FX Civil – Burnout Paradise
I have always been fascinated by the incredible visual effects in blockbuster movies and video games. FX Civil is where I break down a movie or video game that implemented civil engineering and architecture in a believable and incredible way. I hope that I can learn from case studies of amazing special effects such as these but, let’s be honest, these types of visuals are just awesome and should be appreciated. While Civil FX is the art of approaching special effects from a civil engineering point of view, FX Civil is where we approach civil engineering from a special effects point of view.
This second installment of FX Civil will show you that the media in review need not be a movie nor recent at that. While I’m not an avid gamer (these days I’m not even a passive gamer), the Burnout series has captured my fascination for the better part of a decade. Yes, it is a racing type game, but the franchise created by Criterion has always consisted of more substance the other series such as Need for Speed or Project Gotham.
Burnout Paradise is one game that I spent considerable time on (specifically on the XBox 360). Rather than have different tracks that you can unlock throughout the game, the entirety of the Burnout Paradise game takes place in a fictional city, Paradise City. You can either meander throughout the city or you can stop at virtually any intersection for a different challenge. Some are racing but others are knockout or marked man or others. You unlock cars as you complete enough challenges… and so on.
There are some inherent advantages and disadvantages in deciding to model an entire city in 3D from scratch.
First, the disadvantages. You don’t have anything to reference from in the creation of a fictional city. Because of this, the process is much more creative and art leaning than recreating an existing city. Also, because you are creating (nearly) the entire city, you don’t have the opportunity to hide areas like most racing games. Other racing games have a corridor (are you listening roadway engineers?) and only need to focus o the sides facing the camera and can ignore the rest of the city. Burnout Paradise seems to have had very little of that luxury as most streets and many back alleys are traversable.
Now, the advantages. The process of creating a virtual city is likely much faster than modeling an existing one. You don’t have to stop to reference video, images or even 3D scans. Instead, you just put buildings, roads and other city furniture wherever you want. If I were a level designer, this is the type of project I would drool about. Also, you don’t have to worry about specifications or other rules- just make it look awesome. This means that you don’t have to ensure that the striping is the appropriate spacing and the guardrail has enough length-of-need.
Overall, the city looks fantastic. Freeways are daring and the layout is interesting. Textures are realistic and traffic is interactive and constantly moving. Sure, the city is small (there aren’t many- if any at all- residential areas) but it feels big enough.
Burnout Paradise long ago set a bar to which I would like to create my 3D infrastructure worlds, even if I didn’t know it yet. It subconsiously made me understand the difference between modeling for accuracy and modeling for realism. The former is industry standard, the latter is the bleeding edge of 3D visualization in civil engineering. It may take a little extra effort to add garbage cans, litter, weeds, graffiti and other organic detail, but the result is tricking the mind into thinking it could be real, something that Burnout Paradise mostly pulls off.
See the video below for some great footage of the game.
Image credit Criterion Games for all images