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Creating the magnificent explosions of Velocity 2X on PS4 and PS Vita

How the team at FuturLab went about making things go ‘Bang!’ in its action sequel

Hello beautiful people! Hussain Sheikh, Technical Director from FuturLab back again to talk juice. Explosion juice! Get a cuppa, this is a big one!

The Fateful Day

It was just another morning at FuturLab. I had just sat down at my desk, waiting for my PC to boot up, hot cup of coffee in my hand. I was getting ready to rock, when James walked over with a serious look on his face: “Need to talk to you man… In the boardroom!”

You know that look – it’s the “I mean business” look. I had never seen James like that before, so I thought I must’ve done something wrong.

A bit concerned something bad was going to happen, I went into the meeting room and James said, “Sit down buddy, I need to show you something.”

“Oh dear, here it comes!” I thought. But then he started drawing this graph on the notepad:

JamesGraph

Now that WAS bad – just not the kind of bad I’d anticipated. But in the world of graphs making any sense at all, this was brutal.

Then James started explaining it to me. Most of his explanation was pretty much like the graph, so I tuned it out, though I do remember imagining the graph he actually wanted to draw:

WhatJamesWantedGraph

In other words, the explosions are the single most important effect in the game, so we needed to give them the look and feel they deserved.

I remember at that stage we were struggling with frame rate issues on PS Vita, and James wanted to make certain that our explosions got the vast majority of the frame processing time.

I needn’t have been concerned; I was sincerely hyped to focus this much on explosions (I LOVE VFX!)

Anyway, to fully understand how the explosions evolved, I believe we should look at the history of explosions in the Velocity universe. This is what the explosions looked like in Velocity (remember the PlayStation Mini title?).

VelocityMiniExplosions

James was not happy with these explosions. In fact he was so obsessed with improving them that my whole job interview was based around what I could do to make the explosions look better.

So we started bouncing around ideas and took them a step forward with Velocity Ultra.
Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do much with them, besides adding lights and changing the art assets.

VelocityUltraExplosions

But with Velocity2X, we had the time and a proper plan. We wanted the explosions to look and feel hot.

Here is what the first set of explosions in Velocity2X looked like. Notice the lighting working nicely with the bloom. It already feels punchy and portrays a sense of impact!

FirstExplosionsV2XTopDown

And in the platforming sections:

FirstExplosionsV2XPlatform

But they were still lacking power, so the next thing was to actually implement the explosions as a particle system.

1)ParticlesExplosion

James was extremely happy with our explosions at this stage:

JamesHappy

However this happy state didn’t last very long.

The particle based explosions were implemented whilst we were porting what we’d done on Vita over to PS4, and we didn’t keep an eye on the vita frame rate [slap wrists!].

These explosions had a huge halo glow around them, which gave them body and impact. However, when you are flinging bombs, smashing glass and destroying turrets at the same time, the Vita failed to handle the heat. In short, we had to take out the halo. This resulted in the game running at 60 FPS again on Vita, but:

JamesSad

And hence the graph meeting…

So, I started thinking about how we could create more impact, without having an impact. Go figure.

To illustrate what we came up with in the end, let me give you a breakdown of all the different parts that make up our explosions:

1) Particle systems

The main effect consists of four particle systems: sparks, smoke, a central plume and a few anime-style crescent moon shapes that animate from full circles to thin slices. These elements provide the foundation of the explosion in line with the art style (and this is where the halos used to be):

1)ParticlesExplosion

2) Refraction

This one is hard to show in a screenshot. Hopefully you can see the shockwave distorting the terrain around the explosion.

2)RefractionExplosion

3) Light

Notice the colour of the light as it fades from bright hot in the centre to the pale gradient.

3)LightsExplosion

4) Halos

This was the first step in addressing the issue of impact. If you remember, it was the halos that were causing the slowdown on Vita, especially when you can have up to 10 active explosions on screen at any time.

The breakthrough came in taking the halos out of the particle system, and instead rendering them as part of the bloom effect, which is a full screen post process effect and therefore completely independent of the explosion itself.

The result was instantly impressive. The halos now smooth out with the bloomed parts of the terrain and give them a far more natural look. Notice how in the following screenshot the Halo only appears to the right side of the explosion and just mixes in with the terrain on the left.

