Hellblade developers Ninja Theory have released a new dev diary showing off some tech they're using to create the setting for their upcoming horror game, Project: Mara. It's all set in one location that the devs have meticulously recreated by taking 3D scans of a big modern real-world apartment. It's impressive stuff - they've even made procedurally-generated dust to make it look that much more realistic.
Ninja theory announced Project: Mara almost exactly one year ago, saying it would be "a real-world and grounded representation of true mental terror." They added that it's an "experimental" game all based around one person and one location - the fancy apartment you can catch a glimpse of in the dev diary below.
"We're attempting to do lots of things we've never attempted to do before," Tameem Antoniades, chief creative ninja at Ninja Theory. "One of those things is to capture reality obsessively."
One of the hardest tasks the team seemed to face was getting the exact dimensions of the apartment so they could recreate it. Antoniades says taking measurements wasn't quite exact enough, so they used Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) scans to create an accurate digital 3D representation of it. These scans measure distances by pulsing lasers to detect shapes.
For the finer details, they took samples of different materials from the apartment, like wallpaper and carpet, scanning them and taking photos with varied lighting to create shaders to make them look "as true to life as possible".
"There's kind of a shift going on within Ninja Theory in the way we create art," Antoniades adds. "Artists are not there to just create an object, they're there to create systems that can create that object and infinite variations of that object. It's an entirely different approach that's laying a foundation for all of our projects."
Some of the teeny tiny details weren't possible to make by hand, so Project: Mara will also feature procedurally-generated things like lint and dust. It's the sort of impossibly small stuff you may never notice while playing, but it all adds to the realism, and I'm super impressed at the effort and attention involved in it all.
Beyond all this, Project: Mara is still a bit of a mystery, so hopefully we find out more about it soon.
I've been in the mood for some good horror recently, and I could certainly get on-board with a psychological thriller set in a big open apartment. Lots of mirrors and windows for spooky things to appear in. My only hope is that the protagonist actually looks as though they could afford a place like this. Far too much fiction has characters that work as a waiter at some dingy bar who get to go home to a penthouse suite in a big city. Here's hoping that if the apartment is realistic, the main character will be too.