New nVidia Drivers Add Ambient Occlusion

nVidia released new drivers yesterday that add “Ambient Occlusion” to the visuals of 3D games. Whazzat? Here’s an explanation, courtesy of RisingRed quoting an unnamed tech guy:

For example a place in the scene that in always bright no matter where you put the light will be bright where as a place that is dark no matter where you put the light will be dark. The result is that you get something that will put dark shadows in crevices and cracks and soft lighting where objects would generally cast a shadow.

This is functional in D3, and you can even see what it does by viewing this nifty interactive screenshot from the nVidia site. Drag the slider side to side to see the better shadows and lighting and stuff. They’ve got a more informative page with graphs and stuff about the technical aspects of this effect, with interactive screenshots from other games (such as Skyrim) that show it more clearly than D3 does.

Reports from D3 beta testers say it looks better; I haven’t had a chance to test it out myself yet, but RisingRed put together a few comparison images. Check out the bridge near Adria’s shack, Tristram town square, and the character selection screen. Basically it seems to cut the fog effect a bit and make things clear, and also more shadowy.

If you’ve had a chance to try out the before and after in the beta, hop into comments and let everyone know what you think.

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    44 thoughts on “New nVidia Drivers Add Ambient Occlusion

      • Luckily, I don’t. I haven’t used ATI (or AMD) after realizing that they either underperformed, had technical problems with many games or simply didn’t have as many features are NVIDIA’s cards and drivers had. AMD really needs to get their shit together. Otherwise I’m an Intel and NVIDIA guy for rest of my life.

    1. That’s it! That’s why I thought the graphics looked better. I couldn’t point to exactly what it was, but it just felt like the game got a face lift.

      • You have to manually activate this feature in the nvidia control panel. It doesn’t just happen.

        And fyi the screens I posted are very poor. Imgur killed my image quality. 🙁
        The interactive screen is pretty cool, though, and nvidia has some more “telling” screenshots from skyrim on their site that better show what the effect is. 

    2. It might make some areas “prettier”, but the point is Blizzard made those areas foggy on purpose. What use is there for a ‘feature’ that changes the way a developer meant their game to look? Graphics design is NOT solely about what looks pretty. This is just Nvidia trying to push sales with dubious features as far as I can tell. It’s as silly as the whole dicussion about different ‘gritty’ filtering for D3.

      Don’t get me wrong, you might still feel Nvidia’s rendition of D3 is your favourite – but be aware of where exactly the issue lies. You’re basically accepting that a filter knows better in every scene what the game should look like, than the actual development team.

      TL:DR > D3 puts a filter on to simulate fog. Nvidia raises contrast to remove fog.

      • Fog is not “blur”. Everything in the game looks like it’s been smeared and blurred, particularly when you have FSAA on. That’s not normal, nor is it some intentional part of the art style. If it were, every artist who decided that needs to be banned from art.

        Your lack of knowledge about art and tech isn’t really the issue here.

        • Looks pretty blurred to me, you can get that direct3d filter to sharpen everything up / looks a hell of a lot better.
          The standard blurriness actually started to give me sore eyes after a while.

        • If it isn’t intentional then why is it like that at all? I think it is quite intentional and part of making the D3 graphics look “painterly” as Blizzard puts it…

    3. It seems to add shadows below/around objects that ought to not have them as pronounced as they are, such as the tree roots and leaves on the shrubs. It seems to give them an ugly outline around the object. Not sure how it looks in-game and moving around but I prefer without on the slider.

      • yeah i noticed that too ; the textures of doodads and ground blend perfectly together, and than they plaster an ugly non descript shadow beneath it and its all gone , and the bushes look totally ugly now ; they cast more shadow than surface area can account for ; and they pop out as if they are somehow relevant…
        maybe this feature could work and improve the graphics if they  finetune it ; but as it is it looks overly artificial and anything but subtle …

    4. Does that works on a Mac with nVidia grafic card? Can i even apply a new driver for the grafic card by my self on a mac? Or do i have to wait until Apple make a update?

      • Had a look on their website, seems there are no upgaded drivers for the macs. Just the Quattro series.
        Imo, not surprising  

    5. I agree. It’s like taking a beautiful photo and putting a Photoshop filter over it and saying it’s better because it has MOAR stuff now. If you look at their example pic with the slider, look at the large tree just to the right of the char. In Blizzard’s version the tree merges with the ground and looks natural. With the filter on, there’s a harsh rectangular shadow that looks completely unnatural. I think the filter makes it look worse overall.

      • That’s actually a wooden pillar, but that’s what I noticed most too. It’s most noticeable by that beam and in the area where the flagstones end and the grass begins. With the filter on the transitional material (grasses, fog, whatever) gets blotted out by artificial shadow and looks bad.

        The rest of the shot does look clearer. But it’s a static shot, and D3 definitely looks a lot better in motion than in screenshots due to the atmospherics. I’d be interested to see this comparison in video.

    6. Would love it if someone posted a video comparison of this. Based on the screenshot, I definitely like it.

    7. If you don’t know what ambient occlusion is then don’t say anything about it ignorants. It’s a standard in today’s games and it’s not a special thing for Diablo 3 or any other game. It’s a good thing that it’s optional.

      But I agree that it doesn’t necessarily make D3 look better because of it’s camouflage-heavy rendering.

      • Your last sentence, that’s actually a pretty good way of putting it. It is an improvement in-game, though.

