In the following, you'll find some awesome in-depth articles about some of the greatest AAA games like Half Life 2, Battlefield 3 or Left 4 Dead 2 - and how they are rendered! The list is sorted chronological and by no means complete; I just chose some of my favorites.

Stable SSAO in Battlefield 3 with Selective Temporal Filtering

Louis Bavoil & Johan Andersson; 2012

In this paper, a selective temporal filtering approach is introduced for reducing SSAO flickering on thin objects such as alpha-tested foliage, using a reverse reprojection and a stability classifier. The final SSAO image is smoothed with an approximate cross-bilateral filter. The techniques are used in the PC version of Battlefield 3 (DICE).

"MAXIS-mizing" Darkspore: A Case Study of Graphic Analysis and Optimizations in Maxis' Deferred Renderer

David Lee Swenson & Omar A. Rodriguez; 2011

In this article, it is shown how Maxis implemented a light pre-pass renderer to decouple lighting from the scene geometry for their game Darkspore. It is also shown how the team discovered and fixed certain bottlenecks in their graphics pipeline concerning trees, terrain, character details and the render system.

Uncharted 2: Character Lighting and Shading

John Hable; 2010

In this paper, it is shown how skin, hair and cloth are rendered in Naughty Dogs' game Uncharted 2. The main subject is the improvement of a Subsurface Scattering technique by NVidia. The paper concludes with several sidenotes about hacks, wise shader usage, lighting models and details in normal maps.

Toy Story 3: The Video Game - Rendering Techniques

John-Paul Ownby, Chris Hall & Rob Hall; 2010

This paper explains 3 novel rendering techniques used in Toy Story 3: The Video Game (Avalanche Software), including: SSAO (using Line Integrals & random rotated paired sampling), Ambient Lighting (using volume-based Irradiance Light Rigs) & a combinatorial Soft Shadow Mapping solution, which exploits simple technqiues.

Rendering Wounds in Left 4 Dead 2

Alex Vlachos; 2010

In Left 4 Dead there were 5 static wound models built into each Zombie. In this paper it is explained, how Valve created a dynamic wound system for their Zombies in Left 4 Dead 2. The wounds are generated by mixing seperated wound models with projected textures and a pose-space ellipsoid culling method, to cut holes into bodies.

Covering New Ground: Foliage Rendering in Pure

Jeremy Moore & David Jefferies; 2009

In this paper a fast multi-pass technique is demonstrated, that uses a screen space alphamask to render alpha textured geometry for large scale foliage, avoiding some alpha-blending and -testing related problems. The technique is used in the game Pure (Blackrock Studio).

Deferred Rendering in Killzone 2

Michal Valient; 2007

This paper explains how the game Killzone 2 (Guerilla) is rendered and how it was optimized for the PS3. Using a forward & deferred renderer, it is shown, how the game is lighted, how weapons & decals are treated, how soft shadowmaps are generated and what post-processing effects are added afterwards.

Illustrative Rendering in Team Fortress 2

Jason Mitchell, Moby Francke & Dhabih Eng; 2007

The paper explains how the unique rendering style of the game Team Fortress 2 (Valve) has been achieved. A set of artistic choices and novel real-time shading techniques are presented, which support each other and are designed to achieve the look of early 20th century commercial illustrations.

Improved Alpha-Tested Magnification for Vector Textures and Special Effects

Chris Green, 2007

In this paper, a simple and yet efficient method is shown, which allows to render high-resolution shapes by alpha-testing a low-resolution distance field texture. With additional pixel shaders, high quality soft edges, outlining and drop shadows can be rendered, too. This technique has been used in Team Fortress 2 (Valve).

Efficient Self-Shadowed Radiosity Normal Mapping

Chris Green, 2007

In this paper it is shown, how to precompute and use directional ambient occlusion textures together with regular bump mapping, to enhance the self-shadowing of surfaces, illuminated from directional lights. This technique has been used in Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (Valve).

If you know some other great papers, which would be a great addition to this list, please let me know. The summaries are by me and the thumbnails were taken from the respective papers and/or PR material. If you are an author of one of the papers and you don't want them listed here please contact me and I drop them.