Inside Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered on PC – the Nixxes tech interview

Inside Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered on PC - the Nixxes tech interview

One of the biggest releases of the summer, Sony continues to release PC ports of its enviable back-catalogue of first-party PlayStation titles. After shaky beginnings with Horizon Zero Dawn, these PC conversions have gone from strength to strength – and we were very impressed with the conversions of Days Gone and God of War. Just over a year ago, Sony acquired Dutch developer Nixxes – a studio that has previously delivered excellent PC ports of console titles – and with the team having already helped in improving the Horizon port, it has now delivered its first full project for PlayStation: Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered.

We’ve already covered the quality of the conversion elsewhere on Digital Foundry and we’ve also assessed how the same code runs on both Valve’s Steam Deck and the cute AyaNeo Air – and crucial to our work was the assistance of Nixxes itself, who made four key staff members available to us during the review period for this discussion – as well as continuing dialogue and taking on our feedback the more time we spent with the game.

This interview is quite lengthy and took considerable time to transcribe but it offers a unique insight into the developmental process of this port from beginning to end, the choice of rendering API, the implementation of key PC enhancements including ultrawide support, plus how and why Nixxes boosted the fidelity of the game’s already impressive hardware-accelerated ray tracing.

Answering all of our questions here is Nixxes studio head Jurjen Katzman, software engineer Michiel Rosa, graphics programmer Rebecca Fernandez and lead software engineer Coen Frauenfelder.

Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered on PC – here’s the original Digital Foundry tech review.

Digital Foundry: The Insomniac engine for quite some time has been limited to PlayStation consoles, so we are curious about this project’s start point. When did Nixxes start helming the project? How long has the game been in development up until release? And what were the starting building blocks that you were given to make a PC port?

Michiel Rosa: Well, I think that the starting blocks were quite good actually. Aside from the fact that the engine was mostly focused on PlayStation, the cool thing was that their own tools were actually quite good. There was already an implementation for PC they were using on the tool side. So that helped us a lot to get up and running quite quickly, actually, when the project started, nine months ago?

Jurjen Katzman: Well it is a little longer…

Michiel Rosa: I always forget… it’s 11 months…

Rebecca Fernandez: I just looked it up recently and it was September.

Michiel Rosa: I did my first submits in the beginning of September.

Jurjen Katzman: Yeah. So that is your first submit. So I look back actually, I was quite surprised to see the answer. The actual first submit on this project was only like five, six days after the acquisition. But that wasn’t the most active period, it took a little while, a month or two before wrapping up some other things before it really started picking up steam. But yeah, it was one of the first projects we announced to the team around acquisition that we’re going to do and the team was really excited about it. Very quickly, we got some people to jump in and start doing their first pieces.

Digital Foundry: The game is shipping on DX12: were the tools on PC DX11? What was the exact starting core you had there?

Michiel Rosa: They had a fully DX11-based renderer. So, what we did was basically to just rip it out entirely and replace it with a DX12 renderer.

Rebecca Fernandez: We had a few months of black screen until we got something rendering and yeah, it was very exciting to see the first wrong things appear on the screen.

Digital Foundry: Why DX12 and not Vulkan?

Michiel Rosa: Mostly because we had the most experience in DX12, we didn’t ship any games with Vulkan – at least on PC.

Digital Foundry: Being married to the consoles for a long time, with unified memory since PS4, were there systems that required serious reworking or rethinking to work on a split memory setup like found on PC?

Michiel Rosa: Yeah. I wouldn’t say that it was a serious rethink, but there were definitely some challenges there. They actually use some read-back information, which we definitely need to copy stuff around [from system memory to video memory, for example] which they can just read [from unified memory on PlayStation]. But those are fairly minor changes. It’s just an extra copy.

Jurjen Katzman: Yeah, we have certainly had situations where it’s the fact that it was different memory pools, right. On the performance side, it caused more trouble than we wanted.

Michiel Rosa: I basically halved the cost of our ray tracing jobs by reading from the right memory pool basically.

Jurjen Katzman: We spent a lot more time doing memory management, thinking about what we put in video memory and what we move back and when we do that. You never have to worry about that on console. On PC, that feels like it is always the primary concern, right – to make sure that we can leverage all the memory appropriately. And even then, we have still been dealing with problems related to that up until last week, even right? Yeah, these things come up. The consoles are nice and simple machines. We love working with consoles.