    8. I tried it and have to say I like the original better. First, fog/haze = atmosphere. Second, you have to pay a price for the artificial shadowing: sharpness and brilliance. Third, while the concept seems reasonable, it ignores the fact that lighting from object radiosity adds to the overall scene lighting/ambience as well. Therefore, the original provides in fact the more “natural” look.

      • lol fog/haze = atmosphere.

        More like fog/haze = hide terrible quality graphics.

        There’s absolutely no reason for the fog to be there other than the fact that D3 developers know the graphics look like shit so they do what they can to hide them.

        • I guess tricks used in Turok or Silent Hill 1 are still relevant today, eh?
          (i know that in those games fog was used mostly just to reduce the number of things needed to be  rendered, but whatever)

        • “There’s absolutely no reason for the fog to be there other than the fact that D3 developers know the graphics look like **** so they do what they can to hide them.”

          Sounds like a load of bollocks to me 

          • Seems to me Septar’s got it spot on. The ambient occlusion works well with decent visuals, but here it just highlights and outlines the blockiness of the graphics.
            Not that it matters at all. I still like the look of it.

    9. The occlusion stuff, I have off still.

      But, my system (which is a brand new alien ware with all the trimmings) has never quite ran diablo 3 to my liking.  Ive been in the beta since September and the game just has been full of small, barely noticable micro stutters and the like.  Very frustrating to play with. 

      This NVIDIA update, its like a new game.  Not because of the new occlusion, but just because, for me anyway, the game runs 100% smooth at all times.  Absolutely perfect.

    10. This isn’t a step forward. It just makes things disappear. Look at the nvidea screenshot: The wooden pillar, at the right side of the character. Where it touches the ground is just wrong. They just filtered some stuff away. I don’t think this is an improvement. 

    11. Am i the only one who doesn’t give a chainsaw? It’s not going to make the game more or less enjoyable to me, so i won’t look at it.

    12. i tried it with GTX 580, with the filter on, my frame rate drops half. from 60 to 30.  plus i think this is a personal preference. i like my screen looks sharp and clear, so that i can see drops more clearly. it is a loot-based game in the end. thus i leave it off.

    13. Flux or anyone from the Diablo Inc team, could you please do a video to showcase the effect in action ? Thank you in advance.

      • It’s tricky to showcase it on video, because of the dynamic fog in D3 makes it harder to spot the differences. I posted two more shots for easier comparison in Risingred’s thread. You can find the link to it in Flux’s post.
        One correction and two important additions for your post Flux:
        1) Enabling the ambient occlusion (SSAO in the rest of my post) doesn’t affect anything in a scene other than the shadows. More specifically it adds new ones. It doesn’t touch the fog, make the image less blurry or anything like that. If it does, then that’s a bug. See my third point.
        2) As dnielei noticed, enabling SSAO in the video driver comes with a large performance hit, even with new graphics cards. It’s effect may not be apparent to some people, but it still requires heavy calculations, which taxes the GPU.
        3) Forcing SSAO from the video driver can cause graphical artifacts. I didn’t notice anything in D3 yet, but I tried it in Skyrim as well and the new shadows sometimes appeared before transparent effects like fog, even when the object that cast them were shrouded by the fog.

        • I find it amusing that some people seem to think this is some sort of post-process filter and also that those who are not familiar with SSAO seem to notice other differences in the graphics like “less fog” and a “crisper image”… Placebo effect perhaps? After being told there’s some improvement people find it whether it’s there or not…
          Personally, I prefer using in-game settings only and avoid forcing anything through graphics drivers, shader injectors or post process filters as it will almost certainly induce annoying artifacts. My one exception so far is Skyrim, which I find to look like crap without considerable modifications.
          Ambient occlusion can add to immersion, but the game needs to be designed with it in mind, technically and artistically.
          Ironically, the slider comparison Nvidia has presented seems to be more of a showcase of why you shouldn’t force SSAO through the drivers, as the D3 graphics have not been designed for SSAO.
          For example, if you look at the tree roots on the right, they cast an inordinate amount of shadows when SSAO is on. My guess would be that the roots doodad is placed at an incorrect depth relative to ground geometry, resulting in excessive shadowing.
          Another good example is the wooden post to the right of the character, where without SSAO the ground and post textures blend perfectly, the SSAO effect ruins the illusion.
          Somewhat amusingly, the textures that would most benefit from SSAO such as the ground texture with the broken stones and the wood textures don’t get anything from it due to the fact that SSAO can’t do anything for flat surfaces (barring the prior use of anything like bump mapping or tessellation of course).
          Edit: To whoever is reading this, I’m sorry. I’m not sure how much sense I’m actually making… It’s very late and I’m very tired… I’ll have to go over my post tomorrow and see if even I can understand what I wrote 🙂

          • I don’t know about others, but your post makes perfect sense to me and I agree with you in everything you’ve said.

            • Haha thanks…
              I seem to have a tendency to write excessively long posts… Probably because actually getting a point across over the internet without it being misinterpreted is a bit difficult with short sentences 🙂
              I am somewhat of a graphics whore myself, but I find that the technical deficiency of D3 in advanced graphics is made up for perfectly with the amazing art style. All IMHO of course 🙂

          • That’s a leafless bush on the right, not tree roots… but yes it adds way too much shadowing.

    14. With it turned off I get a constant 50fps and with it on I get a constant 25fps using fraps.

      Anyone else notice this? 


      People have already mentioned this.

      Time for bed…

    15. Judging it based on the Nvidia screenshot, I think it looks terrible. The way that the shadows blot out the grass doodads on the ground, the way that the leaves on the bush to the left are outlined, the way that the shadows are overdone in most places. No thank you… not worth a performance hit at all.

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