Niklasgunner

A rant on shadow quality and downgrade (tl;dr its BAD)

Like many on this forum I've played since the first alpha. Seeing the game shape up to something truly worth playing is great, but the devs seem to have driven shadow quality down a lot as a hasty way to improve performance.

While the overall color palette in regards to lighting has improved compared to earlier version of the game, shadow quality has gone to a point I personally find a bit ridiculous for a game being developed this decade.

Sadly I no longer have any of the older builds to check, but in pre-steam versions shadow quality was good enough for every bit of grass to draw it's own shadow, so I went through youtube to find an example for this.

8fe6PMG.jpg

After the developers messed around a bit with distant field shadows in v6 ( which were promptly removed  for performance reasons ) shadow quality took a major hit. Shadow resolution has gone so low that grass lacks any kind of shadow now.

uii1zqw.png

This was before the overall color palette for all the maps changed, so it doesn't look as bad now, but shadow resolution seems to pretty much have remained the same, which is dissapointing. This is pretty much what the game looks like now.

7GVnfIf.jpg

L8erOJW.jpg

The above screenshots are with all settings on EPIC. While Squad isn't a great looking game and considering it's scale it probably never will be, still it gets the job done. But shadows, even on epic, look downright BAD, there is no other way to put this. Some maps, and even some map layers, are more guilty than other. Shadow resolution is so low that even player models aren't more than blurry blobs, we had better looking shadows back in Battlefield 2.

SRa6MwZ.jpg

 

I know that many people have trouble running the game still, but is there any chance that we can get a bit of an upgrade in this area? We used to be able to set shadow resolution seperately, why not go back to that? Looking back at how sharp everything used to look, it is painful to see how ugly the game has become. Lighting is probably THE MOST important factor, more than textures or geometry, to the overall looks of a scene. Pick any game released a decade ago and they had better looking shadows.

 

 

Edited by Niklasgunner

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"Shadows On" puts you at a severe disadvantage compared to most serious players that most likely have them off. If you like lots of eye candy and thinking you're hiding in the shadows more power to you though.

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It's worse on some maps compared to others. On Sumari shadows seem to be sharper. I agree that the shadows completely dropped since Pre-Alpha likely as a quick band-aid for performance.

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14 minutes ago, Catindabox said:

It's worse on some maps compared to others. On Sumari shadows seem to be sharper. I agree that the shadows completely dropped since Pre-Alpha likely as a quick band-aid for performance.

This is true, I took the worst offenders as examples, mainly Chora and daytime Al-Basrah (with the later being really, really off-putting as you can see in the example in the OP)

Shadows seem to look a lot better overall on dusk/dawn maps and worse when it's full daytime, though Kohat Toi looks decent.

 

I also don't necessarily mean that grass should have to cast shadows again, as in reality you won't really see that happening (well maybe on those thick long grass patches but what do I know, I don't go outside), it's still a good showcase as to how much shadow resolution has dropped since the earlier alphas. I was hoping that the devs would take a look at this again with the true-sky implementation but since thats on hold this seems to be what we are getting unless the devs change it.

That's really  the main issue with the games visuals in my opinion.

Edited by Niklasgunner

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Well the problem with al basrah is that one of the devs recently made is super bright. When it was first released it had great atmosphere, gamma and shadows. Now a it's ugly right. Change it back devs. 

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1 hour ago, Frinz said:

Damn, thats why the grass looks off

The grass doesn't usually look THAT bad, that's a chora specific thing where the grass simply doesn't look like it fits the ground it's on. Here are some examples where the ground doesn't clash as much with the grass foliage.

Uyd5X2i.jpg

iTUrFTK.jpg

compared to chora it just doesn't seem to fit

7GVnfIf.jpg

 

Two seperate problems that could use improvement, it is only really Chora where it is this obvious, newer terrains like Yehorivka or Gorodok don't seem to have this kind of issue.

 

Looking back at the pic with lighting from early builds, the higher shadow resolution might just be a simple solution to this, as the shadows make the grass more "believeable" within the scene

8fe6PMG.jpg

 

 

Pls devs a bump in shadow resolution overall, or even better, a seperate shadow resolution option like we have seen in early pre-v6 versions,  is all I'm begging for this christmas

Edited by Niklasgunner

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The lighting and shadows might get another pass eventually, but it's not as important as other aspects. The devs most likely want to lock down performance first so that they can spend any "free" FPS on improving the visual fidelity of Squad. You can't just crank up the shadow quality without working somewhere else first, otherwise we'll go back to most players having really bad performance.