Digital Foundry: Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered launched with ray traced reflections on PS5, using the proprietary Sony ray tracing API there and all that entails. What did bringing that over to DXR entail? Are you, for example, specifically using DXR 1.1? What was the translation like?

Michiel Rosa: It was complicated! [all laugh] Some parts were really straightforward. Like everything that’s higher level was basically translatable one-to-one, like collecting every model to put into the BVH. That isn’t going to change between platforms. But everything that’s more lower level, like all the shaders, we kind of need to rewrite, we were able to use their [Insomniac’s] material system. But when we did need to make sure that it’s all DXR compatible. All the DXR calls are obviously different. We need to make our own shader binding table, which was very different from the one that is in the PS5 version.

Rebecca Fernandez: Yeah, and a lot of their traces were inline within their shaders. And we couldn’t really do that either, so that’s been pulled out. Yeah, so it’s not an inline hit shader now. It comes back into the trace, as well. But the rest of the shaders actually, we kept quite a lot of the shaders intact. It was just like, trace the ray, bring back the information, sending information around the shaders. That part looks quite different.

Michiel Rosa: Yeah mostly all the administration around the shaders [is what is different].

How does Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered run on Steam Deck and what are the preferred settings? Rich Leadbetter went deep on this one.

Digital Foundry: Beyond making it functional on PC, you also brought in enhancements over the PS5 version in terms of ray tracing. The very high settings bring in higher quality models for buildings in ray tracing, use full resolution traces, etc. What was the design process and why do this for the PC version specifically?

Rebecca Fernandez: Um…Because it’s cool? [everyone laughs]

Coen Frauenfelder: That is a motto we need to print out. [everyone laughs]

Rebecca Fernandez: I mean, the most powerful PCs are more powerful than a PlayStation 5. So it was cool to give those people something more nice to look at, to push it further because we have more power available for those people. But we did work very closely with Insomniac – it was definitely a big collaboration with Insomniac of what their desires were and their ideas as well, and what they would like to see and what we wanted. It was a combination of what we wanted and what they wanted to push this to the next level.

Michiel Rosa: I think it was also that we looked at the reflections and thought, how can we improve this? And we saw the lower quality buildings and thought ‘this can be better’.

Rebecca Fernandez: And I think pushing the resolution, which is something we just did recently, but that was really something I wanted to do, because the half res is quite noticeable on PS5’s ray tracing, so it was cool to push it further for an ultra setting.

Jurjen Katzman: And I think it’s also due to just a broad range of hardware, which you kind of covered, but because when you start putting in really, really powerful GPUs, the CPU might still hold them back at a certain frame-rate. But, you know, we need to make sure that people with big GPUs still get something good to do to still make it look better, right, and the resolution is certainly something that is an avenue to do that. And that certainly we really found that the balance between the CPU and GPU performance and how that translates between the PlayStation 5 and on a PC… it’s all over the place, depending on what hardware you have obviously. It’s interesting and it has certainly resulted in some last minute changes to it, like what’s the best approach? How do we give people the right amount of flexibility to configure that just right for their system?

Digital Foundry: I know the Xbox Series consoles have the ability to load the BVH offline for static stuff. I do not believe that is a part of DXR 1.0 or 1.1 spec, does that mean the high level BVH for static buildings and such is generated at run-time?

Michiel Rosa: Yes. Though we were looking into the possibility to store BVHs in a cache [which is possible under DXR], we decided not to do it. It’s very similar to a PSO [pipeline state object] cache, which means that it’s going to be invalidated every time you update your driver or swap GPUs or so. It’s all happening in the loading screen, so it just means that the loading screen is a bit longer, but it’s not really an issue. It was, however, a lot of code to write.

Rebecca Fernandez: Yeah, to get this working did take a lot of time.

PS5 delivers excellent ray tracing support – but pushed to the max, geometry and texture quality is radically improved on PC.

Digital Foundry: I can only imagine. Right before release, you made some changes to DLSS to make the reflection resolve much less ‘pixelated’ and the image would also not flicker any longer when dynamic resolution would change. What was that change exactly and what is it like hooking up DLSS or FSR 2.0 into ray traced reflections to make them look fine?

