Everything Looks More Real With Ambient Occlusion in VR But Performance Takes a Hit, Obviously

The scenery looks better textured to me with those texture settings both in Mann Gulch and Machu Picchu. Maybe it’s a placebo effect!? I’m thinking of bare rocky or very dry grassy surfaces. I’ll double-check my observations and try to screen capture the difference, if possible, much later today. Are the graphics mechanics just carried over from FSX, described in the SDK (it’s so incomplete, it doesn’t seem likely!), or was it figured out by “reverse engineering” as to what the texturing affects in MSFS?

Edit_Update: In the following composite .JPG illustrating texture supersampling, one can see distant parts of the runway area beyond ground decals change when one swipes one’s mouse cursor from right to left across the picture. Seems to apply to grassy textures, too, in the airport composition scheme of things.

Image Comparison (game-debate.com)

Source of cited image: Microsoft Flight Simulator most important graphics options - every video setting benchmarked (game-debate.com)

To me it seems that with AO off, the buildings suffer. Just having it to Low brings out some detail on the rooftops that make the buildings look more real. The difference from Low to Medium or higher is less noticeable for me, so I keep it on Low for VR.

1 Like

I turned AO to Low (it was off), and it seemed that the 3D effect was present, inside the cockpit, and outside. Whether or not that’s placebo or not, I can’t say, but it looked nice, and I had a pleasant flight from one end of Hawaii to the other, with performance and visuals that made me a happy camper. Next up, I guess I should test it in a more scenery dense environment. I think I’ll give Europe a shot, but maybe not Charles De Gaulle. The last time I tried that, I think it skeered my GPU.

But we’ll see!

Had a nice flight in Australia yesterday, but that was before the whole AO thing.

For anyone interested in flying my route in HI: Here you go! BIG TO LITTLE HAWAII.PLN (6.9 KB)

Nice flight, but a lot of overwater time. They tried to give me a visual at my destination, I chose an RNAV approach instead, just for the practice, but it’s a good thing I did as by the time I got there, it was storming pretty good and a visual would not have worked… Enjoy!


The actual dev mode view for AO does not show SSAO. I would assume it’s more like baked light maps since it is completely static and doesn’t show those dreaded “dirt blobs”. I think Asobos implementation of AO is quite simplistic and the different levels of this AO is just intensity change.

Without AO you also lose a lot of detail on the ground. Go to 3u2 in the snow – I was trying to figure out why the “grass” disappeared when I went in to VR, it appears that AO affects how that’s rendered.

1 Like

Just to follow up on @CptLucky8’s suggestion, I redid a series of pictures related to those posted above and am presenting them in order of increasing 3D effect. CptLucky8 is right in that one gets more 3D bang for the buck with Contact Shadows as opposed to Ambient Occlusion but I think AO provides useful 3D clues as to overall volumetric shape whereas a contact shadow is more of an underscore next to an object alerting one to its 3D presence. I tried ULTRA settings for both individually or combined vs. no settings at all (OFF) for either and in order of increasing 3D it is:

AO and CS, both OFF
AO and CS, both ULTRA

AO = Ambient Occlusion
CS = Contact Shadows

To me ULTRA Contact Shadows or the ULTRA combination of Ambient Occlusion and Contact Shadows is a little bit like going out on a date with a woman who’s applied too much mascara and eye liner! :slightly_smiling_face:

If you click through the opened pictures with your arrow keys, when you get to the ULTRA, ULTRA picture, you can jump back and forth between ULTRA, ULTRA and OFF, OFF by alternating between the left and right arrow keys.

