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Activision’s game studios focus on delivering the best possible games without compromise. Our Central Tech R&D team works alongside our studio specialists as we apply our research to evolve our products and keep ahead of where the industry is going next.

People at Activision have a long history of publications in conferences, journals, and magazines, and of collaborations with academic and private research groups. This website is the first time that the work has been collected and presented in a single place, a hub for sharing that will host blog posts, articles, and presentations from research within Activision. Its intended audience is developers, researchers, and anyone who is aspiring to become one.

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Skyscraper Zombies Advancing Call of Duty's Systems for Giant AI

Andrew Hoyt

This talk, presented in a postmortem format, focuses on the unique technical and design challenges when creating boss AI in Call of Duty Zombies, such as pathfinding, maximizing limited animations, and the general mentality of tackling complex issues with cost-effective solutions.
Jun 26, 2024

Simon Eschbach

Originally presented at the Render Engine Architecture Conference 2024, this presentation explores the optimization strategies of user interface systems..
Jun 25, 2024
MergeBot: Activision's Merge and Resolve Infrastructure

Damianos Gkouzkouris

This talk, originally presented at GDC 2024, analyzes the workflow for integrating and resolving code and data between Perforce branches with the help of our in-house merging tool
Jun 24, 2024
Hemispherical Lighting Insights


This tech report discusses optimal encoding methods for AHD and IrradZ lightmaps, introduces two new IrradZ-compatible and runtime-blendable hemispherical lighting models, and shows how to efficiently apply hemispherical or cone occlusion to volumetric spherical harmonic lighting at runtime to improve the appearance of AO and prevent light leaking.
May 20, 2024

Thomas Roughton, Peter-Pike Sloan, Ari Silvennoinen, Michal Iwanicki, & Peter Shirley

This presentation introduces the ZH3 lighting model, which sits in between linear and quadratic SH in quality but requires only one extra coefficient over linear SH. It describes how to solve for the ZH3 coefficient, how using a luminance axis can mitigate color shifting, and how RGB ZH3 can be encoded in only 16 bytes. Additionally, it shows how ZH3 coefficients can be hallucinated from the ratio of the bands in linear SH, improving on linear SH in quality with no extra storage.
May 10, 2024
Call of Duty Matchmaking Intel

Call of Duty Staff

The design of Call of Duty matchmaking is driven by our goal to create the best experiences for our player community.
Apr 04, 2024
Challenges in Moderating Disruptive Player Behavior in Online Competitive Action Games

Rafal Kocielnik, Zhuofang Li, Claudia Kann, Deshawn Sambrano, Jacob Morrier, Mitchell Linegar, Carly Taylor, Min Kim, Nabiha Naqvie, Feri Soltani, Arman Dehpanah, Grant Cahill, Animashree Anandkumar, & R. Michael Alvarez

In a collaboration between Caltech and ABK, we identified six challenges related to handling disruptive behaviors in competitive action games through analysis of Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® II data and stakeholder feedback. We discovered challenges omitted by prior work, such as handling high-volume imbalanced data and ensuring the comfort of human moderators. We also offered a discussion of possible technical, design, and policy approaches to mitigating these challenges.
Feb 23, 2024
Task Graph Renderer at Activision

Charlie Birtwistle & Francois Durand

Originally presented at the Rendering Engine Architecture Conference 2023, this presentation explores the render graph technology we use at Activision.
Jun 05, 2023
Remote Administration Payload Malware Analysis

Journey into the malware analysis and reverse engineering process of a multi-staged remote administration payload.
May 04, 2023
Scaling Databases at Activision

Greg Smith, Vlad Kovacik

Originally presented at KubeCon 2023 Amsterdam, this talk explores how Demonware adopted Vitess/Kubernetes to run MySQL databases at a significant scale. The talk describes MySQL operational and scalability difficulties we had and how Vitess helped to solve them.
Apr 21, 2023
Reversing Anti-Cheat's Detection-Generation Cycle With Configurable Hallucinations

David Durst, Carly Taylor

Anti-cheat and cheat developers are locked in a cat-and-mouse cycle of detection and generation. Anti-cheat developers struggle to detect cheating players' behavior. Cheat developers easily evade the detections by generating different behavior. This paper examines how anti-cheat developers may reverse the cycle with configurable hallucinations.
Mar 27, 2023
Shadows of Cold War: A Scalable Approach to Shadowing

Kevin Myers

Originally presented in GDC’s Advanced Graphics Summit, this presentation explains the system Treyarch developed for Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War to automatically scale shadow quality.
Oct 11, 2021
The Road to Direct Lookups is Paved with Good Intentions

Alex Boyd, Davide Romani

A MySQL Performance Case Study
Oct 01, 2021
Geometry Rendering Pipeline Architecture

