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Combat readability analysis - graphics

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A big shortcoming of the game so far is that combat is too difficult to read. This is caused by 2 main factors - the UI feedback (which Sensuki has discussed in depth) and the actual visuals themselves. Even when ignoring the bug causing characters to overlap each other, it's evident that the "readability of characters and enemies in battle is poor.

 

Here is a screenshot which captures some of the issues:

 

blob.png

 

In it, the characters are correctly spaced and the overlap bug is not in effect. There is a spell effect going off, and the battle is partly obscured by an arch. While these situations are quite common in combat and contribute to readability issues, there are other factors such as:

 

  • Low contrast on character models. Also the colour saturation seems lower than the background. Results in characters looking spectre-like and weightless.
  • Not enough edge definition on character models. It's hard to see where one character ends and another begins. This is exacerbated by polygon overlap, but that can't be helped. Sprite sorting didn't have this issue.
  • Poor selection circle visibility
  • High contrast and detailing on background. Especially the tall grass blades. This combined with the low contrast and subtlely defined character models is catastrophic.
  • Stamina and action indicators above characters introduce further clutter. Perhaps, these should be turned off by default or tweaked? The stamina indicators being individual dots instead of one bar also appears to introduce unnecessary visual noise.

 

Now contrast this with a similar combat scenario in Baldur's Gate:

 

2404598-0003-1.png

 

While the background is darker, thereby lending selection circles better visibility, there is:

 

  • Higher definition of character silhouettes in relation to background definition.
  • Higher contrast within light and dark on character models, giving them weight and form.
  • Much better selection circle visibility
  • A higher angle top down view reduces occlusion
  • darker, more defined shadows gives characters further visibility.

Please contribute to this thread with visual examples of combat clutter and we can try to discuss what specifically it is that Obsidian needs to do to improve combat readability from a graphical perspective.

Edited by Justinian
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Maybe it's just me, but I think there is a better character contrast in the image below. Could this "problem" be something specific of the Beta?

 

http://news.softpedia.com/images/news2/Pillars-of-Eternity-Is-Just-the-Start-for-the-New-Obsidian-Universe-Says-Josh-Sawyer-424842-2.jpg?1391763369

Edited by InsaneCommander
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sign.jpg

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Maybe it's just me, but I think there is a better character contrast in the image below. Could this "problem" be something specific of the Beta?

 

http://news.softpedia.com/images/news2/Pillars-of-Eternity-Is-Just-the-Start-for-the-New-Obsidian-Universe-Says-Josh-Sawyer-424842-2.jpg?1391763369

 

I recall Josh called out that screenshot specifically in one of his pressos about having the "Scooby-doo" effect where the 3D models didn't match the 2D background enough. I think they went too far in trying to blend everything, and have actually brought out detail better in the background than in the models themselves. Time to start tweaking in the opposite direction I think.

 

I do find the character readability is better indoors in the beta also, but there is still much room for improvement. I think the biggest contributor to that is the play of dynamic lights on chracters bringing out the models better with light and shade, and also the indoor floors being generally patterned and consistent.

Edited by Justinian
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Maybe it's just me, but I think there is a better character contrast in the image below. Could this "problem" be something specific of the Beta?

 

http://news.softpedia.com/images/news2/Pillars-of-Eternity-Is-Just-the-Start-for-the-New-Obsidian-Universe-Says-Josh-Sawyer-424842-2.jpg?1391763369

 

I recall Josh called out that screenshot specifically in one of his pressos about having the "Scooby-doo" effect where the 3D models didn't match the 2D background enough. I think they went too far in trying to blend everything, and have actually brought out detail better in the background than in the models themselves. Time to start tweaking in the opposite direction I think.

 

I agree.


sign.jpg

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Maybe it's just me, but I think there is a better character contrast in the image below. Could this "problem" be something specific of the Beta?

 

http://news.softpedia.com/images/news2/Pillars-of-Eternity-Is-Just-the-Start-for-the-New-Obsidian-Universe-Says-Josh-Sawyer-424842-2.jpg?1391763369

 

 

At the moment I'd prefer it to be like in that screenshot compared to what it's now like in the game.

Some parts of the characters are almost not distinguishable from the background.

 

My wolf animal companion is sometimes not to tell apart from the background.

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Maybe it's just me, but I think there is a better character contrast in the image below. Could this "problem" be something specific of the Beta?

