Engineer's Workshop: Extended Draw Distance
Legion significantly expands your view distance, in part due to rendering things far off in the distance at a lower quality.



Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
It’s been a while since we’ve delved into some of the nuts and bolts of World of Warcraft, but today we wanted to talk about an exciting visual update we’re working on for Legion—extended draw distance.

For the new expansion, we’re making some under-the-hood changes that will make it possible players to see more of the world than before. This new perspective on World of Warcraft won’t be limited to the Broken Isles. Players who return to the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor will also be able to see distant terrain and buildings from farther away than previously possible.

You can see the dramatic difference for yourself between the old and new draw distance in the following screenshots.

This first image is taken from vantage point in Shadowmoon Valley looking toward Karabor from midway through the zone—first on the current Ultra setting and then on the new Graphics Level 8 setting.


In this screenshot, Karabor isn’t even visible as a silhouette on our highest graphics draw distance for Warlords of Draenor (Ultra). The equivalent setting in Legion will result in the next screenshot once this change goes into the game.


Now that we’ve shown you what to expect, let’s dig further into what’s going on behind the scenes.

There are two numbers that contribute to how far the player can see terrain and structures in World of Warcraft. These numbers are the “fog distance”—a depth from the camera at which point any object’s pixels are fully converted to the fog color—and an overall draw distance, after which we clip all object geometry, preventing anything past that point from drawing. On lower settings, you can see the second value as terrain and buildings seem to melt into existence, fully fogged, before slowly getting colored as you get closer to them.

In Warlords, the highest-end hardware that can reliably run the Ultra setting manages to push the fully fogged distance to about 1,300 “game units” (yards). After that point, all objects would be drawn filled in with the fog color until the clipping distance. The same setting in Legion will draw out to 2,600 game units. Those who currently play at High settings in Warlords and see out to 1,000 units will see 2,200 units in Legion. Graphics Level 10 is currently set at 3,500 game units, which you can see in that last screenshot. It’s important to note that due to memory considerations, all of these new draw distances are only available in the 64-bit client.

If you’re interested in the “how,” a bulk of the effort to achieve this went into changing the way we draw terrain and water in WoW to render fewer vertices at a distance. But it also necessitated the implementation of Level of Detail (LOD) for game models, like trees, and buildings as well. A model with LOD can swap to a lower polygon count model at a distance without negatively impacting the visual quality of the scene. We prototyped aspects of these systems in both Warlords of Draenor and Mists of Pandaria and learned enough from those two expansions to feel confident about making this change in Legion.

Another important change related to performance and quality will be the number of graphics options. We are retiring the concept of Low, Fair, Good, High, and Ultra in favor of a numerical scale. In Legion you’ll play the game on options 1 through 10, with 1 being the lowest we support and 10 being the highest. The old graphics settings land around 3 being comparable to the old Low and 7 being a match for the old High. This gives us even more room around the minimum spec and the recommended spec to either ease burdens on low end hardware or push titanic configurations.

Please note that as we progress through the beta, we may make additional changes to draw distances in order to deliver the best gameplay experience and performance. These changes are currently available to check out in the Legion beta test.
This article was originally published in forum thread: Engineer's Workshop: Extended Draw Distance started by chaud View original post
Comments 63 Comments
  1. Alfakennyone's Avatar
    Ah yes /10
  1. aeuhe4yxzhds's Avatar
    There is still fog well before the actual end of draw distance. Cant they get rid of it? It hurts my eyes not having a clear picture.
  1. Yvaelle's Avatar
    3 settings below "Low"....

    So what I'm hearing is WoW will now run on my TI-83?!
  1. Tolian's Avatar
    Ya, that's great and all, but when are they going to let me turn off friendly spell effects so melee isn't such a nightmare? There's so much crap going on because of everyone else's spells blowing up that it gets stupid some times. If not for DBM and GTFO I'd never even try running as a melee on a raid encounter.

