Megaton Rainfall Interview – A Real Sized Earth to Save
The indie developer environment is so vibrant and full of different ideas that it's hard to keep track of all of them these days.
There are those who seek to create a small, but exceedingly fine crafted gaming experience. And then there are the guys like Alfonso del Cerro, founder of Spanish studio Pentadimensional Games, who have larger than Earth dreams - literally. His game, Megaton Rainfall, features a virtually indestructible superhero capable of flying at supersonic speeds and destroying buildings with ease; think of Superman, but way less humanized.
His mission is the one you'd expect: save the Earth from aliens, but it's easier said than done when his blasts can just as well destroy cities with the procedural real time destruction of Megaton Rainfall. The Earth itself is rendered to scale and you can even fly all over the Milky Way if you want to.
Megaton Rainfall is scheduled for PC and PlayStation 4, with PlayStation VR and probably Oculus Rift/HTC Vive support. We have talked extensively with Alfonso del Cerro on technical as well as gameplay related details, and he even confirmed the target release window. Enjoy!
- Can you talk about the engine you have built specifically for Megaton Rainfall? What are its main features?
- Well, the engine hasn't been totally built for MR. I inherited it from the company where I worked previously in Spain. But it has received a lot of features during the development of MR. The first one is planet rendering, which allows seamless transitions from outer space to ground level so that in the game you can fly around a real size Earth. Also, the ability to render cities as big as the real Los Angeles (more than 200 square miles).
And finally, the destruction effects. Every building can be destroyed or collapsed, with a proprietary solution including CPU-based physics simulation, GPU-accelerated particles and render target tricks. The engine runs on DirectX 11 and PS4 and is ready for VR.
- Are you using GPGPU/Async Compute in the game and if so, how? Do you intend to use any NVIDIA GameWorks or AMD GPUOpen effects for the PC version?
- We use compute shaders for the particle effects, and to animate the street furniture for some of the massive destruction effects that you'll see later in the game. About GameWorks and GPUOpen, Gameworks has a couple of interesting features. I love turbulence smoke effects, but in MR we have so many big explosions, clouds and smoke trails that you'd need a lot of GPU time to render all of them with that system, with raytraced 3d-textures for everything. So we prefer to use a more traditional approach for that. The global illumination API is interesting, we may implement it if we have time for that.
- What's your take on DirectX 12 and Vulkan? Are you interested in adding support for these APIs to your engine?
- No. DirectX 12 is all about saving CPU-time to generate render commands. And our game is super-GPU bound. We use a lot of instancing, a lot of arrays of textures in shaders to minimize the number render commands, so the render thread is several milliseconds idle every frame already. The only platform where we feel the CPU is more limited is PlayStation VR, and those APIs won't work there.
- As for future games, would you keep this engine and improve it or perhaps choose a third party engine like UE4, Unity 5, CryENGINE or the new Amazon Lumberyard?
- Honestly I have no idea what kind of game we'll do next. If we make a game with a lot of unusual innovative visual effects like MR, I love to work with our own technology that I understand 100% and gives me full control.
But it's also a lot of additional work, bugfixing and optimizing, so if we make a different kind of game, not so visually ambitious, I'd rather pick up one of those.
- Why did you choose to release Megaton Rainfall on PlayStation 4 instead of Xbox One?
- Sony showed a lot of interest in our game since they played it at GDC 2015. They were looking for projects for PSVR and I was showcasing MR at the Indie Megabooth. Since then they have been very friendly, they helped us with the visibility, showing the game in videos, their blog, and events like PlayStation Experience and next week at GDC 2016. They even offered an exclusivity deal so I'm happy with them. And of course being one of the first games for PlayStation VR will give the game a lot more visibility.
- What was your experience while developing the game on PlayStation 4? Did you have to tone down the graphics at all when compared to PC, and what kind of resolution/frame rate are you targeting on Sony's console?
- Our game is easily scalable, because the most demanding task for the GPU is rendering the city, that is made by a massive amount of relatively simple objects, so we adapt to different hardware specs by setting the density of city stuff and the render distance of those details. We are targeting 1080p 60fps at medium settings at PS4. In my (high end) PC the game can run at 4K 60 fps with high settings. But the resolution difference is not dramatic at all. I'm currently unimpressed by playing games at 4K... It means that there are 8M pixels on screen, and nowadays games don't have 8M little details on screen to take advantage of it. The explosions and the scale of the cities will be equally spectacular on PS4.
- Megaton Rainfall supports PSVR. What do you think of the device and what frame rate are you targeting for that version?
- I think PSVR will ship millions... Here in Spain I know a lot more people who own a PS4 than a high-end PC ready for VR. Technically, what surprised me the most was the reprojection feature. It generates 120 frames per second, taking into account the movement of the head, even when the game fails to achieve 60 frames per second. Which means that there is no jittering at all. You can play MR for 1 hour and won't see any frame out of sync. I can't say the same for the VR experiences on my PC. MR will work at 60 FPS in PSVR.
- On PC, are you going to support both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (Steam VR)?
- I can't answer that question due to the contract with Sony. But I can say that I'd love to support both.
- Did you ever think of adding a multiplayer mode to Megaton Rainfall, either coop or versus? Is it something that might still happen if the game is successful and the community makes such requests?
- For this version, only single player is planned. Later I can't discard anything. I think that a versus mode, with one player controlling the superhero FPS style and the other one controlling the aliens RTS style would be awesome.
- How long will the story last in Megaton Rainfall, by your estimate? Do you think the game lends itself to be replayed?
- I think the game will last 4 to 8 hours. A lot of players will want to replay it, trying to get better scores / fewer human casualties. Trying to speed run the game is very fun because you have to take more risks, shooting the enemies in dangerous situations, and every time you miss your target... Boom! Buildings collapse and hundreds of unfortunate humans die.
- Are there side quests/missions/objectives in Megaton Rainfall?
- Yes, during the game you unlock missions around the Earth. Each mission is located in a city that is attacked by several waves of alien ships. You won't have to accomplish every mission to finish the game. And also later in the game there will be secondary missions that require you to fly to outer space and find some stuff.
- Will the game be released within this year? Is Q3 or Q4 a good guess?
- Yes! We work hard to make your guess good.
- Thank you for your time.