Streaming and Island LODs

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    Hi, I'm the Technical Director on the Engine Team at Rare.

    Firstly, I wanted to address a few key points:

    • The optimisations we’ve made in the patches have been non-destructive algorithmic improvements made by our Rendering Wizards. We’ve not made any changes to intentionally degrade graphical fidelity, on any platform.
    • Our streaming system has always loaded the high detail versions of the islands at the same distance on all platforms. This avoids any gameplay imbalance caused by players on higher-specification PCs being able to see things that players on some dual core laptop with a couple of gig of RAM can't. The screenshots on this thread are either far-off islands with their lower-fidelity LOD (level of detail) loaded or higher-LOD islands where the view is not close enough to display the highest-detail terrain. The second scenario is one where we are investigating a potential improvement for platforms running a higher detail level.
    • The rate at which an island streams in is variable and hardware dependent. If the game is installed on a mechanical disk then the fragmentation of that disk and the layout of the game files on the disk will have an impact on the speed of loading. Differences in loading speed due to this or other I/O work the system is doing will cause the higher detail LOD to appear at different distances.

    However, we take any reports of issues from the community seriously, and we've taken a little time to look into the data around this.

    alt text

    This is the distance in meters from the island at which we make the high detail LOD available – this example is Devil’s Ridge, and the data is taken from Xbox One players on the retail game. There’s no change in the average distance at which we make the island visible across the title’s lifetime. This consistency is the same for all islands on the game, and across all percentiles. The distance you see in game will not always be this value - there is considerable variance dependent on what other loading the I/O system is doing at the time - but any trends would be visible.

    The optimisations we’ve made should not cause any change to the appearance of the game. If you notice any significant changes for the worse, then it’s definitely unintentional and we’d want to fix it! For any specific problems, we’d appreciate any detailed information you can give us! Submit a support ticket with screen-shots, and what hardware/quality settings you’re running with.

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    This has been a really hot topic in the community, thank you so much for sharing some developer insights on this!

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    @Mr-Fellblade
    Thanks for addressing this, however your answer makes me wonder if you were only given a bunch of screenshots to look at, with no context of the actual complaints.
    In the (now locked...) thread, both PC and Xbox users agree that the draw distance has always been exactly the same on both platforms, while also agreeing that there clearly was a change (for the worse) in visual fidelity after the first patch.

    While it is true that PC users may have completely different hardware that will have an impact on how fast the data are streamed in, that is not the case for xbox where hardware is standardized. Yet both platforms share exactly the same issues in exactly the same circumstances; issues which weren't there on the game release, nor were there during the alphas/betas. In this context, better PC hardware doesn't seem to improve the experience in any way compared to Xbox hardware: they now both share a visually poorer experience, which makes me question the reasons behind needing these optimizations in the first place.

    On a side note, your answer focuses on only one of the issues: islands 'main' LOD distance (arguably the less important) and doesn't address at all the greatly reduced players/creatures/interactable items rendering distance, nor the general visual quality degradation, both in terms of lack of details and poorer lighting/shadows, which is where most of the complaints seemed to focus on.

    The most ironic part, however, is the following (and i quote)
    "The optimisations we’ve made should not cause any change to the appearance of the game. If you notice any significant changes for the worse, then it’s definitely unintentional and we’d want to fix it! "

    The (now locked...) thread was already there to say that yes, they DID cause change to the appearance of the game and we DID notice them.
    We all assumed this wasn't a matter of trying to convince the devs that there was an issue, but rather making them aware so they could fix it.

    Instead, we were greeted by what seems a PR answer at best, that barely acknowledges the existence of these issues and doesn't even imply they will ever be solved.

    This is not acceptable.

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    I agree with @Super-Poopsy , that's not really an accettable answer.

  • 1

    @mr-fellblade said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    If the game is installed on a mechanical disk then the fragmentation of that disk and the layout of the game files on the disk will have an impact on the speed of loading.

    If I try to use defraggler on the folder [Microsoft.SeaofThieves_2018.324.1208.2_neutral_~_8wekyb3d8bbwe]
    The operation gets aborted by windows, I assume this is because Windows APPs folders are protected.
    Is there a way to defrag this folder for reduced impact on the speed of loading ?

  • 9

    When i use my spyglass using mythical settings i see far off objects floating in midair due to other models being considered too far away to render. I don't remember it being so noticeable in any of the tests or on release.

    PC version using SSD
    specs not that it matters
    i5 - 6600k
    16gb ddr4 ram
    GTX 1070

  • 7

    @eraaam said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    When i use my spyglass using mythical settings i see far off objects floating in midair due to other models being considered too far away to render. I don't remember it being so noticeable in any of the tests or on release.

