Give The GIF Of Terror: The Animating Of Ethan Carter

By Alec Meer on December 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter is what the main folk behind Bullestorm did next, and the combination of spooky forests and some bloke’s name makes it impossible not to claim it sounds like Alan Wake. However, it sounds like it’s branching off down the Dear Esther/Gone Home path rather than the shootybang one, which for my money often results in more atmosphere than a storm of bullets does. See also Silent Hill’s walking/worrying sections vs Silent Hill’s monster-clobbering sections. This is first-person, I should mention.

Very little is known about Ethan Carter really, but they are very proud of their graphics engine and its use of ‘photogrammetric’ technology. As far as I can tell that means turning 2D images of real-world scenes into 3D game scenes. Kind of like the faces in the first Max Payne, only with hills and stuff? Anyway, they’re using GIFs to demonstrate it. Look at our website daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance.

In the absence of any knowledge of the game to share with you, I supposed I’d better include these small descriptions they’ve given of each GIF.

“The first “video” shows a small fragment of a rocky path near the opening area of the game. A lot of what you see has been made using photogrammetric technology. Rest assured we will be talking a whole lot more about it in January, but in short, we believe it’s the future for a lot of indie studios interested in photo-realistic worlds. The technology does not eliminate the need for artists and never will, but it allows faster acquisition of high quality in-game assets.”

The second movie shows our hero, an occult detective called Paul Prospero, witness a supernatural event. It’s connected to the memories of a certain corpse that Paul is “questioning” about… Okay, this is a longer story, so let’s leave it for another time. Note how the foliage is affected by the switch from reality to the memory, right before the draisine materializes.

Third GIF shows a fragment of a long forgotten cemetery from the later part of the game. Elements of the environment, like the tombs or the roots, were also made using photogrammetry.

Whatever’s going on, I think it looks jolly nice.

The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter was due for release at some point this year, but that’s quietly been moved to 2014.

There’s also a prequel comic here, if you missed it.

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51 Comments »

  1. AngoraFish says:

    Note how the foliage is affected by the switch from reality to the memory, right before the draisine materializes.

    Fantastic effect, in the context.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    Another on-the-rails shooter?

  3. karthink says:

    Does this mean you can’t assign “photogrammetric” objects material/physical properties? Basically, are they limited to being stage props or can you interact with them?

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      The photogrammetry Chmielarz is talking about is just part of their modelling process. Instead of an artist sculpting a model from scratch, or slowly 3d scanning real objects, they take a bunch of photos and extract model and texture information from that.

      Nothing in that process prevents them also assigning metadata for material and other properties, nor rigging the models for animating. It just makes the model creation quicker.

  4. GameCat says:

    I think they got Advanced Tree Sway(TM) technology from Shadow Warrior remake.

    I’m joking, but it looks really, really nice.

  5. Meat Circus says:

    Gifs are an abomination. Gfycat is your friend.

  6. N'Al says:

    That does look jolly nice, indeed. Will definitely be keeping an eye on this one (more so than I already had, I mean).

  7. Kohlrabi says:

    Alec, please consider that some of your readers might be on mobile phones with ridiculous data plans. Putting a huge-ass GIF on the front page and having another two in the article without real warning is not very nice.

    Maybe someone should tell the developers that you can compress those “videos” down to less than a megabyte by using WebM, instead of wasting everybody’s bandwidth.

    • Shockeh says:

      It’s on the front page and massive, totally valid point, but the pre-jump story does say they’ve using GIF to demonstrate the technology, so clicking on it and not expecting further GIF is a little naive, surely?

      • Kohlrabi says:

        Fair point, but linking to the original page, or posting stills, would have allowed me to still read that article, and would have been a bit more charming. FWIW I’m currently NOT on mobile connection, so I didn’t mind. I just wanted to point it out.

    • speps says:

      You’re right 5MB for merely 2 seconds at this resolution is an abomination.

