Another Look Inside the Hedgehog Engine

Another Look Inside the Hedgehog Engine

by May 11, 2009

soniculogoMore than 125 Screenies Show Off GI, HDR, IK Innards

For all the flak the actual product received in the Western press, the graphics and visuals behind Sonic Unleashed continue to get a lot of attention behind the scenes.

Take some time to look around the action stages when not at top speed or in top fighting form, and you’ll likely agree that the next-generation Unleashed for XBOX360 and PS3 is one of the prettiest Sonic games ever made in 3D.  It took years to develop the foundation for the graphics, dubbed the Hedgehog Engine, and how that happened was the subject of a recent article by Japanese site Game Watch.

The article goes into almost painstaking detail as to how the Hedgehog Engine came together, from the use of the HAVOK physics engine, to how the 3D artists had a vision for the game similar to the style of Team Fortress 2 and Pixar animation.  The story also confirms that the engine had been in development since 2005, well before the release of the ill-received next generation Sonic the Hedgehog.  Models of Sonic hit anywhere from 18,000 polygons in game to 26,000 in cutscenes.

There is some other information disclosed in the article that will be a bummer to the most hardcore of fans.  For one, the framerate of Unleashed and perhaps the Hedgehog Engine itself appears to be made for a stable 30fps rate, with occasional hiccups in high intensity environments.  Also, that huge DLC you’re downloading for the game isn’t quite of the caliber from the core game–eye candy like Global Illumination is of a lesser quality within the Adventure Packs.

All in all, if you can understand it, the article will stimulate the minds of many in Sonic fandom, from graphics gurus who want to know how Sega and the Sonic Team did all those tricks, to factions of the Sonic research community who are already talking about the specifics of the story, and even casual fans who supported Unleashed.

As part of the article, dozens upon dozens of development screenshots were released.  Many of them show Sonic in day and night undergoing the shading process and show him and the world he zooms through before all the polish was applied.  You’ll see all the polygons that went into each action stage, and you’ll see the Werehog without all his fur.

Also part of the pack is some diagrams detailing how the development teams used the Hedgehog Engine to reflect light and use a light field around Sonic.  There are also examples of High Dynamic Range image rendering, and the use of Inverse Kinematics.  You can see that an dmuch more in the screenshots below–all 128 of them.