Super Mario Galaxy: A Visual Tour - Doomlaser

Super Mario Galaxy: A Visual Tour

I picked up Mario Galaxy last night and have been enjoying it, both as a game, and also picking it apart technically. The level design really stands out in how it consistently surprises you with creative platforming gameplay.

But what’s more interesting is how Nintendo is using the modest Wii hardware to achieve its graphical effects.

I could never quite tell from the YouTube previews, but it appears Mario’s using something like stencil shadow volumes to handle all its shadows– which are always projected in gravity’s direction. Unfortunately this technique means unsmoothed edges and a uniform brightness for all shaded areas. Side effects include moving platforms whose shadows suddenly blink onto surfaces when they approach, and suddenly disappear as they pass.

An element that Galaxy uses all over the place to great effect is something like a fake rim lighting shader. From what I understand, the Wii isn’t fragment shader capable, so maybe they’re faking it by setting an independent directional light aimed reverse relative to camera for each rimlit object? I’ve read a few things about the Wii’s Register Combiners and TEVs, and I wonder if they’re using them for pixel shadery purposes.

It’s all that lighting around the silhouettes of objects that helps give the characters and environments that signature plastic pop.

The fur shading is fairly nice as well, and I wonder how they’re doing it on the Wii hardware, whether it’s an actual shader, or they’re doing tricks rendering a multilayered shell of increasingly translucent polygons like in Shadow of the Colossus

Anyway, I am really enjoying the game so far, and the art direction is top notch. It’s also great to play Mario along to a live orchestral score — too bad Nintendo didn’t make the switch in time for Twilight Princess.

The shadows are the only real graphical let-down. It seems like they could be doing something more clever with the alleged crazy fill-rate on the Wii. Blurred textured shadow maps for near geometry or something? Also, multisampling would be nice, but playing on a standard def tv is forgiving.

I’d love to hear other people’s insights into the graphics behind the game. The rim lighting shading is something that could be easily applied to indie games looking for some eye candy punch…

10 Responses to “Super Mario Galaxy: A Visual Tour”

  1. W.O.R.D. Truth Says:

    The effects that are used in the game area really awesome. The water effects look great too. Like you said the fur on the bee adds a nice touch. When you reach the lava-squid boss on the first planet you will see a cool looking slick/glossy effect on the little planet that this creature lives on. Nintendo really does an excellent job on all of its games, this is no exception!

  2. Sam Hart Says:

    One data point on this is that the fur shading used in this game looks very similar to what was used before in Starfox Adventures for the original GameCube. If you check it out, you’ll see that there’s all sorts of “fur-like” effects (from the grass on the ground, to actual fur on Starfox). And it looks very much like what we see in Super Mario Galaxies.

    Actually, as I’ve been playing the game, I’ve noticed a lot of effects I had noticed earlier in other GameCube games. You just never saw them all together in one game before 🙂

  3. wiiboy101gezza Says:

    flipper nevermind hollywood, supported realtime multitexturing with full support for bump normal mapps, cube mapping, colour texture blending, combining, stencil lighting, all round realtime lighting fake hdr lighting,motion blur,heat haze,realistic water mapps,realistic water physics,and a whole bucket custom hardwired low jit on hardware effects including wire frame shaders aka fur and crass shading shadowing self shadowing etc etc etc

    hollywood is a version 2 of that gpu so more of thesame with increasaed efficencie and monster fillrate and a fine tuned system so gpu can be maxed out at set 30 frames or set 60 frames

    galaxy is full of extream fill rate and custom effects belowing smoke and fantastic lighting with insane on screen action at 60 frames no slow down and high res colour

    a wii maxed out at 30 frames must be a sd turbo resolution monster turbo refering to how the machine is fine tuned to excel at that resolution

  4. gamerborn Says:

    dont forget high speed balanced memory ,and cpu gpu co processing ,and the unic virtual texture design trick, and gc/wiis abbillity to fake tile rendering tricks that vastly increase the accual performance per texel per polygon hollywood is a custom gaming only gpu with a mixed bag of tradition and tile render type hardware and nintendo required hardwired effects “””HOT WIRED EFFECTS”” AS FACTOR 5 CALL THEM CUSTOM NOT PC GPU LIKE AT ALL

  5. uk coder guy Says:

    16 stage programmable real time shader tree,8 layers single pas texturing,high texel fillrate plus virtual texturing,hardwired custom effects,custom cpu graphics co-processing all supported by wii……nintendoware version 2 of wii dev tooling will increase performance still futher

  6. no posts for a long time… « Felix in Hilversum Says:

    […] schönsten Spiele die ich seit langem gespielt habe (sagen wir seit dem Ursprung des verwendeten Fur-Shaders :-)Just buy it and play it, its the shit!Und mit diesen Worten gehe ich wieder Power Stars […]

  7. James Says:

    I think I read in an interview someplace that they stuck with boring shadows for gameplay purposes. Although crazy, realistic shadows are really pretty, it’s harder to judge exactly where you’ll land with them.

  8. magisticman Says:

    32gb bandwidth and 27mb superfast 1tsram right on the gpu or gpu die before you even start using motherboard main ram… thats not counting compression and realtime decompression, latency (ram speed) and bandwidth and compression are HUGE when considering the native resolution wii runs at the hollywood gpu is allso a fake tile rendering system substainable fillrate bandwidth and effects INGAME are near 360ish minus the native resolution of 720p witch is 480p on wii mario galaxy probably dosnt max wii out so imagine the wii maxed out at half that framerate at 30 frames solid wii can hit BIG BIG GRAPHICS NO PROBLEM

  9. PRITTYINPINK Says:

    dont forget dual geomitry and lighting engines gpu onboard G&T (T&L) HARDWARE PLUS,

    broadway cpu supports custom geomitry and lighting (t&L) all geomiry and scipt for both gpu and cpu supports 4to1 data compression

    imence geomitry and lighting transformation supported in game

  10. that sexy guy Says:

    gamecube was doing fur shaders and normal maps and tev is a PIXEL LEVEL SHADER ALWAYS HAS BEEN all manner of mapping effects

    wii and gamecube are light scattering ready and stencil rouge sq 2/3 use it on gamecube let alone wii

    tev isnt just a shader combiner its loaded and supported with a huge list of HOTWIRED EFFECTS in hardware witch can be re programmed at assembly level to do new effects and blends

    wiiu most likey has evolved versions of this combined with shaders makes sense

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