    PC version using SSD
    specs not that it matters
    i5 - 6600k
    16gb ddr4 ram
    GTX 1070

    same pc with a 1080 ti. at 1440p 144hz. Same ugly issues.

  • 3

    Hey @Super-Poopsy & @OrsoSilvano, we are taking your reports very seriously! If any changes have been made that have unintentionally worsened your experience, we absolutely appreciate any bug reports being made through Support so we can investigate this further.

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    @khaleesibot Thanks for being very serious about my reports, but all the changes that have been made and have unintentionally worsened my game experience are written right there in the (now locked...) thread ;)

    I may submit (another) bug report and pretty much write the same words again, but i assumed a 200 posts/6k views thread, which includes a considerable number of reports from very different sources, was already more than enough to grant a devs investigation.

    All i got instead was a Microsoft Approved™ answer.

  • 14

    @mr-fellblade

    The island render distance itself hasn't changed, but the distance at which entities and actors on the island themselves has definitely dropped. While Sailing around Thieves Haven, being right next to the island (I think towards the southern end) there were barrels that were visible before that aren't now, and it was a jarring pop/fade in as I got within a few feet of it.

  • 8

    Thank you for sharing this information.

    Also, please pass on to the entire rendering team and shader authors: I never get bored at looking at that water.

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    I've definitely noticed that the islands' high quality render does not seem to load until you are incredibly close to the island anymore (on both a upper-midrange PC and an Xbox One X). This seems to have started after the first patch, and while certainly not game breaking, it does hurt the immersion a little bit.

    It makes using the telescope for scoping islands pretty much useless. You need to get close enough to the island that you might as well just jump off your boat and scout on foot.

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    @orsosilvano I see the same thing. Barrels and crates sometimes just floating in "water" or air, but then if you get close enough suddenly there's sand/island underneath

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    Stuff like

  • 36

    or

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    This is not really rendering sorcery :D

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    IMO there needs to be an increase in the overall render distance around the character camera in the case of the asset pop and tessellation of everything else.

    We also need to talk about the silhouette of ships that are in the distance when viewed with a scope and the lack of water rendered around them when looking at them at the time not just islands since you can see the entire hull as they bob in the water.

    Also can we remove the spolight like shine from the spyglass whilst we are talking about it and only have it for the sniper since there really is no point to having it on an item that is not a weapon and its a given that it is used.

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    I don't wanna sound cheaply rhetorical, but i probably will.

    A considerable number of people reporting in this and the previous threads are founders, which means they had plenty of time, possibly up to 1 year, to get used to features of the game and gameplay 'timings', including knowing by heart when a certain action can be done and when not.

    On top of that, even more players spent hundreds of hours during the first week of release, getting pretty immersed in a certain environment, plus the novelty of experiencing something for the first time... and if their experience is anything like mine was, they absorbed EVERYTHING, every single little meaningless detail in the game.

    Now, if any of the two spends such a tremendous amount of hours getting used to be able -for example- to use their spyglass to spot players on a ship at about the same distance every time... and literally after a patch, they can't seem to be able to do it anymore ever again, i assure you they will notice it.

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    @super-poopsy said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    I don't wanna sound cheaply rhetorical, but i probably will.

    A considerable number of people reporting in this and the previous threads are founders, which means they had plenty of time, possibly up to 1 year, to get used to features of the game and gameplay 'timings', including knowing by heart when a certain thing can be done and when not.

    Aside from that, even more players spent hundreds of hours during the first week of release, getting pretty immersed in a certain environment, plus the novelty of experiencing something completely new... and if their experience is anything like mine was, they absorbed EVERYTHING, every single little meaningless detail in the game.

    Now, if any of the two spends such a tremendous amount of hours getting used to be able -for example- to use their spyglass to spot players on a ship at about the same distance every time... and literally after a patch, they can't seem to be able to do that anymore ever again, i assure you they will notice it.

    This a thousand times, directly after the patch I hadn't even gotten off of the Outpost my crew and I spawned on when we noticed.

    We used to be able to scout out an island that had a ship on it to do some 'planning'. but now we can't even find the players on their ship or on an island with-out being inside engagement range of them, and this is using the spyglass. Makes it not worth our while
    to plan ahead and easier for us to just drop in on a ship we know has loot.

    (Sorry galleon last night that ran off with the stronghold key for an hour, only to come back and me sink you with a barrel :) )

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    (Sorry galleon last night that ran off with the stronghold key for an hour, only to come back and me sink you with a barrel :) )

    @khaleesibot
    See?? Graphic nerfs caused griefing! ;)
    (i lolled tho)

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    @mr-fellblade said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    • Our streaming system has always loaded the high detail versions of the islands at the same distance on all platforms.

