One of the ugliest bits about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's launch has been the ongoing controversy about the “graphics downgrade” on PC. If you’re not familiar, Kirk Hamilton’s written a pretty excellent summary at Kotaku. Basically, in-game Witcher 3 doesn’t look quite up to snuff compared to a 2013 early gameplay trailer for The Witcher 3—and some argue it doesn’t even look as good as The Witcher 2 at times.
I mentioned as much in my impressions of the game on Monday. I still think the game is stunning, personally, and feel most of the controversy is overblown. The Witcher 3’s beauty isn’t really in screenshots, I think, but when for instance a storm sweeps in at sunset. It’s alive in a way most games haven’t yet accomplished.
But I also agree The Witcher 3 isn’t exactly the graphics card-punishing beast we all expected (unless you activate Nvidia's HairWorks option with an AMD Radeon graphics card, that is).
To that end, CD Projekt released a patch today that should clear up some of your woes. Maybe. Here’s the full list of changes, most of them related to graphics and performance:
- Improves stability in gameplay and the UI
- Improves performance especially in cutscenes and gameplay
- Fixes grass and foliage popping that could occur after density parameters were changed
- Improves Nvidia Hairworks performance
- Boosted texture anisotropy sampling to 16x on Ultra preset
- Sharpen Post-process settings extended from Off/On to Off/Low/High
- Blood particles will now properly appear after killing enemies on the water
- Corrects a bug where player was able to shoot bolts at friendly NPCs
- Improves menu handling
- Corrects an issue with Stamina regeneration while sprinting
- Fixes a cursor lock issue that sometimes occurred when scrolling the map
- Generally improves world map focus
- Improves input responsiveness when using keyboard
- Corrects some missing translations in the UI
- Corrects an issue in dialogue selections
- Rostan Muggs is back
- Minor SFX improvements
That “Improves grass and foliage popping” note is aimed directly at the enthusiast PC crowd. Earlier this week, people on Reddit discovered you could make the grass look slightly better by increasing the density from its stock setting of 2400 up to 8000 or even 12000. The only problem was that you’d then experience a lot more foliage flickering whenever you turned around. There’s also another patch incoming that will make .ini editing simpler.
This highlights another thing about the PC version of The Witcher 3: Regardless of whether you’re satisfied with how it looks now, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before someone mods it to look better. Time will tell.
CD Projekt spoke to Eurogamer about the ongoing controversy. “I cannot argue—if people see changes, we cannot argue,” said studio head Adam Badowski, “but there are complex technical reasons behind it.”
Those technical reasons? The rendering system changed so things would look better during the day and at night. Also, textures changed to accommodate texture streaming while Geralt is galloping. Smoke disappeared because on DX11 it ground computers to a halt.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have shown that [trailer], I don’t know, but we didn’t know that it wasn’t going to work, so it’s not a lie or a bad will—that’s why we didn’t comment actively,” said CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwinski. “We don’t agree there is a downgrade but it’s our opinion, and gamers’ feeling can be different. If they made their purchasing decision based on the 2013 materials, I’m deeply sorry for that, and we are discussing how we can make it up to them because that’s not fair.”
“It’s very important to stress: we are continuously working on the PC version,” he continued, “and we will be adding a lot of stuff, and there is more to come. We’ve proven it in the past that we support our games and we will be looking at the feedback and trying to make it better.”
Is it a perfect response? No, and I doubt it will satisfy everyone. CD Projekt is the latest in a long line of games to do this, including Watch Dogs. And it will keep happening, because marketing. All I can say is: Stop buying games based on trailers. Trailers are lies, designed to get you to spend money. Yes, even “gameplay” trailers. Trailers can be fun. They can be exciting. They can be entertaining. But they should make you interested in buying a game, not convinced you have to buy it.