We are happy to announce EASTL, the Electronic Arts Standard Template Library, is now officially open source software and available today on Github under the BSD license! The library offers a wide array of templated containers, algorithms, and iterators useful for runtime, and tool development across multiple platforms. We internally rely heavily on EASTL due to its extensive and robust implementations emphasizing high performance — making it perfect as a foundational technology for the Frostbite engine.
So why release EASTL now? With the rapid cadence of changes to the C++ language there was a desire internally to provide the C++ standards committee with a games industry perspective. By open sourcing EASTL, we are able to help the game industry as a whole make great, high performance games from large companies to small indie teams. As well, now that EASTL is open-sourced Electronic Arts is able to work more closely with the C++ standards committee, ensuring new language features are created with the constraints and needs of game development in mind.
Michael Wong, the C++ Standards Committee Games Dev Chair, had these humbling words to say in regards to EASTL being open-sourced,
“As the chair of SG14 on Games Development, I am excited to see the trend of cross-company collaboration move forward with the open source release of an industry-leading design on a C++ STL that is specially adapted to the Games industry. This too is the goal of SG14 which opens its arm to a collaboration between improving C++ for Games, which is one of the most dominant users of C++. EASTL has been in existence for many years, and benefits from years of continuous revision and improvement, and indeed was used as the beginning structure for further improvement for SG14 proposals. This is a great moment for the Games industry. Thank you to Electronic Arts.”
EASTL has been on Github now for one month and the community response has been amazing! A huge thank you goes out to all the contributors so far helping get the library settled into its new home.
Checkout the repository on Github:
Technical paper by Yuriy O’Donnell (Frostbite) and Matthäus Chajdas (AMD) for I3D 2017.
Handling many light sources in real-time is still one of the big challenges in real-time graphics. Even the most recent approaches like practical clustered shading still have various problem cases with low performance. Especially in scenes with high depth variance, existing algorithms cannot adapt to the distribution of light sources properly and end up evaluating many lights that don’t contribute to the final image.
We present a new approach, “tiled light trees” – a hierarchical acceleration structure that adapts to the light source distribution. Our approach improves on the worst case performance of existing solutions. Due to traversal overhead, the proposed algorithm can be sometimes slower than clustered shading. To handle those situations optimally, we propose a hybrid approach which combines the strengths of light trees with clustered shading, outperforming any individual solution in nearly every case. Our new hybrid algorithm is easy to implement and suitable for usage in real-time applications such as games.
Paper is available on ACM.org for free.
Frostbite empowers games like Battlefield: Hardline and Dragon Age Inquisition, and at E3 2015, EA showed off a suite of upcoming titles that’ll run on engine. From first-person shooters in a galaxy far, far away, to racing and sports titles much closer to home, Frostbite is shaping the future of gaming.
Here’s a glimpse of what Frostbite is bringing to you in the coming months.
Star Wars Battlefront
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Need for Speed
Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2
The Frostbite team is really excited for the upcoming lineup of titles running the engine, and we can’t wait to show you more!
Presentation by Fabien Christin from DICE at GDC 2016.
Designing a big city that players can explore by day and by night while improving on the unique visual from the first Mirror’s Edge game isn’t an easy task.
In this talk, the tools and technology used to render Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst will be discussed. From the physical sky to the reflection tech, the speakers will show how they tamed the new Frostbite 3 PBR engine to deliver realistic images with stylized visuals.
They will talk about the artistic and technical challenges they faced and how they tried to overcome them, from the simple light settings and Enlighten workflow to character shading and color grading.
Attendees will get an insight of technical and artistic techniques used to create a dynamic time of day system with updating radiosity and reflections.
This session is targeted to game artists, technical artists and graphics programmers who want to know more about Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst rendering technology, lighting tools and shading tricks.
Frostbite is not only the heart of the Battlefield games on PC and console – it’s also pushing technical boundaries on mobile. Kristoffer Benjaminsson, Product Owner for Mobile at Frostbite, tells you about the team’s greatest mobile challenge yet – getting parts of Battlefield 4 running on iOS.
Frostbite is known for being cutting edge. Everything from rendering to destruction to the scale of our worlds is constantly pushing the boundaries for video games. Highly detailed and dynamic environments are key pillars to any Frostbite game – and mobile is no difference. Whatever you can do on console should be doable on mobile as well!
The Frostbite engine has already explored mobile gaming with the Battlefield 4 Commander App, and at the Apple WWDC event earlier this year we showcased a Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare tech demo running on an iPad Air. 1.3 million triangles showing up on screen simultaneously showed what the engine was capable of.
The next step? We wanted to get parts of Battlefield 4 running on iOS.