4)HaloExplosion

5) And finally…

Some nice big fat JBraamz lens flares!

These bad boys are particle system lens flares. There are three particle systems, one in the centre that generates a thin, strong lens flare. Then there is one each to the left and right of the explosion that generates weak, but really thick and chunky lens flares. These lens flares are generated solely by the intensity of the terrain and objects around the explosions.

Sometimes, when you’re flinging a bomb next to a particularly colourful piece of terrain, you get a rainbow type lens flare that just looks beautiful =)

5)LensFlareExplosion

Some more of these beauties:

2_Bombs

And in the platforming sections:

Heat of the moment

By the way, for those concerned: James and myself have talked many times regarding graphs since then, mostly about how James should avoid drawing them… J

Check out the explosions in action below:

Velocity 2X is released on 3rd September for £12.99/€15.99 utilising Cross-Save and Cross-Buy for PS4 and PS Vita! Or, y’know, it’s FREE on PlayStation Plus…

*Thunderclap*
Before you go, please consider supporting our Thunderclap campaign – thanks!

48 Comments
38 Author replies
Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:04
1

Hi peeps,
Hussain from FuturLab here. Hope you enjoyed reading our post. Happy to answer any questions you may have :)
Thanks for reading!

Fantastic read as always! It’s amazing how much effort and thought you put into the explosions. Well, everything in the game. Game didnt run at 60fps Vita? Let’s change it to make it work! Wish more devs would actually pay that much attention to the vita when doing cross-games.

Been playing the game over the last 3 days on PS4 & Vita, and cant wait for the rest of the world to play it! Absolutely GOTY material.

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:14
2.1

Thanks Rawanz. Yes we used Vita as our lead platform, and we wanted to make it the best experience on Vita before gearing it up for PS4. We have the same lighting & effects on Vita as PS4.
Hopefully Vita players will be able to notice how we have got all the bells and whistles on Vita :)

i have a question: are you guys crazy? i would have paid £10 for this game on day 1 but now im getting it for free! its really appreciated but it just seems crazy! thank loads tho

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:16
3.1

hahahaha. As long as it puts a smile on the face of our players, we are super-happy :D
P.S: We will be looking out for your feedback btw :D

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:19
3.2

Re: Why we decided to give the game free on Plus: Well, as a small developer it’s very challenging to reach a wide audience. It’s mostly down to luck as there are so many awesome games out there that deserve attention. PS+ guarantees huge promotion, and in order to grow, we need more fans like you folks!

Awesome to see just how far ‘splosions have come, and your dedication to that smooth framerate. Just one question, where are the GIFs? ;)

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:19
4.1

Thank you so much and glad to hear that our dedication is appreciated. Will see what I can do for GIFs :D

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:22
4.2

And here is the gif: http://www.futurlab.co.uk/splosions.gif Enjoy! :D

5

Brilliant, Entertaining, and highly informative! This is how all blog post should be. Keep it up guys.

Hi, Can I ask you guys a favour? Can you good mouth (does this expression exist?) the vita to every developer you come across?

The Vita really deserves all the love it can get!

BTW congratulations on the new game, it looks ace! Can’t wait to try it Wednesday.

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:27
6.1

Hi inc, Yes definitely. Actually we do try our best to always UP the vita. It’s a handheld house of power and the colors are just beautiful!
Thanks, not long to go now :D

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:24
7

By the way, those mood swings of James, as mentioned in this post. All truth, and nothing but the truth! :D

zalwelgoedgaan 29 August, 2014 @ 15:45
9

Hey, why doesn’t the Dutch store have Velocity avatars? :/

James Marsden 29 August, 2014 @ 15:50
9.1

Hey! I don’t think any store has Velocity avatars – we haven’t made or submitted any…

James Marsden 29 August, 2014 @ 15:51
9.2

We clearly should…

10

This game will be awesome. Looking forward to it. :-)

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 15:50
10.1

:)

We love you FuturLab. :D Can’t belive i just started Velocity after reading how happy people were on the PS+ post for getting 2x. I regret the time i had that on my account and i didn’t know how cool it is. :(

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 16:00
12

hahahaha. We love all of you too :D
No problem buddy. Hope you are enjoying Velocity Ultra and getting your thumbs ready for the 2X action! :D

13

@Hussain
Just how big an influence were the Turrican games with this? I only ask as I’ve heard it mentioned a few times and Turrican is one of my favourite games. Really looking forward to this and hope you’re right with the GOTY comments.

