Graphics are the backbone of creating a realistic battlefield from the ripped steel of a destroyed tank to the fauna and flora dotted around the map. Water, terrain, clouds, trees and more all individually combine to make up the most genuine battlefields created with the help of the new graphics engine.
In the wake of this major visual uplift, we invite you to take a closer look at how Update 1.0 will redefine the World of Tanks looks.
We all know graphics include: buildings, plants, other small objects but there are also some components you don’t see and they can be the most important. The lighting is a prime example —without proper lighting, everything just looks murky and details are lost—or terrain—without it, your tanks would just fall through the map! Sky and water also play their own parts—without them, it would just be dark and gloomy.
Our goal here is finding a perfect combination of all of these elements to really capture a realistic view of the battlefield. At the same time, we put about as much work to ensure you can enjoy the view with no adverse effect on performance.
Check how Update 1.0 will perform on your PC right now with enCore!
It’s easy to detail (and notice) what has changed graphically with 1.0 but the sheer scope of the process is enormous. So before we delve deeper into improvements, let’s take a quick detour to go over key pillars that make Update 1.0 what it is—a major game remaster—and the steps we took way earlier.
- Preparatory work: Update 9.15 added the support for DirectX 11 to mainly improve performance on computers supporting DirectX 11 (you can guess we were already planning the future of updated graphics).
- Technological platform: At some point we realized that the BigWorld client tech was too old to allow for major advancements. So we created the new graphics engine to kickstart the process of improving the visual world and add technological capabilities that were previously unavailable.
- Content redesign: The majority of content for every map was recreated from the ground up using all the technologies that this new engine supports.
- Optimization: To ensure everyone can see new visual world, we reworked the graphical subsystems and processes to reduce the footprint of graphics on your rig. In other words, optimized framerate and stability so everyone and anyone could enjoy the new graphics.
The work on graphics won’t stop with Update 1.0. We want to continue fostering and embracing latest technology, and this is just a big step towards that. Now that we have a robust foundation, we’ll continue building on the remastered game’s looks during 2018 and further out.
That’s it for a quick detour. Now onto the juicy details!
With the power of photorealistic skyboxes, it’s always sunny in Prokhorovka. Skies looked rather artificial before but now clouds move with wind flow and the sky changes color depending on the lighting.
The lighting itself has affected more than just the skybox and its clouds, just take a look at how the flora has now come to life.
Lighting is one of the most important components of graphics. It affects how textures look, how shadows are formed and more importantly, the lighting interacts with all other components of the visual design of the game.
The global illumination technology, which was added with the addition of the new graphics engine, results in all objects interacting as if it were reality. Take a look for yourself, we certainly hope you can see the difference:
We integrated SpeedTree 6 with heavy modifications to fit the requirements and needs of World of Tanks and significantly changed the interaction between flora and lighting. Just take a look:
Delving even further, the technology calculates the interaction of light between objects. For example, light passing through a colored translucent surface will create colored shadows on other surfaces.
Adaptive Shadow Maps calculates shadows from static objects: buildings, stones, trees, etc. and stores them in a special reusable shadow texture. This reduces the load on the processor and graphics card. Moving objects (machinery, falling trees, and more) will get improved dynamic shadows.
The new graphics engine with shadows interacts with particles effects. That means steam, dust and smoke now have semi-transparent shadows. For example, when your tank travels in the shadow of a mountain, there will no longer be an unnatural glow coming from the track dust. Instead, the dust will absorb the shadow of the mountain and be illuminated as a machine and other nearby objects. And, finally, we applied the material shadow effects which will help to more accurately convey different material’s depth.
To make a map as realistic as possible, it’s vital that the graphics engine really make the landscape shine. Terrain and water are two of the key elements in World of Tanks for making great battlefields so let’s go into further detail to see how it’s all changing for the better.
With the new graphics engine, we increased both the geometric and textural detail of the landscape. Even the tiniest elevation is more noticeable—and all the small things: grass, leaves, and stones. The level of detail is much more than you’ve ever experienced before in World of Tanks.
Virtual texture has been used to increase the level of detail while keeping the performance at a similar level as before—it allows for improved blending of textures. When standing still the terrain will not change, however moving will result in new textures being generated gradually between frames.