 

Additionally, the grass in Chora feels like it doesn't fit because of the colour and density. Chora itself (irl) has some pretty green, lush areas that provide a nice contrast to the general arid environment like here: 

 

http://www.cadg.com/images/slideshows/Municipal-Infrastructure-Program-Chora-Uruzgan-Province-Afghanistan/Municipal-Infrastructure-Program-Chora-Uruzgan-Province-Afghanistan3.jpg

 

For obvious reasons, this is extremely difficult to pull of in Squad. You would need some pretty dense level of foliage to get that kind of look to feel right and most likely an additional material in the Landscape Material that looks like a different, more saturated ground so it blends with the grass to make it appear more dense (grass doesn't feel dense if you can see bright sand through the gaps). To the average player it looks wrong, even if they might not know why. Little to no green grass sprinkled over what is 99% a sand/arid ground can set some alarm bells off for people.

 

Shadows do help "ground" assets into place though, no matter what they are. Personally, I feel like the grass is too large in terms of scale, but the smaller you have the grass mesh the more dense you need to lay it out to cover the same space.. so there's nothing that can be done there really. :P

 

I wouldn't worry too much about it. They'll either do a pass on them again in the future or they'll have to remain because of performance reasons. It wouldn't be that much of an issue if the majority of players had beefier PC's but that's what the devs have to deal with, so they had to cut back somewhere and shadows was one of the big killers.

 

The devs are most certainly aware of this though, they just have other priorities and have to look elsewhere first!

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I hope they bake shadows, I though they weren't doing it because they were going for dynamic weather with TrueSky. But now that it fell off, why not bake shadows?

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11 hours ago, Assifuah said:

The lighting and shadows might get another pass eventually, but it's not as important as other aspects. The devs most likely want to lock down performance first so that they can spend any "free" FPS on improving the visual fidelity of Squad. You can't just crank up the shadow quality without working somewhere else first, otherwise we'll go back to most players having really bad performance.

Isn't the performance still mainly an animation/playercount bottleneck? Personally changing graphic options for me has almost no impact on overall performance, I only see a difference when loading maps on the firing range. I do have a high end PC though so maybe this stuff is different for midrange PCs.

 

The shadows look "okay" most of the time on the dusk/dawn settings, but I still stand by what I said about Al-Basrah. The map looks great in the PAAS dusk setting, but with the sun up so high in the AAS v1 variant the shadows look really weird. I hope that can be changed because I generally like the new bright look of the map.

 

 

L8erOJW.jpg

9ek8AXd.jpg

 

Edited by Niklasgunner

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13 minutes ago, banOkay said:

I hope they bake shadows, I though they weren't doing it because they were going for dynamic weather with TrueSky. But now that it fell off, why not bake shadows?

 

Well, baked lighting/shadows require a bunch of prep stuff, one of which is decent lightmap UV's. That means pretty much every single asset will need a separate UV set for the lightmaps. I'm not sure if the devs did this or not, but if they haven't that a huge bit of work for essentially "nothing" to the standard player. For example, it would be the same as reworking a system so it's more flexible but to a player there would be no obvious improvement. There's a lot of back end work, it's not as simple as flicking from Movable to Static/Stationary on the light source. Additionally, I don't want to imagine how long building the lighting on a Squad map would take. :D

 

5 minutes ago, Niklasgunner said:

Isn't the performance still mainly an animation/playercount bottleneck? Personally changing graphic options for me has almost no impact on overall performance, I only see a difference when loading maps on the firing range. I do have a high end PC though so maybe this stuff is different for midrange PCs.

 

The shadows look okay most of the time on the dusk dawn settings, but I still stand by what I said about Al-Basrah. The map looks great in the PAAS dusk setting, but with the sun up so high in the AAS v1 variant it really gets a bit to obvious.

 

 

L8erOJW.jpg

9ek8AXd.jpg

 

 

CPU CPU CPU! Honestly, that could just be a setting on the map itself that may have been overlooked if you say different layers look better. Personally, I play on Tournament settings (med Shadows, high View Distance) so I don't notice it but when I play regular pub matches I enjoy pumping everything up because the game feels better overall.

