What Really Happened With Those Spider-Man Puddles

What Really Happened With Those Spider-Man Puddles

Remember PuddleGate? It was a furore that kicked off last year around August when players started noticing that the puddles in a particular Spider-Man scene had changed from its E3 launch. Players immediately began questioning whether Spider-Man‘s graphics had been downgraded, complaining that the original footage was misleading.

Of course, Spider-Man‘s graphics weren’t downgraded at all. But the furore at the time caused Insomniac’s senior engine programmer to investigate what really happened, and finally we have a precise answer.

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When gamers started making unflattering comparisons of puddles between the release version of Spider-Man and its E3 footage, Insomniac explained that it was just a change in the puddle size. That explanation, however, wasn’t the full story, as Insomniac senior engine programmer Elan Ruskin explained in a GDC talk this year, which has just been uploaded to YouTube.

According to Ruskin (from 58 minutes in the video below), Insomniac internally didn’t entirely know what caused the change. So Ruskin spoke to 14 people internally, and got 14 different answers.

“The internet lost its mind because they thought we had taken out reflective puddles for performance reasons. So we gave this really confusing answer then because no-one actually knew–I had to do an investigation to [figure this out], I talked to 14 people and got a whole bunch of different answers, but I finally got to the bottom of it,” he said.

“We switched from hand painting [puddles] to procedurally putting them in. It’s just too much of a pain to paint all of the puddles in – it’s a different procedural seed.”

Ruskin’s GDC talk, which also explains more about how Spider-Man‘s procedural generation works, is completely logical. Developers often spend a lot of time handcrafting demos for E3, especially since in many cases that gameplay doesn’t actually exist in-game.

In Spider-Man‘s case, however, the change was simply practical. The game itself was determining the size and placement of the puddles, whereas the developers handcrafted them for E3.

“Now you can have all the puddles you want,” Ruskin quipped.


  • The real story the devs don’t want you to know is that the puddles are actually clones with poorly implemented memories being raised by Pokémon who have started harvesting them at the bidding of their shadow masters, Ash and Travis who are really Pokémon fusions with super powers granted to them by a radiation accident…

    Hang on, I’m going to need to draw a diagram…

  • While I wasn’t all that fussed with the whole puddle controversy, it still highlights the difference between gameplay and marketing magic.

    While it’s technically not a downgrade and far from he worst example of a visual bait and switch, the silly thing is I don’t think the scene would’ve been any less impressive had they just ensured the condition for game placed puddles was met and I find it a little unbelievable that it took asking 14 people to find out that Doug painted in some puddles.
    (I just use that name to cop faceless blame, sorry to the Dougs of the world but you know what you did)

    • It’s not silly at all if the procedural generation hadn’t been programmed yet. Would have left them more time for concentrating on more important aspects of the demo that mattered.

    • It was a procedur algorithm that decided thats not where the puddle shoukd be… the robots control the Matrix.

  • Less about maketing and more to do with hand crafted prototype… but the final product is mass produced.

    Same couldbe said with any demo… at some point the small game becomes too large. Changes to pipelines, difficulty on scaling etc.

    Sometimes the handcrafted dream will move a puddle… and sometimes the handcrafted dream is dullisional Anthem, No Mans Sky, Watchdogs.

  • Like anything these days, some people just lose all sense of reality and get hysterical, by which stage it hits social media and then the stupid masses all jump on it like some huge ‘stacks on’, then joining them are those who don’t care but take it further in a downvote-frenzy way… while the rest of us stand by thinking “huh?! Some people really need a better hobby”

    • But your kinda doing the same thing by over reacting and misrepresenting the entire situation.

      The question of downgrading (it was never just the puddles) was put forward in a pretty resonable manner and was always a fair question.
      The whole puddlegate thing was to add some levity and take the piss out of those who took it too far, even the devs had some fun with it.

      Sadly some people will always take the fun out something and that includes those who used it as a way to ignore and dismiss something that Insomniac clearly saw as important enough to investigate internally.
      Behind those extreme ends who get all the coverage was a large group of normal and sane people who just wanted to know why the trailer looked so different to the game.

      • this is why i never watch demo’s or anything else produced by the company if i can avoid it, i watch actual gameplay footage only and if i can i watch it on youtube or twitch, so i avoid being hoodwinked by marketing teams.

        • I agree but it’s no reason to not have the discussion on a pretty well established and widely criticised practice.
          It’s also important to not let it get drowned out by the toxic idiots and white knights for the sake of drama and headlines.

      • The question of downgrading (it was never just the puddles) was put forward in a pretty resonable manner

        No it really wasn’t

        • I was there, it was a good laugh.

          A few idiots on Twitter never have and never will represent the greater community.
          But hey, why let the truth get in the way of a good story huh?

    • Easily one of the most hilarious fan moans ever.

      I enjoyed Puddlegate. I even love the name. Such good fun.

      • I’m sure the devs loved having snotty self-righteous gamers harassing them on social media and elsewhere over something so stupid. Such good fun.

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