UPDATE # 2 – UPDATED – Developer Insider: The Witcher 3 Was Downgraded From 2013 – List of All Features Taken Out & Why

Mummy, where are my particles?!

It seems The Witcher 3 graphics controversy never ends, and it is for good reason. Recently it has been quite apparent to a lot of people with footage showing up all over the web of newer PC build gameplay demos supposedly running on ULTRA on the PC (Poland preview event) which pales in comparison to the 2013 gameplay trailer. We contacted our insider who provided us information on The Division downgrade and apparent delay into 2016 months ago – who managed to connect us with someone in the know-how at CD Projekt RED last night to further explain the situation and set the record straight.

Here is simply what they had to say in regards to the whole thing (we advise everyone to take it with a grain of salt, despite having vetted their identity ourselves):

2013 was a tough time for CD Projekt RED simply because we were trying to create an entire bulk of the game on the older DirectX 9 renderer that we had in place for The Witcher 2. Most of the assets were created during the time we were creating our DX11 solution render pipeline to bring the next-generation experience to everyone. A lot of the footage including the debut gameplay trailer was done when the consoles were not even out and we only had an idea of the specifications of the system. This landed itself into problem territory when we realized the next-generation systems could not simply meet our graphical output to the desirable level of quality that we needed. There were several options: build three different builds or consolidate to the nearest denominator, which is what we did. We took the specifications of the lowest performing throughput system which I don’t care to mention here at all to avoid that discussion, and worked our way up from there. As almost a 250 man team, we sequentially had to take out/turn down a lot of features not just from our NVIDIA GameWorks pipeline but our normal game solution scripts as well – these include the following:

  • Level of horizon detail (essentially the draw distance had to be completely tuned down to tax the consoles less)

  • Volume based translucency

  • Ambient occlusion and foliage density / tree count

  • Flexible water simulation / tessellation  we resorted to a (script texture effect similar to most games than physical based simulation)

  • Ground/building tessellation

  • Forward lit soft particles (this is the fire, smoke, fog that you would encounter while going through thick terrain into open space)

  • Real-time reflections in the water are completely off and replaced with a cheaper render solution estimator (this is a primary reason blood splatter was also removed from water)

We just did not have the manpower, budget or the console power to produce the vision we intended before the consoles were released to create a more visually stunning game of higher fidelity like 2013 assets. The PCs themselves had more than enough power to achieve this vision, almost certainly. But working on the game across 3 platforms did not make it feasible to keep features included that could potentially break the game as we kept building around it. All the 2013 trailers were actually in-game footage (not prerendered or vertical slices) but essentially just not an entirely finished world running on a high-end PC at the time.

When questioned as to why CD Projekt RED’s community managers have denied that “there will be no downgrade” and that there has not been one (as if this hardly a smart answer to anyone with a pair of eyes):

In game development you simply just don’t explain it like this. It isn’t something a developer ever wants to admit to because it would make us look bad even if it is plain as day. It would make us seem like we’re incapable and that next-gen is not as next-gen as people would think.  The team would rather focus on the positives than admit to any faults, negatives, or that the final product is not the vision they intended politically speaking (because the game still looks good but not 2013 good). As for the PC version, it looks just like the console versions just with a higher resolution and a lower-form of HairWorks in effect.

Again, because I cannot reveal the identity of this developer for obvious reasons, I can tell anyone out there interested to take this whole thing with a grain of salt. But likewise, take any talks of “nothing has been downgraded” since 2013 with the same amount of salt as well from CD Projekt RED.

Update: Lots of e-mails pouring in. Just to make it clear to people – if you take a look at The Witcher 3: Killing Monsters trailer you will notice something peculiar in the intro. Or if you cannot do that – take a look at this:

E3 Awards Shot 2013

We here at WhatIfGaming do not need publicity. Game developers need our publicity. Our job here is just to report what we know and can verify for the best interest of the public. That is all.

Update # 2:

Eurogamer posted an article with CD Projekt RED admitting this downgrade just as we wrote it. To all the naysayers: remember who we are. We are the voice of truth.

