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The folks at Bethesda have decided to to blog about Fallout 4's looks and the technical wizardry behind them. Apparently, Fallout 4 will include a number of significant improvements over Skyrim's iteration of the Creation Engine, which include but aren't limited to volumetric lighting, physically based shading, temporal anti-aliasing and screen space reflections.
I'm not exactly the most technically educated person, so I'll leave it to the blog post to do the most of the talking:
The first thing we did after Skyrim was to enhance the Creation Engine's graphical core by adding a physically based deferred renderer. This new renderer allows us to add many more dynamic lights to every scene, and paint our surfaces with realistic materials. We want objects and characters in the world to feel tactile and grounded, and a big part of that is ensuring that these materials are distinct that metal reflects light in a distinct manner from wood, for example.
The player can go anywhere in the world at any time of day, so we added dynamic post-process techniques that enhance the vibrancy and color of our scenery for maximum emotional impact. Our virtual cameras received a major upgrade as well. We're not going to spoil every improvement we've made, but for those of you who enjoy the technical details, here's a sampling of what we've added to the latest version of the Creation Engine:
- Tiled Deferred Lighting
- Temporal Anti-Aliasing
- Screen Space Reflections
- Bokeh Depth of Field
- Screen Space Ambient Occlusion
- Height Fog
- Motion Blur
- Filmic Tonemapping
- Custom Skin and Hair Shading
- Dynamic Dismemberment using Hardware Tessellation
- Volumetric Lighting
- Gamma Correct Physically Based Shading
Jargon aside, there's no doubt that Fallout 4 is an improvement over Fallout 3 and Skyrim in terms of looks, though I can't shake the feeling that the game looked slightly awkward during its E3 reveal. While I suspect it's an art direction choice rather than a failure of Bethesda's artists and programmers, most of the game's models have a slight plastic-like sheen.
Then again, it's perfectly possible I'll get used to the art direction after getting my hands on the game and playing it for a reasonable amount of time. I certainly prefer the more colorful look of the Commonwealth to the orgy of greens, greys and browns of the Capital Wasteland (which could have worked, if only the game was a little more subtle about it, like Skyrim was).