Dev Blog

WIP Lighting/Shadows UAT Playtest – June 27th 2021

posted on June 25, 2021

Hello squaddies,

We will be running a work in progress playtest build containing extensive new lighting and shadow changes on the Squad Public Testing App this weekend. 

NOTE: The lighting/shadow changes you see in this build will not be coming in the V2.9 or the V2.10 update, this is a test phase for us to begin getting feedback, long before we implement these changes to the live version of Squad.

Currently in the live game, when players run with lower Shadows and lower Ambient Occlusion settings, this can allow for somewhat easier spotting of enemies in certain circumstances, while also greatly downgrading the game’s visual quality. Also, the current Far Shadows are not optimized, leading to performance degradation for most player setups when  Far Shadows are enabled.

This playtest version has an extensive overhaul of the way lighting and shadows work under the hood, accompanied by a vast new range of performance options, while greatly improving the overall visual quality of lighting and shadows across all quality settings. An essential aspect of this change is retaining a consistent gameplay experience across all settings levels – from low to epic – to reduce potential gameplay advantages that can be attained through toggling the various new shadows settings to a negligible level.

Shadows should now also give better overall performance for all shadows settings, from low through high / epic settings. Even when running with the lowest possible settings, shadows will still be enabled to allow for an effect on gameplay consistent with higher shadow quality settings, albeit with greatly reduced visual quality to save on performance. We would love to get as many varied set ups as possible playing to help us see what impact this potentially has on system performance – particularly on lower-end / minimum-spec hardware.

This playtest will also include a change to the HAB overrun mechanic, to help encourage more teamwork within squads when trying to attack and take out enemy HABs – see the end of this post for more details.

The play test servers will be available this Sunday, June 27th, and we would love to populate a few full servers, to have as many players – with varying hardware setups – as possible join us and help put it through its paces. The download is now available on the Squad Public Testing app.

Here are the full details regarding the changes:

Lighting & Shadows Overhaul

  • Setting Shadows to “Low” will retain most of the gameplay impact of shadows and Ambient Occlusion when they’re set to higher levels, but drastically reduce their quality. Currently in the live game, setting Shadows to “Low” removes shadows almost entirely.

This is expected to have a very slight performance hit for players running minimum spec or below – but a large benefit to gameplay, in that all settings levels are much closer to presenting the same overall levels of lighting and shadows, thus providing similar effects on gameplay.

  • Removed Far Shadows tickbox – The new shadow implementation covers the range of the current Far Shadows at higher quality and a lower performance cost. The new shadows will have potentially up to 10x less performance cost compared to the current shadows in the live game.
  • Distant Field Ambient Occlusion will be enabled on all graphics quality settings, while having been optimized at lower quality settings. DFAO allows realistic dimming of enclosed spaces and areas of dense foliage. In combination with the extended shadow ranges, this will ensure that all players will have similar visibility when trying to spot targets. 
  • Low – 25% quality, 1 sample
  • Medium – 50% quality, 1 sample
  • High – 75% quality, 2 samples
  • Epic – 100% quality, 3 samples
  • Overhauled shadow rendering – all shadows will render up to 1.7 km at all quality levels, while having up to 8 km of surrounding mountain, terrain, and large detail shadows (some maps have exceptions and render at less range if the map is smaller or emphasises CQB, such as Fallujah, Logar, etc).
  • Optimized Shadow Cascades, as well as increased maximum resolution for epic settings:
  • Low – 1k, 3 Cascades
  • Medium – 2k, 3 Cascades
  • High – 4k, 4 Cascades
  • Epic – 8k, 5 Cascades
  • Note that for both Shadows and Ambient Occlusion, “Low” settings will be at lower resolutions than they are now to offset the performance cost of having more shadows on screen. “High” and  “Epic” settings will render shadows at a higher resolution than before, achieving improved visual quality while performing better than Far Shadows do in the current live version of the game. This means that you may want to raise or lower your Shadows and Ambient Occlusion graphics settings from what you normally run in the live game.
  • Ambient Occlusion will be reworked for underground areas such as tunnels and bunkers to allow for more accurate shading, better gameplay and greatly improved atmosphere.
  • Lighting will be improved on all layers. Some layers will be completely overhauled with new HDR lighting. The rest will be incrementally upgraded, and will gradually receive their finishing touches in further patches. 
  • Here are just a few examples of layers that received entirely new lighting. You will have to find the rest, yourself! 
  • Yehorivka – Mid-day and Morning
  • Gorodok – Evening 
  • Mestia – Evening 
  • Al Basrah – Sunrise 
  • Lashkar Valley – Sunset 

