Alan Wake is finally a reality. We've reviewed it and everything. But while it may not be quite as great as we'd hoped, the graphical effects are certainly woth crowing about. Aside from the wonderful lighting effects, the cloth physics in particular deserve some praise. Especially as cloth is probably the third-hardest thing to render after skin and water.
People have tried it for years - with varying degrees of success. So here's a quick timeline of cloth physics to get all flowy about.
But they were still clearly flat. What we needed was polygons.
PSone's Soul Calibur predecessor Soul Blade is memorable for its cloth physics, mainly because they were 'always on', even if you paused the game. Any hot-headed teenage gamers trying to see up Sophitia's skirt were met with cloth physic censorship. Denied.
Above: Yup, that's it - stab him in his furry pants while he's distracted
Ironically, developers already knew exactly how cloth physics were supposed to look, there just wasn't the technology to do it. For some strange reason, it's another girl's flowing attire that was used for the best application - Ridge Racer Type 4's Reiko Nagase. Observe this pre-rendered intro from 1999 to see the cloth physics pipedream of PSone-era devs.
One day, we'd get that kind of cloth movement in the games themselves. But wait... what's this?
The Dreamcast version of Virtua Fighter 3 was an odd one for cloth physics. Some costumes were lavishly flowing, while others stuck out from characters' bodies like cardboard flaps. At least Aoi's clothes worked properly - look at these:
Thank goodness we live in the age of decent 3D at last. Batman's cape is everything a cape should be. It's long. It stays in the air where his body was a mere second earlier. It hangs from his shouldesr properly instead of glitching around his neck. It's like someone took a real cape and programmed it into the game. Check it out:
We're getting there. Alan Wake, Batman, Bayonetta, FIFA... today's cloth physics are amazing. Look at SSFIV's post-fight victory screen for Ibuki. It may well be a preset action, but the way the cloth over her face stretches realistically away from her mouth and doesn't flicker around between her fingers is just sublime.
Anyone coming to games right now would think this is easy. We've actually had some 20 years of wondering 'what demon has done this to my robes?'
06 May, 2010
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