Posted By: Stuart Blair
ON Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
6:10 PM

WhatIfGaming Game Of The Year 2014

Hello fellow readers!

WhatIfGaming 2012 Game Of The Year Awards

While in the past we have used Bestof.whatifgaming.com to announce our winner, we want to aim for more simplicity this year and skip right to the winner of our awards panel’s decision. Every year passes by along with the new releases of that year, but few titles remain an exception and stay in our hearts forever. The WhatIfGaming 2014 Game of the Year title is the best in what it does and should be played at least once by anyone that seeks the best. The WhatIfGaming Game of the Year Award has descended from the sky once again to graciously token its honor to only the most worthy video game titles, and creators. Part of the “WhatIfGaming Prizes,” considered the Nobel prizes of gaming, the WhatIfGaming Game Of The Year Award is a prize emblem trophy chosen with extreme care and precision by notable industry developers and lastly finalized by the WhatIfGaming Team personally. 2014 is over, as sad as it is to say. It is time to look ahead but still look back time to time and remember 2014.


Posted By: Stuart Blair
ON Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
11:23 PM

Rome’s Catacombs – The Journey of A Lifetime


Rome is a mystery on its own. But the greatest mystery of them all is the one under the vast Roman Colosseum, where there’s an ancient civilization buried deep.  It’s time we here take you beneath Rome’s underground and into the heart of a once very living civilization.

Starting from the 10th century B.C., Rome kept on multiplying in size until well into the 5th century. A historian by the name of Vegetius wrote on the military decline at this time, and Rome wanted to show its vast power to its people still in the form of sites such as Circus Maximus, the Baths of Caracalla and even the Mouth of the Truth. The original street level was still preserved from the buried and flooded ancient civilizations, and nowadays you can find shops sprawling the upper city amongst Rome’s seven wonders.

The catacombs are the underground cemeteries where Christians would bury their passed on loved ones, especially considering the religion itself was not tolerated at that time due to the idolism that early adopters of Rome’s cultures supported. Currently, Rome has many catacombs similar to those in France, with seven being available for the public’s eye. A nearly 65-foot advertised graveyard and a 12 mile walk over 37 acres is what you will find here according to the guide book. There are popes, clerics, and many unnamed people’s graves and the feeling is almost downright spooky as you traverse cautiously and wearily through the terrain. Quite possibly the best thing people will find in the tombs are the Crypt of the Popes, where 3rd century pontiffs are laid to rest – something encapsulating and a bit saddening at the same time. Nowhere in Rome do you truly see the archaic history than you do in the catacombs.

One can also explore the Catacomb of Priscilla, based on the noblewoman who donated her land for the cemetery for reasons unknown. This site has morbid frescoes that are still in-tact, and has the first image of the Virgin Mary (or what is considered to be the first). The Office of Tourism – Rome provided us a guided tour for the catacombs called the Walks of Italy’s Crypts – which allowed us not only early access to the tombs, but to bypass a good amount of the security checkpoint line. A guided tour also allows native English speakers to truly understand what they are seeing and is a benefit to all.

So, what are you waiting for? It is time to see the early Greek-Roman world and explore the underground catacombs of the beautiful city of Rome for a different and slightly darker look into history. Get the incredibly guided tour by Walks of Italy Tour Company, explore the Crypt of the Popes or Mithraea even. The catacombs and their daunting presence await your glancing eyes.

This article has been published courtesy of The Office of Tourism – Rome

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Sunday, December 28th, 2014
9:41 AM

The Division Developer Insider: “We Already Downgraded A Few Things”

Division Downgradeathon

We will not reveal our source dev (whose employment we confirmed and vowed we would not reveal the identity of) but the info should be taken with a grain of salt as a result. Today, I have the ultimate displeasure to inform the public that apparently the E3 demo of The Division was running on a PC and will be downgraded overall. Developers often overshoot for the moon and end up delivering next to nothing in terms of the visual garbage that the final retail copies end up becoming (Far Cry 3, Watch Dogs, Dark Souls II in comparison to their non-downgraded counterparts). This sort of false advertising and marketing absolutely has to stop. It is a vile and dementedly sick way of companies to make money off of people who obviously preorder because the game is visually impressive. Yes – some may claim “gameplay weighs in more” but this is arguable.