Settings as previously described except:

Ambient Occlusion OFF, Contact Shadows OFF
(click to enlarge, arrow key to cycle views)

Ambient Occlusion ULTRA, Contact Shadows OFF
(click to enlarge, arrow key to cycle views)

Ambient Occlusion OFF, Contact Shadows ULTRA
(click to enlarge, arrow key to cycle views)

Ambient Occlusion ULTRA, Contact Shadows ULTRA
(click to enlarge, arrow key to cycle views)

1 Like

Although DX12 and DLSS are real and in reach, another thing that would expand our horizons tremendously (pun intended), would be an AFFORDABLE headset that implements foveated vision with high-resolution/low latency-eye tracking such as Apple’s rumored 8K per eye VR/AR(?) headset. Then all the extra computation required to add on ambient occlusion, contact shadows, etc., could mainly be devoted to the foveal area with less computational resources to lower-res peripheral vision areas. I’m not holding my breath, though! :slightly_smiling_face: Rumor of $3,000 Apple 8K VR/AR Headset

The rumoured Apple device with Lidar robotics style laser tracking ?

Does sound interesting, though price estimates are all over the place and there are odd reports like “6 lenses” which surely must include the Lidar lenses.

Good set of screenshots there.

I like to have at least contact shadows on low as I find things like trees look so flat and lifeless without it. Ambient occlusion again seems to just add that much more “depth” to the scene but doesn’t, in my personal opinion, have as much impact as contact shadows.

Both have fairly significant performance impacts in VR so I believe unless memory fails me I tend to use just low contact shadows and leave AO on the cutting room floor.

For me its all about contact shadows, shadows and light shafts.
Ambient Occlusion just makes things look even more extra bright and washed.

Nice post, unfortunately I literally can’t see a single difference in those pics lol

Same! At least on those screenshots

Did you enlarge the photos? For me the cluster of trees in the centre just above the cockpit window sill change drastically.

1 Like

I see no difference either

I guess it’s like whether you can tell the difference between Gallo wine and Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Some folks just can’t.

The differences between the pictures show up most clearly in the window strut and in the instrument panel, particular the air vent shadowing, near where the windows strut meets the frame body.

Ambient occlusion shows up most strongly on overcast days where reflected light has more of a chance relative to strong direct sunlight and AO also shows up more strongly in night scenes with many light sources and reflections. I have something to do in the next couple of days but perhaps when I have a chance, I’ll redo the same sort of scenery comparison on a heavily overcast day (100% clouds) or pick a night scene at an airport or flying over downtown Manhattan at night.

In the meantime some folks might want to get their prescriptions checked or see if presbyopia is setting in with advancing age and it’s time to get reading glasses. I have super duper expensive LensCrafters glasses with graduated bifocals, anti-everything <<<joke>>>, and according to my optometrist, better than 20/15 vision when using both eyes together.

It is fascinating how people perceive things differently. For me the difference between the ULTRA ULTRA and the OFF OFF images copied below from the post above is like night and day, they are not even close to the same, one is washed out and the other super contrasted. I am sure the people reporting they see no difference genuinely cannot see a difference, it is just interesting how subjective our vision is.




The first two red circles on the left show increased shading in the ULTRA/ULTRA view whereas the third red circle, the most on the right and just under the cockpit front window, shows the opposite effect, less shadowing on the underside of the metallic trim in the ULTRA/ULTRA view as compared to OFF/OFF, ostensibly due to light reflected off the top of the instrument console and elsewhere inside the cockpit as opposed to favoring direct lighting in the OFF/OFF view.


It would be interesting to see how the ULTRA ULTRA looks with colorgrading set to zero in the config files as that turns off the excess saturation Asobo seem to think is a good look in the sim.

The overall look they seem to be after is " supersaturated and sharpened social media photo " as opposed to realistic (probably because people prefer that social media/calendar photo look to the hazy washed out view you often actually get in real life) :smiley: They even default to “fake lens flare enabled” to make the sim look more like a movie.

1 Like

Yeah! It’s like going out on a heavy date! Asobo wants to stoke up those endorphin levels (or is it oxytocin?! :slightly_smiling_face:) and hook you into a lasting relationship! :joy:

Ok, I see the differences on the panel… I thought we’re talking about the scenery!