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Is there a way to fix the "jagged shadows" in some games?

Dankk

Diamond Member
Jul 7, 2008
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I'm beginning to notice this problem spanning across multiple games. Should I be worried about bad drivers/bad card, or is it just inherent to the game?

Here's a screenshot of Dirt 2. Some of the shadows make me want to stab my eyes out. (Shadows are set to "High").



Here's Metro 2033. It's much more subtle in this one. I've completed the entire game, but I haven't noticed this problem until just now:



Far Cry 2. I think this one is pretty obvious.



More subtle, but still noticeable:



I'm using the 11.4 drivers, with all CCC settings at default. The thing is though, I know at least the Dirt 2 and Far Cry 2 issues have been around while I've had previous drivers as well. I'll check to see if there are any other games doing this. I know Bad Company 2 has some weird issues with shadows/shaders, they are not "jagged" shadows like in the shots above, but rather, there are weird issues with the draw distance. For example, when I approach a building I will see a texture or shadow "draw itself into view" as I get closer. A weird line separates one side from the other:





Also, Far Cry 2:

 
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-Slacker-

Golden Member
Feb 24, 2010
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Setting the shadows to maximum quality isn't enough, you're still going to need to enable anti aliasing.

Edit: Oh, not the kind of jaggy you were talking about?

Try a couple of different driver versions.

If that doesn't fix it, your card may be defective.
 
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Dankk

Diamond Member
Jul 7, 2008
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Setting the shadows to maximum quality isn't enough, you're still going to need to enable anti aliasing.

Edit: Oh, not the kind of jaggy you were talking about?

Try a couple of different driver versions.

If that doesn't fix it, your card may be defective.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure AA has nothing to do with it. I just tried playing Dirt 2 with 8xAA. Didn't make a single difference.

Maybe I'll try an older driver version... thing is though, I know there were definitely these problems with 11.3, and most likely with 11.2... I can't remember any further back than that, but maybe I'll try a much older version just to see what happens. Thanks.
 

Blitzvogel

Platinum Member
Oct 17, 2010
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It's mostly dependent on how high the developers allow the shadow resolution to go or on their LOD practices of how quickly the shadow resolution drops over distance.

Also, on curved surfaces, the artifacts you're seeing are just the shadows penumbra being spread out over the curvature of the object the shadow is project onto. It's just an artifact from the limited color blending of the shadow. It's a real bad issue in PS3 and 360 games.
 

Dankk

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Jul 7, 2008
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Well, I just uninstalled 11.4 and then installed 11.1. Nothing changed. :(

I don't think AA works on shadows. Might try MLAA though.
I don't think any of these games have a setting for MLAA.

It's mostly dependent on how high the developers allow the shadow resolution to go or on their LOD practices of how quickly the shadow resolution drops over distance.

Also, on curved surfaces, the artifacts you're seeing are just the shadows penumbra being spread out over the curvature of the object the shadow is project onto. It's just an artifact from the limited color blending of the shadow. It's a real bad issue in PS3 and 360 games.
Thanks. I'm still skeptical though. For some reason I don't remember seeing any of these weird issues until lately. Especially in some games where it's pretty ugly, I'd imagine it would be more of an issue. Maybe my card is going bad? As in, it was fine before, but something is wrong with it now?

I wish someone with BC2 or Far Cry 2 or DiRT 2 could just confirm if they have these same issues or not. Would be helpful.
 

imaheadcase

Diamond Member
May 9, 2005
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Shadow settings in games are misleading. Higher settings does not equal better shadows, it means it enables more or less shadows in the game and the darkness of them.

It must be a suggestive thing, because i don't see any problem with the screenshots shadows. But then again i don't notice a difference with AA on or off in a game (besides framerate hit).
 

Blitzvogel

Platinum Member
Oct 17, 2010
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Well, I just uninstalled 11.4 and then installed 11.1. Nothing changed. :(



I don't think any of these games have a setting for MLAA.



