Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Will Apparently Have NPCs That Understand the World Around Them – Including Plants

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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is using an upgraded version of Ubisoft Massive’s Snowdrop engine to create a far more complex game than previously possible – and that includes a system that will apparently create NPCs that more realistically understand and react to changes in the world around them, like weather, or your own progression through the game.

A new tech showcase video for the game shows no new footage, but reveals new details, including the game’s systems for adding far more vegetation to the world, creating more realistic clouds, and more. Later in the video, lead narrative realization designer Alice Rendell touches on some gameplay changes that come from the improved tech:

“The different activities that NPCs can perform in the world, and the different animations they have, can make the world feel really alive. So, for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora we wanted to take this one step further and created a system where our NPCs understand the state of the world – for example, weather, player progression, or time of day.”

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While the video doesn’t make totally clear how that system works in a practical sense, technical director of programming Nikolay Stefanov gave us an example in a separate interview with IGN. “For the big creatures,” he explains, “whenever they are calm, they would obviously walk around trees and things like that. But when they are fleeing, or attacking you, or whatever, they will just go straight through the bamboo and other vegetation and just completely destroy it. I think it’s really cool to be able to see all of these effects that the NPCs have on the environment, as well as you having an effect on the environment too.”

It’s seemingly not just Na’vi, humans, and Pandoran fauna that will react to the world around them, either – even plant life can react to your presence. Senior technical artist Kunal Luthra explains elsewhere in the video, “The advantage of Snowdrop is that it can handle quite complex shaders. To add life to the vegetation of Pandora, we’ve created many interactive shaders that can be affected by the player, from real-time wind simulations and interactions, to intelligent plants reacting to your presence.” We see a glimpse of a rective plant in the original annoucnement trailer.

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It’s clear that Massive is very proud of its work on the technical side of its Avatar game – not least because it’s Ubisoft’s first new-gen only title. We spoke to some of its lead developers about why Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora had to drop last-gen hardware to exist.


Joe Skrebels is IGN’s Executive Editor of News. Follow him on Twitter. Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to [email protected].

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