Flash Bang Wallop: The Scanning of Ethan Carter

Wreath to meet you, RPS

No matter how spooky a spooky game’s rocks may be, it’s always comforting to know they can’t really hurt you. Unless, that is, they’re actually real rocks scanned into the game with fancy technology, and the original is still lurking out there somewhere in the mist, waiting to trip you. That’s the true terror of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, the non-combative horror walk ’em up from Bulletstorm veterans The Astronauts. The gang are showing off their mastery of the arcane science of photogrammetry, or smooshing loads of photos together to make a 3D model.

The big idea is that with a game world built of scanned real objects rather than the same handful of repeating and tiling hand-made art, they say, players will “stop seeing assets and start seeing the world.” Which is presumably helpful when trying to scare the kecks off visitors to it.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’s photogrammetry uses dozens, or even hundreds, of photographs of places and items to make its 3D recreations, spaceman Andrzej Poznanski explained in a blog post yesterday. Their artists go in to clean up the models and trim a few squillion off the polycount, but they’ll end up with a unique hunk of rock, or statue, or valley, worn and stressed as if by Mother Nature’s own crippling hand.

Your brain does take notice when things are not normal. Like in video games. Even if on the unconscious level, your brain points out to you all those perfectly tiling textures, all those evenly worn-out surfaces, those stains placed in all the wrong places – and whispers in your ear: LOL!

In a spooky tale about a detective with supernatural powers roaming through woods in search of a kidnapped boy, you probably don’t want players LOLing and certainly not ROFLing.

Behold, an eerie boolder (click on it for the full 3D rotate-o-view):

Boulder stone  from 'The Vanishing of Ethan Carter' (Click to view in 3D)

And the wyrdest of waterfalls (the game will, of course, have proper moving water):

Waterfall from 'The Vanishing of Ethan Carter' (Click to view in 3D)

Poznanski’s post has a load more examples, including a few of when 3D scanning goes bad.


  1. Volcanu says:

    Is this a stave church I see before me?

  2. FurryLippedSquid says:

    That’s no boolder, it’s a nervous rock.

  3. Zunt says:

    Hm. I don’t think I’ve been “seeing assets” and missing “seeing the world” since sometime around HL1. Definitely by HL2. Immersion isn’t just about graphics, after all.

    And can one whisper “LOL!”? Pretty sure my brain would never say “LOL!”, unless it was ironically.

    • pepperfez says:

      I assumed that was to emphasize the mind-warping powers of unrealistic environments: Unknown whisperers from out of time, breathing the cold wind of the gibbering void, infiltrate your consciousness and utter, as though in your own voice, hideous monosyllables signifying nothing but degradation and incipient madness, the unmaking of your very self – LOL!

  4. Shooop says:

    But they still haven’t uttered a word about what you’ll actually be doing in the game have they?

    • Artea says:

      You’ll rigorously examine detailed floor textures in search for clues to a mystery

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Actually there’s a pretty in-depth hands-on in the most recent Edge. Doesn’t explain everything, but it sounds interesting.

  5. Keyrock says:

    Hopefully Ethan Carter reappears by tomorrow night. He’s one of the very few good parts of Impact Wrestling.

  6. CookPassBabtridge says:

    1. Can I become a Photogrammaton Cleric
    2. I love photorealism it gives me the squiffles
    3. That’s basically a photo of an eerie rock then isn’t it
    4. I like biscuits

    • Damien Stark says:

      1. I would say I love you for that comment, but expressing such strong emotion could get me hauled off somewhere.
      2. Yes.
      3. Yes.
      4. Depends on whether you mean British biscuits (cookies) or Southern US biscuits (in which case you get a third Yes.)

  7. ZIGS says:

    That rock has no bottom. I guess you could say…

    puts on sunglasses

    It really hit rock-bottom


  8. DanMan says:

    That’s the most impressed I’ve ever been by a rock.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Whatever you do, don’t turn around — Stonehenge is standing behind you, and it looks pretty angry.

      Oh shit, here comes the Great Pyr-

  9. Sam says:

    If only you could talk to these rocks, then perhaps you could try and make friends with them, form alliances… Now, that would be interesting.

  10. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    You can look at that bloke’s spots in 3d from every side. Finally!

  11. Monkeh says:

    That’s one good looking rock!

  12. luukdeman111 says:

    Those are some sexy textures…

  13. racccoon says:

  14. The Dark One says:

    Please make “walk ’em up” a regular RPS tag!!

  15. Urthman says:

    If this is possible, what was the point of Carmack’s Rage megatexture tech?