PS4 Version Trailer: Improved Graphics

OhNurse

Fresh from TGS 2015 is a small trailer showing off the game to its future brand-new PS4 audience.

Update: Additional trailer shown last night:

So it seems they changed a few things and it does at least seem like an overall improvement to me, you may not agree. I’m gonna go over a few things but this won’t be a long post because for one I’m not a graphics expert so there are some things I’m not gonna be able to comment on and for another there’s not really a lot to cover anyway.

Gameplay Demo and Details

Below is a 15 minute playthrough of a quest just for TGS to demonstrate the changes to the graphics.

Gonna pop some details that were revealed during the TGS presentation as well:

  • Japan only. I don’t know where people got the idea that a PS4 version meant a US release was imminent but there, just in case you needed it confirmed.
  • Free to download and play.
  • Servers and updates are shared with the PC and PS:Vita versions.
  • Supports PS:Vita Remote Play.
  • Plans for SHARE and Touchpad support
  • Arks Cash may be purchasable from the Playstation Store (in planning, this may not happen)
  • The new graphics will be available on PC under “setting 6” in the options.
Shaders!

This isn’t something entirely alien to some members of the PSO2 playerbase. If you’re unaware, some people like to use tools such as RadeonPro and SweetFX to tweak the graphics of PSO2. Naturally, these mods can’t do anything much about the textures, but they can fuck around with the lighting and shaders. The result is often screenshots with excessive amounts of bloom and lolis that glow like the sun. I guess some people like their women like their lightbulbs; incandescent. I can’t criticize too heavily, I’ve also changed some settings in SweetFX enhance the visuals so to speak. I feel my settings are kind of marginal though, I’m not a fan of the look some players go for but that’s not really what we’re talking about in this post. Point is messing with the shaders is a pretty easy-ish way to drastically alter the look of the game.

So yeah, the first thing any veteran PSO2 player should notice from the trailer is that they’ve clearly done something to the shaders. Things are much more strongly lit. What’s more, it seems like some of the textures may have been changed and the normal maps on the environments are much more pronounced than they are currently (if they even exist at all right now).

Comparison Shots

Words are fine and all, but let’s compare screen-shots from my game to any shots we can from the trailer and elsewhere.

Evidently the colours are more vibrant and the grass has a greater sense of detail to it. The walls also have a texture to them, though whether that’s an improvement or not is going to be up to the individual. The area also appears to have more depth to it, with objects further away having the appropriate blue tint to it along with some desaturation.

The rest of this post will have additional comparisons, but this is likely the only fair comparison that can be made at the moment. The rest are screenshots taken from the trailer earlier in this post, which is compressed video so certain details can’t be appreciated.

You can see that the brightness is considerably higher on the PS4 version. The water texture also seems like it might be higher quality.

The glare on Tranmizer seems a little excessive here, but it does highlight its details quite nicely. The textures seem to be about the same quality, however.

Additional Shots – Post TGS Stream

Adding them here rather than making a new post.

desert_caseal_ps4

The HUcaseal in her slightly higher res glory. The character does seem to look a bit nicer. The ground also seems to have higher quality textures applied to it as well as the addition of bump-maps.

Notably the environment textures seem to be the same resolution here, but they may not have gotten around to this area yet. The main focus of this image is the sword’s photon blade effect, which is visibly glowing more on the PS4 image. This one is a bit of a wierd point for me, because really I never got why these weapons didn’t glow in the first place. Afterall, they did in Phantasy Star Universe, so that they couldn’t do a similar effect in a more advanced graphics engine is something I always found a little curious.

Tundra is both really bright and really blue…

Thoughts

Overall, the colours seem to be set to become more vivid, more saturated and a whole lot brighter in general. Possibly too bright in places. The textures might be better quality or they might not be, there’s not really enough to compare yet to say for sure. It seems environments have gained normal maps and interact with lighting more strongly. Details on the enemies seem to be better defined than in the current engine, likely just an effect of the improved shaders. Like I said, I’m not a graphics expert, so some of this I’m not too certain about.

What I can say is I’m not terribly surprised that the poly-count doesn’t seem to have improved any. That would be a considerably more daunting task to undertake than to address texture and shader problems, as changing the models would also mean re-rigging, re-doing UVs and probably other stuff I’m not aware of for every single model in the game. As someone who has frequently dug into the game’s files I can assure you there are way too many models they’d need to do this for to be done within a reasonable amount of time. If they really are upgrading textures, that’s already a tough job. I’ve experienced how half-assed “HD Texture Packs” look in games like Oblivion, Skyrim or Fallout 3/New Vegas. Anyone can take a texture and quadruple its resolution, it’ll still look like shit if it isn’t done properly.

While this is fine and dandy for the PS4 version, what are the odds that these changes will make it to the PC version? Fairly decent I feel, as the trailer is using the new PSO2 logo intended for Episode 4. As such, I expect that these graphics changes will be arriving on the PC with the Episode 4 update, whenever it decides to show itself. Hopefully, the graphics options will allow players to stick with something more akin to what we have now should people prefer the current look. Update: It was confirmed during the TGS stream that these graphics will be arriving on PC as well, under “setting 6”. This means that these new effects are entirely optional.

All of this is currently a work in progress, apparently. Frankly, while a graphics face-lift is appreciated I’m much more concerned about improvements to the game outside of this. Things like alterations to the item upgrade system, questing system, client orders and currency items/inventory as well as business model changes would be far more interesting to me than this.

We may learn more about this during the next live broadcast set to take place on the 20th of September (12:40-13:50 JST).

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