The Endless Quest for Better Video Game Hair Continues

Developers at EA are using the Frostbite engine to render realistic hair that’s so real it’s disturbing.
May 23, 2019, 2:48pm
Image: EA

The history of video game graphics is a history of hair. As graphical fidelity has improved, video games have evolved from rendering Mario's hair on the NES with just 10 pixels, to abstract blobs floating on heads in early 3D games, to gorgeously rendered locks flowing down Lara Croft’s back. Now, developers workings with Electronic Art’s Frostbite Engine—the engine running Anthem and Battlefield V—have achieved the next step in video game hair.

The developers shared their work in a series of videos and a blog post. “We try to constantly push the limits of what current hardware is capable of,” the post said. “Starting last year, a small group of frostbite physics and rendering engineers have been working on pushing this technology forward, and, while we still have quite a lot of work ahead of us, we're proud of what we achieved.”

They should be. Just look at this volume.

According to the developers, the physics based hair uses Eulerian and Lagrangian flow models to create realistic movement. Basically, the hair is coded with the property of a fluid and allowed to move as such. The results are gorgeous and dynamic hair. The demo is impressive, but as is usually the case, only renders the straight hair we usually associate with white people. Black hair is noticeably absent, as is typical of video games.

The developers promised more updates about the project soon, but for now we’re stuck with the tantalizing possibility that video game hair might soon be hyper-realistic. I’m eager to see the hair on a more realistic model, and not the disturbing cloth and wooden doll used here.