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Digital Foundry has published a detailed analysis of the performance of Halo 5: Guardians. What makes this article even more interesting is the look behind the optimization cuts taken by 343 Industries to keep the game at steady 60 frames per second.
Here’s a small overview of the five things that engineering team did to optimize Halo 5: Guardians.
1) Dynamic Resolution
The game makes constant changes to the resolution. The players don’t change the picture change so much during the action sequences, but it helps to keep a steady frame rate. X and Y values in this game are adjusted independently. It’s an incredible solution, which was achieved by the engineering team.
Just like in all other games out there the level of detail is adjusted based on proximity. The closer you are the more detailed the scene is, the further away you move – the less details you see. Sometimes it can result in sudden popping of a more detailed asset in front of the player.
3) Light and Shadows
Shadows and lighting follow a similar pattern. Lighting in Halo 5 is pre calculated which allows for better rendering speed. And if you move away from an object – some shadows may just disappear.
Halo has different types of shadows of varying quality. There are pre calculated shadows mixed with dynamic shadows and it doesn’t always work the way you want it to. Sometime shadows just pop up from nowhere.
Smoke, fire, explosions and some of the other effects we enjoy in action games all require a lot of juice from GPU. So the effects used during gameplay are usually rendered at a lower resolution in Halo 5. It can make effects look a little bit pixelated, but users usually just don’t notice this during gameplay. Environmental effects work differently: they are just cut from view as we approach them. Sometimes it does look strange.
The most interesting thing for us personally is how Halo 5 managed to handle PBR. Certain materials do look great and realistic. But sometime PBR materials look polymer-like and frankly the studio uses low-resolution textures far too often for a game of this level.