Thanks. I'm still skeptical though. For some reason I don't remember seeing any of these weird issues until lately. Especially in some games where it's pretty ugly, I'd imagine it would be more of an issue. Maybe my card is going bad? As in, it was fine before, but something is wrong with it now?

I wish someone with BC2 or Far Cry 2 or DiRT 2 could just confirm if they have these same issues or not. Would be helpful.
I've seen the issues you mention in FC2 and BC2. I don't have DiRT 2, but the "stepping shadow darkness" over the curvature of polygonal models, like I said is present in many games where objects have self shadowing. Go play the first Gears of War on 360. It's TERRIBLE in regards to the shadow issue, hell, any UE3 game is. If your card was truly defective, I don't think it would be even working in the first place.
 
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Sylvanas

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Jan 20, 2004
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MSAA works by sampling geometry in a scene. A shadow is not something represented by geometry, it is a post process shader effect- thus traditional MSAA does not work on shadows.

MLAA is forced through the driver not the game. I am uncertain as to how MLAA would handle shadow aliasing. I realize MLAA is a post process effect (Direct Compute) and that tries to identify possible aliasing by identifying high contrast edges...I would assume it would work as alpha textures are affected by MLAA aswell.

SSAA should work fine for this yet it is expensive and AMD's driver is limited to SSAA in DX9 games only at the present time. Some of the AA experts may care to pitch in.
 
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Seero

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Nov 4, 2009
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The purpose of Anti-aliasing(AA) is to resolve this type of problems. Check video card settings are make sure you didn't override it through the driver level first. Let things that can be controlled by the application control by the application. If you are not sure of how, simply reset it to default.

If you have never touched drivers before, then the game may have a bug in AA on shadow maps. Go to driver and use FSAA or live with it.
 
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apoppin

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Mar 9, 2000
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The purpose of Anti-aliasing(AA) is to resolve this type of problems. Check video card settings are make sure you didn't override it through the driver level first. Let things that can be controlled by the application control by the application. If you are not sure of how, simply reset it to default.

If you have never touched drivers before, then the game may not have a bug in AA on shadow maps. Go to driver and use FSAA or live with it.
i'd say it is somewhat engine dependent how it treats shadow aliasing.

Serious Sam Second Encounter (2010 on Serious Engine 3) gives you full aliasing control over the shadow settings. Setting them to ultra high also gives performance a solid hit.
 

lavaheadache

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2005
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Your card isn't only selecting shadows to show that it is dying. sheesh, some of you guys are so quick to claim hardware faulty. A very large % of returned consumer electronics for being faulty is only the result of user error and infact not a defective product.
 

Seero

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Nov 4, 2009
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i'd say it is somewhat engine dependent how it treats shadow aliasing.

Serious Sam Second Encounter (2010 on Serious Engine 3) gives you full aliasing control over the shadow settings. Setting them to ultra high also gives performance a solid hit.
Just ninja edited my post. I meant it may have a bug, not it may NOT have a bug.

However, I do agree with you.
 

Dankk

Diamond Member
Jul 7, 2008
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The purpose of Anti-aliasing(AA) is to resolve this type of problems. Check video card settings are make sure you didn't override it through the driver level first. Let things that can be controlled by the application control by the application. If you are not sure of how, simply reset it to default.

If you have never touched drivers before, then the game may have a bug in AA on shadow maps. Go to driver and use FSAA or live with it.
Thanks for this. I think I'm gonna take a closer look at my driver settings when I get home from work, and I'll try experimenting with a few different things to see what results I get.

Are you playing in DX9 or DX10/11?
Bad Company 2 and DiRT 2 run in DX11.
Metro 2033 runs in DX10.
Far Cry 2 runs in DX9.