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 16:33
13.1

Turrican II was a big influence for 360 degree shooting for us. But as far as explosions are concerned, it was mostly what we felt gave the feel of impact. I was lead programmer for VFX for Split/Second. So I kind of knew what works and doesn’t work with explosions and how to implement most of the techniques, mentioned in the post. So I guess we can say that Split/Second gave us the direction from Technical point of view for our explosions :)

13.2

Thanks for the reply, and good luck with the launch.

14

Thanks FuturLabs so looking forward to Wednesday keep up the amazing work and there are going to be sooooo many more hardcore fans (like us in the comments) by next Friday, if 2X is even half as good as Veloicty Ultra. Right time to buy a T-shirt to make up for yet again not being able to give you money day 1. PS are they US or UK sizes cause I am 6’3 and not light so generally 2xl uk and xl us but xxl us drown me.

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 16:49
14.1

Thanks. If you go to our shop: http://shop.futurlab.co.uk/ and select the merchandise you want to buy, you will see the images with size guides in there. But yes, I think our sizes are UK based :)

14.2

Thanks Hussain, just make sure you have properly QA the trophies this time ;) Ohh train journeys to work are about to get amazing.

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 18:09
14.3

Yes, we have made sure our trophies are perfect this time! :D

ashton_philip 29 August, 2014 @ 16:38
15

Extremely excited everything futurlab has developed so far i’ve loved and this looks like a new high! Keep up the good work.

Looks COOL :P The only thing about these types of games is they are normally to hard :( Will give it a go anyway as i have erm PS Plus :D

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 16:51
16.1

Fantastic, please do. The game has a very nice learning curve. It starts very simple and by the time you will reach level 50, you will be what we call a “Certified Badass!” :D

ashton_philip 29 August, 2014 @ 16:48
17

Also wanna just say I definitely approve this style of content on the blog. It gives us a nice look into an aspect of the design and development process but doesn’t hamper itself with jargon. As a second year Games Technology student and a budding Game Designer any insight into processes within a team really excite me! :)

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 16:52
17.1

Very pleased to hear that. You can check our other blog posts on our website: http://www.futurlab.co.uk/inside-velocity-2x-jbraamz.html

Firstly I must say the game looks great and that is a good post,and I’m looking forward to playing, its just a shame that your on the back of a lot of PS plus hate at the moment, as per the PS plus blog,which I hope doesn’t affect your game.
I wish you all the best success with it and hope you reach a good audience, just wishing, like a lot of other people are that Sony themselves get the PS plus service back to how it was. Would be great if it was your game and another non indie, but a lot of people are getting tired of the service, myself included just feels like they do not care anymore now its compulsory for online play.

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 17:32
18.1

Thank you very much. Yes seems like there are some people not happy with the PS Plus deal for this month. But we do hope that people will download and try our game, before making up their minds about Velocity2X instead of judging it by its cover. Though we do have a pretty cover too! :D

ummagummachild 29 August, 2014 @ 17:38
19

Its heartening to see you guys are putting efforts not only in creating a quality game but also in promiting it and the way this blogpost is wtitten, you guys just won my heart. Also, I agree with my fellow gamer that #psvita deserve all the love it can so thank you for making it work. Waitin for sep 3 to get my hands on this game. Wish you luck

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 17:41
19.1

So nice to hear that for us too. With support of all our fans and people who appreciate our work, we will continue to do our best to please the players!
Thank you very much!

By reading these articles, I can feel you guys put so much passion and dedication into this game, also I really appreciate the care towards your customers. Not everyone would do this.

Being a PS+ owner, I can’t directly support you by buying this game, but if you’re going to release a couple of DLCs for Velocity 2X, be sure that me and many other people are going to buy them right off the bat to support your next game!

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 17:57
20.1

Thanks. Yes, we have put every bit of heart and soul into this game. All the members of our team have given their best to this game and we really hope our players will be able to feel that when the game comes out… :)
Thanks very much for your support!

Hussain, the first Velocity was incredibly fun and addictive, and this seems to be the perfect continuation of that sweet experience. Looking forward !

