Creating the world of SSX with satelites and real-world mountains
One hot point of discussion with recently-released SSX has been how the game heavily bases its maps off of real-world topographical data from NASA. Its one of the more “gee-whiz” factors of the game that I think adds a little extra kick to the final product and should have mountain climbers and snowboard enthusiasts alike very happy with the final product.
An EA Sports producer recalled just how easy it was to produce models that could become playable maps for the game using the ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) topography data:
“He [one of my creative directors] was like ‘Name any mountain on Earth,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know, Mount Everest.’ So he goes on Wikipedia, gets the latitude and longitude coordinates… and in about 28 seconds, delivered a 3D model of Mount Everest and all the surrounding mountains in that grid from the data. He’s like, ‘If you give me a couple of days we can take it for a ride…'”
-Todd Batty, EA Sports producer
And that they did, the official game features mountains from around the world, from the Rockies to Antarctica. The extreme nature and history of the SSX brand lend themselves to extreme riding courses that would never be achievable in real life, but make complete sense in the context of the game.
After grabbed the real-life data, there was still quite a bit of clean-up and design to be had, especially considering how much is needed in terms of ramps to jump and poles to grind, but starting out with the base modeling data really helped to shape a distinct feel to the game, one that even to me feels almost more cohesive than the series’ best entry: SSX 3, which took place on a single mountain.
Ars Technica has the full report on their site: How NASA topography data brought dose of reality to SSXsnowboarding courses