Making the Case for Murkiness

Morph_GuyMorph_Guy Members Join Date: 2016-04-21 Member: 216034Posts: 508 Advanced user
I’m sure some of you knew this was coming.

The water in Subnautica is quite clear currently. You can see for a very far distance (up to a fifth of the entire map ahead in some biomes), and even the deepest of biomes are just as bright as the surface biomes during the day.

For a good while now I’ve been advocating for said water to be less clear and bright and more murky for a variety of reasons, and I've decided to finally create one big post detailing all of my thoughts on this. To make things clear in this post I will be talking about both the darkness of the water, as well as the “fog” that obscures distance after a certain point, as these factors of murkiness are separate yet intertwined issues. So let us get into the points here;


Point 1 - Perhaps Most Importantly, Gameplay:
There are many aspects of the game seemingly designed around the idea of murky water that inevitably go unused due to the severe lack of it.

Floodlights, flares, flashlights, headlamps, and every other light source all end up being basically useless due to them only having a use in areas where it is dark, of which there are only a couple in the entire game, while tools such as the Pathfinder Tool are only useful in areas that are winding and maze-like of which there aren’t many, and areas where the water is too murky to tell where you are at a glance - of which there are none.

I feel like there are two options here for fixing this issue, removing all of these tools, or making the water murkier to give these tools a use, and considering the fact that this is an entire gameplay mechanic with fun possibilities as well as the previous points, I’d personally argue for the latter option. You could even bring back the sonar module for the Seatruck to add more of an element of choice with the modules.

Murky water also adds more thought to leviathan avoidance. In brighter biomes you can easily see a leviathan from far beyond the range they could see you, allowing you to avoid it without ever having to go remotely close to their aggro range, while foggy water adds an element of having to use sound to sneak by them, and provides a more tense experience (see Jacksepticeye’s first encounter with a Reaper back in the pre-H2.0 update Crash Site).

I'm also going to address the argument that making biomes darker would somehow prevent resource gathering and exploration. Most objects of note in Subnautica glow even in the darkest of lighting, and if anything benefit more from dark surroundings to stand out, so I don’t think this would be detrimental. As for other elements that don’t glow like static terrain objects, that’s the point behind giving light sources like flares a use, so you actually have to use them to see.

And I'd briefly like to say that water wouldn't have to be super dark across the board, the really dark water is more fitting in a tight space like the Kelp Caves/Shipwrecks or a surface biome at night while large open spaces should have some ambient lighting, though I feel pretty much all biomes could do with being foggier to a certain degree.


Point 2 - It Simply Looks Better:
And I’m not even just talking from a personal aesthetic stance here. Murkier water, specifically in terms of fog, actively conceals some of the game’s more infamously ugly aspects, such as entity/LOD pop-in.

One of the main aspects that I’ve seen used to dismiss murky water is that it prevents things from being seen, but I’d argue that there is nothing beyond a certain threshold one would even want to see. A majority of the biomes in this game have water fog that stops a decent ways beyond the distance entities you’d want to interact with start to un-render and large objects lose detail, so why would anyone want to see that distance in the first place? I’m honestly surprised this hasn’t already been addressed yet since it’s such an easy solution for a problem that has long plagued the game.


Note on Gamma Editing:
The Gamma Slider is an interesting feature and can be helpful depending on a person’s lighting or screen, but it can also be used to slightly see in dark water that’d otherwise require a light source (though this is only a small edge, and wouldn’t affect thickening fog, so it doesn’t nullify these potential changes). I’m not sure how this would be addressed if it were to be addressed at all. Perhaps there could be some kind of post effect that blurs or lowers the contrast of areas that would normally be dark so gamma can’t be used to bypass it? But really it’d probably be fine to leave gamma as is just for the option.


