Black Desert Online Remastered has been out for almost a week and a lot of players are enjoying the remastered graphics by taking screenshots and appreciating the beauty of the cities. Below is the interview with the lead engine programmer and the main director for Black Desert Online Remastered on the stories regarding the remaster and the future direction that BDO Remaster will take.
Q. Would you briefly introduce yourself to us?
Hello. My name is Gwang-hyun Ko, and I am the lead engine programmer at the programming department of Pearl Abyss. I was also the main director for Black Desert Online Remastered.
Q. Black Desert Online was already famous for its high quality graphics. Why has Pearl Abyss decided to take it even further? Was there any special reason?
We always aim for the best quality. Black Desert Online has been out for a while now, and a lot of new content was added since the initial release. We prepared for the remastered version so the players can enjoy the new content with upgraded graphics.
Q. Graphical remastering isn’t an easy task. What was the most memorable challenge that you had to go through?
There were a lot of challenges. The most difficult thing was keeping the balance between the original version and the remastered version. Black Desert Online is a live game. There should not be a case where players cannot play the game due to performance issues after the remastered version has been applied.
So we had to add more resources while keeping the original resources intact. This was a hard job because if we make a slight mistake it can ruin the game. The resources used in the original version and in the remastered version are slightly different. Applying both resources to the game without causing crashes was a difficult task. Fixing some optimization errors was a tough job as well.
Q. How long did it take for the graphic remaster to be completed?
A little longer than a year. There wasn’t a specific date that the process began. It just happened naturally. When we discover a new technology, we think about how to apply the technology to Black Desert Online and do it as soon as possible. But the remastering could not be done in a month so we needed a preparation period. It actually took longer than I anticipated.
Q. As an engine programmer, what is the game with the best graphics or the game that inspires you the most?
There isn’t a specific game, but the game companies that use their own physical engines like EA and Rockstar are the ones that motivated me a lot. To be honest, Korea is behind NA/EU in terms of game development/graphics so we have to learn from them.
Q. After the graphical remaster, what place does Black Desert Online take in the game industry, in terms of graphics?
This could be a sensitive issue, but I think we are definitely one of the leading companies in Korea as not many game companies have their own engines.
As I mentioned before, Korea is behind NA/EU in game development. When we first launched Black Desert Online in NA/EU, we were way behind other games. But after years of development I think we might have some competitive power against some western games.
Q. What is the feature that you put the most effort into or you want the players to recognize the most in the remastered version?
All of our staff members in Pearl Abyss worked really hard for the remaster so I can’t pick one. I want you to focus on the harmony of different features, rather than on a single thing. I’d also love to hear feedback from everyone.
Q. Would you give us an example of the technological terms that were mentioned at the showcase, like Physical Based Rendering and Post Processing?
The goal of physical based rendering is to model the flow of light that happens in real life into computer-generated graphics. PBR allows for a more detailed display of the texture and glow of in-game objects, especially when it comes to the difference between metal objects and non-metal objects. It adds a greater sense of “reality” to the game. We also applied the Image Based Lighting technique to the game. For example, when an NPC is standing in front of a mirror, you can actually see the reflection of the NPC in the in-game mirror.
Post Processing involves techniques that enhance the overall graphical display. Out-focusing, motion blur, glare effects, ambient occlusion, reflection, etc. All of these graphical effects were improved in the graphical remaster. The graphics were based more on illustration and artwork, but now they are based more on real life presentation.
Q. The biggest change happened with metal armor. The reflection effect and the glow effect make metal armor more beautiful. What techniques were used to improved the texture of the costumes?
We focused on the modelling of the dispersion and the reflection of the light. For metal armor, surface reflection should be intensified and light dispersion should be weakened. This modelling creates a better texture for metal armor. For leather costumes, the reflection of light must be different depending on the angle you are looking at the costume.
Q. What are some elements that could be further improved after the remaster?
As we mentioned at the showcase, we have a list of things that should be improved further. First of all, we have to work on anti-aliasing more in order to solve the aliasing issue. We are currently experimenting with Temporal Anti-Aliasing and Dynamic Resolution to solve this issue.
Other issues that we noticed are eye fatigue and performance. Eye fatigue might occur due to many reasons. One of the reasons might be the sudden shift of darkness when entering or exiting a dark area. This was added to give a greater sense of reality to the game, but some players said that this causes eye fatigue. Other players said that the light dispersion and the overall intensity of illumination is too strong. We will have to fix these issues one by one.
Unfortunately, improving performance will take more time. Improving performance in high graphical settings will take even longer, so we are starting to improve the performance in lower graphical settings first.
Q. Any final statement for the fans who enjoy Black Desert Online?
Black Desert Online has been out for years now, and I want to thank you for your continued support. Thank you for playing the game, and thank you for all the feedback that you are giving for the remaster. The feedback helps us a lot. Reading positive feedback and improving the game really makes me happy.
We will continue to improve the game with your feedback, and I hope you are looking forward to seeing the new content that is currently in development. Thank you.