Daily Reaction: Evaluating The Witcher 3’s Graphical Downgrade

May 21, 2015 Written by Chandler Wood

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The Witcher 3 has recently come under fire for seemingly being downgraded from what was originally shown in December of 2013. It’s a hot topic among gamers, and the dynamic Daily Reaction duo are tackling this graphics issue head on

Chandler: There’s an odd imputation with gamers and graphics, specifically regarding what is shown versus what we finally get, which is odd considering that the reason gamers are truly upset is not in the quality of the graphics overall, but in the perceived graphical downgrade. Amazing games with less than impressive graphics can be lauded, but the moment something doesn’t meet an expectation set by prior evidence, they would sooner have the world burn than let the developer “get away with such atrocities.”

Frankly, it’s a bit embarrassing. We’re gamers. We’re not developers. We’re not on that end of things. We’re not trying to make a massive and awesome tangle of ones and zeroes that somehow come out to be a game like The Witcher 3. There are millions of pieces of code working together in a game like that, and you and I don’t know the ins and outs of it all. I think that CD Projekt RED did an awesome job explaining why gamers are seeing a downgrade in the graphical fidelity since the early trailer (read it here), and yet I’ve seen people that are still calling it bullshit and accusing CDPR of “hiding something” and “making excuses.”

When a company shows off something, they want to do it in its best state. I don’t go to restaurants expecting to get the food looking like I saw it on the commercial or even what’s up on the menu. What I do expect, is that it’s going to taste delicious, and despite how it looks, I tend to enjoy the experience of eating the food I like. I don’t complain about the graphical downgrade in my burger and fries. I simply enjoy the medley of flavors that came together in such a way as to offer an experience unlike any other in my mouth. The advertisements can’t provide me that flavor, so they look really appetizing to give me the idea of what the food may taste like.

So when a developer shows off their game for the first time, or even many times after that, they are doing it in its best form, rendering it out at the highest quality, maxing out the engine, showing only a portion of the game so as not to conflict with thousands of other lines of code. They are giving us an idea of what the final experience will be like by making it look really appetizing, because we can’t actually play a reveal trailer, the same way that we can’t taste a food ad.

When somewhere like Digital Foundry runs their tests and gets the numbers to the masses, suddenly it becomes a massive issue if the game doesn’t quite meet certain graphical expectations. Does that swamp scene — and every other scene — in the trailer look absolutely incredible? Yes, yes it does. But is it ruining my experience because my game doesn’t look quite like that? Not at all, because I am actually playing the game now, and the experience  is altogether more than enough to make up for minor setbacks in graphical quality that may have had to be sacrificed to make every piece of the game actually work together in the final product.

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Dan: While I do agree with Chandler, I also do see the point that fans are making, well the ones not usually trying to eat their keyboard at least. The difference between the original reveal trailer, and the final product are significantly different, and we should not allow products to be inaccurately represented. But, given that the trailer was two years ago, and there have seen numerous new trailers and gameplay videos showing the evolution of the project, we really can’t pin too much blame on CD Projekt RED.

I think a great deal of these issues generally come from a mislabeling or misunderstanding of some teaser videos. If we look back at the infamous Killzone and Motorstorm reveal trailers, we can see the same problem, as those were target videos. Designed to show what is potentially possible on hardware, as well as what a developer has envisioned for a product. But, as development moves forward, a new footage and screenshots emerge that show how development is progressing and giving us a more accurate idea of what the final product will look like. If you go media dark after the first trailer, and then build up your expectations off of a single video, then you need to understand that what you will end up with can become something completely different. That is the nature of the industry.

The most interesting aspect of this is really just how much attention many gamers place on visuals alone, while at the same time we constantly hear about how graphics really don’t matter. If you look at The Witcher 3, you will see that it is already a beautiful game, not the most amazing looking game ever, but that is what you generally get with multiplatform releases. Optimization really is the driving force to push the most you can out of any product, but with multi platform development, that would be unrealistic.

PC players are probably going to be the ones who are going to care the most, as The Witcher series has always been about how much it has been able to put someone’s rig to task. But, with any project of this scale, it would incredibly risky to narrow your user base to a single platform, and expect to see a return, and completely destroy the possibility of doing a sequel.

Going back to the issue with a teaser not matching up to the final product, I do think we should keep an eye on the validity of what we see, but as with anything we, as an industry, need to think a bit more before flying off the handle because of a two year old video. Yes, the trailer looks better than the final product, yes, that would have been great to play, but, no, it really doesn’t hurt how fantastic The Witcher 3 is.  

Do graphics make a big difference to you? Are you conscious of graphical differences between reveal trailers and a final product? Let us know in the comments below, downgrade your emails at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net or simply enjoy the full experience with us on Twitter @Foolsjoker and @Finchstrife

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