Rebecca Fernandez: Those changes were all on the reflections side, actually. We didn’t change anything. I don’t think there was anything DLSS specific that improved that. The denoiser for the reflections is very not DLSS-friendly. The pattern that it uses to do the merging does not play well with DLSS. And so we had some last minute changes to try and improve that and I think it does look a lot better now thanks to help from Insomniac, Nvidia, and AMD – a better denoiser for the reflections.

Michiel Rosa: Well, they did have a bunch of incremental DLSS improvements, we had some fixes in our jitter, mostly.

Digital Foundry: In the original build reflections would smear in windows when you sat still, but the recent patch eliminated that issue in my testing. Perhaps that is knock-on, but it is a change that I noticed.

Jurjen Katzman: We certainly felt like DLSS didn’t work very well, but it wasn’t so much changing DLSS specifically but more changing the stability of reflections overall and then DLSS picks up on that.

Rebecca Fernandez: Because on PlayStation 5, they have the temporal upscaling like the temporal injection upscaler. So they built their reflections with that in mind. So when we don’t have that there, we have to make some adjustments, not just for DLSS. I mean, also, if you run with no anti aliasing whatsoever {Alex laughs] – people do! – we still need to make sure that looks okay.

Digital Foundry: The game is incredibly aliased without TAA – I am surprised people would turn it off. But yeah, that is the way it is. On the topic of anti-aliasing, I was originally not sure if the game would feature Insomniac’s temporal injection reconstruction technique used on consoles, but it does. You also mentioned that there was direct involvement from Insomniac Games here. Could you detail what that involvement was?

Rebecca Fernandez: For me, I mean, it’s because we’re all part of the Sony family. Now, it’s a lot easier to sort of reach out and talk with a studio and get direct answers very, very quickly. And they jump out and help with pieces of code that you can’t understand, and have suggestions some future changes that might work: “you could try this”. That’s been the majority of my involvement with them.

Coen Frauenfelder: How they work together with us was really great. Really helpful from day one. They gave us a lot of trust. And they had a lot of trust in how we picked up things. And if we have questions, I think, well the time zone difference is quite big, but they will always respond sometimes even at insane moments, like in the middle of night for them and they will still respond with “hey have you tried this?” “you can bring in this and this person” etc.

Rebecca Fernandez: I think for everyone, it’s nice because we are almost total strangers coming into their codebase and they gave us a lot of trust, that was really nice. They just immediately let us do what we wanted, they believed that we could do it. That is cool.

Another example of how the ‘very high’ RT settings on the PC version push ray tracing support significantly beyond the PS5 rendition of the game.

Digital Foundry: I think you as a team have proven that you are good at getting a foreign codebase and making magic out of it. So, you mention getting ray tracing on PC and the last push before launch was offering more settings to adjust the load on the CPU with the BVH ray tracing object range. Trying it on the 12900K or recent Alder Lake CPUs, the game flies, but then on a Ryzen 3600, what I consider a mid-range CPU very similar to the PS5: Zen 2, 6 cores/12 threads available for game usage, so on and so forth. And on that CPU at the highest settings it will be drop below 60fps while moving through the city and swinging as it is CPU limited. It has lurches down to the upper 40s. So what exactly is the CPU limitation bottleneck? What work do you want to do there in the future?

Jurjen Katzman: There are a few things going on there that are interesting and we’re actually still making some changes to the code right now. So as I think you know, from your early analysis, to achieve 60fps on PS5 with ray tracing it makes other compromises [even beyond ray tracing]. So it turns down crowd density for example, or there’s fewer cars around. And so that compensates for some of those CPU things, and we didn’t make that very easy for the user to do in the [early review] build you played. So we are actually offering up some more options to make that to allow that to be better balanced [in the retail build].

And in general, the game originally came from the PS4 right? The PS4 CPU cores were not so stellar and the PS5 and the PCs were far more powerful. With the PS5, that gap has certainly gotten smaller. And there’s still quite a few things on the PC where there’s more overhead, like the APIs have more overhead, we don’t have the decompressor for example, we don’t have hardware doing decompression for us as we’re streaming in content – that gets left to the CPU. So we certainly have more CPU challenges to go around even when we’re doing the same things. And then if we don’t dial down things that are dialled down on the console, we now have even more work to do on the CPU.

