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What is Ambient Occlusion in gaming?

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Have you ever thought about how can modern games like PUBG and NFS display so much depth and contrast? This is because of ambient occlusion, a technology that makes the use of cutting-edge advanced techniques and amazing artistic concepts to deliver stunning realistic graphics. But what is ambient occlusion, and what does it do? Read on to find it out.

Modern video games are creative masterpieces that make use of modern techniques to blend some amazing artistic graphics in the game. But as we all know, it is not easy to implement such amazing features. To keep in sync with today’s continuously evolving technology, new methods for implementing sophisticated graphics are very necessary. Here comes ambient occlusion, also known as AO. It was first used in the video game Crysis, which came out in 2007.

Ambient occlusion is a rendering technique which helps to create a sense of depth by using ambient lighting and shadows. In other words, ambient occlusion simulates a realistic 3D environment in the game by providing different amounts of light to various objects in the game world. The result is a stunning realistic view that helps in narrowing the gap between reality and fantasy.

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How Does Ambient Occlusion Work?

Ambient occlusion renders the 3D lighting in real-time, which is done by analysing the depth of a 3D scene with the help of the pixel shader algorithm.

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In this algorithm, a unique texture, called the ambient occlusion pass, is used to compare the objects which are within a scene and a specific value is assigned to each one of them according to their colour, height, width and 3D depth.

When the assigned value is lower, the occlusion or lack of ambient light is higher. When we see the same in the game, it illusions a realistic 3D effect by showing exceptional detail and immersion in the objects.

In addition to this, ambient occlusion does not give much strain on the graphics card and processor and offers impressive results which makes it a potent tool for the developers who are looking to make their games realistic.

The most common types of Ambient occlusion are:

  • Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO)
  • Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion (HBAO)
  • Voxel Accelerated Ambient Occlusion (VXAO)

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Does Ambient Occlusion Make a Big Difference?

Absolutely. If you love to play high-end games on the highest graphics settings, ambient occlusion makes all the difference. The SSAO is being used by the developers for over a decade now, and its quality only continues to improve year by year.

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Also, VXAO is making way for future generations of ambient occlusion in high-end games, and we can expect even more enhanced graphics with incredible depth and detail in the near future.

Almost all the modern graphics cards are capable of generating on-the-fly shadows quickly. Companies like Nvidia and AMD are continuously releasing more powerful versions of ambient occlusion which is fantastic from a gamer’s perspective as the best way to enjoy the tech is by using a dedicated graphics card and customised PC build.

So, from next time, be sure to switch on ambient occlusion in your graphics settings and notice the difference yourself.

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Himanshu Nimje

Himanshu Nimje