It has been quite a challenge. To handle dynamic features such as destruction or moving light sources, most things in the Frostbite engine happen in realtime. This puts extra demand on performance to be able to deliver large, highly detailed worlds with superb visual quality. We were making great progress feature-wise, but hardware and software limitations forced us to either scale down the number of objects and their complexity to retain visual fidelity, or accept lower visual fidelity to cope with a larger number of objects.
This all changed when Apple introduced Metal, their new low-level graphics API, which allowed us to make full use of the hardware. Together with the latest range of hardware, Metal has created possibilities previously out of reach and for the first time we can include both high visual fidelity and a large number of objects.
So to see exactly how far we could take the engine on mobile we set ourselves up for a real challenge: getting selected parts of the Battlefield 4 – truly a visually demanding game – running on iOS! I want to stress that this has been a tech demo to test the engine capabilities, and nothing else.
There is still much to do, but we’re very happy with the results so far. It’s a great feeling porting a system, get it running, and discover that there’s actually performance left. Even though we have much room for performance improvements on our end, we’re pleasantly surprised of the performance we’re getting from the hardware.
We’ll wait for future posts to dig into more details about this, but we are ready to share some screenshots of our work in progress. We hope you find them as exciting as we do.
Until next time!
Product Owner Mobile, Frostbite Stockholm
Presentation by Andrew Hamilton and Ken Brown from DICE at GDC 2016.
Photogrammetry has started to gain steam within the Games Industry in recent years. At DICE, this technique was first used on Battlefield and they fully embraced the technology and workflow for Star Wars: Battlefront. This talk will cover their research and development, planning and production, techniques, key takeaways and plans for the future. The speakers will cover photogrammetry as a technology, but more than that, show that it’s not a magic bullet but instead a tool like any other that can be used to help achieve your artistic vision and craft.
Come and learn how (and why) photogrammetry was used to create the world of Star Wars. This talk will cover Battlefront’s use of of the technology from pre-production to launch as well as some of their philosophies around photogrammetry as a tool. Many visuals will be included!
A content creator friendly talk intended for pretty much any developer, especially those involved in 3D content creation. It is not a technical talk focused on the code or engineering of photogrammetry. The speakers will quickly cover all basics, so absolutely no prerequisite knowledge required.
The following is a guest blog post written by Jacques Lebrun, Technical Director at Bioware working on Dragon Age Inquisition. As time goes by, we will try to bring you more input from the developers behind the Frostbite engine, but also from all the teams using it to create great games.
As I write this, the Dragon Age team is only a couple of months away from putting the finishing touches on Inquisition, so it’s appropriate to look back at the long and arduous journey of getting to this point. Shortly after the launch of Dragon Age II, with a new generation of gaming on the horizon, we knew we needed to stretch our ambition and deliver a game well beyond anything BioWare had done before, which meant a major shift in technology and in the way we develop our games.
We started with an independent evaluation of engine technologies. We looked at an upgrade to our own Eclipse engine, at third-party game engines, and at game engines developed within EA, including DICE’s Frostbite. After a three-month evaluation, we chose Frostbite as our preferred technology for BioWare’s next generation of titles. There was no corporate mandate; this was decided unanimously within our studio. The timing was perfect because the Frostbite team was already making plans to break out into an independent engine team.
Many other teams in EA were coming to the same conclusions. We were suddenly part of a growing community of developers able to share ideas, share code, and collaborate on common interests. This will open up all kinds of opportunities for BioWare since we’ve traditionally developed our games in a vacuum. (Until now, every BioWare title has made their own technology assessments, which has prevented us from collaborating on improvements.)
Frostbite gives us best-of-class visuals, far more advanced than anything seen in a BioWare title. We typically focus our technology efforts on improving storytelling and gameplay, so pairing up with a team obsessed with physically accurate rendering was a great fit. We were also impressed by Frostbite’s capabilities for creating massive environments, with powerful terrain generation tools and flexible streaming options.
Frostbite is also highly scalable, letting games optimize quality settings to suit the capabilities of a wide range of hardware. We faced the significant challenge of developing a game that would target the old and new generations of game consoles. We wanted to develop Inquisition for the new consoles first and foremost, and the scalability of the engine let us get as much as we could out of the previous generation while still providing a gameplay experience on par with the new generation’s offerings.
While Frostbite solved one set of problems for us, we were facing with a completely different set in building a story-focused RPG in the engine. It was initially designed for shooters, and we identified a number of additions required to support an RPG.
