Random notes on #TheWitcher3 visuals

I talked to a couple of graphic artists in the studio about The Witcher 3 today, asked what they think is the problem with the W3 visuals (wrong for me, as of course your mileage may vary, and I know quite a few people who have exactly zero issues with the way that W3 looks). I mentioned that despite an expert story-telling I could not fully immerse myself in the world mainly thanks to the foliage.

I showed them this screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/Co7M1Ix.jpg.

Some interesting notes (but bear in mind this is all speculation):

1. Seems like CDPR went overboard with the psychedelic colors and oversaturation. I actually like the idea a lot: warm colors, lots of summer, etc. It’s just overcooked. And in odd contrast with some desaturated and moody promo material.

2. More importantly, something definitely happened to the foliage. A couple of hypothesis:

a) Grass assets are too thick, that works well for static lightning but not for real-time. Grass looks like thick cardboard cabbage or a paper page someone slapped with a brush. Also, it's possible that someone put the alpha test threshold value too low, globally for the whole game. In result the grass looks cartoony.

b) No shadow/color merge between the bottom of the grass or trees with the ground.

c) Notice how blurry the foliage is (check out the leaves on the upper left corner tree here: http://abload.de/img/_6hepmu.jpg). This is possibly either due to temporal anti-aliasing used (if it’s used, we don’t know, there’s just On/Off switch in the menu), or maybe the foliage is rendered at half-res and then composited back onto the image)?

From the earlier materials, we know that CDPR has great taste and knows well how to do it right: the foliage looked perfect (and it was great in W2, although that wasn’t really an open world game). What I think happened – but this is pure speculation as everything else above – is that they were too optimistic and hopeful they’ll get it all running in real-time. And from the graphics point of view I think they were ...right, actually. It’s just that when you make an open world game of such complexity as W3, whatever you gain in visual optimization you lose when you finalize the systems and inflate the game with tons of data, systems, etc. So at one point they simply had no choice but to go down on visuals in order to save the framerate and/or memory.

While I don’t have any special insider info from CDPR, I know these guys enough to be certain that the earlier visuals were not false advertising. No conspiracy theories are needed. It’s just their first real open world game made for platforms that were unknown even halfway through the development. At the end of the day, they had to make some hard choices. It’s as easy as this.

I hope I’ll get used to the visuals, because otherwise the game is everything I want from an adult RPG game. Plus some visuals are actually incredible, like the faces. I might try to disable sharpening filter in the options to see if that makes the image produced more consistent. That was actually the case with GTAV, that looked way too sterile without temporal AA that blurred it a bit.

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