This closes out my thoughts on murkiness. I have no idea if this is a decently agreed upon opinion, or if anyone even cares, but I felt like I should get it out there before the end of BZ's development.


potatoZMasterJacke

Comments

  • potatoZMasterpotatoZMaster IsraelMembers Join Date: 2020-06-20 Member: 261999Posts: 17 Advanced user
    Agreed 100%. I think it should be carefully implemented, and not in biomes that don’t need it, but along the same lines, just darken the biomes in general. The water ambience in most of the deep biomes is wayyyyy too bright, making the game look bland.
    JackeMorph_GuyTheLittleRiley
  • permeakrapermeakra Moscow/RussiaMembers Join Date: 2020-08-18 Member: 263386Posts: 11 Fully active user
    Did you try to navigate ILZ and lava corridor without sonar? Was it fun?
  • MaalterommMaalteromm BrasilMembers Join Date: 2017-09-22 Member: 233183Posts: 543 Advanced user
    Play the game with the "filmic" filter on. This will make the game "darkness" way darker.
    Also, make sure it isn't your own monitor/tv which is quite bright. Sometimes the brightness setting is way above what's required and that hurts the experience in many games/movies.
  • Morph_GuyMorph_Guy Members Join Date: 2016-04-21 Member: 216034Posts: 508 Advanced user
    permeakra wrote: »
    Did you try to navigate ILZ and lava corridor without sonar? Was it fun?
    I never once needed to use the sonar, let alone down there. It was all very bright in the ILZ and clear enough to see across to the terrain's render distance.
    Maalteromm wrote: »
    Play the game with the "filmic" filter on. This will make the game "darkness" way darker.
    Also, make sure it isn't your own monitor/tv which is quite bright. Sometimes the brightness setting is way above what's required and that hurts the experience in many games/movies.
    Filmic no longer makes things darker, and it was an unsatisfying solution anyway, not at all affecting fog and making biomes that didn't really need darkening darker.


  • permeakrapermeakra Moscow/RussiaMembers Join Date: 2020-08-18 Member: 263386Posts: 11 Fully active user
    >I never once needed to use the sonar, let alone down there. It was all very bright in the ILZ and clear enough to see across to the terrain's render distance.

    Strange. Could you please share your graphic settings? Because I did have a lot of problems navigating there until I lightened gamma by 20 points. And even after that it was a quite annoying experience.
  • MaalterommMaalteromm BrasilMembers Join Date: 2017-09-22 Member: 233183Posts: 543 Advanced user
    edited August 20
    Morph_Guy wrote: »
    Filmic no longer makes things darker, and it was an unsatisfying solution anyway, not at all affecting fog and making biomes that didn't really need darkening darker.
    I respectfully disagree. Replayed the game quite recently (about two weeks ago) and filmic feels as dark as ever. Without I do not feel the need for light sources or the sonar, with it I need them during night time or in the darkest biomes.

    I agree it isn't fog, yet I'm not a huge fan of fog myself. Well implemented it can be a huge asset, but most of the time it feels cheap.
    Some, very, murky waters would be nice, requiring either a sonar or the pathfinder tool to navigate. However I don't see where it would fit in the current game.

  • Morph_GuyMorph_Guy Members Join Date: 2016-04-21 Member: 216034Posts: 508 Advanced user
    Maalteromm wrote: »
    Morph_Guy wrote: »
    Filmic no longer makes things darker, and it was an unsatisfying solution anyway, not at all affecting fog and making biomes that didn't really need darkening darker.
    I respectfully disagree. Replayed the game quite recently (about two weeks ago) and filmic feels as dark as ever. Without I do not feel the need for light sources or the sonar, with it I need them during night time or in the darkest biomes.

    I agree it isn't fog, yet I'm not a huge fan of fog myself. Well implemented it can be a huge asset, but most of the time it feels cheap.
    Some, very, murky waters would be nice, requiring either a sonar or the pathfinder tool to navigate. However I don't see where it would fit in the current game.

    Is this on regular SN or Below Zero, because on Below Zero is the default and they changed it to not affect brightness, and I'm mostly referring to Below Zero here. I also feel like fog could do with an increase in most places, just enough so that it covers pop-in. I also feel that even if the fog is pretty far out it should at least have the lowest "start distance" as it's called in the code, it's a personal preference and a pretty small thing but I think it helps stuff feel more underwater-y.


  • MaalterommMaalteromm BrasilMembers Join Date: 2017-09-22 Member: 233183Posts: 543 Advanced user
    Sorry,
    Default game. I'm waiting for BZ to launch.
    Got confused with the comments regarding the ILZ and lava corridor, those are original only right?
  • OctonautOctonaut Members Join Date: 2020-07-29 Member: 262856Posts: 6 Fully active user
    permeakra wrote: »
    Strange. Could you please share your graphic settings? Because I did have a lot of problems navigating there until I lightened gamma by 20 points. And even after that it was a quite annoying experience.