He tells us the following:

We really loved the reception to the demo we showed on the PC version at E3. Currently as it stands, there is definitely a lot of push coming from publishers to not make the experience so different on consoles as to alienate people into thinking that next generation is not as powerful as PC. This is probably what happened at Ubisoft Montreal. I think that while making stability changes is definitely important, it does not completely obliterate a lot of enhanced rendering applications.

Right now we already took out quite a lot of screen space reflections from the game and are working on asset management the best we can given consoles have that great unified memory. Naturally we will also be using online servers and have to produce a synchronization that higher graphics add to the latency so it had to be turned down. To me it still looks good, but not as good as the original reveal. I am sure as we get closer to launch and the actual console versions of the game featuring SD (Snowdrop) that it will start to seem all too obvious to people especially those on PCs. I just wanted to write and let you know that it definitely is not just stability but marketing politics plays into this a lot as well.

UPDATED 2nd Response from The Division Developer: Truth be told in regards to your question that while ‘Yes’ the lead platform is the PC, we simply cannot have such a big gap. As you know when the first WATCH DOGS Review was published by that one site, Ubisoft called it a “false review” and I am sure everyone can see how bad that sounded when they saw the game did look marginally better than something that was a last generation GTA IV. But no, they will not admit that they practice this or actively downgrade a game. It is much easier to say they removed things for stability which is often a lie as you can tell by the post-issues which are expected in any production we do.

Also to answer your 3rd question, no…they will never fully disclose what was removed from what build as no laws ask them to do so in terms of consumer rights. If we as developers published that information in very real terms for the consumer such as “Replaced particle fog simulation with 2d layer simulation in 3d space, removed particles from all explosions, lowered explosion volume multiplier by 20x, removed X # of trees and civilians, etc.” we would be out of a lot of sales and probably it would actually require too much time to deliver on the current hype that a lot of downgraded games see which look incredible with a vertical slice.  I do share this in the hope’s that my colleagues and publishers and a lot of people who make false promises and do demonstrations which wrongfully create too much hype that they cannot deliver on ultimately stop doing such things. I want to see the industry actually move forward and not be so full of itself by promising too much and delivering too little. Regards

Our insider who is currently in the graphics technical division at Ubisoft Massive in Sweden contacted us because he too is sick of the practices that a company like Ubisoft has become all too known for. If Ubisoft denies downgrades have not happened and uses the lame excuse that “it is for the gamers and stability we did what we did” then there is certainly no reason for the PC/console parity to exist because currently the downgraded Watch Dogs runs sub-par still which is an utter joke. Everyone knows “next generation” currently as it stands is utter marketing BS. Of course, a lot of the uneducated folks out there feel this is more. Next gen, means next gen! If this is the case, PC raw throughput has the greatest power of any console despite having lower development focus (due to piracy). Essentially if it is not obvious by now: Next Gen has diminished any chances of making graphics leaps for the marketers to make more money on “next-gen” until the next next-gen comes out. It is a great marketing hype that is all too common in the gaming industry.

Bottom line: Publishers  and developers – stop lying and rely on actual gameplay that is close to the real thing to do your marketing for you. And if you did remove a lot of features that affected the stability of the game, make sure to release a full disclosure of what this is before the game comes out. Oh wait…but then you would not see as many sales. Tsk tsk.

