Blizzard’s been tinkering away under World of Warcraft’s hood

World of Warcraft

While most residents of Azeroth are hungrily devouring information on all the cosmetic and design changes, along with the new Draenor region, being brought to World of Warcraft in the impending Warlords of Draenor expansion, Blizzard has not forgotten about the tinkerers. After all, there are two races dedicated to those with gear grinding and knob twiddling predilections. 

The developer has been doing a lot of work under the hood, and a new blog series – Engineer’s Workshop – begins today in an effort to break down the changes coming to World of Warcraft’s engine. First on the agenda is anti-aliasing. 

MSAA is out! Say goodbye. Blizzard’s ditched multisample anti-aliasing in favour of the newer CMAA, Conservative Morphological Anti-Aliasing – which sounds just like the sort of thing you’d find on the toolbelt of some alien visitor.

“This change is going to allow us to bring some overdue technological advancements to World of Warcraft over the course of the next few years.” says Blizzard. “We’re thinking long-term with this change.”

The reason they are able to drop MSAA is due to World of Warcraft moving away from being CPU-bound, which it has been for most of its existence. This freed up the GPU, allowing it to handle MSAA. But now that there’s more demand being put on the GPU, this wasn’t going to work any longer.

“We explored a number of options to reconcile this increased GPU demand with the game’s anti-aliasing needs, and ultimately decided to embrace CMAA as our anti-aliasing technology for Warlords of Draenor. As with anything that can potentially change the look of the game, we vetted removing MSAA through our engineering and art teams before coming to the conclusion to swap it for CMAA. CMAA provides solid anti-aliasing at a fraction of the cost in memory and performance. It also integrates well with technologies we have planned for the future, and helps us bring those to the game sooner.“

Other AA options will continue to exist, however, including FXAA and light-weight options for players still using DirectX 9.

With CMAA, performance cost has been reduced, and it’s allowed Blizzard to add more graphical bells and whistles like target outlining, a new shadowing technique and soft particles. And this is just the start, the developer explains. More features are planned for future expansions, and more graphical options are being explored for high performance graphics cards.

For most players, the change in AA won’t be noticeable, but for those that like to tinker and tweak it will have an impact.