The Day The World Turned Greyscale : GW2, ArcheAge
Windows 8 has changed my worlds. The difference is like day and night. Literally.
Credit doesn't go to Microsoft. Quite the reverse. From the day I got my PC set up, some four or five years ago, I was very happy with how things looked running under Windows 7. Everthing worked first time out of the box and I didn't really change all that much. When I upgraded a lot of stuff, including the graphics card, a couple of years back, again I just went with whatever the installation required and left it at that.
Windows 8 put a stop to such complacency. As I mentioned yesterday I was deeply dissatisfied with what Win8's drivers did to the look and feel of... well, everything. That led me back to AMD's Catalyst drivers, which I always used to use before I got lazy but which I hadn't bothered with for the lifetime of the current machine.
After a good long tussle with Win8 I got Catalyst up and running and used the Control Center to get things looking pretty again. So far, so expected. Problem solved, back to the fray, status quo ante. We covered all that already. Only there's more...
I played two MMOs last night: GW2 and ArcheAge. The change was unmistakeable. In my time in Tyria I've become used to traveling through a soft-focus, watercolor world. My tentative explorations of the Western Continent, Nuia, revealed a similarly impressionistic approach. Overnight, it seems, the expressionists have taken over.
Edges seem sharper, shadows seem darker. Where there were snowfields I now see patches of fissured ice. Cliffs that reared up soft and chalky now brood in chiaroscuro grandeur. Everywhere details stand out. There's a lot more stitching and etching than I remember, that's for sure.
All that's not totally unexpected. These are the kind of things you can sometimes get when you change the settings. Also you do look more closely when you've changed things. What I didn't expect is a complete revision of aspects of what you might call the graphical gameplay.
Back in beta, when you died in Tyria, the world turned monochrome. It was a feature familiar from other MMOs, notably World of Warcraft, which is why, I imagine, it got changed. For the whole two years that the game's been Live the world has looked as bright and cheerful when my characters are lying face down in a pool of their own blood as when they're up and about gamboling among the flowers.
I was defending the Honor of the Yak last night and even though the Yak is rampant right now I still found plenty of opportunities to get myself killed. At first thought I was imagining it but soon it became impossible to deny: when my characters die the world fades out. Hints of color remain, albeit with the brightness leached out, but mostly it's shades of grey.
I thought maybe it was a WvW change, perhaps related to the recently-added five-minute release timer but no - I asked Mrs Bhagpuss and her characters still look out at a world full of color when they die (which happens to hers a lot less often than it happens to mine but still often enough to prove the point).
I could swear I remember the actual patch notes from beta when that feature was removed. Am I making that up? Has everyone else been seeing grey all along? Or is it some kind of fresh graphical bug I've dodged until now by not updating my drivers?
I was still mulling things over when I moved across to ArcheAge. It would be nice to say that light suddenly dawned but in fact it was exactly the opposite. In the course of knocking off a couple of levels, picking up my first Glider and having an all-round fun time I noticed something unusual: about half of my adventures were happening in the dark!
I almost mentioned in an earlier post on ArcheAge that the game appears to have no discernible night-day cycle. In the time I spent in Open beta and the post-launch sessions getting to level fourteen or so I barely noticed the sky dim let alone saw night fall. The little moon crossing the indicator in the top right of the screen tells me it's night-time but other than that it might as well be noon.
That's all changed now. It doesn't quite get too dark to see but it's not far off. No wonder we need all those lamps along the side of the road. Maybe I'll start doing my public duty and light a few of them.
Is it the changes I've made or is there another explanation? Perhaps night only falls once you leave the tutorial region. Perhaps it got patched in and I missed the notes. Or perhaps our shared experiences rely even more than I realized on the precise configurations of the hardware and software lenses through which we view them. If so then the degree of variation goes a lot further than I ever imagined.
It's one thing to know that other players may be seeing a brighter, more detailed, more beautiful world than you; it's quite another when the difference in what you each experience is literally night versus day, color versus black and white.
The moral of this story is always keep your drivers up to date - unless you prefer how things look when they aren't.