So okay, so if you have a PS5 game that fully loads all the CPU cores, then yeah, PC CPUs that don’t have the same core count, for example, or the same processing power, they’ll be in a tricky spot, right? And they will have to rely on lower settings of scalability, as well. But I think that’s important about PC, right, that we do have that scalability, we do offer all those options. And you can run it in a way that works well for your system, no matter what.

Michiel Rosa:It’s even worse for us because we also have the added overhead of the abstraction layer to DX12 and the DXR abstraction layer, which is obviously very lean on the Sony side. So even if you have a more powerful CPU than on the PlayStation 5, you might still end up with a lower frame-rate.

Digital Foundry: That is what I imagine would happen too. So you mentioned decompression being done on the CPU on the PC. In that case, are you using a similar compression file format as on PS5 or is it something else?

Jurjen Katzman: It uses similar techniques, in some ways, like structurally how we’ve approached it as we do in PlayStation 5 but we have built something specifically for PC. We’ve also been exploring things like DirectStorage. So some of it is also about trying to think about that for the future. But we’re not using utilising DirectStorage here right now, as you’ve probably seen.

Digital Foundry: Even then the game is loading fast. I did a loading test, just between PCs. It is not as fast as PS5, but still it is just under five seconds to load the game from the menu on nearly any modern PC with an NVME drive. It is very fast in comparison to other PC games. Still, what is actually the bottleneck in loading times on PC? Is it the IO-stack there (which even DirectStorage’s first version without GPU decompression tries to address) or is it CPU limitations?

Jurjen Katzman: I am not certain if decompression is actually the bottleneck for load times as we did do some things to make decompression go faster, but we backed out on some of those that were hurting the in-game loading (streaming). As in-game (as in streaming while in game, moving around) with those decompression speed-ups in place, we were taking too much CPU away from the game. So we backed that away, and it didn’t really meaningfully impact loading screens.

I think other things that do play into it probably is shader compilation that’s happening during loading screens, and you mentioned BVH building before, so that is also happening. There’s a variety of little things that we do on PC, some of it would be the IO stack… We have some DirectStorage experiments but especially for a loading screen we can use all the CPU for loading, that’s what the loading screen is about, right? It’s not that suddenly the IO stack change is suddenly going to make it go four times as fast. For in-game purposes, I think that’s when when it [Direct Storage] becomes interesting, right when there’s this CPU core being fully utilised just to facilitate decompression, freeing up that CPU core if we were able to do that… that would be that’s an exciting future, but not where we we’re at right now.

Even without the PS5’s hardware decompression engine, loading times are very fast – limited a touch by an added step of shader compilation.

Digital Foundry: So you mentioned PSO compilation which is my bugbear as of late. I mention it everywhere, I cannot stop talking about it and won’t stop talking about it. The game does not suffer from prolonged stutter from just-in-time shader compilation. How is PSO compilation done for this game on PC?

Michiel Rosa: In our case, we simply asked QA to play the entire game. And we then generate a cache, which contains all the PSOs and we just put the cache next to the game [as a file you can find in the game directory]. So what that means is, we just know beforehand, which PSOs will be used in-game. And if we then load all those PSOs in the loading screens, we’re golden. It also helps that Insomniac’s material handling is very lean, so we don’t have a gigantic amount of PSOs.

Digital Foundry: So in that case, with the list of PSOs on the side generated by QA, does that mean PSOs are only ever compiled during loading screens?

Michiel Rosa: Not entirely, there is still this possibility to stream in more shaders. And those shaders will then kick off the PSO build.

Digital Foundry: When these new shaders are streamed in-game, it is not happening in real-time right? So you do not get the just-in-time stutter, right?

Michiel Rosa: Right, it is not done just-in-time, it is just loaded together with the models, the scripting and everything.

