Horizon Forbidden West’s enhanced achievement mode is now the best way to play

The release of patch 1.16 for Horizon Forbidden West has finally fixed visual issues in the game’s 60fps performance mode, making it our new recommended way to play on PS5 instead of the 30fps mode we prefer at launch. gifts. To find out what changes have been made behind the scenes, we spoke to Guerrilla Games, who gave some fascinating details about the game’s anti-aliasing fix and how it’s changed since launch.

So what were the original complaints about image quality around the 60fps performance mode at launch? Basically, this mode gave an aliased, glittering look to many objects, while even the higher fidelity 30 fps mode showed a different kind of noticeable glitter in foliage. Patch 1.07 contained “vegetation adjustments to improve image quality in performance mode”, but it had only minimal impact on the final image quality and everyone was left dissatisfied with the result.

Fortunately, Guerrilla’s second bite at the icing in the form of patch 1.16 has yielded much better results. Looking at moss and vegetation showing distracting shimmer in the launch version, the problem seems to be completely fixed. The image is steady and clean in motion, with pretty much all the glittering vanquished. It’s a similar situation if you look at the problematic red fog, with obvious visual aberrations in the start code and a much more coherent appearance in 1.16. However, it seems that the red fog is actually no longer visible at greater distances – it now only appears close to Aloy. But in the end, the improvement here is dramatic – so what exactly has changed under the hood?

The accompanying video demonstrates the AA changes from the launch code to the new 1.16 patch.

Senior principal tech programmer Giliam de Carpentier at Guerrilla Games was generous enough to provide a very detailed overview of the process: “In the new AA mode, the world is still represented with the same alternating checkerboard pattern, but now uses a different way to reuse historical data: the old system used only the current and previous raw view as input to the AA to complete a native 1800p output in two frames, while the new system used the current raw view and the previous AA- output used as input for the AA of the This means that it still stabilizes to the output resolution in two frames, but now it can also continue to reuse data from older frames for longer, not only for more stability on motion, but also for more sub-pixel detail in the process.

“This concept in itself is not new, but it is complicated to get it right and often has its own set of artifacts, such as ghosting, which was inherently prevented in our previous implementation due to the limited reuse of history, although this did allow pixels more ‘glitter’ on motion Specifically, the previous implementation allowed us to run all the post effects cleanly before the AA pass with a checkerboard resolution, which is faster than rendering those effects afterwards with the higher output resolution, without ghosting -Introduce artifacts of species.

“And so, by moving to a new AA technique that reuses history for longer, we had to develop a new bag of tricks that would still allow us to do this neatly and robustly, even for effects like bloom and depth of field, for example. This included the improving and further processing the motion vectors themselves, as well as finding new ways to better discard all obsolete history, while projecting the actual sub-pixel-thin geometry more reliably and correctly over longer periods of time, also introduced a sharper custom reprojection kernel and output sharpening that changes with the dynamic resolution, rendering the resolved details more clearly and combating visual differences in dynamic resolution more effectively.”

To sum this up, Horizon Forbidden West still uses a checkerboard rendering solution to produce a 3200×1800 image. The anti-aliasing pass relies on input frame data to build the final image, and in early versions only the current and previous raw rendered frames (before reconstruction) were used as this input to produce the final frame. With the new patch, the AA step now combines the current raw frame with the previous full anti-aliased frame. Final output is still stabilized at just two frames, but it can now use image data (“history”) from previous frames for longer, helping to reduce shimmer and preserve more sub-pixel detail. As mentioned, this is not a new technique and there is a tradeoff: the more data is used from previous frames, the greater the chance that ghost frames will be introduced, which require further tooling from the developer.

In the era of ‘next generation’ scaling techniques, there was some confusion as to why Guerrilla persisted with checkerboard rendering and the studio was happy to give a few reasons why.

“DLSS 2.0, FSR 2.0, and checkerboard rendering are all different ways of rendering fewer pixels per frame than the actual output has, and then reconstructing a higher-resolution result over time,” explains Giliam de Carpentier. “And so this means that the distance between rendered pixels will always be greater than the distance between output pixels. But with checkerboard rendering, the distance between rows and columns in the rendered image and the resolved image remains the same, meaning most of the edges (usually mostly horizontal or mostly vertical) not so easily ‘fall through the cracks’ and therefore not so easily miss one frame completely and be visible again the next.

“This results in data that has the potential to more reliably hold thin edges more stable, but is also more complex to use optimally. But the new custom AA solution is a clear step forward in tapping this potential, by making much more reliable distinctions.” between data then can be reused (to reduce glitter) and data that has become too different (to prevent ghosting) And this is still combined with our checkerboard-compatible version of FXAA to get the most out of even single-frame data. “

Digital Foundry’s original Horizon Forbidden West tech review.

I’m really impressed with the changes Guerrilla has made, but it’s worth pointing out that the new anti-aliasing technique is also being applied in 4K quality mode – and to be honest, I’m not sure if I prefer the new look. It’s true that the glittering effect is gone, but the new presentation lacks the pin-sharp precision of the previous version. Given this, balanced against the solid improvements to the 60fps mode, the latter is now my recommended way to play.

So that’s essentially what changed with this update and why it took a lot of extra development. By reconstructing the image with additional frames of data, there is simply more information to work with when it comes to producing the final output – but clearly the amount of engineering that went into making these changes and testing was significant. used to be.

In addition to these graphical changes, the developers have also made numerous bug fixes and even some major changes to the in-game introduction sequence, starting Aloy on her long journey. Here the camera work has been adjusted, the exposure position and intensity have been adjusted and the color gradation has even been changed. These kinds of changes aren’t limited to launch either, with several of the scenes we used for side-by-side testing show differences beyond the anti-aliasing improvements.

There are surprisingly substantial changes to the game’s opening order based on comparisons to the gold master code on the physical disc.

In addition to the art changes we’ve noticed, Guerrilla has also been heavily optimizing the game since launch, as Giliam de Carpenter reveals: “The team has also spent a lot of time after release looking at how we can get more performance squeezed out of the PS5, especially around the dynamic resolution system, to give us room to improve both quality and effective resolution and pave the way for this update.Some of these optimizations were already in previous patches and some were added. even new ones introduced in this patch.”

It’s rare to see such a massive post-launch overhaul of a game, so the Guerrilla team deserves serious credit for addressing user issues. The studio could have left the game alone, but instead they took the extra time to work on a new fix that dramatically improves the game and introduces other improvements across the board. Guerrilla has even stated that it is working on adding VRR support and a 40fps mode that should split the difference between the brightness of the 30fps mode and the responsiveness of the 60fps mode – and that would be another big step forward. for a game that is already one of the best looking titles of the current console generation.

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