Fable developer Lionhead was working on an ambitious Kinect-controlled game, Milo & Kate, and developing new engine technology to go with it. They showed off some of that new tech at GDC and, well, it's really, really good looking.
Ben Sugden, lead programmer at Lionhead Studios showed off Milo & Kate's world at GDC in his talk, "Mega Meshes - Modelling, rendering and lighting a world made of 100 billion polygons." Sugden says Lionhead wanted to "render a world seen through the eyes of a young boy," Milo, developing new megatexturing tech, new 3D mesh techniques, new lighting and new levels of realism.
"We decided the world needed to have a hand sculpted feel but have the softness and subtlety of realistic lighting," Sugden explains in his talk, adding "we really wanted to try to make the world to appear be a coherent, single whole, like one huge painting or sculpture."
"One thing in particular that we wanted to try to avoid were hard polygon edges when objects are obviously placed onto of other objects, or when two objects are intersecting rather than nestling together naturally," Sugden explains. "These obvious sharp edges give a very unnatural interface between two surfaces, and break the illusion of the world being real..."
While close study of the Milo & Kate engine's capabilities does reveal some visible geometry, there's an impressive softness and roundness to it all. Sugden says the above video capture of that tech is "really sucky" and that the engine runs at 30 Hz.
You can download a copy of Sugden's presentation in PDF format, if you want to have a peek.