The future of physics is bright, thanks to
a new game that looks set to push things to the next level.
Teardown is an upcoming game that does away with traditional techniques and instead builds
its worlds out of VOXELS. But with physics, buoyancy and all the other things required
to make them behave the way you’d expect for them to behave.
The result is a world that acts like the real-world! Only more blocky. This game is being developed
by Dennis Gustafsson, who you can follow on twitter under the name ‘tuxedolabs’.
He seems like a one-man army who’s a master of all sorts of cutting-edge technologies,
all of which he’s lovingly cramming into this one title. Teardown’s selling point
might be its physics but everything about it seems cutting edge: the audio, the lighting,
the volumetric effects etc. It is indeed shaping up to be an extremely exciting project that
I can’t wait to get my hands on. But I’m not just going to use this video to scream
at the physics in this game with fake-sounding enthusiasm. I’ll save that for my spare
time, thank you very much. Instead, I’m going to go through the progress reports he’s
posted on twitter, as it will help you to get a feel for how this project has evolved
since its inception. Conception. Whatever. He started with other games. One that comes
to mind is Smash Hit, a mobile game from 2014. Despite all this, it already had cutting-edge,
procedural damage. It’s here we see hints to his obsession with destruction.
Fast-forward to late 2017 and he was busy messing about with lighting and lobbing glowy
orbs at trains. As you do. This phase lasted through till early 2018
and then he began work on reflections. And then depth of field.
He cleverly switched to raytracing in a warped space to give more love to the centre of the
screen, and less to the edges where people don’t notice stuff as much.
Eventually, he had done it- he had developed a room, fully lit in real-time and littered
with physics blocks everywhere. Having peaked so soon, what else was there to do?…
Then, SUDDENLY, out of nowhere less than a month later on June 13th, 2018, he posted
a video of a fully destructible house, and with it, Teardown’s journey as a recognisable
game about physics began. Even in this early state, the building could be smashed apart
and bits no longer connected to everything else would collapse convincingly.
By the end of the month, that house had become a village. He optimised the piles of debris
and had added sound effects to give it all a satisfying, creepy atmosphere. And just
like that, it already had better physics than most game out there. Over the coming weeks
and months he posted more videos of more destruction in more elaborate looking environments, no
doubt thanks to his past obsessions and experiments. He then decided to prove a colleague wrong
by showing how bad a lighting system based on voxels would be. In the process he made
an awesome lighting system based on voxels, full of beams of light and stuff.
It then all took an interesting and dark turn, as he moved it to a film noir style.
He experimented with volumetric fog, which may not sound that important in a game about
destruction but as he carves his way through a building the rooms fill up in thick dust
and beautiful beams of light. He then added explosives! I’m impressed
by how restrained he was with these- sure, they would blow out a sizeable chunk of the
room, but what impressed me most was how they interacted with the debris from previous explosions.
As to be expected from him by now, he did the unexpected by jumping to something completely
different, programming in sinister, procedurally animated people who could respond to noises
in an eerily convincing manner. As we all know, this isn’t the route the project ultimately
went down, but I feel in an alternate reality somewhere, this game took a sinister and spooky
route. Within weeks he was putting major studios
to shame by developing AI that could navigate a fully destructible environment. This stuff
was incredible! …so naturally, all this stuff magically
disappeared again as he moved back to working on the physics, adding different materials
and bigger explosions to his project. I particularly like this one, where an explosion smashes
the walls and cracks the outer plaster in a super juicy way.
The physics reached another important milestone in December of 2018 as he added ‘plastic’
joints to simulate- you guessed it- …wood. This is a big improvement! Stuff is no longer
simply static until it’s destroyed. It will twist and warp, bend and deform. It behaves
more like real stuff, in the process becoming even better than the stuff in Red Faction
Guerrilla! Also he discovered this voxel stuff made simulating
buoyancy super easy, as demonstrated in this splashy sploshy bangy wangy example just here.
