AMD Teams Up with Crystal Dynamics on TressFX Tech
How often do you think about hair in a video game? Half the time your avatar is wearing a military helmet or some mercury-free top hat made by a graphic designer who quit his job to make silly Team Fortress 2 headgear for a living, so hair is a non-issue. But what about Commander Shepard or Lara Croft? In the case of the latter, AMD went all buddy cop with Crystal Dynamics during the development of the latest Tomb Raider, and TressFX is the fruit of that labor.
TressFX is all about realistic hair — showing thousands of strands instead of painted on moptops, and ensuring the shadows, movements, and graphical tweaking involved is all handled properly in real time. As AMD explains on its game blog, “…realistic hair is one of the most complex and challenging materials to accurately reproduce in real-time. Convincingly recreating a head of lively hair involves drawing tens of thousands of tiny and individual semi-transparent strands, each of which casts complex shadows and requires anti-aliasing…these calculations must be updated dozens of times per second to synchronize with the motion of a character.”
A more-simple-but-not-really explanation: TressFX uses DirectCompute to help the GCN (or Graphics Core Next)-based architecture in newer AMD cards perform real-time physics on those flowing locks.
That’s the good news. The REALLY good news is that this tech can be used with any DirectX 11 graphics card. While some GPU tech is proprietary to certain makes and models of cards (FXAA, MLAA, etc.) TressFX does not rely on any sort of AMD secret sauce. AMD did the groundwork with Crystal Dynamics, and the chipmaker thinks its GCN tech is better-suited for the task than anything from the competition, but both Nvidia and Intel can decide to support TressFX at any time. Of course, it would be equally unsurprising if Nvidia came up with its own fancypants hair rendering technique.
I only have one follow-up question: Was Fabio involved in this at all? He better have been, as he – along with his mane – is still the closest person we have to a real-life Samson.