    I can't speak for the person you're quoting, but when I play on PC, I can see in the ILZ easily. But on my Xbox, it's definitely darker.
    All default settings in-game, no tweaks.
  • permeakrapermeakra Moscow/RussiaMembers Join Date: 2020-08-18 Member: 263386Posts: 11 Fully active user
    Octonaut wrote: »
    I can't speak for the person you're quoting, but when I play on PC, I can see in the ILZ easily. But on my Xbox, it's definitely darker.
    All default settings in-game, no tweaks.
    It's not so about darkness, as a combination of dim light, dark textures and murkiness. I can easily see things close to me, so navigating in PRAWN or outside vehicle is fine. But when piloting cyclops, I need to see further away and things become trickier. Navigating in central chamber is so-so, but in the corridor I had to rely on sonar.

  • EntropicEchoEntropicEcho Members Join Date: 2020-08-24 Member: 263528Posts: 3 Fully active user
    Some biomes could use it for sure. I think the Purple Vents and Thermal Spires would benefit from some murkiness, and the kelp forests of course, but I love the clarity of the water in the Twisty Bridges biomes, and it makes sense in the Sparse Arctic waters for it to be quite clear as well. Putting fog in the distance to hide rendering and such is fine, but cold and deep waters tend to not be murky in reality. The murkiness throughout the Lilypad Islands is perfect for that whole area imho. Being able to see several islands ahead, but only as silhouettes and vague shapes is such a lovely atmosphere. Maybe you could add that same level of murk, but in a yellowish/reddish tone to the Deep Lilypads Cave, with more "pollen" particles floating around. And for the fast-moving water the jellyfish float along, adding more sea snow particles would look cool.
  • MaalterommMaalteromm BrasilMembers Join Date: 2017-09-22 Member: 233183Posts: 543 Advanced user
    Octonaut wrote: »
    permeakra wrote: »
    Strange. Could you please share your graphic settings? Because I did have a lot of problems navigating there until I lightened gamma by 20 points. And even after that it was a quite annoying experience.

    I can't speak for the person you're quoting, but when I play on PC, I can see in the ILZ easily. But on my Xbox, it's definitely darker.
    All default settings in-game, no tweaks.

    I'm guessing you don't play xbox on the same TV/monitor that you play while on pc.
    That's probably due to brightness, gamma and contrast configurations. Also there's inherent differences between different hardware.
    I do feel the changes in this regard when I swap from the pc monitor to the TV. Even though I try to config both the same way, low brightness and high contrast.
  • AfqwaAfqwa Members Join Date: 2020-09-06 Member: 263825Posts: 4 Fully active user
    Nope. I utterly despise it when survival horror and stealth games do this and I'm straining my eyes at everything. This is the point where I turn up gamma just to see things.

    As mentioned, lights are still necessary just at nighttime or in confined spaces like the caves or shipwrecks.
  • KyzarvsKyzarvs UKMembers Join Date: 2019-08-08 Member: 254142Posts: 9 Fully active user
    Afqwa wrote: »
    Nope. I utterly despise it when survival horror and stealth games do this and I'm straining my eyes at everything. This is the point where I turn up gamma just to see things.

    As mentioned, lights are still necessary just at nighttime or in confined spaces like the caves or shipwrecks.

    I agree with this - turn fog off with the cheats to see how much processing is going on - I really like that some zones have great views, it feels a lot less lazy to make a game interesting and diverse in scenery other than just foggy and miserable.
  • Morph_GuyMorph_Guy Members Join Date: 2016-04-21 Member: 216034Posts: 508 Advanced user
    The idea behind it isn't a cheap tactic or to make someone strain their eyes (honestly I think I very much over stated how much darkness matters to me, when I much prefer foggier water even if it's quite bright, and am still very happy even without the darkness). And my reasoning for wanting more biome fog is to make things feel more alive and ocean-y, and get rid of all that gross pop-in, since this is an underwater game and not like, a sky game. There are many ways I could describe the way slightly foggier underwater-y water makes me feel, but miserable is no where near any of them. Stuff like this is what I'm getting at when I say it should be murkier, at least in the case of most biomes (some like the Tree Spires or Arctic could use more, but that's because they go out farther or are quite bright)
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  • Morph_GuyMorph_Guy Members Join Date: 2016-04-21 Member: 216034Posts: 508 Advanced user
    edited September 18
    Anyway here's an example of one of those biomes I find to have FAR too much visibility, letting you see the distance of the entire biome in the case of the west arctic here, and only really accomplishing a bunch of disorienting pop-in, and it just kind of looks off seeing that far imo. Though I do have to say the colors of the biome are phenomenal, so this is my only real complaint.
    5zScNWq.jpg
    Better look at the distance of the biome from the pic's location
    miQEm98.jpg


