One of the big updates from this week’s IL-2 developer diary are the new effects that the series is adding or revising and I wanted to devote a whole post on these and other effects that may be coming in the future.
Coming to an IL-2 near you very soon
We’ll likely see these updated effects coming in the next IL-2 patch and they affect a variety of small effects but have fairly large impacts on the visuals. Although things like tracer smoke trails, fuel leaks, fires, and the like are all “small” on the effects spectrum, they also make up some of the most commonly seen effects and so we’re seeing a variety of changes across the board.
One of the first changes are to the wingtrip trails. Although the visual in the screenshot appears to be fairly similar, the trails do appear to be a little more visible, have a little more detail and length, and we may see them act much more fluidly in motion.
Another new effect change is the fire effects. Visually the fire appears to be much more impressive and potentially larger in scale than before. Again, what we can’t see beyond the visual changes and the details are the effects in motion and I think here again we’re likely to see the biggest impact on visual quality.
Fuel leaks are looking pretty good too. They seem to have more definition and less of a “bitmapped” quality about it.
Another change are the tracer smoke trails which again appear to have more detail to them and have more of the swirling motion that we’ve seen in so many videos. This one I really can’t wait to see in action.
This is a cool one too and one that I’d been hoping to see added in for a very long time. Puffs of smoke coming from machine guns on this P-40 really show off the new smoke effect from the guns. I’m not sure if we’ll see this effect all the time or only some of the time but it definitely looks good.
There are also more subtle changes to other fire and smoke effects as well which seems to indicate that nearly all effects in IL-2 have had a pass by the team to improve quality or add details where possible.
What we don’t know is how much of this is driven by artistic updates and how much of it is just now something that is possible thanks to the improved DX11 and 64bit capabilities that the Digital Warfare engine has gained.
For these and more screenshots and details, check out the update from 1CGS right here.
Future effects changes?
1CGS has been working hard on a variety of effect changes over the last year to two years. Winter maps now have improved lighting and shadows (and everything has a bit of a blueish tint to it now). Shadows and lighting in general are much better and influence objects far more now which really helps add to the visual impressiveness of the whole title.
Then there was the effort around visually improving the draw distance which resulted in the ability to render out nearly 4 times as far as previously possible. The visual updates on IL-2 over the years have really contributed to making it one of the best looking sims on the market.
What else can the team do? Well there are lots of other changes that can continue to improve the overall look. Small effects changes like what we’ve seen so far can help improve the quality of the artwork with visual changes that may not necessarily require more graphics horsepower – they are just artistically better representations than before.
A dose of speculation just for fun
There are also more major changes that the team may be considering. These next two are highly speculative on my part and we have zero confirmation of anything from the team.
One of the singular most impressive changes that DCS World and War Thunder made to their engines was the addition of PBR or physics based rendering. PBR essentially creates a list of materials and applies visual effects based on real world physical characteristics so that objects like aluminum, wood, fabric, steel and other materials have their characteristic properties.
Vehicles have much more realistic lighting applied to them when PBR is used and the in-cockpit effects can be truly impressive.
The other is something I talked about recently and that is ray tracing. Currently no simulators use it but I expect that we may see ray tracing rendering come before too long to at least one of the flight simulators out there. I won’t talk much more about ray tracing than I already have but needless to say it could make for some of the most realistic and impressive looking light and shadow effects you’ve ever seen.
Both of these features may take a while to appear. While PBR is likely in the shorter term, ray tracing may be an effect that waits in the wings for several more years while more players gain access to graphics hardware designed to accelerate that kind of rendering process more quickly and for a cheaper price. Then we’ll see a fairly big change in visual fidelity and that definitely helps with the “making you feel like you’re there” effect that most flight sim teams are after.