Lighting Improvements

  • Updated lighting to give more contrast, brighter highlights, and deeper shadows on most map layers. 
  • Overhauled the colour grading and post-processing on all map layers. 
  • Implemented Volumetric Lighting on all map layers.
  • Reduced fog thickness on Tallil, Yehorivka, Gorodok, Lashkar, and Kohat. Adjustments of fog on many other layers.
  • Removed Eye Adaptation from all layers to reduce exploits and allow for balanced gameplay in all areas of our maps.
  • Removed Ambient Cubemaps from layers to reduce the washed out feeling across all maps.
  • Most night layers are now brighter.
  • Relit most underground tunnels with new lights and atmospheric effects, especially on Mestia.
  • Adjusted layout and tooltips of the Graphics menu to improve clarity and user experience. 
  • Added localized volumetric fog for dusty areas such as tunnels.

Lighting Fixes

  • Fixed Ambient Occlusion artifacts on thousands of buildings, environment objects, and foliage assets. 
  • Fixed Ambient Occlusion artifacts where underground tunnels intersect with the landscape.
  • Fixed incorrect PBR shading on several hundred environment assets.
  • There are still some shading artifacts with some older assets on maps. We are continuing to address these.
  • Fixed incorrect PBR shading on several landscapes, including Skorpo, Manic, Yehorivka, and Al Basrah.
  • Improved palm tree shaders to have light scattering through the leaves.
  • Fixed shiny road materials on many maps, including Al Basrah, Yehorivka, Belaya, and Goose Bay.

HAB Proximity Scaling

  • Reworked HAB Proximity Scaling. The distance at which a HAB can be proxied by enemies (i.e. the HAB is considered overrun and becomes unspawnable) will scale by the number of enemies in proximity to the HAB. For example:
  • 3 soldiers can proximity disable a HAB if they are all positioned within 30m of it. 
  • 8 soldiers can proximity disable a HAB if they are all positioned within 80m of it.
  • A minimum of 3 players is now required to proxy a HAB (this was previously 2). The maximum proxy range now scales up to 80m (this was previously fixed at 30m).

Designer’s Note: This is intended to reward a cohesive Squad that works together with each other while attacking an enemy HAB. It is intended to give an advantage to a team which is organized and has a plan to execute decisive tactics. It’s intended to give less advantage to players who attack independently, without planning, and attack one by one.

This is also intended to incentivize FOB and HAB placement further from the frontlines, and to devalue and decrease the prevalence of the spawn-wave mentality.

The HAB proximity disable system is static in the live game, with 2+ players within a 30 meter radius disabling a HAB. It’s often observed that when a friendly is seen dying close to a HAB on the minimap, the expected & effective tactic is for the team to quickly spawn on the HAB with enemies just outside, with full knowledge of which direction they are coming from because they had just seen a friendly killed by them. Giving up and quickly respawning with the enemy right next to you is not a tactic that we want to incentivize or reward.

The mindset of “Give up, spawn at HAB” is something that has been noted in the existing meta that is often forced on both the attacking and defending teams as the optimal way to play. This is not intentional, and we believe it undermines our efforts to make Squad about Teamwork, Coordination, Communication, & Friendly Communities. We hope this new change will help to avoid needlessly rewarding players for moving recklessly and alone.

Offworld out.