    If that is the case then clearly it was reduced on all platforms after the first client patch post launch because of the hardware limitations of the xbox which is extremely disappointing and a poor design choice. I don't want my experience limited because of someone elses hardware limitations.

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    @stellarsacia said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    @mr-fellblade said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    • Our streaming system has always loaded the high detail versions of the islands at the same distance on all platforms.

    If that is the case then clearly it was reduced on all platforms after the first client patch post launch because of the hardware limitations of the xbox which is extremely disappointing and a poor design choice. I don't want my experience limited because of someone elses hardware limitations.

    this ^

  • 1

    @orsosilvano said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    @stellarsacia said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    @mr-fellblade said in Streaming and Island LODs:

    • Our streaming system has always loaded the high detail versions of the islands at the same distance on all platforms.

    If that is the case then clearly it was reduced on all platforms after the first client patch post launch because of the hardware limitations of the xbox which is extremely disappointing and a poor design choice. I don't want my experience limited because of someone elses hardware limitations.

    this ^

    And us Xbox players know it’s nothing personal, just like we want an option for Xbox only servers, and it’s nothing personal.

    Just give us what we want rare! Lol. Though I seriously feel like the extra thought and extra issues like this that they have to deal with due to crossplay is a major factor in the games lack of content depth.

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    @a-cranky-eskimo Having crossplay between xbox/pc and optimizing high detail draw distances on all hardware are not mutually exclusive ideas.

    I couldn't disagree with you more about segregating platforms.

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    @stellarsacia yeah if you don’t care about advantages due to crossplay. Guess I spoke to soon, seems like me playing on xbox is a personal problem for you lol. Or atleast me wanting balance. Optimizing draw distance on Xbox and capping it that way for pc makes sense, and since I know most pc players don’t agree that’s why I ask for Xbox only servers.

    And if it’s just a technical issue, I was saying that it likely wouldn’t have happened if not for crossplay. Don’t get so upset.

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    @A-Cranky-Eskimo I think you're misunderstanding what @StellarSacia is saying.
    The draw distance is exactly the same on both platforms, so wanting to have a better quality on a beefy PC won't bring any advantage whatsoever compared to xbox.

    You'll both see the same house at exactly the same distance anyway, why shouldn't the house be more detailed on PC, if it can afford the processing power?

    How does that imbalance crossplay?

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    @super-poopsy then how does “I don’t want my experience limited because of other people’s hardware limitations” or whatever make any sense.

    If it’s a technical issue I was saying it’s probably because of the extra work that is necessary to make the game run on both platforms, if there is no “experience limitation” then what was that post about.

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    @A-Cranky-Eskimo To me it makes absolutely sense, the guy probably has a PC which could handle way better graphics than an xbox and he feels it's not being used at its fullest.

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    @A-Cranky-Eskimo You seem to miss the most important point of the entire discussion: we had all this already before the patch, both xbox and PC.

    We both had overall better graphics, we both had longer player rendering distance.

    These 'optimizations' were not only unrequested by the community, but also pretty unexpected, especially a week after the game release.

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    There should be no information given differently between platforms.
    There can be more texture at further distances on different platforms in my opinion.

    The distance that you render the higher or full texture LOD should be a slider on pc. The distance that a ship, an island, or a player appears should not be adjustable. What information is gained from having a higher LOD because your system can handle it?

    I too see the graphical issues on both my xbox one S upstairs and the PC (running a 1060 6gb) on the LOD being.. worse or glitchy.

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    @super-poopsy right, and I’m saying that if they didn’t have to worry about Xbox on the same servers they wouldn’t have messed up with his graphic settings, which is why I want Xbox only servers beyond the frame rate and control scheme stuff.

    I guess I misunderstood the last comment as a draw distance thing.

    And tbh I haven’t played since the last patch I only really commented after I saw that guys video with the vines popping in, probably shouldn’t have even commented on this lol.

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    @A-Cranky-Eskimo I'm sorry, we clearly don't understand eachother but you have the same right to comment as i do, so don't worry.

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    @super-poopsy the only reason I posted was because from that post apparently the reason for this issue has to do with Xbox or “hardware limitation” so I was just saying ok give me my own servers then if that’s what the problem was, and Now that you have stated that it’s an issue for both, and my first post agreed that it was a crossplay issue, I don’t understand the “I couldn’t disagree more” comment but yeah you all have a good one lol.

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    How does this effect water detail? Pre patch on xbox one x i never noticed a hard line between detailed water and less detail water. Now if i climb the crows nest there is a sharp line in a box around me of detailed/not detailed water.

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    The draw distance and rendering has gotten significantly worse since the last update. I’m literally on the beach and rocks and plants are rendering 6m in front of me.