Military Review

“We are trying to convey the character of WWII tanks using photogrammetry”

Over the past 20-30 years, graphics in computer games have come a long way from pixel icons that schematically indicate a character to photorealistic images that are hardly distinguishable from reality. Some series historical games is the only opportunity to study rare weapons and examine in detail combat vehicles that exist in only a few copies in historical museums. Photogrammetry technology, which is now very widely used in the gaming industry, helps developers to obtain realistic models.

We talked with World of Tanks artist-supervisor Mikhail Ritvinsky and asked him about how historically accurate models are added to World of Tanks tanks and realistic maps.

- Let's start with the very first concept that we would like to talk about today. What is photogrammetry?
- This is such a scientific and technical discipline, it was invented long before digital technologies and computers appeared: earlier it was used primarily in cartography. But for us, developers of computer games or artists of computer graphics, this is a technology for digitizing objects in the real world based on a large number of photographs of this object.

A simple example - there is a certain game location in the game and I need to place a stone on it. I can draw it with my own hands, in special 3D packages, and spend a lot of time on it. And with the help of photogrammetry, I can scan a stone I like in a forest, park, anywhere else, and I will spend noticeably less effort on the full cycle of its creation, plus the visual final result will be much more photorealistic. This happens due to the fact that when creating objects manually, we only imitate a real object and miss some important details - reality is too complex and diverse.
- What technical means are used in photogrammetry? Maybe you need some special cameras or sophisticated devices?
- The principle itself comes from the name: photogrammetry is, first of all, a story about photography. The principle of operation is quite simple: a specific object or area of ​​a certain landscape is photographed from all possible angles. It turns out a large set of photographs. This set is sent to a special program that automatically reconstructs the object. The output is a digital detailed copy of the object of interest. Directly in order to collect an array of photographs, as a rule, you need a camera, and in fact, any - up to a mobile phone. And a program for calculating this final model. There are many different solutions on the market: Agisoft Metashape, Reality Capture, Pix4d or others.
- A photo is an image on a plane, and the output is a 3D model, how does this happen?
- This is the magic of this algorithm. The program analyzes the difference between different photographs, it finds similar or identical areas on them, calculates the difference between them in order to understand what was the displacement between different angles, and then, based on algorithms for calculating the depth map, triangulation and other techniques well-known to mathematicians, the construction takes place 3D models.
- What objects are photogrammetric in World of Tanks?
- There are several categories: The first is landscape textures. Almost all textures on our maps are made using photogrammetry. These are various surfaces on the ground: grass, sand, asphalt, rocky or earthen soil, traces on a dirt road from heavy equipment patrols, craters from explosions, soil erosion from various floods when ice or water melts. We use complex and interesting drawings that enrich the visual picture.

These are all really scanned pieces of terrain from different parts of the earth. We organize trips to different countries especially for these purposes. We try, of course, to do everything to the maximum nearby at our home, in Belarus, but, of course, we do not have deserts, there are no very rocky and exotic biomes. Therefore, for a texture unusual for our latitudes, we traveled several times to the Canary Islands in a desert area. Were in the north and south of France, Norway, the Murmansk region and the south of Russia. Some materials were scanned on personal travels while on vacation in Thailand, Georgia, USA.
We also shoot various monuments, some objects of simple infrastructure: concrete fences, curbs, sewer manholes. We made a special trip to the Czech Republic and Germany to scan various types of paving stones. We have a number of European urban locations in World of Tanks, and in wartime such road coverage was popular in those parts.

To store and sort the footage inside the studio, a special web-cataloger was created, in which it is convenient to search, view and download the required material.
- You mentioned the monuments. Tell me, are there any recognizable objects in World of Tanks that can be found, for example, during a city tour?
- We have a map of Minsk! This is probably the most dense map in terms of photogrammetry. Everything that we recreated from real Minsk was first scanned. For example, a monument to Yanka Kupala, or a sculpture with dancing girls near one of the fountains in the city center. Almost all of the houses in the game have been scanned and recreated. The Victory Monument with all its bas-reliefs was scanned in the best possible quality.

