Tomb Raider static shadows trick

Tomb Raider is definitely one of my favorites amongst recent games. Interesting gameplay, beautiful vistas – and a great engine which delivers both in visuals and performance. It really became a rarity for me to be able to play a game on medium settings on full HD with my old Ati Radeon 4850.

Anyways, I recently discovered another neat trick the guys at Chrystal Dynamics employed in their game.

So I went to the options menu and found out one could disable shadows

But when I went in-game to me it looked like most of the shadows were still intact – and most importantly – dynamic.


It seemed strange to me that the tree shadows would be rendered in such detail and the character was not – and then I noticed the trees themselves are actually static. Unaffected by the wind.

And what we see here is quite genius in my opinion. The shadows themselves are precomputed in a sense, they do not update in any way at all apart from being translated a bit to simulate the movement of the trees in the wind. Moving the shadow maps is not free, but it’s a lot cheaper than recalculating the shadows. And the visual impact is great, the whole scene looks much more vibrant and dynamic.

Of course this technique would not work in a static artificial environment, but in this case it works like a charm.

Simon also wrote about another neat art trick over at – great read!


2 thoughts on “Tomb Raider static shadows trick

  1. Nice find and cool article :) thanks for mentioning me! I remember seeing such tree shadow projections in one of the early unreal tournaments :)

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