The Future Of Video Game Graphics: Soap & Soft, Beautiful Skin

Illustration for article titled The Future Of Video Game Graphics: Soap & Soft, Beautiful Skin

Back in 2012, we took a look at Separable Subsurface Scattering (SSSS), a piece of graphics tech that looked very, very pretty. It looks a lot prettier in 2015.


What in 2012 looked like the distant future now looks a lot closer to adaptation, especially since the project now has the official support of Activision.

The specifics behind it are very technical (you can read the full papers and technical breakdown here), but the gist is that our eyes perceive translucent materials—like human flesh—differently than they do more solid surfaces, so we need different techniques to represent that.

Or, as creator Károly Zsolnai describes it, as “a novel technique for real-time subsurface light transport calculations for computer games”.

What’s cool about SSSS is that it’s been designed specifically for real-time use in video games. Not cutscenes, not cinematic intros, but actual gameplay.

This clip shows the benefits of using this kind of tech; it can take a standard video game face, which looks as much like a clay statue as a living person, and without losing any detail make it all look “softer” and more realistic.



I thought the things on the left, with SSSS off, looked more realistic. The face had pores and individual hairs on his face. With SSSS on, it appears more artificial and waxy, and the hair detail disappeared. The dragon statue had more detail with it off, than on; it seemed waxy with it on. The plant didn’t look as plastic either, with it off. I don’t see any real benefit, as far as realism, with SSSS on. The soap, however, did look better with it on.