Here Comes The Science- The Silky Tech Behind Lara’s Locks

Just ’cause you’re shipwrecked and stranded on a forgotten island inhabited by murderous misogynists bent on making your life a living hell doesn’t mean a girl can’t look her best. Perhaps getting tossed about in fights for your life isn’t so great for your skin but at least your hair will remain bouncy and full!

Teaming up with video card manufacturer AMD, “Tomb Raider” developer, Crystal Dynamics have created a new way to render hair making for some of the most realistic braids and bangs.The new tech, dubbed TressFX Hair will be available for PC users when the game officially launches next week and it promises to make Lara’s famous ponytail look and move like the real deal. The press release goes on with some fancy words about what’s going on in the back end along with a drain clogging amount of pics showing off the lush locks; but of course we know this all part of Square Enix’s JRPG hair innitiative for FF XIII’s leading lady, Lightning!

Using DirectCompute to unlock the massively-parallel processing capabilities of the Graphics Core Next architecture, TressFX Hair enables the stunning image quality previously restricted to pre-rendered images.  Building on AMD’s previous work on Order Independent Transparency (OIT), this method makes use of Per-Pixel Linked-List (PPLL) data structures to manage rendering complexity and memory usage.

It’s a bit odd to talk about hair in games, but the wet and windblown effects look really great (more below), especially with with how Lara’s hair tumbles and falls over her shoulder and face. I’m actually getting a weird retro thought about the big deal about Diddy and Dixie Kong’s pre-rendered fur and hair when “Donkey Kong Country 2″ debuted. But I digress, it’s small touches like this that really flesh out the look of character by bringing the graphics ever closer to reality. It’s also another excuse to pony up a few a new graphics card to really pump out the best performance with PC ports.

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