Michal Drobot

This talk covers the general architecture of our render pipeline with focus on certain novel approaches and provides comparative performance analysis dependent on specific render scenarios ranging from closed indoor spaces and open world outdoor spaces to more specific heavy triangle and alpha test overdraw scenes. Current work in progress and future extensions are discussed.
Sep 17, 2021
The Rust Programming Language for Game Tooling

Dan Olson

The Rust programming language has been quietly taking the tech world by storm, but adoption has been slower among game studios. Treyarch has been gradually integrating Rust into our tools and pipeline since 2018. This session leverages that experience to explore both the opportunities and challenges that Rust can give to the game tools programmer and examine the ways in which Rust can be a powerful addition to the tools arsenal.
Sep 16, 2021
Rendering Engine Architecture at Activision

Michael Vance

Learn the “how” and the “why” of Activision’s rendering submission process. A walk through of how we prepare and submit work, with special attention paid to the underlying philosophical basis for our decision-making. We examine decoupled simulation and rendering, memory orthogonality, parallelism in worker command systems, latency minimization, and hierarchy of work amortization.
Sep 16, 2021
Large-Scale Global Illumination in Call of Duty

Ari Silvennoinen

A presentation describing the key techniques behind the large-scale global illumination system in Call of Duty. Explained is a new precomputed lighting compression technique that enables high-performance and seamless reconstruction directly from the compressed lighting data. Visibility-based sampling of precomputed volumetric lighting, and a practical method for computing constrained spherical harmonics representations, are also discussed.
Sep 15, 2021
Moving Basis Decomposition for Precomputed Light Transport

Ari Silvennoinen, Peter-Pike Sloan

We study the problem of efficient representation of potentially high-dimensional, spatially coherent signals in the context of precomputed light transport. This paper won the EGSR 2021 Best Paper Award.
Sep 15, 2021
Boots on the Ground: The Terrain of Call of Duty

J.T. Hooker

Over the last couple projects Treyarch developed a new terrain system that's been seen in Black Ops 4, Warzone, and Black Ops Cold War.
Sep 14, 2021
Model Collision: Balancing Speed and Size in Black Ops Cold War

Andrew Shurney

This presentation is a technical deep dive into the process of optimizing the high-accuracy model collision in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
Sep 13, 2021
Cheating Cheaters: Malware Delivered as Call of Duty Cheats

This report examines a hacking tool being promoted for use against gamers by masquerading as a cheat for Call of Duty: Warzone.
Mar 31, 2021
Controller to Display Latency in Call of Duty

Akimitsu Hogge

Reasoning about controller to display latency can be non-intuitive in modern game engines where multiple independent timelines are running in parallel. In this presentation, we analyze the path that data flows through each of these timelines, from the input sample out to the video scan-out hardware. By identifying and measuring segments on this path, a dynamic throttle can be implemented to squeeze the input sample as close to the end of the frame as possible without dropping frames. Special attention is placed on how latency is introduced in the interaction between the GPU and display scan-out timelines when Vsync is enabled.
Nov 06, 2020
Contoller to Display Latency in Call of Duty

Akimitsu Hogge

Nov 06, 2020
Raytraced Shadows in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Michal Olejnik, Pawel Kozlowski (NVIDIA)

This presentation describes how ray tracing can be integrated into a modern, forward+ engine with minimal-to-no content changes. Also discussed: how to approach the ray tracing of multiple local area lights, and how to efficiently clean up any resulting noise.
Oct 16, 2020
Lima Oscar Delta! Scaling Content in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Rulon Raymond

Call of Duty is well known for its 60fps frenetic gameplay. To achieve a high level of graphical fidelity at this frame rate across all target platforms, a suite of finely tuned content scaling techniques must be employed.
Sep 21, 2020
Software-based Variable Rate Shading in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Michal Drobot

This lecture covers a novel rendering pipeline used in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2020).
Sep 21, 2020
The Design and Evolution of the UberBake Light Baking System

Dario Seyb, Peter-Pike Sloan, Ari Silvennoinen, Michal Iwanicki, Wojciech Jarosz

We describe the design and evolution of UberBake, a global illumination system we have used in multiple AAA games, which supports dynamic lighting changes in response to certain player interactions.
Sep 21, 2020
Precomputed Lighting Advances in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Peter-Pike Sloan, Ari Silvennoinen

This talk covers extensions and improvements in the precomputed lighting pipeline used in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Sep 21, 2020
Deringing Spherical Harmonics

Peter-Pike Sloan

Spherical Harmonics (SH) are a convenient basis for representing various signals in computer graphics, with lighting and visibility being the most common.
Mar 12, 2020
ATVI-TR-19-02: Separable Subsurface Scattering: Expanded Technical Report

Jorge Jimenez

This technical report extends the content of [JZJ∗ 15], by adding some additional explanations and details, and including new tests with more complex multilayered materials.
Mar 09, 2020
ATVI-TR-19-01: Practical Real-Time Strategies for Accurate Indirect Occlusion