    I thought I heard a rumor a few years back about this coming, but never saw it materialize.
  1. chaud's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Tolian View Post
    Ya, that's great and all, but when are they going to let me turn off friendly spell effects so melee isn't such a nightmare? There's so much crap going on because of everyone else's spells blowing up that it gets stupid some times. If not for DBM and GTFO I'd never even try running as a melee on a raid encounter.

    I thought I heard a rumor a few years back about this coming, but never saw it materialize.
    It auto tones down the spell effects in large groups, there are some hidden settings to tune it (maybe? I don't remember).
  1. Sleeparchive's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Tolian View Post
    Ya, that's great and all, but when are they going to let me turn off friendly spell effects so melee isn't such a nightmare? There's so much crap going on because of everyone else's spells blowing up that it gets stupid some times. If not for DBM and GTFO I'd never even try running as a melee on a raid encounter.

    I thought I heard a rumor a few years back about this coming, but never saw it materialize.
    You are going to have so much fun with the new demo lock.
  1. Awbee's Avatar
    Very cool!

    I'm very curious how this is gonna look in Uldum. That's probably the one zone of all that feels the most "massive", and where draw distance has always lead to some problems before, like those Skywall towers not being seen until pretty up close, and so on. Probably gonna look so much better now
  1. Radaney's Avatar
    I could see BRM from Duskwood...
  1. Tolian's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by chaud View Post
    It auto tones down the spell effects in large groups, there are some hidden settings to tune it (maybe? I don't remember).
    If it's doing it already then it definitely needs some more tweaking, heh. The level it's at now in anything greater than a 5 man is just way too much IMO.
  1. Rorcanna's Avatar
    Can't wait to fly up and take tons of screenshots in the Broken Isles at some later date!
    Also very happy I waited with updating my setup, gonna be a treat seeing the game with a 1070!
  1. Coote's Avatar
    It still doesn't compare to what we could do back in early WoTLK and before. There used to be cvars you could modify to both increase view distance, and remove the fog. I remember being able to see nearly all of Northrend from Dalaran at one point before they removed it.
  1. xact4's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Coote View Post
    It still doesn't compare to what we could do back in early WoTLK and before. There used to be cvars you could modify to both increase view distance, and remove the fog. I remember being able to see nearly all of Northrend from Dalaran at one point before they removed it.
    For a few minutes until you had to change the fueling rod in your compact nuclear reactor to continue powering your bank of supercomputers. Exaggeration ofc but you must have had some cutting edge hardware to do that however many years ago that was.
  1. thilicen's Avatar
    Happy for the increased draw distance, but the increased foggyness on close range areas is a setback tbh. Wish they would make it a lot clearer during normal weather.
  1. Agrias2x's Avatar
    Dunno, on most of those screenshots even if you can see farther, it at the same time makes everything closer a bit behind the mist which doesn't happen in older versions.
  1. MakeMeLaugh's Avatar
    Yea yea ok, but the ones posted by mmochamp(crystalsong forest, icecrown and the vale) feels like there's a mist nearby, so everything closer look worse. So what's the point? Lol.
  1. Mustardisbad's Avatar
    Heck yeah, I can't wait!
  1. Cows For Life's Avatar
    Isn't it a bigger issue that other players and objects don't load in until your avatar is literally on top of them?
  1. Butthurt Beluga's Avatar
    Yeah that's nice, I mean just adding in the interface what people have been doing with add-ons and with scripts for a while now.

    Why don't they do some real "under the hood" stuff like adding support for more than a single fuckin' core?
    2016 m8s, I understand WoW has to run on even the oldest of toasters but for those of whom who like to play at 4K res and even with an enthusiast level machine are only able to get 30 fps or less on certain boss fights it's a little infuriating.
  1. minkage's Avatar
    umm the newer pics look worse with the haze/fog very close now
  1. Lolsteak's Avatar
    Not sure I like the changes, The fog starts noticeably closer giving things a much duller feel even if you can see farther

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