Unrecord, a near-photorealistic bodycam shooter, has since faced refuted fake accusations due to its impressive visuals. We explain how the developers achieved the remarkably authentic look.
Unrecord looks deceptively real: A bodycam shows how its wearer, presumably a French policeman, hurriedly moves towards a grey concrete block. Arriving in front of the graffiti-covered, doorless entrance, the lawman pulls out his service pistol, loads it and carefully sets foot inside the dilapidated building. No one home? Think again! Only seconds later, a fleeing shadow darts by ahead, and the clarification instantly turns into a wild chase over rubble and closets.
The scene described comes from the first gameplay trailer for Unrecord, a probably future genre-defining bodycam shooter. The viral video shows the realism potential of the “new” game perspective. However, the high degree of authenticity offered here is not achieved by camera shake alone. In our first issue of “Game Insights”, we explain how Unrecord’s great visuals come about.
|Coming in hot with your morning coffee: The most important gaming news of the last 24 hours. Every morning at 09:00 a.m. CET. Don’t miss any news by following us on social media! (Time frame is subject to change)|
Unrecord: This is What’s Behind its Great Graphics
Let’s start this article with a juicy fact about the developers of Unrecord. “Drama”, as the studio founded only in 2020 calls itself, consists of only three people, including a musician. So what we get to see in the gameplay video from April 19 comes from just two johnnys, as you almost have to call them in connection with their work.
After all, how can it be that just two guys and a musician manage to outdo even lavishly funded AAA titles with hundreds of contributors in terms of visuals? The answer is relatively simple, but many-layered. Let’s work our way from the seemingly less impressive facts to the exciting details.
1. Unrecord benefits from Epic Games’ “Nanite” technology
The fact that Unrecord is created with the help of the powerful Unreal Engine 5 plays a bigger role in the graphics of the first-person shooter than you might think at first. One of the core technologies of UE 5 is “Nanite”, an engine for virtualized geometry. It allows developers to import highly detailed photographic material into games. Nanite can also handle almost any three-dimensional format, allowing the use of film-quality resources. Accordingly, it can be said that where UE 5 is, photorealism is not far.
2. The game consists of photogrammetric store assets
When it comes to 3D models and textures, the developers of Drama are just like countless other devs, and so the vast majority of the assets used in Unrecord do not come from the creators themselves. Rather, we’re talking about resources Drama purchased on the Unreal Engine Marketplace. Or, in other words: The guys went shopping in Epic Games’ online store.
Among other things, they added this modular building to their shopping cart. It’s a replica of an abandoned two-story house in Russia, as well as “other elements”. By the way, we’ll explain why this purchase ain’t a bad thing at the end of the article.
Drama’s shopping spree with Epic is relevant in Unrecord’s appearance, as the latter US software company has the world’s largest photogrammetry library since the acquisition of Quixel. And it’s at least partially available on UEM. Photogrammetry is about reconstructing a photographed object in three dimensions using certain measurement methods. So in Unrecord you walk through a three-dimensional photo gallery, so to speak.
3. Convincing Realism Effects are Used
Unrecord looks stunning in motion, no doubt. However, if you look at the police shooter on static images, for example on the promo screenshots on the Steam page, the whole thing looks a lot more artificial. Why is that?
Well, in order to be able to sell a virtual scene as realistic to the human brain, it is necessary to adapt as many aesthetics and parameters of the real thing as possible. In the case of a body camera, however, this requires many individual images, i.e., movement, because camera shakes, for example, cannot be credibly represented using a single image.
Unrecord does an exemplary job in simulating the body camera. Not only does the scene blur according to the movements of the policeman, but also the weapon recoil is answered with radial blur, and strong light incidence is followed by some kind of exposure compensation. This makes Unrecord’s hunting scenes look exactly like they were captured by a real bodycam, which is crucial in our realism assessment. In this respect we are excellently deceived by Unrecord.
4. Unrecord probably uses Megatexture, or SVT
To be able to display the almost photorealistic graphics of Unrecord, you either need a killer graphics card or a clever trick. Since playing Drama’s first-person shooter reportedly won’t require a high-end PC, we assume that a complex texturing method is being used, namely “Sparse Virtual Texturing” (SVT).
Of course, we asked the developers whether Unrecord’s visuals are based on SVT. In a friendly reply, Drama Studios informed us that they do not give interviews at the moment and referred to the publicly available information. And thus, whether SVT is actually being used in Unrecord remains to be seen.
Sparse Virtual Texturing is an elaborate, memory-saving procedure, in which a huge texture that consists of all object and environment textures of an area, is simulated. Based on a texture atlas, the visible areas of the area are then textured as needed, so you could call it some kind of texture streaming.
For those who thought Unrecord was fake or a video, sorry. 😌 pic.twitter.com/41ESKMISy1
— Alexandre Spindler (@esankiy) April 20, 2023
Time is Money
In summary, Unrecord owes its authentic look to UE 5, Epic’s photogrammetry library, several excellent realism effects and, presumably, Sparse Virtual Texturing. But how should we actually evaluate the fact that the makers of the narrative tactics shooter use purchasable store assets with regard to the frowned upon “asset flips”?
One thing is for certain: The general expectations on current video games have increased so much that it has long since left the realm of the feasible, especially for small indie studios. That’s why it’s perfectly legitimate for independent developers to help their projects achieve a leap in quality by purchasing assets. Also, a lot of working time can be saved this way, which can benefit the quality of the resulting game.
Time is a critical factor in game development, because in most cases it really is true that time is money. After all, the longer a game is in the making, the higher the developer’s expenses are for overhead costs like rent, electricity, and employee salaries. But just as importantly, we players benefit from store assets as well, because they mean more quality games in much shorter lengths of time.
Want to join our community and discuss about Unrecord? Then feel free to join our Discord server or visit us on Facebook. We look forward to seeing you there!