Jurjen Katzman: It’s effectively slowing down the load, you could say. A shader comes in, because we know for that shader, what PSO would be associated with that, we can just start creating those PSOs at load time, and the load effectively takes slightly longer. And then when the game actually needs them, they’re guaranteed to be up there, as long as QA actually found them all. So yeah, the main problem that leaves us with is that if just before release, we thought we’d like to change some shaders, that is kind of a bad thing, because that data QA has collected over weeks is gone, so we try to avoid that. It probably takes them two to three days to get through a reasonable setback when they then have to play through the game on different systems.

Coen Frauenfelder: And especially with this material system. I think the first time that we went through the game to see how many PSOs will be collected, it was not even as much as we expected. And yeah, the amount of stutters after the first collection was already almost gone.

Digital Foundry: I did mention how this is my bugbear and I think your team does it right and think your team has done it right since right after Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s release. It is working well. But what is everyone’s respective opinion here as developers on pipeline state and specifically how it is handled in DX12? As an end-user, the way it is handled in explicit low-level APIs like DX12 or Vulkan has led to a general degradation in the user experience.

Michiel Rosa: Well… (all laugh) it’s fairly restrictive from a developer’s perspective, you really have to collect all the ways that you are gonna draw materials before you are actually going to use it, so it’s pretty tedious. And like you mentioned, the end user experience isn’t always that great. So I think as a concept, if it’s not what they expected or what they envisaged it to be. Or it was supposed to remove the shader compilation stutters and in reality it doesn’t really do that.

Rebecca Fernandez: Yeah, we said how the drivers end up doing optimisation of their own anyway, it is supposed to remove that as well. But that also still happens. So it hasn’t really solved any of the problems.

Jurjen Katzman: I think we would say if there was if it was a DX13 or 14 – if we’re going to skip 13 I don’t know [everyone laughs] – but with DX14 I think we would recommend that they wouldn’t be there anymore.

Michiel Rosa: I do know that Vulkan actually does it slightly better, but we never shipped a game on Vulkan on PC.

Rebecca Fernandez: Even with this change you mention [to Michiel], because this is a recent addition for Vulkan might have added the ability to split this out. But it doesn’t make it a lot better. It’s just a bit better than DX12.

Michiel Rosa: It’s more of a band-aid.

Looking to run RT on a mid-range PC? GPU resources are an issue of course, but Spider-Man Remastered also has a high CPU requirement – even the excellent Core i5 12400F can drop beneath 60fps – even on the high RT settings in some geometry-rich scenarios.

Digital Foundry: That is what I am hearing elsewhere as well. Maybe how PSO is handled in Vulkan and DX12 was well-intentioned, but the way it has panned out has been less than successful, especially with what you mention about QA having to gather all the PSOs. And the fact that this may slow down development when you want to make a shader change which then requires an entirely new QA pass, even though it is very banal. Next question: As mentioned the game is heavy on the CPU, what attention was given to the game to allow it to scale to hardware that is less powerful than the PlayStation 5? It already technically runs on the PS4 with the older version of the game, but what were you paying attention to when focusing on lower-end machines.

Michiel Rosa: We usually start out with just implementing all the default things like the texture quality scaling and supporting all the different resolutions. And when we have all the default things in place, we tend to look at what things are still expensive, both CPU and GPU-side, and see if we can make a good trade-off between visuals and performance.

Jurjen Katzman: We often select a couple of machine specs that our internal QA does a lot of runs on and get data from those. And this time, we also included Steam Deck in that analysis. So we get some good interesting data out of that, that we can focus on, you might have seen in recent build updates, the Steam Deck performance also went up and that came out of some of that iteration.

Michiel Rosa: One of the best examples of that is the hair quality, the hair quality setting actually came from Steam Deck.

Digital Foundry: There was a list of recommended specifications that was published by Nixxes and Sony for settings. What is the highest spec you would target vs the middle spec?

Jurjen Katzman: Our strategy is like this: Because we are coming from PS4 or PS5, there was a spec we have always aimed for which we knew was realistic which we knew would help people in the market play the game well. Then we often look at the ‘new spec’ – how has the market evolved? What CPUs are now clearly out of date? If drivers are not even being made for certain graphics cards, then we try and boost the spec up a bit. But we do try and hold that line pretty strictly, right? We would love for Spider-Man to be able to be played by a fairly large number of users as it is a game that would appeal to a large number of users, so we try and hold that min-spec pretty low even coming from a PS5 game.