      Let’s push for RPS to use tags, most browsers can use these now, even on phones, so we can actually control when we want them to play. I think if more and more sites used them, we would see these GIFs disappear for good, RPS lead the way please !

      • Shadowcat says:

        Whenever I enable gif animations in my browser, I’m quickly reminded of just how horrible it is to browse the web with gif animations enabled. People still stick them all over the show, and it’s just awful.

        Switch ‘em off, seriously. Enable them when you want to (hint: it won’t be often), and your browsing experiences will be more pleasant.

    • Balance of Power says:

      Right. And some people are still on 28.8 kbps dial-up therefore RPS should accommodate them. And how inconsiderate of RPS to publish color pictures! Many people are still on green and black CRT displays from 1983 so RPS should make all images monochromatic and no bigger than 16×16 pixels. And lest we forget there might be some RPS devotees who are still using Mosaic 1.0 browser so all these newfangled HTML tags, CSS, and PHP are completely inconsiderate to these users, so RPS should just publish simple text files formatted in ASCII.

  8. Funso Banjo says:

    Not a single shadow in the environments. Not one.

    Otherwise looks nice, great texturing, nice resolution.

    Not one shadow. Seriously. The train appears to bring one in as a part of its geometory. But environments? None.

  9. MajorManiac says:

    The first gif is how I remember Oblivion looking in my rose-tinted memory.

    It specificity reminds me of the route you must travel when escorting Jauffre and Martin from Weynon Priory to Cloud Ruler Temple.

    • Shockeh says:

      Sadly, that rose-tint is precisely as bad as you suspect. Oblivion doesn’t manage to even look that good these days. :(

  10. Sami H says:

    I’m curious as to whether this actually leads to true 3D environments or if the game will be “on rails” (with branching paths obviously). Only reason I ask is that it looks quite similar albeit smoother (helps to have artists who can tweak and tune everything) to Microsoft’s Photosynth technology which takes 2D photos and converts them to a pseudo-3D environment: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/microsoft-updates-photosynth-ways-stitch-images/

  11. Ross Angus says:

    Yes please.

  12. Low Life says:

    But can I shoot people in the ass for more points?

  13. hideinlight says:

    The moment I read the “No shadows” comment my brain went haywire. I just can’t see the “no shadows”.
    Take the 3rd Gig, the trees to the right, I call it the darkened effect, every-time I glimpse at that my brain tells me the scene is real, and all shadows are filled in automatically.

  14. Don Reba says:

    Gifs. They’ll burn in Hell for this!

  15. spectone says:

    Bullestorm is that a misspelling of BulletStorm?

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      In Swedish, that could be interpreted as Bunstorm (although, “bullstorm” is more correct). Bulle is also a derogatory word for policeman in German slang, but storm isn’t a German word so Bullestorm would have to be changed to Bullesturm to mean something, i.e. cop storm.

  16. Kitsunin says:

    PRETTY SO HOW IS GIF.

  17. Ginger Yellow says:

    Enhance. Stop. Move in. Stop. Pull out, track right. Stop.

  18. Darth Gangrel says:

    It was really annoying trying to read the text with all those gifs playing constantly, but with some help from Notepad I managed to block the gif sections so that I could read the text undisturbed. The areas look nice and atmospheric, but that’s all I can say about it and that’s no guarantee that it’ll be worth playing

  19. araczynski says:

    has a strange ‘myst’ vibe to it doesn’t it?

  20. barney says:

    This Ethan — any relation of Randolph’s?

  21. AdamDenton says:

    If anyone is finding the GIFs a little too hypnotically pretty for comfort (or concentrating on the fine words of Mr. Meer), you can always press ESC to pause them in IE or Firefox. Chrome doesn’t have this feature yet but there’s always the “Stop Animations” extension.

    Right, I’m off to dive down a “photogrammetric” Wiki wormhole.

  22. Monkeh says:

    I’m eager to read more about that ‘photogrammetry’. It’s sure looking good so far and indeed very realistic, especially for an indie-game.

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