BioWare games are known for developing its characters and story through cinematics and interactive dialogue. We’ve spent years developing a powerful suite of tools for writing and scripting conversations into a cinematic experience that interacts with a complex plot structure, while feeding into the pipeline for voice-over recording and localization. Many of these tools wouldn’t integrate with the Frostbite tool chain, so we rewrote them for the new framework. It was a massive undertaking we wanted to do only once for all of our future games. Accordingly, we collaborated with the Frostbite animation team to develop engine improvements that would support rapid creation of cinematic content. We also worked with the teams for the next Mass Effect game and the unannounced IP to incorporate the cinematic authoring tools into the workflows for conversation scripting and localization.
Another major undertaking was creating a next-generation RPG combat system. We created new workflows in the Frostbite toolset for visualizing animations with visual effects, sound effects, and gameplay scripts. This visual workflow has allowed our designers to create hundreds of unique spells and abilities along with a wide variety of interesting and challenging enemies. The dragons that you’ll encounter emphasize the complexity that we can now get from our combat systems. These apex predators showcase targetable limbs and a component system that lets designers reconfigure each dragon to take on a unique set of behaviors.
The Frostbite engine is designed to let game teams make modular extensions that other games can then use. Collaborating on common modules means that we could do the tedious work once and leverage it in our future titles. Cinematics and combat are only a fraction of the many additions we needed to make to the engine. If you look at the Venn diagram of everything you put into a fantasy RPG that isn’t in a modern shooter, the list is daunting: character statistics, character customization, melee combat, magical effects, items, crafting. Even a concept as simple as pausing the game during combat represented a difficult problem that hadn’t been solved in Frostbite yet.
From the get-go, we didn’t want to simply take the engine and branch off a BioWare version. Instead, we wanted to work with the Frostbite team to keep up with the latest improvements and, at the same time, contribute the improvements we were making. That’s easier said than done while the engine is undergoing major enhancements and we’re making major additions. We needed the discipline to resist design patterns developed from our previous titles and the rigor to carefully review every modification to engine code. Keeping our code in sync with the Frostbite development code required a massive effort, but it paid off in the critical updates we received from the Frostbite team: the majority of the next-generation platform code, continuous improvements to the toolset, and hundreds of cool features, such as terrain that can have caves built into it.
Dragon Age: Inquisition represents BioWare’s first next-generation RPG on the Frostbite engine, and the games we’re developing now will only build on this foundation. Several years ago, we placed a few big bets on moving to the Frostbite engine and changing our development methodologies. It’s exciting to be able to finally soon lay down our hand.
Technical Director, Dragon Age: Inquisition
Technical talk by Graham Wihlidal at GDC 2016.
With further advancement in the current console cycle, new tricks are being learned to squeeze the maximum performance out of the hardware. This talk will present how the compute power of the console and PC GPUs can be used to improve the triangle throughput beyond the limits of the fixed function hardware. The discussed method shows a way to perform efficient “just-in-time” optimization of geometry, and opens the way for per-primitive filtering kernels and procedural geometry processing.
Attendees will learn how to preprocess geometry on-the-fly per frame to improve rendering performance and efficiency.
This presentation is targeting seasoned graphics developers. Experience with DirectX 12 and GCN is recommended, but not required.
Developed by EA Tiburon, EA PGA TOUR will be the first sports game to take advantage of the unique technology from Frostbite 3, letting you enjoy golf just the way you like it!
By using Frostbite 3, the developers of EA PGA TOUR are able to create complex, lifelike environments in order to recreate some of the authentic courses for you to play on. These fully rendered environments will let you explore every inch of the varied courses offered, from TPC Sawgrass to fantasy courses such as the Paracel Storm map from Battlefield 4.
Delving further into the actual gameplay side, EA SPORTS PGA TOUR will enable you to stream an entire 18-hole course at once.
Welcome to golf without limits!
Master thesis done at DICE by Kristoffer Jonsson from Uppsala University.
The aim for this thesis is to develop a foundation for a compression system for animated mesh sequences, specifically under dynamic change of mesh geometry and
topology. Compression of mesh sequences is of special interest in the game industry and this particular thesis is a part of an ongoing series of projects at EA DICE.
One of the primary challenges when creating a mesh compression system is creating a matching bijective subset of the mesh surfaces between two subsequent frames in the
animation to guide remeshing of the sequence. This thesis describes a method for producing a bijective set of matching mesh patches between two meshes along with
an error metric that captures the quality of the matching in terms of shape similarity and distortion.
Theory of mathematical topology and tensor algebra used in methods for high performance scientific digital 3D-image recognition are here adopted to extract similar local features between meshes. Techniques for creating parametrizations of mesh patches are combined with techniques for matching point clouds and deforming mesh geometry under energy minimization in order to produce a matching set of patches.
