Ray Tracing might be all the hype, but that’s not really something all of us have access to, and even when we do, it can be rather disappointing. Now, AMD is reportedly working on adding so-called Integer Scaling into its Adrenalin graphics drivers, which is a feature that operates at the total polar opposite end of the graphics spectrum to improve the appearance of upscaled low-resolution games. PCGamesN spotted the development.
You probably know the phenomenon: you own a gaming rig with a modern high-resolution display and want to play an older game. The game doesn’t support the high-resolution display you have, so you settle for the next best resolution – the result of which is typically that the image has that upscaled appearance, with a smoothing between all the pixels that takes out all the sharpness you’re used to seeing and replacing it with smear. Kind of like when you’ve just woken up in the morning, and you still need to blink your eyes to get the muck out of them before you can see sharply. This is the result of linear interpolation.
Integer scaling solves this problem by essentially multiplying the pixels on your display to scale, rather than stretching the image and applying a sort of anti-aliasing technique to smooth things out. Thus, if for example, you have a 4K display with a 3840 by 2160 resolution, you enable integer scaling, and you play a game at 1080p, the monitor will essentially behave like a 1080p monitor – each block of four pixels will act as a single one.
Nvidia already has the feature implemented in its driver for Turing graphics cards since August, and its image (above) clearly showcases the benefit of Integer Scaling. For pixel art games such as FLT, Terraria, or older titles, having the pixels clearly visible strongly enhances the experience by showing the pixel art the way it was meant to be displayed.
It's unclear when exactly AMD’s implementation of Integer Scaling is coming to its drivers, and we do have to emphasize that at this point it is still a rumor -- PCGamesN spotted that AMD is working on it through traces in the drivers and notes in the Linux driver patches, but there hasn't been a formal announcement yet. That being said, given the cited information, as well as that Intel and Nvidia both already have their implementation in public drivers, it’s not too far fetched to conclude that AMD’s Integer Scaling is on its way, too.
I pushed DOSBox xBRZ patch to DOSBox-X a good while ago, so you can try it and easily feel the difference yourself.
Of course I'm not implying you will or have to like it, it's just a matter of taste in the end :)
I like these types of filters for some games but usually disable them, especially for games with a very intentionally gritty look. Sometimes a decent looking fake scanline filter is a good addition too, regardless of whether you smooth or not. As you said it's just personal preference. With that being said, I don't think they're going to accelerate them any time soon. For one thing that's up to the filter plugin author to implement via shader code. I can't see it really being necessary though, I mean a multithreaded xBRZ shouldn't be THAT heavy.
That aside, integer scaling is a great option for people that want pixel-perfect scaling in full screen, for cases where the underlying software can't scale internally above a certain point. Wonder if it will support black bars for scaling old-school aspect ratios? I much prefer that over stretching, myself, even for old TV shows.