#1 - Feb. 12, 2015, 6 p.m.
Blizzard Post
Engineer’s Workshop: Anti-Aliasing & Lighting

We’ve been hard at work on a number of new graphical features for Patch 6.1, and we’re excited to provide a glimpse at how they’re shaping up. But before we begin, a quick reminder that the topics we cover in Engineer’s Workshop tend to get quite technical—but these features will provide benefits to all players regardless of whether they can tell their display port from a hole in the ground. Nyuk, nyuk—nerd jokes.

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First up, Patch 6.1 will introduce a new screen space ambient occlusion (SSAO) method from NVIDIA known as HBAO+, targeted at higher end video cards. This high-quality ambient occlusion option should be available to most players running recommended spec machines.

Here you can see comparisons using no SSAO, our current SSAO High setting, and the new NVIDIA HBAO+. The HBAO+ setting uses our geometry buffer to access the screen space normals of all objects being drawn. It more accurately darkens surfaces that are near the same depth but with opposing normals, and does so with fewer artifacts than the SSAO depth-only solution. HBAO+ will work on any DirectX 11–capable video card.

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We know many of you have been looking forward to the return of MSAA (multisample anti-aliasing), and we’ve also heard your requests for support of SSAA (supersample anti-aliasing). We’re pleased to let you know that both of these options will be available to DirectX 11 users in Patch 6.1. They can be accessed from the anti-aliasing settings in the System > Graphics menu, and are intended for players with high-performance video cards.

For people running close to the recommended spec, Intel’s CMAA (conservative morphological anti-aliasing) is still the preferable option, and will help you balance graphical fidelity with performance. Below are some comparisons between no anti-aliasing, CMAA, MSAA 8x, and SSAA 2x + CMAA. With Patch 6.1, we’ll be providing the widest variety of anti-aliasing options we’ve ever had available, ranging from performance-optimal to performance-crushing.

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Also in Patch 6.1, we’re implementing a lighting makeover with the introduction of per-pixel deferred point lights. This allows for accurate point lights that can affect all of the objects in the game world. This creates realistic lighting from sources like campfires and torches, and illuminates the world in a more realistic way than ever before. The number of point lights supported varies by hardware, with high-end video cards allowing for the best quality lighting. Below are several examples of a scene lit in the current game (Patch 6.0.3), and what you can expect that same scene to look like in Patch 6.1.

All of this technology is available to check out on the Patch 6.1 PTR right now, so go try them out on your rig and let us know your results.