Saturday, 28 August 2010

Tech Report: Vanquish - The Resolution Game

Recently, over the last couple of weeks various direct-feed screenshots have surfaced of Platinum Games’ Vanquish, with each batch seemingly being rendered in different resolutions to the last, and with varying amounts of anti-aliasing. Some of these screenshots came directly from the developers blog, looking like authentic framebuffer grabs off an actual 360 or PS3 console, whilst some appeared to be of almost bullshot-like quality without going the whole hog of supersampling.

The question is, what resolution is the game really running at, and which platform did the framebuffer grabs come from? IQGamer takes a brief look a few days ahead of the game’s demo release attempting to set the record straight.

Vanquish, the latest action game from the mind behind such hits like Resident Evil and Devil May Cry - the legendary Shinji Mikami - is being developed using a modified version of the same engine which powered Bayonetta for Xbox 360 and PS3, with the PS3 version sighted as the lead platform this time around.

Like with Bayonetta, Vanquish’s engine clearly has its eye on delivering lots of alpha heavy particle effects and transparencies on screen during combat, which usually causes problems for the bandwidth staved PS3, especially without further optimisations or multiple resolution render targets for different graphical effects. Although compared to Bayonetta Vanquish doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as alpha heavy on first impressions, and the quality of the game’s effects do in fact look to be slightly higher than in Platinum Games’ other title, even if there is still evidence of lower-res buffers in action.

However, we’re not here to talk about the entire engine from a tech perspective today, instead focusing on determining platform and final rendering resolution. Saying that, our observations with regards to particle resolution in the released screens could well be achieved with a slightly greater saving in memory due to reducing the overall framebuffer size down somewhat. And this is exactly what appears to be happening when looking at the more genuine screen grabs released by the developer.

The first screenshots released of Vanquish were clearly supersampled bullshots. Shown below is an image of the game supposedly rendered in 720p, but with insanely high amounts of AA and some impressive post-processing effects rarely seen in such high quality at game level. It’s pretty obvious that this isn’t what the final game is going to look like. Not unless a PC version is in the bag and running behind the scenes.

This next screenshot looks a lot more authentic, and is actually rendered in 720p (1280x720) without any additional supersampling or downscaling of the image. However it also looks incredibly clean, with very high levels of AA – at least 8x MSAA or more, meaning that additional AA could well have been applied to the final framebuffer image for promotional use whilst keeping the game’s natural rendering res intact. It’s also possible that this could be from a different build – the 360 game perhaps. Although the levels of AA here are clearly beyond the 4xMSAA capable on MS’s console.

The final screenshot is far more telling, and looks blatantly like you’d expect one taken directly from the HDMI output of either console. Here you’ll see that there is no anti-aliasing to be found of any kind – not even 2xMSAA or QAA, and that the image quality is noticeably below that of the above 720p shot supposedly from a real framebuffer grab.

Resolution-wise, the below screen is being rendered out at 1024x720 with no AA, meaning that it clearly would fit into the 360’s EDRAM without tiling, and also appears to be something we’d expect from a standard multiplatform PS3 port; a slight drop in horizontal res, and no AA giving the game away.

But which version is this screen from? And is it simply possible that Vanquish will have no AA and a lower horizontal resolution on both platforms?

Well, there are obviously no straight up, one-hundred percent answers at the moment seeing as we don’t know for sure which version the screens are from. What we do know though, is that they were taken directly from the video output of either current-gen console, and that the visual composition of the image makes it likely that we are indeed looking at the PS3 build.

Traditionally, when downgrading resolution for both consoles developers usually only cut back on the horizontal res on PS3, and a mixture of both on 360. This due to the fact that the PS3 has no built in hardware scaler, other than the broken horizontal scaler found inside its RSX GPU, whereas 360 has advanced scaling capabilities found in Xenos.

The other issue is the lack of AA, and this is down to memory bandwidth. If resolution is not the first thing to be cut, then use of anti-aliasing is. The 360, with its 10mb of EDRAM, easily has enough bandwidth to usually deliver at least 2xMSAA for 720p games (with occasional cuts in overall res where required) whereas the PS3 for the most part does not.

This means that it is more than likely that the screenshots released from the developer (the ones that are genuine) are from the PS3 version of the game. The fact that Platinum Games have stated all the way through Vanquish’s development that the PS3 version is the lead build, also backs this up. As does the game’s appearance at various showcase venues for the press, in which it was the PS3 build that was usually demonstrated.

Of course this is simply well informed guesswork on what version we think the screens are from. In order to find out solidly we will have to wait until the demo goes live on Wednesday, September 1st, after which we should have our initial hands-on impressions with the title up on the site, and hopefully a proper tech analysis a few days later.

Until then we can say that Vanquish does appear to render in 1024x720 with no AA on at least one, or both consoles, with the PS3 version strongly edging our bets on which version the screens are from.

1 comment:

  1. Good analysis, I just hope the differences between the two versions aren't as drastic as those seen in Bayonetta. Roll on Wednesday.
    Love the site btw.