When Theory Interactive released the debut trailer of Reset, a lot of people began wondering who the hell was Theory Interactive, and how it has managed to achieve visuals that can rival those found in triple-A titles like Crysis 3. Well, a couple of days ago we had the pleasure to interview Mikko Kallinen, co-founder, programmer and composer at Theory, who has previously worked at Futuremark. Mikko shared with us some tech details about the engine powering Reset, its physics middleware, how big will the game’s world be, and whether the game will support Tessellation. Enjoy the interview after the jump!
DSOGaming: Before we begin, please introduce yourselves to our readers.
Mikko Kallinen: I am Mikko Kallinen, co-founder, programmer and composer at Theory. Previously I worked at Futuremark and was quite involved with many 3DMark projects. I also contributed to the game Shattered Horizon.
Alpo Oksaharju is the other co-founder. He’s also a visual artist, writer and designer. We met at Futuremark while working on Shattered Horizon and started developing plans to take over the world with a company of our own.
DSOGaming: Theory Interactive is a two-man team. How have you managed to achieve this kind of visuals when other triple-A studios cannot even come close to matching them?
Mikko Kallinen: I’m passionate about realistic real-time graphics and I’ve had the drive to keep pushing the boundaries for a long time. In my experience it’s not terribly uncommon even for lone programmers in their bedrooms to develop impressive renderers. The real challenge for a small team comes from the need for lots of detailed content. We’ve had to improvise a lot to be able to accomplish what we have. Many common game industry practices simply require too much manual labor to be of any use to us. The trick is of course to get the computer to do as much work for you as you possibly can. Big studios don’t have as much need for such research but even that seems to be slowly changing as game projects continue to grow with no end in sight.
DSOGaming: Reset is still early in development but we have to ask. The robots felt like they lacked any weight. The animation of the robot when it landed on that truck also seemed “weird” and “unrealistic”. Will those issues – alongside the raindrops – be addressed?
Mikko Kallinen: I have to emphasize that everything is still work in progress. For example a landing animation has not been implemented at this time. In addition to unfinished stuff there is the subject of enjoyable gameplay. In the interest of immersion we tied the movement of the first person view to the movement of the “head” of the mech. In the interest of playability we’re trying to keep the movement of the mech smooth in order to reduce the chance of motion sickness, for example. There’s also the fact that the mech is being controlled by a squishy human. We don’t want him to break all his bones. It’s a careful balancing act.
DSOGaming: Reset looks spectacular. Can you share more tech details about its engine? What features for example will it support (number of simultaneous light sources, Parallax Occlusion Mapping and Screen Space Reflections support, whether it will have a full dynamic shadowing system, procedural GPGPU weather, physically based shading, etc.)?
Mikko Kallinen: Reset uses physically based shading, most notably glossy environment mapped and screen-space reflections. We also wanted to have properly lit and shadowed volumetric rendering with varying density from the beginning. The game has a dynamic day-night cycle, dynamic weather with volumetric clouds, rain and fog, as well as dynamic lights and shadows. GPGPU use is minimal because we’re targeting DirectX 10 graphics cards. Parallax Occlusion Mapping brings fairly little improvement to image quality but comes with a horde of problems so it’s not included.
DSOGaming: Will Reset support any kind of Global Illumination effects, and have you experimented with Sparse Voxel Octree Global Illumination?
Mikko Kallinen: Direction-dependent lighting from the sky combined with precomputed large-scale directional ambient occlusion and small-scale screen space ambient occlusion gives surprisingly good results for outdoor scenes. I’ve been rather busy with other things so I have yet to try Sparse Voxel Octree Global Illumination. My impression is that it is still a bit too heavy and also may not scale to large worlds very well.
DSOGaming: How big will the game’s maps be and what kind of interactivity and destructibility can we expect? What physics middleware are you using?
Mikko Kallinen: Reset has a single open game world with an area of about 16 square kilometers. We made a conscious decision to not have destructibility in the game. It makes more sense in a shooter anyway. We use NVIDIA PhysX for physics.
DSOGaming: Reset is currently coming exclusively on the PC. Can you share some info about its CPU multi-core support? Will Reset take advantage of more than four CPU cores?
Mikko Kallinen: Both game logic and rendering are single threaded for now. PhysX does support multiple threads, but I’m not sure how busy it can keep a high number of cores with our workloads.
DSOGaming: What is the one graphical/tech feature that you are really proud of?
Mikko Kallinen: I have to pick the volumetric rendering. It adds tons of atmosphere and in most cases looks so natural that you may not even realize it’s there. Only when it is removed will you see how huge the difference is.
DSOGaming: Will Reset support tessellation? And if so, have you experimented with it (adaptive tessellation) in order to eliminate the pop-up/pop-in of distant objects?
Mikko Kallinen: Reset does not currently support tessellation. We are making the game run on DirectX 10 hardware first. Tessellation support for DirectX 11 hardware is not an impossibility, but its cost does seem pretty high compared to the benefit.
DSOGaming: What were the PC specs of the system that was used for the gameplay trailer of Reset?
Mikko Kallinen: I don’t want to reveal the exact specs in order to not give anyone an incorrect idea of what will be required by the final game. A truckload or two of optimizations are still missing and the performance of the game on any given system will continue to rise. As is traditional on the PC we will also add lots of settings that can be tweaked to balance between performance and quality on a wide range of systems.
DSOGaming: Are there any plans for a next-gen console version?
Mikko Kallinen: We won’t rule out console versions, but right now there are no plans.
DSOGaming: Reset is still in alpha stage. Assuming the IndieGoGo campaign is successful, when can you expect it to hit beta phase? Will the funds earned by the campaign be used to hire more people in order to finish the project quicker?
Mikko Kallinen: Actually Reset is still not even in alpha. Both alpha and beta should happen sometime next year. We do intend to hire or contract more people to help with the development if at all possible.
DSOGaming: Thanks for the interview. Any last words you wish to share with our fans?
Mikko Kallinen: Just the obvious: if you like what you’ve seen so far, support us in our upcoming crowdfunding campaign. Thanks in advance.