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From what I've heard distance field shadows were removed, because they were unoptimized and they are planned to be put back in once the game is ported to the engine version that has a fix for them(4.16 I think it was). This is supposed to happen at the same time as V10, which also overhauls the animation system etc, so it looks like there'll be gains all around.

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20 hours ago, Zylfrax791 said:

"Shadows On" puts you at a severe disadvantage compared to most serious players that most likely have them off. If you like lots of eye candy and thinking you're hiding in the shadows more power to you though.

 

Which is why it shouldn't be an option. You can have a shittier quality shadow for low end users, but you should never be able to turn it off. But these are optimization changes for later in the development though. Shadows are resource intensive and usually among the last things you tweak.

 

There is however something to be said for the idea of gaining an advantage by lowering your graphics. Ideally you want a way to make sure that regardless of graphics settings everyone is on an equal playing field, but that is difficult to achieve. So if's a choice between having lower quality give an advantage, and having higher quality give an advantage, surely you should favour having the game played at the highest graphical settings. That's how the game is supposed to look, and if you're a developer surely you want people to see the models and textures and effects you worked so hard on.

 

It shouldn't be the case that you can turn off shadows to get an advantage, rather it should be the case that if you turn down the shadow quality to lowest, the shadows should be such that it's more of a disadvantage than the higher quality ones. Players should be encouraged to increase the graphical quality, not reduce it.

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15 minutes ago, Qaiex said:

 

Which is why it shouldn't be an option. You can have a shittier quality shadow for low end users, but you should never be able to turn it off. But these are optimization changes for later in the development though. Shadows are resource intensive and usually among the last things you tweak.

 

There is however something to be said for the idea of gaining an advantage by lowering your graphics. Ideally you want a way to make sure that regardless of graphics settings everyone is on an equal playing field, but that is difficult to achieve. So if's a choice between having lower quality give an advantage, and having higher quality give an advantage, surely you should favour having the game played at the highest graphical settings. That's how the game is supposed to look, and if you're a developer surely you want people to see the models and textures and effects you worked so hard on.

 

It shouldn't be the case that you can turn off shadows to get an advantage, rather it should be the case that if you turn down the shadow quality to lowest, the shadows should be such that it's more of a disadvantage than the higher quality ones. Players should be encouraged to increase the graphical quality, not reduce it.

Well, plus consider the fact that folks are using 3rd party visual enhancement software like ReShade & SweetFX as well...

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23 minutes ago, Zylfrax791 said:

Well, plus consider the fact that folks are using 3rd party visual enhancement software like ReShade & SweetFX as well...

 

Yeah but that's like ****ing with brightness and gamma settings to get an advantage. Given that different monitors have different luminosity, there's really nothing you can do about that kind of stuff. The solution to that is basically just to have the default be as good as it gets.

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On 15/07/2017 at 2:18 AM, Niklasgunner said:

 Seeing the game shape up to something truly worth playing is great, but the devs seem to have driven shadow quality down a lot as a hasty way to improve performance.  << think you might find it's actually engine performance/capability at this stage (UE4 = WiP).

 

 

8fe6PMG.jpg<< this looks like what i see in the SDK @ epic settings - but with grass shadowing like this it gets very shimmery - not nice to look at.

After the developers messed around a bit with distant field shadows in v6 ( which were promptly removed  for performance reasons ) << coz Epic cannot get DF shadowing to work properly

....

uii1zqw.png<< this looks like current in-game footage - no grass shadows and too-sharp -detailed shadows on trees(other stuff - the bush next to it looks only ok tho) - that's also from this viewport distance (CSM will change between you and the tree)

This was before the overall color palette for all the maps changed, so it doesn't look as bad now, but shadow resolution seems to pretty much have remained the same, which is dissapointing. This is pretty much what the game looks like now.

7GVnfIf.jpg

^^ nicer shadows on trees (not so sharp)

 

L8erOJW.jpg

^^ i believe this is the CSM issue (Cascading Shadow Maps), that Epic still have not been able to improve (certainly, on statics). some buildings in Al-Basrah have this issue in a bad way and it happens on another map, that iv'e noticed.