- It is ironic that the players will most likely not be able to view the Victory Monument - if you stay too long at this place, the game will end very quickly.
- Yes, in terms of gameplay, the place is quite tense. But in the training room you can see!
It is difficult to name specific objects on other maps: there are quite a few monuments in the game, not only as stand-alone ones, but also some small sculptures that adorn the architectural façade of some churches. Some of them were accurately made using photogrammetry.
- Were there situations when you photogrammetered some object, but it was used in general in a different location? For example, filmed in Norway, but did it come in handy in Minsk?
- This happens all the time. Coming back to the terrain and environment textures, everything is used everywhere. Hardly anyone will notice by eye the difference between the asphalt pavement of two different cities. Of course, we try to preserve unique authentic objects and characteristic details that are unique for a particular location, but some of the artistic solutions still come from technical requirements. We have certain restrictions on the number of unique textures and objects on the map.
For example, the game has a shop, which, by the way, is actually located in Minsk. We took a photo scan of it, and we use it both on the German map and on the English one, but practically everywhere! Since it is quite elegant, in a sense, versatile, with beautiful cast side struts - so we decided to use this successful model to the maximum.

- How does photogrammetry work when creating tanks?
- When creating models of tanks, there are several areas where photogrammetry helps us a lot. With its help, we model various objects and materials for these very tanks. Objects do not mean the shape of the tank itself, but what helps to enrich it. For example, Soviet tanks often have self-pulling logs, which are carried on special mounts on the armor. And here these logs in our vast majority are actually scanned trees: birches, pines, maples, etc. Such objects are difficult to draw convincingly with your hands, because they are all familiar to players from life experience: everyone knows what a birch looks like and birch bark.

Military objects, such as ammunition boxes, repair equipment, and various army utensils, are also often photo scanned: we have the opportunity to travel to tank military units. Many soldiers and officers who serve there are big fans of our game, play actively whenever possible, so they willingly come to meet us. But of course, they don't let us near anything secret.
At one time, it helped us a lot to scan and photograph the surfaces of the armor. Tanks of the Second World War - especially Soviet ones - were famous for their, not reproachfully, low workmanship. During the war years, it was necessary to make a huge number of combat vehicles, so they were produced with an emphasis on quantity, not quality. This can be seen, for example, by the roughness of the casting. From the T-34 tank, which many have seen hundreds of times, it is noticeable that the Soviet tank is rough, cast, it has cavities in its armor. Unlike perfectly smooth, polished German tanks. And we are trying to convey this character of the Soviet tank during World War II - the materials obtained using photogrammetry helped us a lot - real textures of armor, real armor plates, traces of gas cutting, some dents, ricochets, non-penetration. We tried to scan these things as much as possible and use them on our machines.

It's easier with foreign cars - it's the same as on Soviet ones, only much more accurate. We just took the materials that were obtained from Soviet cars, well, we leveled them very much, made them more accurate. And it turned out close to what it was in reality. In order for all vehicles to be recreated as accurately as possible in the game, our historians make photo reports from tank museums around the world. And we ourselves, in general, often visited Kubinka, French Saumur, German Munster, Swedish Arsenal, British Bovington - we visited everywhere, photographed and scanned.
- We figured out the details. How is the entire tank scanned?
- In this case, it is important to understand that when we scan an object and get a detailed model, then this is not exactly the same model that ultimately comes into play. The power of modern computers and video cards does not yet allow using such detailed objects in real time in the game. A fully scanned tank can consist of 50-300 million polygons, and such a number at the moment cannot be used in any game in principle. For the entire scene, the budget is typically between 1 million and 5 million triangles. And we have only one scanned tank weighs 10 times more. Such highly detailed models do not make it into the game - they are used as a 3D drawing, on the basis of which we make a more optimized low-poly version, which is used in the game.

The scanned tank is fully consistent in size, dimensions, proportions to the real car, we can see all its defects, nuances, imperfections. Using this scanned model, recreate a model that is more suitable for use in the game.

Continuing the interview, World of Tanks supervisor Mikhail Ritvinsky will talk about how accurate reproduction of tanks affects the gameplay, about vehicles with the highest degree of photorealism and about the most unusual objects that were transferred into the game using photogrammetry.

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  1. Lech from Android.
    Lech from Android. 7 May 2021 07: 42
    My blue dream is for our programmers and computer scientists to visualize the memoirs of Pokryshkin and Kozhedub.
    When I read their memories in my imagination, I replayed all their air battles as if I myself were sitting in fighters controlled by them.
    I hope our programmers will master this task.
    The capabilities of modern technology allow us to create a full-fledged picture of the past.
    This will be an excellent propaganda of our history, and not a history imposed on us from the west ... it's only up to the state.
    1. Gardamir
      Gardamir 7 May 2021 08: 04
      My blue dream is for our programmers and computer scientists to visualize the memoirs of Pokryshkin and Kozhedub.
      Better keep your mouth shut. There are also Devyatayev's memoirs, but "the artist sees it this way" that God forbid ..
      1. carstorm 11
        carstorm 11 7 May 2021 11: 04
        Oh, well enough, huh? Are you an adult? Why are these pioneer stuffing? These guys have gone through tons of memoirs and catalogs. They work on all European archives. They don't care about politics. Not tired of throwing garbage at everyone? Gadamir what have you done? Tell us, shall we see everything?
    2. lucul
      lucul 7 May 2021 08: 33
      My blue dream is for our programmers and computer scientists to visualize the memoirs of Pokryshkin and Kozhedub.