Greater detail is achieved through tessellation technology—meaning that the volume and complexities of various objects are better realized by adding more triangles to the geometry, dramatically increasing the overall level of detail.
Another goal is to increase the rendering of the terrain to the horizon—in simple terms, all the details beyond the map’s limits. As you may have seen on the Sandbox server, it looks impressive. Maps may seem familiar with a foreign twist. Space is no longer limited, for example:
- Prokhorovka – No longer limited by space constraints, the battle takes place in the midst of the endless steppe of Russia
- Himmesldorf – Clashes on this summertime map are transferred to the heat of the city battles in Danzig
- Mountain Pass – The natural landscape now becomes part of the mountain range found in the North Caucasus
For all this to be possible, we have developed a special mechanism for Outland—drawing terrain up to the horizon. On some maps, Outland covers more than 1000km2! So what does this mean for performance? The entire process is not demanding, for example: with standard graphics, we use a snapshot of objects outside the map in 360 degrees. This allows for the atmosphere to stay the same, just with a little less dynamism.
We’re still striving to improve performance and increase the number of objects using tessellation in the foreseeable future. This not only means greater realism for terrain, but tanks with a lot of smaller details.
Plans are also in the works to increase the interactivity of the terrain. The foundations are laid: the terrain is already interacting with the tracks and shells, which leave behind traces. But for now, this is only seen by the player and his impact on the battlefield.
Simply put, all the above elements combined to make it looks so realistic, you might have a problem distinguishing the game from the photo.
We’ve covered the terrain, now onto what lurks below.
We have developed technological tools that make three forms of water possible: calm for the lakes, current for the rivers and waves for the sea. Along with this, we also implemented a new technology for drawing reflections in water—Screen Space Reflection. Not only are objects reflected but also explosions, shots, smoke and shadows. And all of this will take less resources than before!
Remember how water surfaces were flat and you had to use your imagination to make it seem realistic? With the new engine, ripples will form and waves will crash on the shore. Rivers will no longer just be a flat water texture unless driven through, there is now a noticeable rocking on the water.
If you look at the crest of the waves, you can see that the lighting affects it: the peak becomes slightly bluish and foam is formed with the current.
When moving through water or firing, currents form and show signs of shots. It was discussed to add a feature to put out a burning tank by plunging into the water, but unfortunately it could result in tanks sitting in water throughout a battle because people wanted an economic solution to fire extinguishers.
As you can see the water looks so realistic that after the heat of battle, you might just want to submerge yourself.
Flora: Small Details, Big Changes
The flora of World of Tanks changes completely with Update 1.0. Trees become more detailed and look just like in the wild. There’s more than just a handful of tree types: over 100, to be more precise. Whether you’re exploring the tangled routes of sunny suburbia dotted with pine trees, making your way through snow-caped spruces or meticulously picking your next target whilst hiding among widespread oak canopies — different trees and plant types help diversify the locales and give each map a unique footprint.
Grass now loads in faster and shadows look more realistic giving maps like Karelia and Mines an extra dimension of realism. On top of that, all these trees and plants react to what’s happening in a battle, whether it be firing a shell or adjusting your hull. Worry not, this will not give away your position, these effects will only be seen by you. See for yourself in the video above.
The Future of Flora
This is an ongoing process so we are still working on certain elements. We will work on physics and animation: currently the trees do not fall as naturally as they would in real life. It is even possible that improvements will allow trees to influence gameplay, such as using a felled tree to hide your weakspot.
Factories, small buildings, bridges, fences, stones and more—all of these objects create the atmosphere of World of Tanks and affect gameplay. Previously, we were limited in the number of textures to create these objects as it would negatively impact performance. But now…
The new graphics engine allowed us to increase the number of textures and increase their detail. Now artists have a greater opportunity to create new objects and improve their appearance. The best part: it doesn’t affect performance!
To avoid issues with performance, we used “streaming”. This technique is used to stream textures and geometry of various quality when required: The level of detail will depend on the distance between it and your tank. The further away you are, the easier it will be for your computer to process it.
The new graphics engine allows us to combine objects and terrain so that the stone lying on the ground looks as natural as possible meaning it blends in seamlessly with the ground.
For tanks, there will also be some additions. First of all, there are effects of water, dust and snow and as the tank moves around, dust, mud or water can appear on the tank itself.
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