On the technical side, there’s a lot to love about the new Tomb Raider game. For starters, Lara isn’t a top-heavy fantasy, but a more realistic and grounded character. And the world that she happens to be inhabiting and constantly falling through, is rich and detailed. But all of that pales in comparison to the greatest piece of tech on display – her hair.
Despite the fact that she spends the majority of her day escaping pirates and crawling through filthy tombs, Lara somehow still manages to sport a luxurious mane of hair with full body and colour, thanks to the TressFX technology that AMD created. What this also means, is that no Hollywood actress can ever complain, ever again, in an advert where they stress about their poor wittle scalps.
Over on the AMD blog, the need for more realistic hair in games was a challenge that had to be met. “Realistic hair is one of the most complex and challenging materials to accurately reproduce in real-time”.
Convincingly recreating a head of lively hair involves drawing tens of thousands of tiny and individual semi-transparent strands, each of which casts complex shadows and requires anti-aliasing. Even more challengingly, these calculations must be updated dozens of times per second to synchronize with the motion of a character.
According to the blog, this is what Tomb Raider looked like with and without the technology activated:
TressFX Hair revolutionizes Lara Croft’s locks by using the DirectCompute programming language to unlock the massively-parallel processing capabilities of the Graphics Core Next architecture, enabling image quality previously restricted to pre-rendered images. Building on AMD’s previous work on Order Independent Transparency (OIT), this method makes use of Per-Pixel Linked-List (PPLL) data structures to manage rendering complexity and memory usage.
No idea what that means, but the results speak for themselves. The game is out today, so you’ll also be able to see for yourself. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe she’s OOOOOOH CRAP I’M FALLING YET AGAIN BUT MY HAIR LOOKS LOVELY!