      Will not work )))
      In War Thunder, at first, Soviet fighters (La-5, Yak-3) were introduced as normal, but on foreign forums users howled - they say they did not have such Russian plywood and everything, supposedly, the German data is completely opposite. As a result, our hawks were cut into trash (in the sense of har-k), for the sake of foreign users, as the most solvent.
      1. evgen1221
        evgen1221 7 May 2021 09: 54
        This is not exactly how it happens. Calibrating the balance of the food chain in a game where there are many different types of technology is hellishly difficult. Either you get imbs and play on them only that there is an end to the game, or you have to periodically play with characteristics based on the statistics of victories and kills of equipment and its popularity in the random. The main task of the developers is to make money for their loved ones from the largest possible audience, and delivering this audience pleasure from their product is already in the background.
      2. BISMARCK94
        BISMARCK94 7 May 2021 12: 34
        The same problem with the Germans) Made of them flying logs, which cannot be maneuverable. And La-5 and Yak-3 are very playable.
      3. Evgeny Goncharov (smoogg)
        Evgeny Goncharov (smoogg) 7 May 2021 18: 11
        > as the most solvent

        And the patriots did not tell them that the solvency should be calculated according to PPP? Disorder.
        1. lucul
          lucul 7 May 2021 18: 20

          Another adept of the golden calf)))
    3. carstorm 11
      carstorm 11 7 May 2021 11: 01
      Why not? Suggest. These companies are open to ideas
  2. K-50
    K-50 7 May 2021 07: 52
    Interesting, thanks.
    I haven’t played "tanks", I don’t play and I’ll hardly play, but all the same, I wish you success in such a difficult job !!!
  3. tech3030
    tech3030 7 May 2021 07: 52
    There was a game about tanks now about pink ponies. Fie on you!
    1. lucul
      lucul 7 May 2021 08: 36
      There was a game about tanks now about pink ponies. Fie on you!

      What you want is pixel tanks, if you make them voxel then you don't need any photogrammetry.
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  5. Keyser soze
    Keyser soze 7 May 2021 09: 19
    And what were the times - played day and night, clan fights, friends, battles, skill ...

    He was a field in the clan and conducted epic battles, communicated with players from all over the world. Fun ...

    And now this game sucks.
    1. ZAV69
      ZAV69 7 May 2021 10: 24
      Quote: Keyser Soze
      And what were the times - played day and night, clan fights, friends, battles, skill ...

      I played boats. Everything is exactly the same. But now it’s cut off, they don’t come in for a month and don’t pull.
      1. Keyser soze
        Keyser soze 7 May 2021 11: 34
        But now it’s cut off, they don’t come in for a month and don’t pull.

        I haven’t played for 3 years already ... :) Already everything is tied not to skill but to chance, so it became uninteresting. Although he was never an extra, he loved to play well. My statka was 58%. To drag and fight to the last shot, our FS :)
      2. Usher
        Usher 8 May 2021 19: 29
        Quote: ZAV69
        Quote: Keyser Soze
        And what were the times - played day and night, clan fights, friends, battles, skill ...

        I played boats. Everything is exactly the same. But now it’s cut off, they don’t come in for a month and don’t pull.

        Yeah, there was a great clan in the ships, then somehow everyone scattered, and it's not the same
        1. ZAV69
          ZAV69 8 May 2021 19: 56
          Quote: Usher
          Yeah, there was a great clan in the ships, then somehow everyone scattered, and it's not the same

          Is this about the tula clan or what?
          1. Usher
            Usher 8 May 2021 19: 58
            Not. HOTEL clan
    2. carstorm 11
      carstorm 11 7 May 2021 11: 07
      Come to us))) we even have the clan members on Skype))))) we only play events)))))
      1. ZAV69
        ZAV69 7 May 2021 11: 37
        Quote: carstorm 11
        Come to us))) we even have the clan members on Skype))))) we only play events)))))

        Well, we met in real life more than once. Just tired of it. The last drunk the perks finished off. I don't even know if I'll be back or not.
        1. carstorm 11
          carstorm 11 7 May 2021 11: 54
          The game has long been of secondary importance) the social circle is more important)
      2. Keyser soze
        Keyser soze 7 May 2021 11: 42
        Come to us))) we even have the clan members on Skype))))) we only play events)))))

        My wife will throw me out of the house if I start playing again for days in a row :))) I used to sit on my computer for 5 days and swear in three languages ​​(in the clan, apart from Bulgarians, there were also Russians, Germans, Serbs, Czechs, etc.)