 

http://news.softpedia.com/images/news2/Pillars-of-Eternity-Is-Just-the-Start-for-the-New-Obsidian-Universe-Says-Josh-Sawyer-424842-2.jpg?1391763369

 

I recall Josh called out that screenshot specifically in one of his pressos about having the "Scooby-doo" effect where the 3D models didn't match the 2D background enough. I think they went too far in trying to blend everything, and have actually brought out detail better in the background than in the models themselves. Time to start tweaking in the opposite direction I think.

 

I do find the character readability is better indoors in the beta also, but there is still much room for improvement. I think the biggest contributor to that is the play of dynamic lights on chracters bringing out the models better with light and shade, and also the indoor floors being generally patterned and consistent.

 

 

I dont think they stand out to much in that screen shot, it imo looks rather neat.

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  • High contrast and detailing on background.

The backgrounds in PoE are actually low contrast. Only the big grass looks somewhat contrasty because it has some shadowing. Right now everything is low contrast which leads to the general faded, undefined look of the game. And yes, this problem is much more pronounced outdoors and during daytime.

 

The biggest reason there is good definition in the screen from InsaneCommander is because the background, especially, has rich contrast. That screen is also a low light, indoor situation which currently PoE seems to handle far better than outdoor, daytime environments.

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The IE games generally had less bright and sunlight effected outdoor backgrounds.

 

There are currently some issues with character occlusion (I can't see the highlighting solution working anywhere) and sorting, I believe.

 

They're also using an ambient system that blends characters into the background:

 

pe-ambient-on.jpg

Edited by Sensuki

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The IE games generally had less bright and sunlight effected outdoor backgrounds.

 

There are currently some issues with character occlusion (I can't see the highlighting solution working anywhere) and sorting, I believe.

 

They're also using an ambient system that blends characters into the background:

 

pe-ambient-on.jpg

 

I think the blending is fine since that is more colour grading the characters. I think the main issue is that characters are just by default less defined than the background in many areas. Indoors and nighttime seems a bit better, but outdoors in sunlight is generally poor - it's almost as if natural shading and detail is reduced through desaturation and lower contrast, when bright sunlight should have the opposite effect. It looks like global illumination on characters needs to be tweaked.

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Make characters models affected more (or less) by it?

The lower outdoor angle doesn't help.

One other game that used 2D backgrounds and 3D characters is Temple of Elemental Evil
 

2+%25281%2529.jpg

 

312377-the-temple-of-elemental-evil-a-cl

 

and it doesn't seem to be remotely an issue in that game.

Edited by Sensuki
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Make characters models affected more (or less) by it?

 

The lower outdoor angle doesn't help.

 

One other game that used 2D backgrounds and 3D characters is Temple of Elemental Evil

 

2+%25281%2529.jpg

 

312377-the-temple-of-elemental-evil-a-cl

 

and it doesn't seem to be remotely an issue in that game.

 

Great example. The thing that jumps out for me is the depth of the shadows on characters and the ground. Way too subtle in PoE beta.

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This is a great example of faded character models with almost no shading/saturation on a background with high contrast/saturation.

 

There is no weight to the characters and you can barely see them.

 

fadedcharacters.png

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Another example...

 

Ignoring the AWFUL clustering, you can barely many of the characters are on the grass. And yes, I agree--I don't understand the design rationale of the dots. Yet, there is no equivalent, vertical action bar by the portrait.

 

pm9LLhs.jpg

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Those combat tooltips aren't helping are they. I have them disabled, but they should really only appear when you mouse over the character.

Edited by Sensuki
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I think the character models are the biggest problem. In the sense that this is the hardest to fix. Most of the other things like selection circles, targeting feedback and pathfinding is relatively easy to fix.

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This is a great example of faded character models with almost no shading/saturation on a background with high contrast/saturation.

 

There is no weight to the characters and you can barely see them.

 

fadedcharacters.png

 

I agree on what is generally said about the visual problems with PoE, so I decided to take this image and adjust one character to meet the requirements for visibility as well as substance.

I only used methods that could be easily implemented in the engine and won't need a lot of work.

