Life moves pretty fast in a Call of Duty multiplayer match. One second you’re running toward a doorway, M4 in-hand ready for anything, the next you’re watching a replay of someone shooting you through a window from 200 yards away. You may however have noticed a subtle improvement in your ability to spot this sort of danger between the launch of the Modern Warfare 2 beta last month and the arrival of the full game. Sadly, it might not be completely down to your improvement as a player. You thought you played the beta to test the netcode and server performance, right? No, not quite. There was something else going on.
At a recent press event in Amsterdam, Michal Drobot, the studio head at Infinity Ward Poland, introduced a technology the studio has been slowly evolving over the past three years. It’s called ‘software-based variable rate shading’, and it’s quietly changing the way players perceive the environment – and nearby enemies – within the game.
“We developed the tech a few years ago and have been improving it through this generation of consoles,” explains Drobot. “It allows us to put extra resolution and extra performance [on screen], but only where we know it counts. We want to put extra quality where you are aiming, and we want to put extra quality of resolution where points of interest are on the map. If there is an enemy on screen, we make sure that enemy has the highest quality resolution so you’re never feeling like you’re being hindered by the game rendering at a lower res.”