A little unrelated to the game, but perhaps fundamental to understanding his genius, he
and a fellow person discussed how rubbish raytracing looked in real life, and no doubt
came up with a dozen ways to integrate this into their projects in some misunderstood
yet genius way. It’s here that he began to obsess about
noise. Believe me, I’ve read and re-read his blog about the stuff. I even skimmed it
on Wikipedia, so I’m something of an expert. But even I don’t quite understand the complexities
and trade-offs that different ‘colours’ of noise bring.
But it sounds as though he’s a fan of blue noise combined with the golden ratio to make
for the finest quality noise, just for us! He uses this together with TAA to remove speckles
from water and reflections. Rather ominously, he did tweet that if you
think RTX sounds expensive, voxels are worse! Maybe hold off upgrading for a bit. Just in
case. By early 2019 it was starting to take shape
as the thing it is today. The hammer was added, the audio was given super realistic acoustic
modelling and it pretty much became a functioning game, albeit without purpose… aside from
BLOWING STUFF UP! From here the project went from strength to
strength. By March he had added driveable vehicles that could be ploughed through the
buildings, and which would sustain damage themselves.
A few weeks later he added planks to repair the damage inflicted, but he discovered it
was more fun to construct completely new structures out of them instead.
He even discovered that he could nail them to GIANT SPIDERS. Oh, didn’t mention it?
He added GIANT SPIDERS to the game. They follow you and try to fit through doorways and their
super spindly legs get everywhere, in VR it would probably feel like they’re probing
into your mouth and stuff. I’m happy I don’t have a phobia of spiders, even after that
incident where I accidentally rubbed one across my body and it bit me several times. So I
can only imagine how horrifying this is for its maker, Dennis, who claims he has arachnophobia.
Perhaps somewhat thankfully, in one of his many u-turns, these spiders suddenly disappeared
from the game again as he turned his focus to volumetric smoke that interacts with the
surroundings. He cruelly trapped it under a board, before shooting small holes in it
to let bits of it escape. I mean this could be a game as well couldn’t it, where you’re
a fireman who has to enter burning buildings and extinguish the fires at their source before
they reach strategically placed explosive barrels dotted all over the place.
This guy sees the good in everything, doesn’t he? With a back-handed compliment he wonders
if he could use the rubbishy twitter video compression to denoise the smoke effects in
his game. Next-gen strat. By August he had procedurally generated buildings,
so the PC does the hard work and he just knocks it all down again. Kind of the opposite way
around to normal computer programming if you think about it.
September saw these stringy, bouncy cables. It’s cool enough to see them interacting
with the wooden posts, but he then posted another video where he hooked them to the
back of a truck, pulled it back like a slingshot, then let it go.
If you think that projectile should have done more damage, you’re not alone. Dennis says
he’s disabled damage from these things because of performance reasons… but will hopefully
add it automatically later on. And then he took a break from the carnage
to add spray-paint. Whatever will this madlad do next?!
In October, he uploaded a youtube video, announcing the game, ‘Teardown’.
With these physics, he chose to make it a game where you needed to collect keycards
dotted across a level. The catch being that, after taking the first one, you only had limited
time to get the rest ‘before security arrives’. The trick is not pick up your first keycard
until you’ve destroyed and altered the level in such a way that will allow you to move
between the rest of the keycards as quickly as possible. I like this, cos it means you
can spend unlimited time dicking about in the level if you choose to. But what’s this
about ‘security’? Are we talking guards? SPIDERS?!?! Also, you have guns. It sounds
like there’s more to the action than simply destroying things. But he’s keeping quiet
about this. …Apart from in a video he released just
after showing an EVIL HELICOPTER, shooting holes through the place they’re supposed
to protect. Even AI can’t resist the destruction in this game, it seems!
And he’s continued his work on the vehicles, crushing them, using them after they’ve
been crushed, showing at least a hundred reasons why he should never be given control of an
articulated lorry, and lastly how to get skidmarks on walls whilst burying into the ground…
AT THE SAME TIME! And, at the end of November, it was shown
at Dreamhack winter where it was labelled as ‘Best Strategy’. What’s next for
this game? Well, you can follow his progress on Twitter,
on the website, on the steam page, or you can subscribe to him on Youtube right here.
The game is due out in 2020. I wish him all the best and can’t wait to tear down the
game he’s spent years lovingly building up.