Waiting for the Snowdrop in Tom Clancy’s The Division

Ubisoft’s Swedish studio Massive Entertainment (now Ubisoft Massive) has been tasked with building an entirely new engine – from scratch – to drive its upcoming game, “Tom Clancy’s The Division.” Its new engine is called the Snowdrop Engine, and it’s one of the most powerful around. Here are a few ways that it will make “The Division” a decidedly future-forward experience.

Improved tools.
“Snowdrop was created in-house, at Massive, in response to a specific requirement: to do things better, not bigger,” says Rodrigo Cortes, Brand Art Director at Massive Entertainment. A node-based scripting system allows creators to more easily iterate in terms of AI, rendering, user interface, and mission scripting. This lets them quickly develop their assets, preview them, and interact with them in ways that have never been done before. It’s kinda like playing with LEGO blocks, except way more ‘splodey.

The Snowdrop Engine was developed specifically to power “The Division” on the eighth generation of game consoles (i.e. Xbox One). This is good, because it means the tech is being used as efficiently as possible, rather than being scaled up and down to accommodate different generations of hardware.

Dynamic global illumination.
It’s one of the buzzwords for this latest generation of games, certainly – and dynamic global illumination is one of the key ingredients in making a modern game world feel realistic and alive. It means that the current lighting in the game is accurately reflected by every object in the game, from that bus that drove past you, to the body of your assault rifle, to your character’s eyes. This requires a lot of processing power and some expert coding to work properly, and “The Division” has made it a high priority.

Those Trees!
While Massive Entertainment has been a bit cagey about whether the trees we’ve seen in Snowdrop demos will actually be a part of the urban-themed “The Division,” it’s clear that the engine is capable of producing some of the finest virtual shrubbery we’ve ever seen. There are a lot of virtual trees in the wider gaming forest, so this is no small accomplishment. “Snowdrop is capable of creating a large range of varied universes, procedurally, and in an unprecedented level of detail,” says Cortes.

Procedural destruction.
Surfaces in the game react with unprecedented virtual physicality. Whether you’re shooting holes in a billboard and watching the sunlight penetrate them in real time, or turning a police car into scrap metal one headlight at a time, the world of “The Division” feels exceedingly… real.

Drone warfare.
Whether you’re using a Microsoft Surface or another tablet, “The Division” has been designed to properly support a second screen experience. Those playing through the app will be able to seamlessly join a game anywhere they want; controlling a drone, they’ll be able to see the scene from a bird’s eye view – and provide advanced tactical support for teammates. It’s a different yet awesome way to play.