r0.15 Update (Part 1): Graphical Enhancements

We're hard at work on the next Alpha 1 r0.15 update and with it, addressing many aspects of the game’s performance. Among them, the continual technical optimization as well as overall graphical enhancements. So let's talk about the behind the scenes content and upcoming graphical changes you'll be experiencing in the r0.15 version of Dual Universe!

Higher Planet Textures Resolution

For starters, we focused on a higher resolution display for the planet textures. In Dual Universe, one gigantic texture is used for Alioth as a whole. We developed proprietary tools to enhance the quality of what players can see. To sum things up, we multiplied the level of detail by 16! The main benefit of this is that objects and landscape in far sight are now rich with detail and far less blurry.

Depth of Field and Motion Blur implementation

In regard to the past decade, modern game engines have made huge strides in both quality and graphical improvement. Among the numerous techniques to improve visual quality and a further a sense of realism, depth of field and motion blur allow for fantastic effects with minimal sacrifice of performance.

Because these graphical filters are so widely effective, we don’t want to waste our finite resources reinventing the wheel. This is why we’ve implemented an external tool called YEBIS.

YEBIS is what we commonly call a "middleware"; a brick of technology that handles specific task(s). It requires significant effort, but far less so than developing things from scratch. In the present case, it handles advanced optical effects.

Developed by Japanese company Silicon Studio, YEBIS allows us to implement graphical improvements quickly and efficiently. We're still tweaking things, but the result speaks for itself as you can clearly see in the illustration below:

Here’s what NQ-Sirg, our Lead Graphics Programmer at Novaquark Paris, has to say about the work accomplished so far with YEBIS: “Dual Universe uses PBR and HDR rendering. To get the absolute most of this technology, we decided to integrate a state of the art post-processing middleware. With YEBIS, we were able to easily implement a beautiful bloom effect, optional depth of field, adaptive exposure, optional motion blur, and various other color corrections that overall enhance DU’s visual graphics.”

If you're not a big fan of motion blur, don't worry. This visual effect is completely optional and can be disabled through the options menu. For a more complete focus on this technique, you can watch this video by Digital Foundry:

On a side note, if the Silicon Studio name rings a bell, it definitely should! Not only does Silicon Studio develop high-end tools used in many current PC and console titles, it’s also responsible for games like Bravely Default on Nintendo 3DS. Or maybe you just saw the Silicon Studio and YEBIS logos during the recent announcement of Google Stadia.

Volumetric Clouds

That’s a cool topic too! For this one, we had to develop things on our own. One of our programmers, NQ-RuDoMAs, worked tirelessly to create a method of producing fluffy, believable clouds with almost no impact on performance. He undertook the challenge head on and this is how he approached it: "We realized that the previous design of our clouds didn’t fit the modern aesthetic of our game anymore. To change this, we tried different approaches but decided on volumetric clouds in the end.

The main idea behind this method is to procedurally generate clouds at each point on the planet using a combination of noises (like the Perlin noise and the Worley noise, with an algorithm using the Beer law).

Using this method of cloud generation, we can avoid issues with them being displayed incorrectly under different circumstances and have achieved astonishing results. By changing the noise parameter, this allows us to alter the shape, density, and position of the clouds. Clouds are a key element of the game’s environment.

For us, this means that we’re now able to simulate different types of cloud designs on varying planets by modifying some basic parameters."

To learn more details about the r0.15 update of Dual Universe, we recently released a podcast with behind the scenes material. It’s available here on YouTube and here on SoundCloud.

We hope you'll like these improvements! We'll tweak things all the way down and as usual, your feedback will be key!