AMD Radeon™ RX 6000 Partner Showcase with World of Warcraft Shadowlands
World of Warcraft had teamed up with AMD to show off DirectX® Raytraced Shadows and FidelityFX™ Ambient Occlusion, which promise to increase graphical fidelity and performance in
The video is narrated by World of Warcraft Executive Producer John Hight and Technical Director Frank Kowalkowski, with a mix of Shadowlands expansion fluff that everyone should be familiar with by now, as well as some technical descriptions of the new AMD technologies which WoW will utilize going forward. The video quality is exceptional however, particularly when viewed in higher resolutions. Among the new features being added are:
FidelityFX™ Ambient Occlusion
Ambient Occlusion simulates indirect shading and lighting to add realism with soft global shadows and visual separation of objects. One of the biggest challenges in 3D graphics is creating high quality lighting, because calculating physically accurate lighting is too computationally expensive to be done in real time. Ambient Lighting models indirect light in a scene, with occlusion added to break up consistent lighting, creating soft global shadows which contribute to the visual separation of objects. In other words, it softens the otherwise hard edge between an are or object that is lighted and one that isn't.
Combined Adaptive Compute Ambient Occlusion
(CACAO) is a highly optimized implementation of ambient occlusion, which can be run at multiple different quality settings, in order to meet various requirements for quality performance trade-offs across a wide range of hardware - well suited for a game like WoW which is designed to be played on low and high end computers alike.
DirectX® Raytraced Shadows
Shadows contribute to the realism of a scene, with many systems utilize shadow mapping a flexible and efficient process of , but often results in jagged or disconnected shadows which often overblur and ruin shadow detail, resulting in image loss at higher resolutions. Ray Traced Shadowsis a flexible rendering technique designed retain the shadow definition and accuracy in complex lighting. Hardware limitations have long made this infeasible for real-time applications such as games, but huge technological leaps in recent years have made it much more accessible. Like ambient occlusion, Ray Traced Shadows aren’t always obvious, but often seem stronger in darker areas with low lighting. Shadow maps still have advantages in that they're fast and produce a manipulatable image, but ray tracing adds yet another technique to shape the way shadows interact with the character, adding new levels of realism which weren't previously possible.
Variable Ray Shading
Described in Microsoft's
DirectX Developer Blog
as a scalpel in a world of sledgehammers, that increases rendering performance and quality by varying the shading rate for different regions of the frame. In laymen's terms, it allows a GPU to selectively shade pixels on your screen at different rates, whereas traditionally the entire scene was done at a consistent setting. This means far off environmental or obscured assets can be shaded at a lower rate in order to improve performance, while close up detailed assets can maintain a higher shading rate for increased visual quality at the same time. In most cases, this is yet another thing which is hard to really see in a screenshot, or even side by side videos unless you
know what you're looking for, but ends up increasing performance, particularly for those playing on higher graphics settings.
Strictly speaking, most of these features aren't new. While some of these are direct graphical enhancement upgrades to WoW, the major takeaway here is making these features more accessible, particularly as more gamers transition to high resolution 4k gaming. The rate of graphical enhancement has been increasing far faster than most computers abilities to actually render them at a stable rate, which is extremely important in just about any kind of gaming. While a lot of the optimizations talked about here still very subtle, to the point where it can be hard to notice them in still screenshots, the effect on lighting and shadows makes a profound difference once you experience the combined effect for yourself, similar to the way it's hard to recognize the difference in 1080 and 1440p monitors until you've tried it for yourself. Still, keeping up with the latest and greatest features is incredibly taxing, so you'll have to make sure you've got a beefy enough rig to run them! The real important part here is that Blizzard is continuing to improve the graphical fidelity and performance in
World of Warcraft
, which can only be a good thing.
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