Avatar: Limits of Pandora was one of the big surprises at Ubisoft’s E3 2021 press conference. Although it was announced years earlier, the publisher and developer were finally able to showcase the game. And today, Ubisoft went a little deeper into the game’s tech, engine improvements, and more before calling it the “Biggest Leap” in Snowdrop Engine History.
The trailer above details some of the advances Massive Entertainment had to make to adapt to the green and vibrant world of Pandora. While the Snowdrop engine was used for other games such as South Park: The break is complete, Massive is used to huge cityscapes for The corporate division and its continuation. To support a world like Pandora, Massive had to upgrade its engine.
It uses a “micro-detail system” that can load thousands of assets (such as plants) at one time to create a highly detailed environment. There are also a lot of different types of vegetation, and that allows for many more objects than “[they’ve] ever before ”, which is also due to some differences in the use of the GPU. In essence, the engine is much better at making richer and denser jungle-like settings.
These plants should also feel more alive, as better shaders allow them to respond to the player or the weather. This is indicated in the trailer when the plant backs away when the player puts their hand next to it. The improvements also apply to the sky. Since players can use banshees to fly, Ubisoft added better volumetric clouds to make sure the sky looked as good as the ground.
However, ray tracing could be the term or characteristic that most people would recognize as more games support it in this new generation (keep in mind that User picture is a current generation and exclusively for PC). The game supports ray tracing and this can be seen in a number of different ways. Raytraced Global Illumination ensures that the world is illuminated more naturally regardless of the weather and time of day, while the bioluminescent plants can shine more spectacularly.
The last part of the trailer is likely something that will need detailing another time as the examples were a bit vague. NPCs can have different animations and activities depending on the state of the world, be it weather, player progress or time of day. Sounds like an extension of the Schedules Ubisoft used in the latest Assassin’s Creed Games in which NPCs act according to their needs.