The above screenshots are with all settings on EPIC. While Squad isn't a great looking game and considering it's scale it probably never will be, still it gets the job done. But shadows, even on epic, look downright BAD, there is no other way to put this. Some maps, and even some map layers, are more guilty than other. Shadow resolution is so low that even player models aren't more than blurry blobs, we had better looking shadows back in Battlefield 2.

 

SRa6MwZ.jpg

^^ you only got good shadows on Dynamics - all the Statics in that shot are terrible. -and this might all just be ShadowMaps anyway, so no fully dynamic lightng.

I know that many people have trouble running the game still, but is there any chance that we can get a bit of an upgrade in this area? We used to be able to set shadow resolution seperately, why not go back to that? Looking back at how sharp everything used to look, it is painful to see how ugly the game has become. Lighting is probably THE MOST important factor, more than textures or geometry, to the overall looks of a scene.

 

Pick any game released a decade ago and they had better looking shadows. << prolly cos AAA studio and in-house engine - just guessing here.

 

 

from my PoV, using the SDK (epic stettings):

CSM: is only good for short distance (literal Stones-Throw only) if you push them hard, but they fall down badly when trying to cover any sort of reasonable distance (>50m) - you want nice shadows that actually join up (not detached from) with the mesh they are coming from, then you have to miss out on any shadows at range.

Dynamic Lighting: we could have lovely baked lighting (huge time and effort expense) but then we would miss out on the whole dynamic lighting thing which would allow a day-night cycle - at this point Dynamic Light bleeds through all sorts of things, including the Landscape, in certain cases. the errors i have seen in DL so far are related to the low angles of the lightsource, ie: low or just under the "horizon". or at hear vertically-up ('midnight'):- such as Terrain Normals(-only) being lit from underneath, and meshes clearly being fully lit from underneath.

Until Epic fix their shadowing properly we will just have to put up with it, i'm afraid.

 

 

 

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I don't mind current shadows for as long as previous, ultra realistic shadows will require borrowing PC from NASA to run it in decent FPS. If I can be honest, performance is something that Squad needs most.

 

After devs will tweak engine and especially usage of multicore CPUs to be in line with 2016/2017 games in terms of performance/graphic, they will get a lot of time to tweak such low used feature as shadows. 

 

 

Don't lie to yourself, Squad is another "spot enemy first" game where most profitable is playing wil ULQ, max resolution you can get and SS set to 2.0x for maximum in game spotting capability. Playing with shadows is rare a thing I think.

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I'd be for baked lighting. Any one game of Squad will take 2 hours max anyway, so if you wanted to keep the sun cycle realistic you wouldn't see a difference anyway.

Padre, I don't know about others but I play on Max shadows because I don't like looking at garbage if I don't have to. Not to mention it can help with spotting enemies, because when you have shadows on Low then they just pop in every other second. Very distracting.

Edited by Peerun

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23 minutes ago, Peerun said:

I'd be for baked lighting. Any one game of Squad will take 2 hours max anyway, so if you wanted to keep the sun cycle realistic you wouldn't see a difference anyway.

Padre, I don't know about others but I play on Max shadows because I don't like looking at garbage if I don't have to. Not to mention it can help with spotting enemies, because when you have shadows on Low then they just pop in every other second. Very distracting.

 

If you take shadows on Low, they are turned off - and game looks still nice. For me, best spotting works with everything low, max resolution, max SS I can get (for me it's 1.5) and eye adaptation turned ON, antialiasing turned OFF. With such configuration I could spot enemies from insane ranges, my team was asking me who I'm shooting at as they were not able to see enemy. 

 

Unfortunately, this gives huge advantage. But Squad is not the only game where you benefits from ULQ mixed with max resolution you can get. It's the same advantage as playing with 4K or 1444p vs FHD..

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Peerun said:

I'd be for baked lighting. Any one game of Squad will take 2 hours max anyway, so if you wanted to keep the sun cycle realistic you wouldn't see a difference anyway.

Padre, I don't know about others but I play on Max shadows because I don't like looking at garbage if I don't have to. Not to mention it can help with spotting enemies, because when you have shadows on Low then they just pop in every other second. Very distracting.

 

Just watched the UE4.17 Preview stream, they've expanded the ability to bake lighting for static and non-static meshes, in addition to Bent Normals for AO that can calculate the direction of missed Vray traces and fill. Check it out, its about 34mins in ;) .

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