Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Flash Bang Wallop: The Scanning of Ethan Carter

Rock and photoreal

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.

Read this next