Thursday, February 9, 2012

Graphics in Games Week 5: Environments of Final Fantasy XIII-2

Back in 2010, Final Fantasy XIII was released after years of waiting. The game was both scorned and praised. It was scorned for its linear paths for most of the game, taking a long time to wait before becoming free world and the fact that it’s “auto-battle” AI was too smart and took away a lot of control for the player. It was also praised by different people for the auto battle mechanic and other gameplay elements but it was most widely praised for its graphics. The game was stunning, its environments and character models were of a very high class. Particularly the environments which should many varied, lush, vibrant colors and effects to truly make each area a wonder to move in, despite the fact the paths in them were linear.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, released on January First 2012 which improves upon the first in many aspects, mostly game play wise. It made the game much more open world, instead of the linear path that the original was panned for, and added various other gameplay elements such as collecting monsters and time travel to revisit areas. Much like its predecessor, Final Fantasy XIII-2 maintains the same high quality graphics, perhaps even more so though it’s hard to tell since they both look very good.

Models and textures

Protagonists Serah (front) and Noel (back) are both exquisitedly modelled

The models in Final Fantasy XIII-2 are of a very high quality. Particular focus was put on the character’s faces, which is very apparent due to the amount of dialogue in the game. All the main characters or any important NPCs that talk can talk while providing very realistic emotion in their faces. This is where the most “vertexes” are located in the model since the Final Fantasy series has always been about cutscenes, and they aim to provide the best viewing experience during these cutscenes. The detail drops off at the hands since they aren’t seen close as much, but every now and then a cutscene may show then in their lower detail in terms of bump mapping and texture.

A look at some of the ground textures

In general, the texture is great all over, however due to the sheer size of the game, on the Xbox 360 version some of the textures have been compressed in order to fit onto a single disc. The textures would otherwise be much larger and would improve greatly in quality if they had decided to try and fit it onto 2 discs. I am not fully sure of the difference in quality between the PS3 version (Since it uses Blu Ray) and 360 version since I have not taken a microscope to the PS3 yet.

The grass flows in a realistic way like the hair does

To go with the realistic characters, Square Enix has worked hard to make the physics of hair very good. Hair flows with wind or bobs around realistically when characters move around. They aren’t static in the slightest, they are some of the best hair physics I have seen.


A crazy amount of particle effects on screen when many spells were used at once

Final Fantasy has always had magic in the series in various forms, which means particle effects are sure to be used to great effect with them. In every battle you encounter during the game there will constantly be a variety of particle effects. Fire, ice, lightning, strange energies, etc. Every blow unleashes particle effects of some sort and the flashiest spells are combined with cinematic camera views which make the action even more exciting. I can’t even count the number of particles present in this game, it’s abundant with them constantly. Whether in or out of battle, there are constantly amazing particle effects (which of course light up the scene) all over the game. Watch any gameplay and you will see it all over.

Blurring and other effects

Just to note, we also learned about a variety of effects in Computer Graphics, many of them related to blurring effects that are applied after a scene is render. This is known as post-process effects. Basically it would end up blurring a scene by taking the pixels on the screen and average out their values so that pixels would end up meshing together. Pixels contain information about color, so basically nearby pixels would be averaging out the color between them. Looking far away from the screen and at the image as a whole, it makes the image look blurred.

A Blurring and particle effect that occurs whenever you enter batle

The reason I wanted to mention this is because Final Fantasy XIII-2 also uses this, all the time. The particle effects constantly use this, to give the appearance of distortions happening all around. Also used to blur the particle effects of combat spells to give them more of a “powerful” appearance and also because if you take a look at fire for example, the extreme heat causes a blurring effect in real life. FFXIII-2 does this as well and for many different spells.

A bloom effect, which blurs the area from the light of the sun

When running around, if there happens to be a sun in that environment, a blurring effect will also happen should you look in that direction to help invoke a more realistic appearance to looking at the sun. Since in real life we would be wincing a lot of otherwise burning our retinas.


Use of lighting in one of the city areas 

The lighting is absolutely fantastic in FFXIII-2, I can’t deny it. The use of lighting in many environments lights up the characters just right, maintaining their realism and never making them too dark or glow in strange ways. They always look good and the environments all look good. Not to mention the particles frequently count as lighting sources too.

Environments of Final Fantasy XIII-2 - Featured Video

The environments of Final Fantasy XIII-2 are what truly make the game a really engaging experience. Every locale looks beautiful, with the right amount of lighting and atmosphere that each place sticks out. They choose the appropriate lighting effects in different areas to truly give the correct feeling to every area. This really helped immerse me in the game, probably the major factor for why I was so immersed, the game is just breath taking. This here is the reason why I will relate this post to Game Design as well, since in game Design, the aesthetics are important in immersing the player in the experience. And like I said, this is what the environments did for me.

I know that this blog has been shorter than the usual but that’s because I have focused the effort for this blog post on a video instead. I wanted to showcase the environments of Final Fantasy XIII-2 first hand rather than simply talk about them. Seeing it all in action is much better than simply reading about it. 

The Environments of Final Fantasy XIII-2

No comments:

Post a Comment