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 21:13
21.1

Thanks. So pleased that you are looking forward to it. You will not be disappointed :)

22

Excellent post man, I very much look forward to playing the full game.Attention to detail counts for a lot in this business, don’t think it goes unnoticed!

Hussain Sheikh 29 August, 2014 @ 21:38
22.1

Thanks. We hope you will have as much fun playing it, as we had developing it. Truly exciting times for us as developers as our title goes into hands of people. If people have fun and it puts a smile on their faces, then all the hard work was well worth it :)

I definitely am going to buy Velocity X2 anyway when my PS+ subscription expires.

24

I’m going to hold off renewing PS+ so I can buy this game so I can show support because you guys definitely deserve it.

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 21:45
24.1

Wow. Thank you very much, that says a lot!

Believe it or not my PS+ subscription expires on September 3rd, and I’m going to hold of renewing it so I can properly pay for Velocity 2X.
Just to say that Velocity is my favorite Vita game, and that this article was an excellent read.

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 09:31
25.1

Thank you very much for your support and glad you enjoyed the post :)

madmanwithabox12 30 August, 2014 @ 00:06
26

Managed to get an early copy from Colin Moriarty (BEYOND!). Played for five minutes and my god, you guys are onto a winner right here. Excellent game so far and I can tell it’s only going to get better. I’m gonna have to pick up the first one when I’m done, this is an incredible game. My hat’s off to you guys, I LOVE the teleport mechanic. Absolutely incredible stuff. =D

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 09:32
26.1

:D

Perhaps this is something that Sony could trial in the future, but I am one of those people that would have purchased the game. Futurlab and Sony have made the PS+ deal which is a great thing to get a game some awareness.

However, I can’t buy the game now, so perhaps in the future when a game debuts on the Instant Game Collection, the actual game is also advertised to be on sale for purchase for the week prior.

That way, those that want to buy into purchasing game can, and “get it early” and the following week it joins the IGC for everyone else.

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 09:35
27.1

That could work, but we believed that if it came out day on Plus it will generate greater interest. If you want to support our studio, you can take a look at our shop: http://shop.futurlab.co.uk and see if anything that you like :)

27.2

I’ve often wanted to buy PS+ content after having ‘rented’ it via Plus (let’s be honest, PS+ is a long term rental system)

In fact I allowed my sub to expire for a few months to purchase a bunch of items. It’d be great if would could have a proper method to do this, perhaps with a discount but either way – permanence has value!

28

Do you think you can release the 1st game on PS4 too (just like they did it for Hotline Miami or Flower) ? I would like to play it but I don’t play on PS3 anymore.

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 09:38
28.1

Currently we don’t have plans of taking the first title to PS4. You can also get the first game on Vita and Steam

swapnilking007 30 August, 2014 @ 11:01
29

I logged in just to say that the game is amazing!That is a big thing as usually I don’t log in to comment as I’s a bit lazy….

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 16:39
29.1

Thank you :)

30

I NEED THIS IN MY VITA!

How do you unlock the Concept Art folder in the Flight Computer!?

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 16:39
31.1

It should unlock as you progress through the game.

32

I haven’t been this excited about a new game for ages!! I can’t wait for Wednesday!!

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 16:40
32.1

Neither can we and to know how much people enjoy the game! :D

33

The more I play and read about your games, the more I love you! haha

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 16:40
33.1

We love all you guys too! <3

Wow, you guys are answering all the comments! Good job! Speaking of, who would win in a fistfight, Hulk or Groot?

Hussain Sheikh 30 August, 2014 @ 21:34
34.1

hahaha. We believe that if people take time to read what we have to say and write to us, then we should have the courtesy to reply. Doesn’t take much time to just say “hi” quickly right!
ohhhhh, first off I think it would be hell of a fight! But I will go with Hulk, but that’s because Hulk is my personal favourite character. Also the environment of fight can have an impact. If it was in a forest, then Groot might have an edge :)

35

Can’t wait for Wednesday! Getting this game is like Christmas come early to me. Thanks for supporting Vita and putting effort into making its version the best as many developers wouldn’t bother! I understand your reasons for putting this game on PS+ but please release a DLC so I can support you guys! Say Congratulations to the whole studio for making an amazing game for both PS4 and of course the power handheld; the Vita. Love you guys

Hussain Sheikh 31 August, 2014 @ 08:52
35.1

Some christmas wishes do come true in that case :) We love Vita ourselves, and judging by the comments, I believe it was well worth the effort.
I will congratulate the team. We love you all too :)

loadstone007s 31 August, 2014 @ 08:15
36

I took the survey but didn’t win. I got a “better luck next time email”, which says a lot about you. For that email alone, you won my eternal love. Unless you’ll suddenly do a Crystal Dynamics on us (release V3X on Xbox, timed exclusive).

