Amidst a flurry of news circulating several high profile titles that are coming to the market or recently released, mostly dealing with resolution and downgrades, Sucker Punch Studios has gone over and beyond to reassure gamers that inFamous: Second Son hasn't been downgraded.
The news spawns from a screenshot comparison DualShockers put up that showed the same cinematic scene at different times of the day. Quite naturally, a bunch of people yelled “Downgrade!!” even though, as you can see below, it's basically different times of the day and different lighting conditions at work, along with the new March build sporting warm maple-toned hues and different shadow effects based on directional lighting:
Funnily enough, the latest March build actually has better specular lighting over material than the E3 build, as you can clearly make out the faux-gold studs on his vest in the bottom picture, where-as in the top image it looks like dirty, pasted-on plastic. Also, if you look at the LOD in his hoody, the March build actually has a higher level of polygonal density, and fewer obvious breaks where the vertices are connected. If anything... it actually got an upgrade.
According to the lead art technician at Sucker Punch, Jason Connell, he threw out some explanations on Twitter and Facebook [via DS] between the visual differences between the E3 2013 build and the March build of inFamous, saying...
“Definitely no visual downgrade of graphics since then! We put that particular area in sunset instead of sunny time of day so that it matches the mood of narrative better.”
Also, the lighting in March build may be softer than E3 but it looks as if there are more passes with various light sources, as you can see that Rowe's face contains multiple soft-shadow casts in the March build as opposed to the E3 build, which uses harder contrasts with the shadows. Connell brings this out, saying...
“Well, when we moved to HDR and Physical Based Lighting… one of the benefits is having the world rendering look and feel like a cameras exposure. So, we just have to make sure that things look good in all time of days…but the system supports it fully.”
While the lighting looks good in both builds (depending on how you view them, artistically) I think the March build shows a greater variance of time and effort put into bringing the character(s) to life.
My major gripe, however, is that the PS4 still wasn't powerful enough to do GIL, or Global Illuminated Lighting, one of the prime-time features of the Unreal Engine 4 and a very popular feature used in the latest build of the Unity 3D Engine. This was evident in the Demon Knight comparison from a while back.
This is also why Connell mentions that there are “rules” for the artist, since you can't set a global tone for various parts of the day and light the game that way. Not only is it exponentially faster to light a game using GI, but it's also a lot more cost effective (even though its very heavy on GPU resources).
Still, I can't complain too much for what they're doing with the lighting, but it's such a bummer that things will still have to be done the “old way” for the entirety of the eighth gen of console gaming.
On the bright side, at least inFamous: Second Son doesn't suffer from The Forzaning.