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Thursday, November 20th, 2014
4:24 PM

Why Developers Need To Be More Honest – A Look At E3 Demo Hype

Ubisoft Hype Fail

Another explosion and another one bites the dust when it comes to the most hyped title of E3 2012  – Watch Dogs, teaching us about how hype is not a gamer-created phenomenon but a fault of the developers themselves as well. The game’s lackluster graphics and rather bland gameplay has left a very sour taste in a lot of gamer minds that begs the question: where is developer integrity? While this article is not meant to attack a specific company in general, it is meant to look into the general state of the industry. Ubisoft Montreal has made some beautiful games when it comes to Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Both of these games were touted during E3 and simply delivered. Watch Dogs, however, did anything but deliver to the graphical scale and gameplay expectations even with a long delay.

While we did not review Watch Dogs or frankly had the time to with a lot of requests, we did get to play it and realized one thing: developers need to be more honest. Jonathan Morin – Watch Dogs’ Director at one point stated the graphics were “better than the E3 build – everything was better.” Suddenly videos showed explosions that kind of spurted out weakly and something that even GTA IV put to shame in that department visually (a very last-generation title). While Next Generation (Next-Gen) does not always stay true to its actual hype, considering the graphics only step up marginally to match PC throughput and to last for at least 8-9 years of generational dependency, there is a strong lack of interest that a lot of gamers need to start having. E3 has always been about the hype. And it is partly a very important reason why we stopped our E3 Awards as of recently. The awards though great acknowledgment, do add to this hype of unreleased products, and affects people in having them buy a game that we said was “Best Action Game,” or that seemed to be, and that fell heavily short in the product release. After nearly thousands of e-mails, one thing is clear: developers need to be more forward and more honest. Watch Dogs developer Ubisoft Montreal and their whole team need to definitely be ashamed for the graphical hype they caused. Sure, one can say that it is the problem of gamers having unreal expectations, or believing the hype, but it changes nothing; the developers showed a demo and then offer up preorders with very limited footage up to the date of release which hardly seems fair for anyone.  Being a “believer” of what these developers say and giving them the benefit of the doubt should not be an easy pass for the defenders of developer titles or people with lowering standards to quell their preorder investment or fanboy bias.

All in all – people and developers need to realize that if you have a great game – you do not rely on E3 hype or cinematic trailers. And if there are comprises to be made like From Software’s Dark Souls II obliteration downgrade – this should never be shown in the first place or be heavily captioned with “Everything shown following is not guaranteed to be the same as the final product.”

A lot may ask – but why? Is this not common sense? To which I ask – why do Starbucks cups warn of “CAUTION: AVOID POURING ON CROTCH AREA?” Surely, no one will grab a nice cup of orange mocha frappucino lightly heated and pour it on their crotch? Either way, these things must be made clear regardless of a relative interpretation of “common” knowledge.

Developers reading this post: be real and do not rely on the hype. Take a lesson from CD Projekt RED and developers Sony Computer Entertainment or even Microsoft (with the exception of Forza nerf). Learn from the hype, and do not partake in it or utter failure will result.

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
9:24 PM

WhatIfGaming: Best of 2013 – Game Of The Year Awards

WhatIfGaming Game Of The Year 2013 Awards

Another year and more titles passed us by along with the days of 2013. It was filled with sadness, happiness, and times to remember that have marked many more good days to come for many of us. For gamers worldwide, it was a year in which not many games were released, but a few notable titles were profoundly worthy of mention.

It is with pleasure that we provide the millions of anticipated readers what they have been waiting for since the dawn of 2013: the video game industry’s most exceptional and gratified WhatIfGaming 2013 Game Of The Year Awards ceremony, presenting its official Game Of The Year awards before anyone else with a collective decision from industry experts and WhatIfGaming editors worldwide through its defined rigorous selection process which focuses on industry and developer recognition. The moment you all have been waiting for is finally here. Unlike the previous year, we are not the first this year but we wanted to maintain the similar quality to last year in having the most comprehensive awards this year, as always. See the Worst Game Of The Year and laugh at its shortcoming or weep for it, ponder about the Best Idea, or play through a title again to experience Best Storyline that is unlike any other.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to our beloved millions of WhatIfGaming readers! See you all in 2014.

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Saturday, December 28th, 2013
4:10 PM