Fans had every reason to anticipate excellent production qualities from The Last of Us 2, which boasted over 2,000 developers and a $100 million budget. While opinions differ, the award-winning game did manage to deliver outstanding graphical realism. Naughty Dog was so dedicated that it rebuilt a portion of its rendering algorithms to ensure that one detail was flawless.
Waylon Brinck, the technical art director on The Last of Us 2, and Steven Tang, the technical artist, presented a talk at a graphics conference early this year. They discussed how much time and effort went into creating the character’s eyes.
As the old adage goes, the eyes are the windows to the soul, and eye contact is an important component of human communication. As a result, Naughty Dog worked hard to make the eyes of the characters in The Last of Us 2 as lifelike as possible.
After all, spending time and money on hair motion and skin texturing means nothing if the avatars are looking creepily at the user with glassy eyes. The company had to redesign the software to generate characters’ eyes, which proved to be a huge job.
Ellie has incredibly realistic eyes in The Last of Us 2’s announcement trailer, as Brinck noted out. However, precise lighting and camera angles were primarily responsible for this. Getting around this constraint in-game took a long time, and it started with a lot of reference photographs.
The character’s eyelids and lashes were then given “screen-space shadows” by the crew. This is a form of ambient occlusion that uses ray tracing to correctly represent how light interacts with a 3D model. It provided much-needed depth to the character’s eyes, resulting in a more genuine and relatable image.
The eyes of humans were not the only ones that received special care. The crew was focusing on providing taxidermied wolves “retro-reflective eyes,” as Brinck and Tang described. The ability of naturally nocturnal animals’ eyes to reflect light differently depending on the brightness level is a frequent feature.
It’s the reason why the eyes of dogs and cats appear to shine in the dark. Naughty Dog was able to replicate it by developing a piece of code that calculated the pupil’s reflectiveness. The game engine then gave the animal’s eyes an iridescent shine. The creators’ effect was so well received that it was added to all Infected foes in The Last of Us 2. As a result, zombified creatures appeared, which were even more disturbing.
Overall, this may appear to be a lot of effort for rather little details. On the other hand, the creators saw it as a necessary step in immersing players in the game’s environment and plot. While The Last of Us 2 did not go over well with critics, no one can accuse Naughty Dog of skimping on the details.