In this episode of “Inside DICE”, we let you in on the design philosophy behind the HD Destruction in Battlefield 3™: Close Quarters and how the VFX was tweaked to fit the mayhem in this new indoors environment.
Hello everyone, I’m Nadab Göksu, Senior VFX Artist at DICE. I have been doing visual effects for Battlefield games since Battlefield 2 [released 2005]. My role includes everything from creating particle effects to post filters, lens flares, and bullet decals. I also hook stuff up to the right gameplay effect — so there’s a metal kind of explosion (and not a wooden one) when you fire your RPG at a vehicle, for example.
Visual effects is a constantly evolving field. No game is like the last one, and that’s one reason I still enjoy working on them. As hardware and code is constantly evolving, we can get more and better-looking visual effects into the games, and I always try to push the limits of what we can do.
For Battlefield 3: Close Quarters I approached the visual effects with two things in mind. Firstly, that particle effects should not block a player’s view. We have a lot more destruction than in previous games, so if we were to use the set of FX from the base game, the rooms and corridors in Close Quarters would be literally filled with smoke for long periods of time, potentially ruining the gameplay.
Secondly, the whole art direction for this expansion pack centers around destruction. I wanted to emphasize this by having a lot of debris and very violent dust explosions that burst and dissipate quickly so that they don’t take over the scene. The focus here should be on debris rather than smoke. Combined, these two tenets governed a lot of the FX work for Close Quarters.
You create the chaos
One important aim for me with Close Quarters is to let players generate ambient environmental chaos. All HD Destruction leaves behind a big and very long-lived dust particle cloud that shows the trace of war and turns the surrounding dusty.
On the “Skybar” level [our internal title for Ziba Tower] for example, you have the sprinklers that will trigger if someone shoots at them or if an explosion goes off nearby. We also have gas stoves that burst into flames during the entire round. Showers start to leak water and steam, TV’s are buzzing with static, lights are flashing, and so on. The experience I want to convey is that you generate the chaos, and you can track were the action is by following the signs of destruction. Put simply, at the end of a round, a Close Quarters map should look and feel completely different from when the round started.
So what we did was create a lot of new surface materials for “XP2” [our internal designation for this second expansion pack] and a new set of gameplay/destruction effects for all of the different props and objects. This way it would be easier to control the new effects and to give this expansion pack a unique look.
Basically, all impact effects from bullets in Close Quarters are new. They are also rapid, more violent and contain a lot more debris than earlier. Every bullet fired will now spawn ~50 particles upon impact, from the previous ~10. How can we afford this from a performance standpoint? That’s where our optimization work comes into play, making sure that all the extra debris will only spawn if it’s close you to, with a cap on how much debris can exist in the world at any one time.
Apart from these new impact effects, I also created new destruction effects in various sizes for different materials to fit all of the objects we have, such as wood, furniture, concrete, marble, and so on. For each part that can be chipped away from an object, we spawn ~6 small cluster objects that the prop artists include when they’re building their props (such as chairs, lamps, and walls). Normal clusters can collide and have proper physics, while the small clusters are not networked and are relatively cheap from a performance standpoint. The rest is mesh particles — they don’t have any sort of collision, but mixing the two types still gives a strong visual experience to the player.
Randomly shooting at stuff
Above you can see a demo montage that I put together, just randomly shooting at stuff to showcase the destruction internally here at DICE. I just added a slow motion effect in post-production because I wanted to see all the details in our HD Destruction.
Besides what has already been discussed in this post, a lot of work went into tweaking existing effects. The RPG explosion has been remade, for example, and now has a very unique look. Players should now be able to see a distinct difference between an RPG explosion versus a hand grenade explosion, especially since the latter also has seen a revamp with Close Quarters. These changes not only look pretty – they were absolutely necessary from a gameplay perspective as well, since the base game FX would effectively block visibility in two entire rooms inside the Ziba Tower map!
Other explosive items that have been revamped for Close Quarters are the C4 and Claymores. The C4 explosion radius should now match its actual gameplay area more closely, and the Claymore now has a directional based cone of mayhem, also modified to fit its actual gameplay range. These are all changes that were essential in bringing the Battlefield indoors, where space is much tighter than on a traditional Battlefield map (like Caspian Border, for example).
It’s been a blast working on Close Quarters, and the June release is coming up. I hope you will have as much fun with it as we have had during our play tests. I tend to favor TDM, so you can probably find me in some Noshahr Canals TDM server, at least until this expansion pack gets released. Thanks for reading, and let me know in the comments section below if you have any questions on our VFX work and I’ll try to answer them.
Senior VFX Artist