Your card isn't only selecting shadows to show that it is dying. sheesh, some of you guys are so quick to claim hardware faulty. A very large % of returned consumer electronics for being faulty is only the result of user error and infact not a defective product.
Thanks for being reassuring. :)
 

Dankk

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Jul 7, 2008
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Ok, so here's an update on the issue:

Nothing has been fixed. I tried forcing on 8xMLAA in Catalyst Control Center, and it doesn't do anything other than make my games appear a little blurry. I've tried messing around with Catalyst A.I. and Antialiasing mode, but no avail.

On an unrelated (or perhaps related?) note, my video card suddenly started making some VERY strange noises. I isolated the source by unplugging the rest of my system fans, and it's indeed coming from the GPU. I temporarily removed the card so I could spray some air into it, and it didn't help. I think it's somehow coming from the fan, because it slows to a stop after turning off my machine. However, it's very "electrical-sounding". It comes and goes intermittently, like some sort of electrical vibration.

I don't know... at this point I think I'm just gonna RMA the card.
 

GodisanAtheist

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Nov 16, 2006
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Haven't had a chance to really play around with the new CCC, but I assume it still as an option for Catalyst AI? Turn it off and see if it makes a difference. AMD includes certain modifications with its drivers to certain games (as does Nvidia) where it feels it can scale back "overdone" effects which deter performance without too badly affecting image quality.

This is more or less where those "10% performance increase in game X" things come from in driver updates, the guys that write catalyst find a more efficient way to do some shader intensive process with minimal trade off.

Give it a shot.

To those saying its not faulty hardware: I had 2 7900GT's whose Ultrashadow engines were just turds. I dunno if it was common on those cards but my god shadows in certain games (notably Dawn of War & Neverwinter nights) just NEVER rendered correctly, even if every single other thing did.
 

kamikazekyle

Senior member
Feb 23, 2007
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Ok, so here's an update on the issue:

Nothing has been fixed. I tried forcing on 8xMLAA in Catalyst Control Center, and it doesn't do anything other than make my games appear a little blurry. I've tried messing around with Catalyst A.I. and Antialiasing mode, but no avail.

On an unrelated (or perhaps related?) note, my video card suddenly started making some VERY strange noises. I isolated the source by unplugging the rest of my system fans, and it's indeed coming from the GPU. I temporarily removed the card so I could spray some air into it, and it didn't help. I think it's somehow coming from the fan, because it slows to a stop after turning off my machine. However, it's very "electrical-sounding". It comes and goes intermittently, like some sort of electrical vibration.

I don't know... at this point I think I'm just gonna RMA the card.
Is it a squealing/squelch kind of sound? Does it happen all the time or just under certain circumstances (move the mouse, in a 3D game, over a certain FPS, etc)? Since you mention it's electrical sounding, it might be induction noise or coming from the voltage regulators. This normally only happens under heavier loads/high FPS though. I also haven't heard of it spontaneously developing, so it might be something else (capacitor issue?) Oh, and you might be able to get at the fan's pin connector on the video card to rule that out.

Anyway, I can't view your screenshots here at work. I have Metro and Dirt 2 and am running Cat 11.4, so I can try giving a look-see when I get home and see if I have the same issues.
 

kamikazekyle

Senior member
Feb 23, 2007
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Ok, now that I've had a chance to look at your screens and compare it to Dirt 2 and Metro, I *think* I have the same thing. It looks less like "jaggies" and more like banding of the shadows (ignoring the stuff for the games I don't have). I seem to recall that happening on my GTX285 as well. But, I don't really notice the stuff in game while I'm playing. I don't notice it at all in Metro 2033, but that might be because of the current lighting at the point in the game I'm at.

I *do* notice the banding on Far Cry 2 around the wheel wells, however, in your screen shots. I've noticed games cast shadows like that for years, as NUSNA mentioned.
 

Dankk

Diamond Member
Jul 7, 2008
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Well, I installed Far Cry 2 on my laptop. Yeah. Same issues. I guess it really isn't a problem with my video card. Here's Far Cry 2, running on my laptop with the exact same graphics settings. (It runs at a wonderful ~5 fps with my integrated Radeon 4200).





About the noise though...

