Recently, An image on social media showed a Starfield character surrounded by rain while the rest of the area was dry. This image sparked a lively discussion on how games handle rain and other similar elements, and game developers are pitching in.
In an interview with Polygon, Thomas Francis explained that this phenomenon has existed for a while and in many past games. Francis, who led the visual effects art team for Red Hook, explained that it is standard practice to slave particle systems like rain to the game’s camera.
He added that this is necessary to optimize performance since the game engine does not have to render rain all over the area. The technique limits the rendering to what needs to appear in front of the camera.
Francis added that this visual effects practice applies to snow, wind, falling leaves, and dust.
Iron Lung creator David Szymanski also weighed in. “Rain is usually done with some sort of particle system, which is just a way of making a lot of similar things that all move or animate,” he told Polygon in an email.
Szymanski explained that developers usually attach the particle system to the player’s character or the game camera. This technique completes the visual illusion that it is raining hard in front of the player, but only when the developers come up with the right volume of particles.
3D environment artist Karl Schecht also told Polygon that the particle systems are designed to bring realism and ensure that the visual effects run smoothly on a PC or console.
Schecht also said that the now-viral photo merely illustrates the existence of the particle system in Starfield. Capturing the scene by zooming out in Photo Mode reveals the size of the particle system above the player’s character.
Speaking of graphics, Starfield previously had trouble running on computers using Nvidia’s GPUs. This necessitated the creation of a controversial DLSS3 mod that was put behind a paywall and Nvidia’s release of a GameReady driver that boosts its GPU’s performance in Starfield.
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