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Pre-baked environmental shadows for the 'Low' shadow setting, please!


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The Old Republic currently has three levels of shadow detail.


Off - Nothing casts any sort of shadow. No impact on video cards.

Low - All PCs and NPCs have little circular blob shadows beneath them. Infinitesimally small impact on video cards.

High - Absolutely everything casts a dynamic shadow. Very taxing on video cards.


The performance impact going from Low to High is incredible. Shouldn't there be some settings in between? Most other MMORPGs with dynamic shadows have three (or more) settings that gradually expand the radius around your character where the shadows can be seen, as well as increase the quality of the shadows. This in addition to the ' dynamic shadows off ' setting that only renders blob shadows. But that's another matter entirely.


A very large amount of players can't use 'High' shadows. However, at 'Low', there are no world shadows. The galaxy looks flat, lifeless, and without depth.


So is there a solution? How can the 'Low' setting provide shadows if dynamic shadows are too taxing?


Simple. Pre-bake the shadows.


Pre-baked shadows are basically shadows that are drawn on the ground instead of rendered dynamically. Say there is a patch of land that contains a grassy bit of land and a tree. Currently, on 'Low' shadow detail, the tree casts no shadow. On 'High', it casts a dynamic shadow that can fall upon PCs and NPCs that walk beneath it. With pre-baked shadows, on 'Low' shadow detail there would still be a shadow but it would not fall upon characters who pass through it, because it is essentially a static painting of a shadow on the ground.


There is no time cycle in The Old Republic, and most light sources are stationary - the sun doesn't move and street lamps and other urban lighting don't move either - shadows could easily be pre-baked onto surfaces with little performance loss.


Most games have the pre-baked shadows on a different 'layer' from the actual surface textures they appear on, so the stationary 'fake' shadows would disappear at the 'High' shadow detail setting so players whose computers can handle dynamic shadows wouldn't have two different types of shadows clashing with each other.


Without any shadows, even pre-baked ones that are just painted onto surfaces, the world looks flat and lacks depth.


Yes, it is unrealistic to cross underneath the shadow of a tree and not have the shadow darken your character model, but it is a hundred times less realistic to inhabit a galaxy where shadows do not exist at all.


Please, Bioware, if you are not going to optimize the 'High' shadow setting or add more shadow settings to bridge the gap between No Shadows and Everything as far as the eye can see casts a dynamic shadow - at least consider using pre-baked shadows to give the world detail and depth. Thanks!


Addendum: If you want examples of pre-baked shadows in other MMOs, I can provide them. Here's one to start with.


Pre-baked shadow textures: http://img51.imageshack.us/img51/6571/wowscrnshot051212195304.jpg

Dynamically rendered shadows: http://img542.imageshack.us/img542/3459/wowscrnshot051212195318.jpg


Note that pre-baked shadows will look even less out of place in TOR, as there is no day/night cycle so the sun is always in the same place in the sky.

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