become a fallback solution, as a result of which the game will work at the target resolution of your platforms almost all the time.

    We will have to wait for the rest of the technical details at least until E3 (most likely - until the release / presentation of the GDC developers).

    Historical reference


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    The creator of the Call of Duty series is Infinity Ward, which was founded by 22 people from 2015, Inc. - the studio that created the shooter Medal of Honor: Allied Assault , released in 2002 and became a hit, in which the engine used the good old id Tech 3 (written in C and at that time still called Quake 3 Engine). The Call of Duty was financed by Activision, which immediately bought 30% of the studio, and after the release of the first Call of Duty in late 2003, the entire company. This was not surprising, because the game received 90 awards, "Game of the Year" and 50 "Election Editorial . "

    Id Tech 3 was chosen as the engine for COD1, because the studio employees were very familiar with it and were able to use the ideas invented as part of the work on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. The sequel, released in 2005, was able to achieve even better commercial performance, and id Tech, which was already highly modified by that time, received DirectX 9 support instead of OpenGL, an improved particle system and post-processing, as well as the official name IW Engine 2.0 .

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    In the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare , released in 2007 (because today we are dealing with its reboot), the engine was IW 3.0. The game was able to sell in circulation, exceeding the first part by several times - less than a year after release, it sold 10 million copies in circulation - and stand in line with salesGrand Theft Auto IV and Halo 3 (approximate sales of all parts of the series at the end of 2015 can be found here ). The post-mortem dedicated to the game was written by Infinity Ward's lead designer and CTO and published in Game Developer magazine - today you can read it on Gamasutra .

    In order to arrange the annual release of new parts of Call of Duty, not only Infinity Ward itself, but also Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software were engaged in the development of new games in the series at different times. The next part of the series, Call of Duty: World at War, was developed by Treyarch, which made a fork of the engine and upgraded it, after which it used its version of IW 3.0 in the Call of Duty: Black Ops series (including last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops 4). In fact, in each of the next releases, individual engine modules were rewritten, but there were exceptions - for example, Sledgehammer for their Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare almost completely rewrote the code that they borrowed from the Modern Warfare 3 engine, although they completely got rid of the “legacy” failed even to them. From time to time, Activision marketers tried to present the engine used in the next part of the game series as a new one - this was, for example, the one used in Call of Duty: Infinite WarfareIW Engine 7.0, which became the first studio engine designed for the PlayStation 4 / Xbox One, and was based on the engine used in Ghosts , with the addition of innovations that appeared in Advanced Warfare .

    By the way, the developers of the new engine have already confirmed that their achievements will be transferred to Sledgehammer and Raven Games, so we can expect that Call of Duty 2020 will look no worse than Modern Warfare . Wikipedia , as well as a post devoted to the analysis of renderers in various parts of Call of Duty up to Infinity Warfare,

    will help to sufficiently follow the changes in the engines .

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