James Cameron's Avatar will go down in history as one of the most impressive (mostly) animated films of all time. Fans who watch the movie now may not think much of its CGI and environments, but it's still up there with CGI today - and that's saying something for a 2009 film. Until Avengers: Endgame released, Avatar was unchallenged as the highest-grossing film of all time. The moon of Pandora was even brought to life by Disney Imagineers as part of Disney World's Animal Kingdom. With more films and a video game on the way, Avatar isn't going anywhere, as evidenced by Ubisoft's Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.
A video game seems like a natural next step considering the influence Avatar had on the entertainment industry. However, it's not a challenge for the faint of heart. Frontiers of Pandora looks like it could be one of the most ambitious games ever made, and the most crucial part will be its environment. Pandora is a unique and distinctive fantasy world known for its reactive environment and bioluminescence. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora has a lot to live up to.
Avatar's Immersion is Part of Its Legacy
Avatar was James Cameron's ultimate passion project, in development since 1994. He waited until the technology was there to truly capture his vision, and when it finally was the boundaries were still pushed quite a bit. As one of the most prominent 3D films ever made, Avatar was designed to be an immersive theatrical experience - and it was. To honor that legacy, Ubisoft needs to create a beautifully immersive video game as well.
Avatar helped lead to new motion capture technology, as well as advanced lighting and texturing systems to make the environment look as realistic as possible. While it's easy to tell the movie is animated now, it marks an enormous step forward for CGI. Without Avatar, many major blockbusters wouldn't have the visuals they have today. For a video game, Ubisoft Massive is also committed to using the best technology available by making Frontiers of Pandora exclusively next-gen.
A lot of fans have forgotten about Avatar after 12 years, but Disney's Animal Kingdom brought it back into the spotlight. Both of the Avatar attractions, Na'vi River Journey and Flight of Passage, are some of the most beautifully crafted and immersive theme park experiences available, furthering Avatar's legacy. With a second movie scheduled to release in December 2022 and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora set to release the same year, the franchise is coming back in full force.
How Ubisoft is Using Snowdrop to Recreate Pandora
Judging by the reveal trailer for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Ubisoft is doing a great job of making sure Pandora lives up to expectations. The developer's highly customizable Snowdrop engine has allowed it to push the boundaries.
Ray tracing is especially important for Pandora because of its bioluminescence. The planet comes to life at night, and new ray tracing capabilities within the Snowdrop engine should allow Pandora to glow just as it's supposed to. The environments are ambitious because there has to be a lot going on. Players will expect the plants to be just as alive and interactive as the wildlife and NPCs, which isn't something that most game environments have to think about. The bioluminescence is a particularly unique challenge that, if successful, could be one of the best things about the game.
A new NPC system is also being developed just for Frontiers of Pandora. Ubisoft wants Pandora to feel vibrant and alive, a goal that should affect NPCs just as much as the environment. To fit in with the responsive flora and fauna, the NPCs are being developed to adapt, changing their behaviors based on the day/night cycle and character progression. To follow in the film's footsteps, Pandora needs to feel alive, and a deeper NPC system is just one way to accomplish that. Developers of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora definitely have their work cut out for them.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will be available in 2022 for PC, PS5, Stadia, and Xbox Series X/S.
MORE: Everything Fans Should Know About the Na'vi Before Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora Releases
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