Effects: Liquid Detail
There are four options for the Liquid Detail setting.
- Low: Animated liquid textures, texture-based ripples, and no reflection
- Fair: Normal map liquid textures, texture-based ripples, and no reflection
- Good: Normal map liquid textures, procedural ripples, and screen-based reflection
- Ultra: Normal map liquid textures, procedural ripples, and full reflection.
The new liquid rendering system was added in patch 4.0.1, and it reflects (oof, terrible pun) a significant improvement to the way water looks in this game.
The animated liquid textures and texture-based ripples are, despite Blizzard's efforts to make them look good, very non-interactive. Once you've seen the higher settings, you won't want to go back to Low detail here.
Adding the normal mapped liquid textures has a profound impact on the water's realism from a distance, even if the ripples are still very generic compared to the next step up in fidelity.
The screen-based reflection added with Good quality liquid detail helps with realism close-up, as you no longer have what appears to be transparent water. The procedural ripples are pretty cool; when you run through a river or "buzz the surface" of a lake on your flying mount, you get ripples that trail you and dissipate outwards.
Jumping up to Ultra quality liquid detail incorporates a full reflection. As you can see in the screen shot, the rocks and trees get reflected into the background lake. This is especially noticeable when you're flying and all of the environmental details are reflected back as you'd expect.