The Division GDC trailer showcases Snowdrop engine's visuals, flexibility

Omri Petitte at

Tom Clancy's The Division

During Ubisoft Massive's latest video tour of The Division's impressive Snowdrop engine at GDC 2014, one developer likened his ease of creating a bleak depiction of urban decay to tinkering with a Lego set. That's definitely not the same kind of Legos I remember growing up with, but the analogy is pretty apt considering the studio's deep drive to portray a massively multiplayer post-apocalyptic city in as much detail as possible.

Several Massive members discuss Snowdrop's capabilities and how something called a "node-based scripting system" allows graphic artists and coders to smoothly swap between rendering, AI, mission layouts, or UI elements without wading through complicated piles of code and engine files. Although calling something "node-based" teeters dangerously close to terminology hell, Snowdrop's menus and texture libraries really do appear quite approachable for an AAA engine.

More importantly, what we've seen of Snowdrop so far is only a small slice of how The Division will actually look and play when it arrives later this year. After all, carefully scripted sequences are one thing, but measuring an engine's performance when actual players are running around and trying their best to push the game to its limits—particularly on premium PC hardware—is something else entirely. I'm rooting for Snowdrop's might on the latter—it definitely has the competition to live up to.