        While he was in command of the clan and understood the difference - good players think Slavs. Good players, the Germans, play exactly. If you can use the good traits of each character, you will win easily and a stronger opponent.
        1. carstorm 11
          carstorm 11 7 May 2021 11: 52
          Mine also threatens)))) do you know how hard it is to be a Russian German?)))))
        2. dauria
          dauria 7 May 2021 14: 11
          I used to sit on my computer for 5 days

          Hmm .... Not in tanks, but in "Warface". Since 2012 account. The beginning was incomparable. Living people behind "nicknames". Everyone sees your game. That was amazing. Then it cut off. I gave up about four years ago and I'm afraid to touch. Drugs.
          I read about the "Tomb Ryder" of the last episodes - a live actress smeared her face with paste with "marker dots". This is exactly what the "figure" is doing in facial expressions. Stunned.
          1. Krasnodar
            Krasnodar 7 May 2021 14: 19
            Quite right - dope
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  8. seacap
    seacap 7 May 2021 11: 10
    Cartoon styles, cartoon crews replacing rating 12 + with 5+, poor characteristics especially tips, armor that does not exist, art that cripples any tank with a crew and knocks off any desire to go into this garbage dump, by a misunderstanding called the game, 50% intake, reducing to there are no intelligible actions of the player and making shooting, like the main activity in the game, is extremely annoying and unpleasant. Not to mention the so-called. physics, which has nothing to do with the meaning of this word, when a 100 t car on the ground slides on its side along the slope like on skis, multi-ton cars are jumping and tumbling around the fields and slopes like cockroaches climbing vertical walls, and moving t .n. "Wheels" are generally a "masterpiece" of creativity in the trash of a drugged drug addict, at least a person far from any concepts and ideas of the real process of movement and interaction of mechanisms. The project, which was once interesting on expectations, in pursuit of money, is degrading at a progressive pace, developed for a long time already cynically and hypocritically spit on the consumer of their products, chasing only the conjunction and profit, there is an obvious crisis of creativity of "Cretan prisoners" and a sane idea of ​​the direction of further development (the Anglo-Saxon poor-language expression "driver plan" with its variations of the literal, not semantic translation, used by narrow-minded individuals to emphasize their wretchedness infuriates everyone and humiliates the speaker).
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    2. Usher
      Usher 8 May 2021 19: 27
      I agree to all 100%
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  10. iouris
    iouris 7 May 2021 12: 31
    This is what "high technologies" is: the obvious applied nature of the development plus self-sufficiency due to the massive sale of games.
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  13. John22
    John22 7 May 2021 20: 28
    The game is not bad if it were not for the tanks projects that were only on paper or in fantasies. More reality and good detailed instructions would be nice. Arta certainly got bored - where are the realities of life? The game gives an idea of ​​the evolution of tank forces in different countries.
    1. Usher
      Usher 8 May 2021 19: 26
      They don't even plan it)))
  14. Boratsagdiev
    Boratsagdiev 8 May 2021 12: 24
    Potatoes can only make beautiful pictures and videos (in recent years), and not deal with game mechanics.
    And in "Tundra" the technique looks better and they began to use high-quality skins earlier.
    But this and that have sucked for a long time)))
  15. Usher
    Usher 8 May 2021 19: 25
    Such nonsense.
    Hardly anyone will notice by eye the difference between the asphalt pavement of two different cities.
    then why are these trips to the Canary Islands! ???? What is there in Canarch that is no longer in accessible places? NOTHING!!! Hanging noodles on his ears. It contradicts itself. They make an elephant out of a fly, you can make locations from a photograph, and not drive. Who did it give up to? Personally, when I played this "slag" I did not pay attention to the design at all. Only for the landscape that is needed. No more, interferes with the game or not. And what is there some paving stone, generally give a damn about it. It seems to me that all these "trips" are money down the drain.