The top-end I think is far harder because there is always new hardware that will always run it better. I think that is more of a communication challenge, almost. What is the right top-end PC to communicate? There is always something better, there will be something better again next month, always! We do add meaningful things for the high-end, but I really do not think there ever is really a limit on PC at the high-end. If you want to run the game at 144Hz with ray tracing on, I am sure there will be a PC someday that you can buy that will do that. For me it is about scalability and pushing the barrier in both directions.

Michiel Rosa: We had never had a recommended PC spec for the high-end before. We always had a min-spec and a recommended spec, but not really a high-end spec.

Jurjen Katzman: I remember doing an ultimate spec or something once?

Coen Frauenfelder: Maybe we didn’t reach out to the public but internally we always had a certain spec for the high-end spec, so the game should at least run decently with these very high settings on this type of machine.

Rebecca Fernandez: I always feel like we also have almost like a secret extra min spec. There’s the min spec we tell people on Steam but there is another [lower one] where it will probably work below that and we try and make it not… crash? [everyone laughs] You can still probably run below that point, probably. But it will be bad times.

Coen Frauenfelder: Good luck, have fun.

Rebecca Fernandez: It’s nice if someone has a really horrible PC that they’ve had for 15 years, but they really just want to play Spider Man. I like that they can try.

Jurjen Katzman: And it’s not always horrible! I think they’ll certainly have challenges where if you have a really, really old GPU from a really old generation, but it was a really high end GPU at the time, it’s not that bad, right? So it’s tricky for us to formally support that – like, often there is no driver support, but it might actually run the game pretty reasonably, so we try to retain some level of compatibility. There are also some pretty old CPUs which don’t support certain instructions, but we end up supporting it anyway. So maybe the i7 from that old generation could still run it or do we draw the line somewhere? I think we’ve even made some improvements to that recently. So like, yes, this 12-year-old CPU will actually get to run the game. We’re not necessarily committing to it, but I think it’s nice to have it and you can try and hopefully have a good experience even though our recommended minimum specs are above.

At 900p, using the half refresh rate v-sync option for a 30fps cap, along with dynamic resolution scaling and Steam Deck-like settings, we could run Spider-Man Remastered on a GTX 750 Ti (the GPU that used to offer PS4-like perf around 2014) and the R9 270X (the closest PC equivalent to the PS4 GPU) at a slightly unstable 30fps. But it’s surprising the 270X works at all – Death Stranding doesn’t boot at all owing to its sub-standard DX12 support.

Michiel Rosa: I don’t think we support the Phenom 2 this time.

Jurjen Katzman: That is quite possible.

Rebecca Fernandez: We gave it up, finally.

[everyone laughs]

Michiel Rosa: There was always a project of mine to make Phenom 2 work.

Digital Foundry: Yeah it is always asked for on the Steam Forums, every year, no matter what. You obviously thought about scaling, but you kind of have a bit of automated scaling in there with the dynamic resolution system. Is this taken over one-to-one from the way it is handled on PS5, or is it custom?

Michiel Rosa: It is very similar, but we did make some improvements. We do feel that on PC, the performance will fluctuate more just by the nature of what a PC is, what’s happening, what is it doing? What is Windows doing in the background? So we made it respond a lot faster than it would on PS5.

Rebecca Fernandez: And there were extra steps, right, the PS5 version only had a low amount of resolution so that it could jump to I think it wasn’t quite as dynamic, compared to what we have.

Michiel Rosa:Yeah, but it’s easier on PS5 because your hardware is fixed. So you can just target your content on whatever is available. So you can just say, okay, this content has to run with the settings like fidelity settings at 60fps, and you can drop resolution in certain situations. But if it drops even further, the content will just have to change.

Digital Foundry: My next question would be, would you perhaps consider breaking out dynamic resolution into varying degrees of ‘aggressiveness?’ We have seen that in other games on PC such as Wolfenstein: The New Collossus or even very fine-grain control over DRS as in Titanfall 2.

Michiel Rosa:The short answer is yes. But yeah, we don’t have plans to do that right now.

