DICE has announced Frostbite 3, the latest version of its 'next-gen' engine used to power Battlefield 4.
In development since 2011, Frostbite 3 is described by the studio as an "evolution" of its existing Frostbite 2 engine, designed to create a "dynamic, human and believable experience" and allow for improved animations, destruction and AI.
"With Frostbite 3 and all the high-performance platforms it supports, we want to take another big step forward and set a new bar," explains Carl Almgren, senior development director on Frostbite 3.
"The Battlefield 4 team, they wanted to make a game that is dramatic, human and believable, and two areas that we feel is key to achieve this mission is characters and our environments."
Frostbite 3 is designed to make "full use" of current-gen consoles, as well as take advantage of "multi-core PC platforms" and - presumably - next-gen consoles.
"Since 2011 we firmly believed that this would be the base for all future platforms," continued Almgren. "We also had this perfect test bed in Battlefield 3. From day one, we made sure that Battlefield 3 would run on Frostbite 3 through a bunch of conversion scripts. This also made the transition very smooth for the Battlefield team."
Used to power all versions of Battlefield 4, Frostbite 3 is said to offer "hundreds of different improvements" with a focus on "making the characters feeling much more human and emotional.
"We’ve talked about the appearance," Almgren adds, "that's how the character looks, and they look great. But it's also about the movement. Now the movement pattern is much more complete."
Thanks to Frostbite 3, the weight and "feel" of characters in Battlefield 4 is superior to Battlefield 3, Almgren states, with the transition from motion-capture to artist-drawn animation rendering far more naturally.
"It's really difficult now to see when you go from mo-cop to handmade animations,” says Almgren.
As well as making improvements to the characters, Frostbite 3 has also been designed to make Battlefield 4's environments feel more dynamic.
"We worked with our different systems, like the dynamic lighting, the materials, the reflections, the shadows, the particles, basically everything to make the world feel much more real and alive," continues Almgren.
"Also, with Frostbite 3 and Battlefield 4, everything is now affected by wind and forces. Forces could be a helicopter crashing, or a tower falling down, or a grenade, or a car passing by. This will be combined with the wind – both the global wind and local wind – and we’ll also make all the stuff you see in the environment move: the trees, the undergrowth, the cloth on the characters, and also the smoke and the particles."
And what about destruction?
"That’s really a key feature," says Almgren. "Everyone involved now has a better understanding of how to use destruction and when to use destruction, and what does this really mean to our players. I think it's going to mean that it will be more destruction where it makes sense, but it will also be better destruction and different types of destruction that you haven’t seen before."
As seen in the screen above, Frostbite 3 is also capable of rendering a tonne of seagulls on-screen at once, and though it may look pretty in the screens, Almgren states that that level of fidelity is achievable in the actual game - on PC, at least.
"Everything you saw in the demo is in-game, in-engine, no pre-rendered, no movie, no fake; this is actually what you're going to experience in-game."
But the engine isn't just built for high-end systems. In an interview with VideoGamer.com, Battlefield 4's creative director Lars Gustavsson said that DICE's aim is to "push it on all platforms and make the most of [current-gen consoles].
"There are so many things that we do now that might actually save memory," said Gustavsson, "that we pushed the boundaries last time, now we've come up with better ways of doing it. It looks better and it’s actually cheaper to do it.
"It's always a haggle, but it really, in short steps we need to build the game scalable so that it cannot really feel like it’s not built for that platform. That's something we’ve carried with us for a long time."
Frostbite 3 is set to debut with Battlefield 4 this autumn. Additional information on the engine will be revealed later in the spring.
Source: Battlefield 4 reveal event in Stockholm. Travel and accommodation provided by EA.