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If you're a technologically minded individual and you like it when the games you play push the boundaries of visual fidelity, you'll probably enjoy this GameSpace interview with Warhorse Studios' Lead Programmer, Tomas Blaho, and Lead Environment Artist, Jakub Holik where they discuss the engine, available graphics settings, and the differences between the PC and console versions of their open world RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance. An excerpt:
Before the launch of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, fellow writer Joseph Bradford and I reached out to Warhorse Studios to see if they were interested in conducting an interview. Fortunately, they were agreeable. The questions I posed were largely technical in nature because, surprise, I love graphics. I was also very interested in the technical make-up of this game, given my great interest in CryEngine, the engine used to build Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
What follows, then, is some great insight from Lead Programmer, Tomas Blaho, and Lead Environment Artist, Jakub Holik. Given the technical nature of this interview, I will be linking externally to various documentation for further context and education.
Additionally, given that these questions were submitted before Kingdom Come Deliverance launched, some of the information below is already known. However, I’m still including those responses here because it’s just good information to have on hand.
Too often in this industry, the PC version of a game has been artificially downgraded and held back so as not to appear too “superior” to the console versions in terms of graphics. Watch Dogs 1 is an infamous example. PC gamers are punished simply for having the gall to invest in powerful hardware. Will the PC version be downgraded and held back to seem artificially “closer” to the console versions? Will the PC version have visuals beyond what’s possible on console?
Jakub Holik: First of all, this is simply not true. I can confirm that we weren’t bound by any contract to make the game look worse on PC. And I sincerely doubt other studios have different conditions. If that is so, then just ask yourself what other than hate and a worse competitive edge could the developer get from downgrading the game on purpose. The reason for “downgrades” is simply a practical one – early propagational material which comes from an unfinished game or possibly a vertical slice, where only a part of the world is present in which case it might run better and without problems. Later on, with more content, the game will get slower and new problems will arise. This is where you need to start making compromises to deliver a well-running game to customers. Some technologies might work in most cases but get totally screwed in other particular occasions. Unless you can work around it, you have to ditch them. Most settings that affect the performance can be set differently between platforms, but there are some things that are not easily scalable though, and those need to be done with consoles in mind. An example would be a vegetation map: PC could potentially handle denser vegetation, but we can keep only one. However, the difference between what we want and what we can have is quite small in this regard. On the other hand, there are objects in the world that are present only on PC, SVOTI runs on all systems with scaled specs, lights have different shadow-casting settings on different platforms, and so on. So, although other engines might have a harder time scaling everything than CE, it is also possible that the developer didn’t have enough time to balance the settings well, but there’s for sure no conspiracy here. We are all trying to make good games if for no other reason than because good games sell better than bad ones.
Tomas Blaho: Warhorse [Studios] is quite small studio in comparison to other studios creating AAA open world RPGs, so we definitely can’t create very different content for PC only. All assets were prepared with consoles in mind. PC has the advantage of more objects, details, clutter etc. in specific level layers that are not exported for consoles. Furthermore, textures are generated as much as 4x higher of a resolution on PC. I personally don’t think Sony or MS would care about PC much. On the other hand, they would demand answers if there are incomprehensible discrepancies between each console platforms.
What specific graphics options and graphics features will the PC version include which will not be possible on consoles?
Jakub Holik: Caustics were already mentioned. Parallax occlusion mapping is another thing (high detail settings and up). Apart from that I can’t recall anything in particular. The rest should be present but tuned down.
Tomas Blaho: Players on PC has more options regarding vsync, motion blur, and anti-aliasing. Actually, the whole Advanced Graphics Settings is PC only, so players can tweak particular effects to the quality of his/her interest.