The presented algorithm successfully creates bijective sets of matched patches for subsequent meshes in a sequence as well as measures the error for the matchings. Results show an average matching set size of approximately 25% of the mesh areas over a sequence of meshes. This suggests that the data size of such a sequence could potentially be reduced by 25%.
One of this year’s E3 showcase had a special taste for us at Frostbite: it was Bioware showcasing Dragon Age Inquisition, the very first RPG game powered by Frostbite, but also talking about the upcoming Mass Effect game and a mysterious new IP, both developed with the Frostbite Engine.
Bioware’s legacy has always been about giving choices to the players which have an impact on the universe around them. Impact on the world is a key element of Dragon Age: Inquisition that is reinforced by Frostbite providing not only fluid combat, better animations, but also allowing for more interactions between the character and the environment around them, increasing the amount of possibilities offered for the player.
Speaking of possibilities, during E3 we did get receive confirmation that the Mass Effect team is taking into account the players request for new planets to explore, new characters, and so many more new experiences for players to enjoy and immerse themselves in. We did catch a glimpse of a Krogan in their conceptual prototype, and it will be interesting to see what’s next for them. On top of that, a new IP was also mentioned to be in the works over in Bioware Edmonton and was mentioned to be aiming for contemporary storytelling. Oh yes.
Rendering convincing participating media for real time applications, e.g. games, has always been a difficult problem. Particles are often used as a fast approximation for local effects such as dust behind cars or explosions. Additionally, large scale participating media such as depth fog are usually achieved with simple post-process techniques. It is difficult to have all these elements efficiently interacting with each other according to the lights in the scene.
The authors propose a way to unify these different volumetric representations using physically based parameters: a cascaded volume representing extinction, voxelization method to project particles into that extinction volume, a simple volumetric shadow map that can then be used to cast shadow from any light, according to every volumetric element in the scene, and finally a solution to render the final participating media.
The presented set of techniques and optimizations form the physically based volumetric rendering framework that will be used for all games powered by Frostbite in the future.
Note: Prefer viewing the PowerPoint slides with proper videos & animations over the embedded slides above!
Picking up from where we left off from last night, there was quite the line up of Frostbite titles showed during the EA Conference. Amongst those are two highly anticipated titles that are currently in production over at DICE here in Stockholm. Two titles that, if you happened to miss yesterday, we will gladly show and tell you more about them.
Let’s begin by discussing a long awaited game in the works that all walks of life have been waiting for after being absent from the public eye for almost 10 years now. That’s right, we’re talking about Star Wars Battlefront! As you might able to tell by the trailer below, the team at DICE are giving this game their all. ‘’We at DICE have the opportunity of a lifetime to make the Star Wars game that as fans, we’ve all dreamt of playing.’’ Is a quote from the Design Director of the game, Niklas Fegraeus that in a single sentence says so much about the passion and dedication that is going in to making this an unforgettable game. Just the intricate early in-engine footage shown during E3 blew so many of us away shows that what was shown during E3 has yet to even scratch the surface of what the Battlefront team at DICE has in store for us. As far as dates go, what we do know is that more is to be revealed during Spring of 2015. Until then, may the force be with them.
Next up we tid bits of news regarding the second half the bundle of awesome DICE has to offer. 7 years ago we were introduced to Mirror’s Edge, but more importantly the main protagonist: Faith. We were introduced to one of the most fluid and graceful implementations of parkour so far in the gaming world, the physics alone were impressive enough. But even past that, the stunning yet minimalistic design of the game was a topic adored by many. Now, during the EA Conference at E3 2014, our faith was restored once again when more news regarding the next installment of the game arose (awful pun intended). This news entails the actual team behind Mirror’s Edge discussing the new possibilities, as well as a deeper understanding of who Faith is and her purpose behind her actions. All of these topics are touched upon while also providing a run through a conceptual prototype of the new game. When we will receive more news about the game is currently unclear, but until then you can always check out the official Mirror’s Edge page to keep yourselves up to date.
This is just a taste of what is to come with these upcoming titles, and as we are with every game using the Frostbite engine, we too look forward to seeing more and eventually covering more around the tech behind these epic creations. How do the physics behind the hair particles on Faiths head during movement work? How are the teams using the Frostbite engine to amplify the power of the force in various environments? Stay tuned for more cool stuff.
This talk will go through and give an overview of what some of the major challenges are with the advanced real-time rendering pipelines in modern game engines and discuss what potential next steps and potential solutions & ideas to improve on it, both from a software development and hardware perspective to help future developments. Key themes covered include scalability, reducing complexity and trying to take steps towards a more unified rendering pipeline.