Jorge Jimenez; Xian-Chun Wu; Angelo Pesce; Adrian Jarabo

In this work we introduce a set of techniques for real-time ambient occlusion targeted to very tight budgets. We propose GTAO, a new formulation of screen-space ambient occlusion that allows the composited occluded illumination to match the ground truth reference in half a millisecond on current console hardware.
Mar 09, 2020
Dynamic Temporal Antialiasing and Upsampling in Call of Duty

Jorge Jimenez

This talk covers the temporal supersampling techniques created during the development of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
Mar 06, 2020
Happy New Year From Activision Research

Paul Malin

We had fun making this animation over the holidays. Hope you enjoy it!
Jan 23, 2020
Ray Guiding for Production Lightmap Baking

Ari Silvennoinen

In this paper we present a ray guiding technique for improving the computation times in the context of production lightmap baking. Compared to state-of-the-art, our method has better scalability and lower variance.
Jan 11, 2020
Impulse Responses for Precomputing Light from Volumetric Media

Adrien Dubouchet

Volumetric participating media can significantly impact the realism of virtual scenes, due to both the subtle interplay between surface and volume-transport effects and the presence of entities like smoke and clouds.
Jul 08, 2019
Material Advances in Call of Duty: WWII

Danny Chan

A number of improvements were made to our lit surface shaders in Call of Duty: WWII, a few of which are described in this presentation.
Aug 24, 2018
Automated Testing in Call of Duty

Jan van Valburg

How huge games like 'Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare' monitor the progression of code and assets in terms of functionality and performance.
Jun 26, 2018
HDR in Call of Duty

Paul Malin

This talk covers a basic introduction to color science, color terminology, and display standards.
Jun 04, 2018
Real-World Measurements for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Danny Chan

Our goal for the rendering in COD: AW was to take a small step towards photorealism.
May 14, 2018
Emotion Challenge: Building a New Photoreal Facial Performance Pipeline for Games

Cyrus Wilson

In recent years the expected standard for facial animation and character performance in AAA video games has dramatically increased.
Aug 21, 2017
Precomputed lighting in Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Michal Iwanicki

Indirect lighting is an important factor in creating a believable look of game worlds.
Aug 08, 2017
Improved Culling for Tiled and Clustered Rendering in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Michal Drobot

This lecture covers two novel rendering algorithms used in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The first, z-binning, significantly improves the quality and performance of volumetric entity-vs-geometry culling as compared to classic tiled and clustered techniques.
Aug 01, 2017
Practical Multilayered Materials in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Michal Drobot

This talk presents a practical approach to multilayer, physically based surface rendering, specifically optimized for Forward+ rendering pipelines.
Jul 31, 2017
Rendering of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Michal Drobot

This lecture presents a technical deep dive into COD:IW renderer and the architectural design process behind it.
Jul 07, 2017
Ambient Dice

Michal Iwanicki

We present a family of basis functions designed to accurately and efficiently represent illumination signals on the unit sphere.
Jun 14, 2017
Fast Filtering of Reflection Probes

Josiah Manson, Peter-Pike Sloan

Game and movie studios are switching to physically based rendering en masse, but physically accurate filter convolution is difficult to do quickly enough to update reflection probes in real-time.
Oct 18, 2016
Filmic SMAA: Sharp Morphological and Temporal Antialiasing

Jorge Jimenez

From Siggraph 2016, our antialiasing technique for games.
Sep 07, 2016
ATVI-TR-16-02: Practical Order Independent Transparency

Johan Kohler

Transparencies have always been a tricky problem for games, to render them correctly you have to draw them in front-to-back order from the view of the camera, traditionally this means to sort them when you do this you have to break apart material batches and sometimes even meshes, which affects performance.
Sep 01, 2016
Efficient GPU Rendering of Subdivision Surfaces

Wade Brainerd

We present a novel method for real-time rendering of subdivision surfaces whose goal is to make subdivision faces as easy to render as triangles, points, or lines.
Aug 26, 2016
Volumetric Global Illumination at Treyarch

John Hooker

We present a solution for indirect diffuse lighting as an alternative to traditional lightmaps.
Aug 25, 2016
Sparse Shadow Trees

Kevin Myers

Lighting large outdoor scenes continues to present a challenge for realtime rendering.
Aug 24, 2016
Practical Real-Time Strategies for Accurate Indirect Occlusion

Jorge Jimenez, Xian-Chun Wu, Angelo Pesce, Adrian Jarabo

We present new systems for occlusion of indirect lighting.
Aug 24, 2016
ATVI-TR-16-01: Practical Realtime Strategies for Accurate Indirect Occlusion

Jorge Jimenez, Xian-Chun Wu, Angelo Pesce, Adrian Jarabo

Ambient occlusion is ubiquitous in games and other real-time applications to approximate global illumination effects.
Jul 23, 2016

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