2K Games' official BioShock community website has been updated with a video showing off the game's amazing water graphical effects, as well as a Q&A with two of the developers responsible for creating them - Stephan Alexander and Jesse Johnson.
Q: What about this new generation of technology has allowed you to make the water look so much better compared with other games out, in the past and right now?
JJ: With regards to comparing the new generation of technology to the past, a combination of three things are enabling these advancements: raw improvements in hardware speed, a larger number of resources we can work with simultaneously (like textures, for example), as well as completely new functionality.
The raw improvements in speed allow us to keep more water on the screen at once. It's the difference between being able to put a puddle in each room, versus being able to flood each room completely while at the same time having water trickle down walls, burst out of pipes, and splash as it comes in contact with the game world.
Having a larger number of resources to work with means that we can add a lot more detail to the water, as well as have a lot more control over how it looks and behaves. We can make the water flow and animate more realistically, simulate multiple layers of water interacting, and we can create more types of water (from the crystal clear to the heavily polluted). It even allows us to do things as complex as have water flowing over a wall realistically and move over the bumps and into the cracks on that wall.
With some of the completely new functionality, we can do some very savvy things that are more of a quantum leap from the last generation of technology than just an evolution of it. In terms of the water specifically, its allowed us to create water effects that can react naturally to characters and objects in the game, such as splashing off of them when they move through waterfalls.
SA: From the art side, with better technology your tool set just expands. Having particles that can have per pixel lighting effects, multiple overlapping layers of waves, real-time reflections, very convincing specular highlighting, and other technical tricks give you numerous ways to achieve the visual results you want.