So, what's new in CryEngine 3?

As with all engines, CryEngine gets updated all the time. We met up with Crytek at GDC to see what shiny new bells and whistles they've added to their engine. The first new feature is unique to Crytek. Pixel Accurate Displacement Mapping (PADM) is the studio's alternative to tessellation. It allows artists to add a displacement texture dynamically on objects "with no visible polygon edges on the silhouette of the displacement." In a real-time demo, we saw a tree trunk's displacement dynamically altered--a neat trick for artists, to be sure.

Left: PADM off | Right: PADM on

Through CryEngine, artists can now place area lights to give a more "physically plausible look" to the environment. Crytek says that its new area lights have volume, and that it will impact shadows and the appearance of light reflection. I personally couldn't see the benefit, but perhaps you can:

Left: Area Lights off | Right: Area Lights on

Crysis 3 introduced 3D HDR lens flares into the engine, as it offered the ability to easily create the "stylized look" that the team was going for. The lens flare editor makes it incredibly easy to create an otherworldly look. As we saw the flare adjusted in real time, we joked that this would be perfect for a Star Trek game--an entirely original joke that totally hasn't been played out on the internet already.

Left: 3D HDR Lens Flare off | Right: 3D HDR Lens Flare on

CryEngine 3 also offers the most flexible support of anti-aliasing modes ever, with varying degrees of SMAA, FCAA, TXAA, and MSAA. Developers can see in real-time how their game renders with each form of AA, although the effects are quite subtle.

Click to see in full resolution

Other neat features showcased to us include a new way of rendering global fog and cloud shadows. In previous versions of the engine, you could look into the sun to see its rays scattered--but the effect would be gone the moment you looked away. In the updated CryEngine 3, the effect is now persistent throughout the world. Additionally, the engine now supports dynamic caustics in the water, rendering real-time interactions with liquids. Water rendering is further enhanced with sub-surface scattering and wave crest foam approximation. Add an updated vegetation rendering system that simulates individual blades of grass--and CryEngine 3 seems perfect for a big-budget fishing game. Crytek pointed out that all of these new features are being deployed in both the professional and free versions of the CryEngine 3 SDK. You can check it out for yourself here.