 

This is the original character:

3NQH9eU.png

 

Rather flat and hardly visible. Add to that some contrast and brightness increase:

 

vqXMZYe.png

 

Already providing more substance. Now add a backdrop, which is basically just a blurred silhouette of the character:

 

16oMxHn.png

 

Coming along nicely. And for good measure, add a base shadow to the floor, separating the character a bit more from the floor:

 

j4D4KPe.png

 

And for better comparison, a gif switching between the original and the improved visuals:

 

AOVdu7o.gif

 

 

And finally, to add context, the entire image with the updated character:

 

3EpKlET.gif

 

Maybe I'll find the time to do this for all chars in the image to see how it'll look. Let me know what you think.

 

P.S.: This was just a quick shot at it so the floor shadow is a bit dark. Forgot to dial it back... 

Edited by war:head
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This is a great example of faded character models with almost no shading/saturation on a background with high contrast/saturation.

 

There is no weight to the characters and you can barely see them.

 

fadedcharacters.png

 

I agree on what is generally said about the visual problems with PoE, so I decided to take this image and adjust one character to meet the requirements for visibility as well as substance.

I only used methods that could be easily implemented in the engine and won't need a lot of work.

 

This is the original character:

3NQH9eU.png

 

Rather flat and hardly visible. Add to that some contrast and brightness increase:

 

vqXMZYe.png

 

Already providing more substance. Now add a backdrop, which is basically just a blurred silhouette of the character:

 

16oMxHn.png

 

Coming along nicely. And for good measure, add a base shadow to the floor, separating the character a bit more from the floor:

 

j4D4KPe.png

 

And for better comparison, a gif switching between the original and the improved visuals:

 

AOVdu7o.gif

 

 

And finally, to add context, the entire image with the updated character:

 

3EpKlET.gif

 

Maybe I'll find the time to do this for all chars in the image to see how it'll look. Let me know what you think.

 

P.S.: This was just a quick shot at it so the floor shadow is a bit dark. Forgot to dial it back... 

 

 

Excellent post, great work.

 

I honestly don't understand the rationale with the toons being nearly transparent.

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Maybe I'll find the time to do this for all chars in the image to see how it'll look. Let me know what you think.

 

P.S.: This was just a quick shot at it so the floor shadow is a bit dark. Forgot to dial it back... 

 

 

Nice work. Darker floor shadowing would help ground the models more, though the ambient occlusion effect following the character around may be a bit distracting. I think that more substantial shading of the character model itself would make the biggest difference -  give the characters weight!

Edited by Justinian
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It could also be an issue with the directional lights / sunlight in the area. In the ToEE screen characters are darker on one side.

Edited by Sensuki

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Excellent topic and posts.

 

For me, the first step would try to fix the character models, making them more visible. It's possible that this may lead to a "scooby doo" effect but it's more preferable to have that and be able to see what is going on in my opinion. I think there is definitely room for tweaking this in any case.

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I decided to do the full set after all to make it easier to gauge the overall impact on the scene. Again, all these changes are possible with minimal effort in the engine. All it needs is a simple post processing that's probably aready running and just needs to be somewhat extended.

 

Original scene:

C2sQGUg.png

 

Improved scene:

MPurRPz.png

 

And once again the gif:

NTa3wH2.gif

 

 

 


Maybe I'll find the time to do this for all chars in the image to see how it'll look. Let me know what you think.

 

P.S.: This was just a quick shot at it so the floor shadow is a bit dark. Forgot to dial it back... 

 

 

Nice work. Darker floor shadowing would help ground the models more, though the ambient occlusion effect following the character around may be a bit distracting.

 

Might indeed be the case, hard to tell from a still image, though. I uploaded an example without the backdrop as well to see how it works (last image post about this, I promise :p)

 

jxEmjXM.png

Edited by war:head
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Improved scene:

MPurRPz.png

 

 

 

 

Awesome work! The characters definately "pop" more off the background but they still lacking heft. Can you perhaps increase the saturation and contrast even more on the models themselves?

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Improved scene:

MPurRPz.png

 

 

 

 

Awesome work! The characters definately "pop" more off the background but they still lacking heft. Can you perhaps increase the saturation and contrast even more on the models themselves?

 

 

I think its the right direction but its actually to much, on this screenshot it looks like the characters stand on a flat picture. It doesnt feel like they are part of the scene.

Edited by Mayama
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I think this is a good improvement, but I'm unsure about the backdrop.

Maybe it clashes with the lighting?

 

Nevertheless, great work and insights. It's good to see that the game can be easily enhanced.

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