  • MaalterommMaalteromm BrasilMembers Join Date: 2017-09-22 Member: 233183Posts: 543 Advanced user
    Ok, as far as I can tell both pictures have fog. Only that one has slightly more fog than the other.
    It does give a greater watery feel, however you should stop using the "murky" term. It is mostly related to reduced water visibility, while your last example refers to polar waters which, in our world, may have very high visibility.

    In clear waters the least absorved visible light is blue while the most absorbed is red. So after some meters everything turns to shades of blue. Visibility should be in the range of a few dozen meters to roughly a hundred.
    Murky waters should have very limited visibility, not allowing anything to be seen beyond a few meters. And the prevalent tones should lie in green, brown or yellow, depending on what is making the water murky. This is most prevalent condition in rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

    I'm all for small doses of realism. Yet in this game, with its beautiful waterscapes, I would not enjoy to have them hidden. Same way I don't complain when entering a habitat from the sides or above. In a realistic game you shouldn't be able to properly see the end of the cyclops when standing in front of it.
    Not that those are bad mechanics, I just don't see it in Subnautica. Maybe another game where the focus is increased tension and realism.

    Returning to your screenshots, you sold me on the Kelps picture. On the second picture it is clear that most tones turn to blue, including the bioluminescent red pods, without sacrificing the tones closest to the player. That was indeed satisfying without hiding the game away.
    Just out of curiosity, how are you applying these filters? Editing a game file or using another program outside the game?
  • Morph_GuyMorph_Guy Members Join Date: 2016-04-21 Member: 216034Posts: 508 Advanced user
    Maalteromm wrote: »
    Ok, as far as I can tell both pictures have fog. Only that one has slightly more fog than the other.
    It does give a greater watery feel, however you should stop using the "murky" term. It is mostly related to reduced water visibility, while your last example refers to polar waters which, in our world, may have very high visibility.

    In clear waters the least absorved visible light is blue while the most absorbed is red. So after some meters everything turns to shades of blue. Visibility should be in the range of a few dozen meters to roughly a hundred.
    Murky waters should have very limited visibility, not allowing anything to be seen beyond a few meters. And the prevalent tones should lie in green, brown or yellow, depending on what is making the water murky. This is most prevalent condition in rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

    I'm all for small doses of realism. Yet in this game, with its beautiful waterscapes, I would not enjoy to have them hidden. Same way I don't complain when entering a habitat from the sides or above. In a realistic game you shouldn't be able to properly see the end of the cyclops when standing in front of it.
    Not that those are bad mechanics, I just don't see it in Subnautica. Maybe another game where the focus is increased tension and realism.
    Yeah maybe I should be more clear. I mostly just like biome fog that fully obscures things not too far out from the player for the aesthetic and the fact that it hides pop-in, but it doesn't have to be "realistic", and as long as isn't far enough out to expose loading I really don't care. The only reason I'm not too much of a fan of the Arctic fog in my last post there is because you see all the loading, but I absolutely love the colors of the biome so I kinda don't mind it too much. I'd say the colors at least are quite wonderful throughout the game aside from a few instances like the Tree Spires which feels too saturated.

    "Start distance" is probably a larger factor for me than how far out it ends anyway.
    Maalteromm wrote: »
    Returning to your screenshots, you sold me on the Kelps picture. On the second picture it is clear that most tones turn to blue, including the bioluminescent red pods, without sacrificing the tones closest to the player. That was indeed satisfying without hiding the game away.
    Just out of curiosity, how are you applying these filters? Editing a game file or using another program outside the game?

    I lowered the start distance with this mod https://www.nexusmods.com/subnauticabelowzero/mods/65


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