I love your passion and your future will be awesome if you keep going that way.

Hussain Sheikh 31 August, 2014 @ 08:54
36.1

Sorry, that you didn’t win this time buddy. Thanks for all the love and also being so awesome to speak to us and show us that you care. If we keep getting support like this, we will definitely keep moving forward and hopefully create bigger better experiences with all your love and support :)

Hey Hussain are there any other requirements for the concept art folder I’ve finished every level and it’s still locked.

Hussain Sheikh 31 August, 2014 @ 09:20
37.1

Sorry about that. That should be it. Is this for Velocity Ultra or 2X? I will confirm here tomorrow morning or just message me on @ShakeMayster please.

This isn’t the kind of game I’d normally try, but after watching the trailer I’m sold just from the obvious love that’s gone into the design. From the aformentioned explosions to the music (which just gave me Deus Ex flashbacks) I can see this is going to be pretty special. Thanks for bringing it to PS+ … I must admit that I use my PS4 purely for AAA titles, but Indie/Alt titles suit the Vita perfectly so I’m glad you took the time to optimise it there :)

Hussain Sheikh 31 August, 2014 @ 14:08
38.1

Thanks. Yes, we have done everything we can to make it special. This game is definitely very dear to us and hence every single message of appreciation means a LOT to us. Many thanks and hope you will enjoy it :)

39

Looking forward to play this game, looking absolutely fantastic! i don’t have a PS4, so thank you for the Vita version!

Hussain Sheikh 31 August, 2014 @ 14:09
39.1

:) We are extremely proud of what we have achieved on Vita, hopefully you will notice the effort gone into the game when you get to play it. Thanks for your appreciation :D

OK, now I really don’t know if I should play it on Vita or PS4! The previous game was the first one I platinumed, it was infuriating sometimes but also very rewarding. I have high hopes for this new one.
I surely hope you guys get good money from the PS+ deal, I would gladly pay at least $10 for this game anyway.

Hussain Sheikh 31 August, 2014 @ 14:44
40.1

LOL. Well how about you play it on Vita when you are not home, cross save it and start on PS4 from where you left when you get home :D
Yes, Velocity2X will have same moments of rewarding frustration. We have spent a lot of time making sure that there is a decent learning curve and there aren’t any dull moments. Thanks for your support.

supersmith2500 31 August, 2014 @ 18:48
41

So many replies from FuturLab even on Sunday. I think I’m starting to fall in love with the developer and even the game. : )

Hussain Sheikh 31 August, 2014 @ 19:10
41.1

Why wouldn’t we. Given the amount of love and support we have received on this thread, replying all you folks is the least we can do. Thank you so much! :D

Hussain Sheikh 31 August, 2014 @ 19:19
42

I was just thinking to myself: “I wish I could tell you all how much your words and support have meant to us over last few days”. But then I thought, hang on a second, I can actually do that and even though I am not sure how many of you will actually see it, I believe it’s worth it: “No words can express my gratitude towards each and every comment on this thread. You’ve made us all at FuturLab very happy. Thank you very much for your love and support!”

@Hussain Keep up posts like this. Liked it. Made me really appreciate your work guys.
Happy I got it on PS+.

43.1

Thank you and we hope you will enjoy the game. Not long to go now :D

howboutthisthen 01 September, 2014 @ 14:18
44

Really looking forward to this, I would have paid full price at launch! Will make sure I buy a copy when my PS+ sub runs out.

44.1

Thanks for your support. We appreciate it :D

Congratulations Futurlab! Your game has been getting amazing views (9.0 on IGN) and I’m proud! Loving this Game! I have already commented before asking you a different question and thanks for responding so quickly, many game developers don’t :(, but what are your thoughts on the PS4’s gaming capabilities?

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