BioWare Edmonton has offered an in-depth look at the slew of visual improvements it has made in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
To start, the Canadian developer explains that the process of remastering one game is “deceivingly complex,” let alone three, as “changing almost any asset or system can (and will) break something else.”
Therefore, the team says it had to plan early on exactly how much of the original game would need enhancements. This meant counting the “many particle effects, 3D models, textures, levels, GUI (Graphical User Interface) elements, sounds, cinematic movies, etc.” that exist across the trilogy and how much work each one might require.
“The original trilogy was released entirely on a console cycle that allowed up to 1080p resolutions but was often actually running at 720p or lower,” notes BioWare. “Now, the remaster is releasing on hardware that allows 4K resolutions, so the answer for how many textures we wanted to improve was easy: every single one of them.”
BioWare says that for the entire trilogy, this is “well over thirty thousand individual textures.”
So what does this actually mean?
The blog post then gets into a fair bit of technical jargon related to the under-the-hood work, if you’re so interested. However, BioWare later unpacks how these changes ultimately reflect in the final product. You can see some of these in action in the following trailer:
For example, “hundreds of armors, creatures, characters, guns, and vehicles across the whole trilogy” have been given an increased sense of realism as well as miscellaneous visual fixes. Plastics, fabrics and metals also now react to light in a more convincing way, while skin, hair and eye shaders are also more detailed. In terms of characters who appear across all three games, such as Garrus, Liara or Captain Anderson, BioWare says it’s “maintained slight changes” throughout the trilogy as they aged, matured or underwent other changes.
With respect to particle effects, players will now be able to see smoother, more prolonged animations. This means that a fire might now have secondary smoke trails and sparks, while explosions send chunks of rubble flying and even the muzzle flash on your weapons now subtly illuminate Commander Shepard and their surroundings.
Cinematics have also been improved across the trilogy, says BioWare. This means that pre-rendered cutscenes were “completely re-rendered” in 4K when possible, while an AI upscale program was used in other cases. The developer says in both cases, it “tweaked the colour correction, added or composited additional details and visual effects, and even smoothed out some edges frame-by-frame so they didn’t feel dated when compared to actual gameplay.” What’s more, cinematic designers “fixed dozens, if not hundreds” of bugs that occurred across cutscenes and conversations.
For each level, environment artists also performed “targeted fixes on any asset or location that visually detracted from the overall experience.” In practice, this meant doing everything from adding props to barren areas, remaking “low-resolution or stretched textures” and smoothing out jagged 3D assets. Hundreds of bugs related to smaller issues like floating assets and larger game-breaking collision problems were also addressed.
Finally, the team made sure to maintain the trilogy’s “high-contrast spotlights and heavy use of complementary colours,” particularly in the first game, while adding “natural bounce lighting to ensure characters are lit more consistently and beautifully.” Shadows were upgraded as well, while post-process effects like anti-aliasing and bokeh depth of field were added or improved.
This is BioWare’s second deep dive into the improvements being offered in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, following last week’s breakdown of the slew of gameplay refinements.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on May 14th and includes the original Mass Effect trilogy plus (nearly) all of the three games’ add-on content. Notably, the collection “went gold” last week, which means it’s officially done and ready to release on time. This means that thankfully, it won’t be part of the ever-growing list of 2021 game delays.
Image credit: EA