Next-Gen TXAA Anti-Aliasing Makes Its Debut In Latest Update For The Secret World
For years, Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) has been the de facto technique for removing jagged edges in games, but with the advancement of other features, such as deferred rendering, MSAA’s performance cost has increased. Furthermore, given its limited sample size, MSAA is incapable of tackling temporal aliasing, observed as shimmering on fine geometry and transparent textures, such as fences and corrugated doors when the camera is motion.
Recently, an alternate form of anti-aliasing called FXAA has become popular. A post-process anti-aliasing technique with minimal performance impact, FXAA is supported in many games, such as Batman: Arkham City and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and also can be applied to any game via the NVIDIA Control Panel. Detecting edges in a scene and smoothing them out via a post-process pixel shader, this technique has a performance impact, typically in the range of 3-5%, compared to MSAA’s 40% or more. Unfortunately, FXAA also suffers from temporal aliasing, and may not anti-alias all edges in a scene.
TXAA To The Rescue
With the launch of the latest Secret World update, gamers can now leverage TXAA, a new anti-aliasing technique introduced with the latest "Kepler" generation of GPUs. Designed specifically to reduce temporal aliasing (crawling and flickering in motion), TXAA is a combination of hardware anti-aliasing, a custom anti-aliasing resolve, and a temporal filter. To filter pixels, TXAA uses a contribution of samples both inside and outside of the pixel in conjunction with samples from prior frames, to offer the highest quality filtering possible. In motion, TXAA approaches the quality of other high end, professional anti-aliasing algorithms, though the higher quality filtering used by TXAA does result in a softer image compared to the lower quality filtering of traditional MSAA.
Using hardware MSAA in conjunction with the aforementioned temporal filter, TXAA provides a substantially higher level of fidelity, especially so in motion, for little extra in the way of performance compared to MSAA. In contrast to methods like FXAA, which attempt to maximize fidelity for a minimal performance cost, TXAA is an ultra-high-end option for gamers with the latest videos cards looking for the highest image quality to make games such as The Secret World look their absolute best.
As TXAA is best shown in motion, we’ve created a HD comparison video to exemplify its benefits (click the arrows to view fullscreen):
As you can see, TXAA’s use results in an anti-aliased, slightly softer image, free of unsightly temporal aliasing.
To make use of TXAA Anti-Aliasing via the in-game Video Options ‘Anti-alias quality’ dropdown, Secret World players must use the GeForce 304.79 beta drivers, or newer, and must have a Kepler-based, GeForce GTX 600 Series graphics card in their system. Were MSAA available in The Secret World direct comparisons could be made, but in general 2xTXAA offers visual quality on par with 8xMSAA, with performance similar to that of 2xMSAA, and 4xTXAA offers image quality superior to 8xMSAA, with performance comparable to that of 4xMSAA.
To give you an indication of what this means in real-world terms, here’s a look at in-game performance across the GeForce GTX 600 Series range when using FXAA HQ, 2xTXAA, and 4xTXAA.
Being a massively multiplayer game it is impossible to provide an exact snapshot of performance in The Secret World given the multitude of areas, varying amounts of players, and radically different geometry, but we feel that the above numbers should represent performance in typical gameplay scenarios.
Going by our results, TXAA performs well on any GeForce GTX 600 series Kepler GPU in conjunction with max game settings at 1920x1080, but please remember that your results will vary with your system configuration.
Technically, The Secret World is indeed the best-looking MMO ever, and performs well given the features it employs. Tessellation, Screen Space Ambient Occlusion, and Motion Blur all add to the spectacle, while TXAA anti-aliasing virtually eliminates edge aliasing, and greatly diminishes temporal aliasing.
With regards to the game itself, The Secret World is off to a great start, and its content will continue to be expanded upon each month, beginning with last week's major update, so if you want a new innovative MMO to play that will be updated month after month, that looks great, and will give your graphics card a workout, you can do no better than The Secret World.