The Snazzy Graphics Engine
The All-Powerful RTDAT
So what's so special about Messiah's graphics engine? Summed up in an acronym, it's RTDAT, real time deformation and tesselation. In terms of a graphics engine, tesselation is the ability to gradually change the amount of polygon detail in an object. Put simply, the Messiah engine has the ability to scale the amount of detail the onscreen characters have. This is done in a smooth scalable manner, not in annoying, step-like stages as other games do. So, as a character walks up from background to foreground, the engine will gradually add polygons to the person in order to enhance the character's appearance. Conversely the engine can subtract unneeded detail as characters walk off into the background. If there's a sudden added load on the processor (i.e. an explosion occurs), the engine is smart enough to subtract polygons from the least noticeable areas on the characters in order to keep gameplay smooth.
The upshot of all this is that there should never be any slowdown because the software is always monitoring the load placed on your computer system. The game will intelligently and automatically enhance the appearance of the characters when possible, or make them look a bit less detailed when game speed necessitates. Why didn't anyone think of this before?
Another neat side effect of Messiah's scalability is that it provides a kind of automatic graphics upgrade to the game as you improve your gaming system. When you swap out your old P166 processor for a tricked out new P2-400, the game will notice the improvement in your system and the graphics will get better. This contrasts with most first person shooters where you'd notice the action getting only faster, not necessarily giving more detailed graphics.
According to most accounts, the characters in Messiah are rendered with anywhere from 180,000 polygons to half a million polygons. When scaled down to gaming conditions the characters are drawn with anywhere from 80-8000 polygons, depending on what kind of hot rod system you have. As a point of reference, Tomb Raider's Lara Croft is drawn with around 600 polygons so you can see the potential for vastly better and more detailed graphics in Messiah. It would be awesome to see how Messiah might play on next generation chips that come out after its release. Maybe the game would play out with near fully rendered characters all the time!