Serious Sam 4 Is Aiming For 100,000 Enemies On Screen At Once But It’s Not There Yet

Serious Sam 4 Is Aiming For 100,000 Enemies On Screen At Once But It’s Not There Yet

The developers at Croteam, the studio that makes the Serious Sam games, are looking to do the unthinkable with the fourth numbered instalment in the series: render 100,000 enemies on screen at the same time. Watching a hands-off demo of the game behind closed doors at E3, I was excited to see that feat in action, and for a second it looked like I might.

While the titular Sam was driving around in a combine harvester, Gnaars and Kamikazes began flooding over a hill in the distance. First it was just a few dozen, but moments later it had become a horde too numerous to count. Then the screen faded to black.

“We don’t want to have a cutscene and show you the battle, we want to do a single scene where you’ll be right in the middle of all that,” Ante Vrdelja, Croteam’s chief marketing officer, told Kotaku during the demo. “So far we’re getting there.” So no 100,000 unit brawls yet. The gameplay I saw was pre-alpha, and despite a devoted fan base who have been waiting for the next new Serious Sam game since 2011’s mostly well received Serious Sam 3: BFE, it’s been slow going.

Released the same year as Duke Nukem Forever, BFE was seen by some as the right way to revive late 90s first-person shooter camp. Seven years later, Vrdelja admits Serious Sam fans are getting impatient see what the series will do next.

Most of the demo I saw was comprised of Sam driving a motorcycle down country roads shotgunning a mutant or two and stopping at the occasional cottage or stone tower to investigate the world and gain intel related to his mission, one I never came to fully understand. The world is incredibly open and almost sickeningly bright, with lush, leafy trees and deep azure skies overhead.

The map I saw a small sliver of is apparently close to 80 kilometers by 80 kilometers and procedurally generated outside of the major plot beats and action set pieces. In order to piece together this massive space, level designer Nika Dvoravic said she and the team have been making extensive use of photogrammetry to take detailed pictures of real world objects and then recreate them in-game with relative ease.

Without techniques like this, it’s unlikely the just over 40 person team at the studio, not all of whom are working on Serious Sam 4, would be able to deliver on the game’s proposed scale.

The tech for rendering the population of a small city all on screen at once remains more nebulous. The large battles from the Lord of the Rings movies are one of the inspirations behind these ambitious enemy encounters, cinematic moments which remain visual benchmark in blockbuster film over a decade later. Duke Nukem with shootouts on the scale of Helm’s Deep is something even non-Serious Sam fans can get excited about.

100,000 is also a nice round number. It’s something that looks nice on the back of a box and an inspiring goal to strive for, but even if Croteam is able to deliver in the next game, it won’t be something everyone gets to experience.

“This is running on a high-end PC and if you have one at home obviously you’ll get all of those units at the same time, looking great and with lots of effects,” said Vrdelja. “But we also need to scale for low-end and entry-level PCs.”

Croteam isn’t yet sure what the required specs will be to get the full intended Serious Sam 4 effect, but 100,000 animated aliens running over a hill will likely only be reserved for those with the most up-to-date rigs when the game eventually comes out. 


    • Depends how you treat them; it is believed that the best way to handle massive mobs these days is to treat them as particle effects. This means the engine can predefine the animation rotations once there are enough enemies together and treat them as one entity. Days Gone seems to use this system for the enemies when they bunch up.

      • It is literally just taking Serious Sam to the next level, if you are a fan of the series it makes sense.

      • Plenty of other games offering way too many mobs at once, its just a different game mechanism. Creates a different strategy to what we’re used to as well.

        As a player, I don’t think its really going to matter if its 1,000 or 100,000. Its a buttload of mobs you have to deal with, and the game is going to give you a way to do it. Serious Sam games have always done that sort of thing anyway, its one of the things that makes them stand out from other FPS games.

        Personally, I think its just a number representing what they’re trying for – mobs as far as you can see. Whether that ends up being 10k, 50k, or 100k isn’t really going to change how it looks on screen.

        • Personally, I think its just a number representing what they’re trying for – mobs as far as you can see. Whether that ends up being 10k, 50k, or 100k isn’t really going to change how it looks on screen.

          That’s my point. If you aren’t going to see the difference between 10k or 100k because of literal sight limitations, why not use that processing power on something else?

          • Why do it? Because that’s how they stand out from the crowd. Its what Serious Sam has always done. They aren’t complicated games, they’re just parodies of similar games around them, like how Saints Row parodied GTA before establishing its own identity.

            Where Quake had 3 or 4 mobs attacking, Serious Sam had 50, which was a ridiculous amount at the time. It was how the series got attention in the first place but its not a new thing. RTS games have been doing it longer, whether it was StarCraft, or They Are Billions more recently.

          • Why not just have one enemy? Who needs two or three?

            SS has always had a gimmick/feature of throwing a ton of enemies at you. Frankly, that was what made it fun for me. Dealing with dozens or enemies all at once. If they can make thousands work then I’m all for it.

          • Why not just have one enemy? Who needs two or three?

            There is a vast difference between seeing one/two/three enemies and seeing 1000 vs 10,000. At some point they either just look like specs, a cluttered mess, but the point is, we simply can’t see the difference as we have limited screen space.

          • Yes they will look like specks, at first. Someone pointed out that at 4k res each one would be 80pixels. Now bearing in mind that I started playing at 320×240 and steadily moved through the res’s up to 4k I’ve regularly played games where the enemies were 80 pixels (or less). So I have no problems with them starting out that size. As they get closer they’ll get bigger and obscure the ones behind them. That’s fine. You still have the sense of numbers created by the initial surge.

            The thought of 100,000 pouring over a hill in the distance and steadily getting larger is very enticing. It brings to mind scenes from LoTR (as already mentioned) or World War Z. Also bear in mind that while some of them will be obscured by each other so you may not actually be seeing 100,000 you’ll still be dealing with 100,000.

            I’m actually interested in how close they can get to that ideal, and how they’re planning to let us deal with it.

  • My trusty Windows calculator tells me that at 1080p, each enemy would get 20 pixels allocated to them.

  • I’m down for that, waves of enemies crashing against me like the tide. I’ve yet to play 3 but I played through the original part 1 & 2 many many times as a kid.

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