Jurjen Katzman: I think all these things are always worth considering if there are other games doing certain things and users like them, then yes, of course we should consider that, right. I think we were talking about it today. About taking some control ourselves if we happen to know where it could have GPU spikes coming from and then based on what we know, what’s causing it, also adjusting how fast we respond. That might require us to keep more control over that, but then given the user some control over it never hurts. In general, I feel that on PC giving the user control, at least the option of control, is never a bad thing. I think PC consumers like that.

Aspect ratio support in Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered is excellent. Everything from 4:3 to 32:9 (and higher!) is supported. Here’s your 32:9 look at New York City.

Digital Foundry: I did test out 21:9, 32:9 and even 4:3, which does actually work by the way. What changes were necessary to make a game designed only around 16:9 actually work at these wider aspect ratios?
Coen Frauenfelder: So many cinematic fixes! We added some graphic artists to the project just to help out also, in combination with Insomniac, go into the editor and fix everywhere where we saw broken animations, people standing in T-poses outside of the 16:9 viewing area, it was so many things that we needed to adjust to make sure that it is was still very good within 32:9, and of course, eventually, also 48:9. When we go beyond 32:9, we will blur the game, so that everything will be less obvious if something is still broken in that part.

Michiel Rosa: There’s only so much you can support. At some point you have to stop.

Coen Frauenfelder: But we’re really, really happy with the results that we’re now seeing and when we looked at the other games that weren’t also supporting 32:9 and you also see that a lot of more players are actually playing with these kinds of monitors. First, it really felt like a niche product and now it’s becoming more and more popular. Being able to fly through the city at 21:9 or 32:9 is actually very, very fun. Very cool.

Michiel Rosa: We did get a lot of positive feedback on the feature trailer mostly on the widescreen feature. It is a really nice shot.

Digital Foundry: Getting in 32:9 sounds like a lot of work, but there is also HDR support here in the game on Windows and HDR is a minefield in general, and doubly so on Windows. What was it like getting HDR to work for this version of the game under Windows 10 and 11?

Rebecca Fernandez: At this point we have experience with that minefield. It was okay because of what we’ve already learned previously with this. Yeah, Windows 10 and HDR is not a great combination. It’s getting better, it has improved since the first time we did this. But yeah, it’s still got to be like the moons are aligned for this to function correctly. If you have a slightly wrong cable or something…

Michiel Rosa: Then you get this overlay on your screen and everything turns grey…

Rebecca Fernandez: Green… everything turns green! Everything turns green all the time with HDR! It’s very frustrating. No, but I think in general we didn’t need to do anything particularly special this time. It all just worked with what we already knew.

Michiel Rosa: It also helped that the game was already authored for HDR.

Rebecca Fernandez: Yeah they had a good system, using ACES (a tonemapper) to output in HDR.

Digital Foundry: With that, we have reached the end of my dedicated technical questions, but I always like asking, for each person respectively, what was one of the aspects of the project that you are really proud of or what are you proud of during the work in general in this last 11 months or so since the project started?

Coen Frauenfelder: Working in a new environment, because we’re now part of the Sony family, starting to be able to work with Insomniac Games, working together with them and getting the feeling that they really appreciate the work that we did and the trust, as Rebecca said, and working on Marvel’s Spider Man, yeah, that’s it’s a no brainer, how cool that is.

Jurjen Katzman: Yeah, I think I can add to that a little bit because I thought that was quite fun. So before we were acquired by Sony or at least before we had been able to announce that, I had some chats with some of the teams about what games they would love to work on. And some people felt they were making jokes, but by mentioning some Sony titles like Spider-Man. So for me, it was absolutely actually a lot of fun to later be able to say yes, that’s what we’re actually going to go and do!

Michiel Rosa: I have something nerdy to say. I was really happy to see the entire city in a debug BHV view.

Digital Foundry: I can only imagine.

Michiel Rosa: That made me very happy!

Jurjen Katzman: How do you top that, Rebecca?

Rebecca Fernandez: Personally, I’ve been a fan of Insomniac Games since the first Ratchet and Clank so it’s super-cool to have access to the engine, but I think for me personally, it was just taking a bigger hand in ray tracing. The last time we did stuff with ray tracing I was still very junior, so it was cool to take a bigger step with that. I learned a huge amount about ray tracing, that’s been good.

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