Developer Update: Shadow Optimizations in Game Update 1.4
Hi Ewen Vowels, Senior Client Optimization Engineer here.
Recently the engineering team completed a complete rewrite of the shadow technology used for Star Wars™: The Old Republic™.
For those interested in the nitty-gritty details, here they are! The old shadow system used an incremental cascaded shadow algorithm – this system was primarily designed for older machines with slower graphics cards and had limitations with the number of dynamically moving objects it could handle. The replacement system is using a Fit To Cascade (FTC) shadow algorithm, which allows all objects to cast shadows and have them updated every frame.
The new system provides full dynamic shadows. Simply stated, all characters, trees, and moving objects cast shadows onto the game world in Game Update 1.4. The previous system only generated dynamic shadows for characters. Moving through heavily treed planets such as Tython, the player will now see the subtle moving shadows cast by the leaves and trees.
The new system supports realistic self-shadowing. As the player runs around in the game world, they will see their arms, Lightsabers, or blasters casting shadows onto themselves. Droids and gun turrets also cast realistic shadows as they animate in the game world.
The new system has been also upgraded to generate softer-edged shadows. The shadows (particularly those around the player) will be far less blocky and pixelated than in the previous system.
In addition to these functional changes, there have been numerous optimizations made to the underlying core technology to reduce the load on the player’s computer. In most cases, players should notice an improvement to framerate compared to the previous system. Players with high-end AMD CrossFire or Nvidia SLI machines should notice a large improvement when running the game with the new shadow system.
If you have been running with shadows disabled, please try re-enabling them with the new patch and let us know what you think! We hope you’ll enjoy the improved visuals (and performance)!
Senior Client Optimization Engineer