For Your Eyes Only

Simulation of human sight in video games is a tricky business. Usually it’s done with replicating features of human perception, which can be found also in a camera: motion blur, depth of field, exposure control and so on. One particular effect that is very popular at the moment, is the so-called HDR (High Dynamic Range) –effect, or “bloom” to which it is often erroneously confused. If you have played Battlefield: Bad Company 2, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In BC 2 the effect is so hideous and extreme, that I had to uninstall the game partly because of it. Furthermore, there are two other games in which the effect is almost equally unbearable but, however, don’t render the whole game unplayable: Techland’s Call of Juares 2 – Bound In Blood and Codemasters’ Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. These screenshots below don’t really do “justice” for the effect, since it’s even more irritating in motion.

The effect should simulate human eye’s finite capacity to handle different volumes of light. The eye has this thing known as iris which regulates the amount of light hitting the retina in order to avoid over or under exposure. The eye is constantly adapting in new lighting conditions with little delay and this is what HDR –effect has come to simulate for.

However, it seems, that HDR –effect and post-processing effects by and large have become masking devices for graphics’ deficiencies and shortcomings, which is really sad. I can imagine how easy and tempting it is just to crank up the post-processing effects, when your game’s visual landscape doesn’t deliver otherwise. But when the effect is done right, it really is a valuable addition to the experience. In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare the effect is so subtle you barely notice it, but when you do, it works every time. Respectively Crysis does the HDR –effect exactly right, and the way Crysis handles all other post-processing effects should be ordered as mandatory to every developer making video games.

Final verdict is: do it, but don’t overdo it.