Is it a squealing/squelch kind of sound? Does it happen all the time or just under certain circumstances (move the mouse, in a 3D game, over a certain FPS, etc)? Since you mention it's electrical sounding, it might be induction noise or coming from the voltage regulators. This normally only happens under heavier loads/high FPS though. I also haven't heard of it spontaneously developing, so it might be something else (capacitor issue?) Oh, and you might be able to get at the fan's pin connector on the video card to rule that out.
I definitely know what capacitor-squeal sounds like. This isn't it. It's not caused by certain games, or by moving the mouse around. It just starts and stops when it wants to. I could unplug the GPU fan if I want to though, just to make sure I know where it's coming from. But... yeah. I might just RMA it for this reason alone. I'm scared to actually run any games when it's making noises like this.
 

tweakboy

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Jan 3, 2010
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Setting the shadows to maximum quality isn't enough, you're still going to need to enable anti aliasing.

Edit: Oh, not the kind of jaggy you were talking about?

Try a couple of different driver versions.

If that doesn't fix it, your card may be defective.
Yes. Listen to him.

Just use latest WHQL driver, Uninstall old driver from safe mode. Then run setup . then set the AA to what you want, It has a performance hit , most people including me run @ 4x AA and 16x AF
 

kamikazekyle

Senior member
Feb 23, 2007
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About the noise though...


I definitely know what capacitor-squeal sounds like. This isn't it. It's not caused by certain games, or by moving the mouse around. It just starts and stops when it wants to. I could unplug the GPU fan if I want to though, just to make sure I know where it's coming from. But... yeah. I might just RMA it for this reason alone. I'm scared to actually run any games when it's making noises like this.

Gotcha. You mentioned electronic so the first thing I thought of was cap/induction noise :) So yea, in that case it probably is the fan. I'd say when in doubt, just RMA it. If it's still under warranty I"d minimize the things I'd muck around with anyway.

I noticed I developed some induction noise in my setup when I moved it to my new case, so I think it's a grounding issue or something. Of course, in my old case I had to crank the fans so high it was a turbine so I might have never noticed it.

If you've tweaked the hell outta the settings and tried a few different drivers to all the same result, I'd chalk it up as either the game engine (ie Fary Cry 2's stuff), or something with Radeons in general. I'm running 6950s and I see the same things (I think), so I doubt it's faulty hardware causing shadow issues. Though I'd still probably RMA it due to the fan/noises.

As a random note, your pics are showing up here at work now. *shrug*
 

lavaheadache

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2005
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Well, I installed Far Cry 2 on my laptop. Yeah. Same issues. I guess it really isn't a problem with my video card. Here's Far Cry 2, running on my laptop with the exact same graphics settings. (It runs at a wonderful ~5 fps with my integrated Radeon 4200).





About the noise though...


I definitely know what capacitor-squeal sounds like. This isn't it. It's not caused by certain games, or by moving the mouse around. It just starts and stops when it wants to. I could unplug the GPU fan if I want to though, just to make sure I know where it's coming from. But... yeah. I might just RMA it for this reason alone. I'm scared to actually run any games when it's making noises like this.

For whatever reason you seem hell bent on RMAing your card. I for one believe firmly that is fine and you are just being OCD. Putting that aside, RMAing your card doesn't mean you get a new one. Usually it means that you get a previously broken one. Think about it, the card you have is fine and you got it new, the one you will get back probably had a worse history. just my .02
 

Zap

Elite Member
Oct 13, 1999
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For some reason I don't remember seeing any of these weird issues until lately.
It may be one of those things that once seen, cannot be unseen. For instance I've seen times where a monitor had a dead or stuck pixel, and the person who used the monitor was perfectly fine with it because they never noticed it... until it was pointed out to them. Then, they saw that dead/stuck pixel every time they used the monitor and thus started to hate it.

My other thought is that while gaming, who has time to sit there studying the image? Maybe it is because I only play multiplayer? If I stop moving, I might get fragged.
 

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