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: Usman Ihtsham
ON Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
6:10 PM



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



Thief 4 Review: The Master Returns

Theif IV Review

After a decade, Garrett has returned in the shadowy robes of the night – as the Master Thief that he is in Thief 4. The gameplay in Thief 4 takes elements of the old, but retains few. The developers at Eidos Montreal wanted to advance into a new market console territory through fresh gameplay and exciting ambiance, but missed some key marks in both of these areas.

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Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Friday, February 28th, 2014
8:30 AM



Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Interview World Exclusive / Part 2 / In-Game Comparison Shots 360 VS PS4

We asked the team just a few more questions left unanswered and a ton of comparison shots right from the studio. After the jump, ye scurvy sailor!

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Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Friday, November 8th, 2013
5:20 PM



Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Interview – Next Generation VS Current Generation, Console Versions Detailed

We caught up with the Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag team in a world exclusive interview detailing the exact differences between current gen and next-gen. Many people have e-mailed us wanting to know exactly what they are, and we have delivered. Interview after the break! (Video Demo included)

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Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Thursday, November 7th, 2013
10:14 PM



Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review – The Pirate Adventure True To Legend Only For Next-Gen

The rustles rise beneath while the sea splash slowly rises, giving room to the protruding smell of fish and the wafts of seabreeze air against the half-open nostrils of Edward Kenway, the most ruthless assassin first and pirate second of the early 18th century. The gameplay covers many elements in the beautiful vistas of the jungles and desolate island shrubbery scattered across the world, with equally dangerous and fiery parts of the world with the smell of the burning mast of another pirate ship. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag lets you learn the Davy Jones locker combination of fun even if it fails to create something truly memorable in some areas.

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Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Saturday, October 26th, 2013
7:12 PM