Ultra Mode: What do these settings do?

Note: Okay guys, starting this now as a breakdown of UM graphics settings as a whole.

Also, je saist has put up an excellent screenshot reference for what the various changes do in-game. You can find that guide HERE.

If you want input on this document, feel free to post in this thread for inclusion.

Addendum 03/23/10: I know some of the terminology used here is obscure and really not layman-friendly. My problem is that I understand some of the terminology myself at a very shallow level. Simplifying it, presenting good graphical examples, and communicating some of it is going to be beyond me however.

Quick Formatting Key.

Section Header: Bolded and Underlined
First Level Options: Bold, Orange, indented once. Regardless of level of detail following in descriptor/options-breakdown.
Second Level Options: Bold, Yellow, indented twice.
*: Requires a restart of the game to take effect.

Graphics and Audio
Note: Where you see “See Ultra Mode Settings”, it means the interface is actually a duplicate of an identical setting manipulator in the Ultra Mode section. (In beta, this is due to some of them being remnants of an older interface layout.)

Graphics

Screen/UI Resolution*: Specifies what resolution your monitor is set at and what resolution the UI displays at. You can additionally specify that the 3D world be rendered in a lower resolution below for better performance. Higher settings will look better but yield slower performance, but the performance decrease can be offset with 3D Resolution Scaling below.
3D Resolution Scaling: Specifies what resolution the 3D world is rendered at. Setting this to 100% will have the best visual look, and is how games are traiditionally rendered. Setting this to a lower value will leave your UI at a crisp, high resolution but render the 3D world at a lower resolution for increased performance.
Refresh Rate*: Essentially you’re telling the game how many frames a second it should render.
Gamma: Effectively adjusts the brightness to compensate for dark or bright displays. No effect on performance.

30% to 300% (100 is default, Lower Number = Brighter/More washed out)

FSAA (Full Scene Anti-Aliasing): Avoids/smooths out “jaggies”
Advanced Graphics Settings:

Enable
Disable

Graphics Quality: Minimum to Ultra (Greyed when AGS is enabled. List of corresponding slider settings in post below.)

Ultra Mode Options

Shadow Mode:

Disabled: No shadows.
Stencil Shadows: Renders the entire scene as if in shadow, then creates masks for every available light source.
Shadow Maps: Renders shadows based on whether or not a pixel is visible from the light source.

Shadow Map Shader:Determines quality of the rendering when shadow maps are enabled.

Low

Medium

High

Environment Reflections: Handles the game’s rendering of reflections off objects (like windows) in the environment.

Disabled

Low

Medium

High
Ultra

Water Effects: Handles the game’s rendering of water and water-based reflections.

None: No refractions and no reflections.

Low Quality: Low quality refractions.

Medium Quality: High quality refractions.

High Quality: High quality refractions and some reflections.

Ultra Quality: High quality refractions and lots of reflections.

Advanced Occlusion Settings: Ambient occlusion attempts to approximate the way light radiates in real life, especially off what are normally considered non-reflective surfaces.

Enabled
Disabled

Ambient Occlusion:(Used if advanced occlusion settings not on)

Off

High Performance

Performance

Balanced

Quality

High Quality

Super High Quality

Ultra

Advanced Occlusion Settings(Only on when activated under Advanced Graphics Settings)

Occlusion Strength:

Off
Slight
Medium
Strong

Strong with color bleeding: The phenomenon in which objects or surfaces are colored by reflection of colored light from nearby surfaces.

Ambient Resolution:Changes the resolution of the sampling and occlusion buffers. Lower values will yield improved performance but the edges of objects will be blurry. For small 3D resolutions, this can be set higher with minimal decrease in performance.

High Performance: Recommended with the fast blur.
Performance: Recommended with the Bilateral Blur
Quality: Recommended with the Trilateral Blur
High Quality: Recommended with the Trilateral Blur
Super High Quality

Blur:Changes the sharpness of the ambient occlusion. Lower values will only yield improved performance in older video cards. Higher values have little or no impact on newer video cards.

No Blur: Extremely low quality (only useful for older DirectX 9 video cards)
Fast: High performance (optiomized for DirectX 9 video cards)
Gaussian: Performance. A smooth image blur that reduces image noise artifacts. Like looking at it through a translucent screen.
Bilateral: Performance (edge preservation). An edge-preserving blur filter that replaces pixels as a weighted average of their neighboring pixels.
Gaussian Depth: Quality (edge detection). A Gaussian Blur with additional depth-of-field effects.
Bilateral Depth: Quality (soft edge detection). A Bilateral blur with additional depth of field effects.
Trilateral: High Quality: Provides greater image noise reduction and better filtering in high-contrast areas.

Slider Equivallents for advanced settings:

Off: Off/NA/NA
High Performance: Slight/High Performance/Fast
Performance: Slight/Performance/Bilateral
Balanced: Medium/Performance/Bilateral Quality: Medium/Quality/Trilateral
High Quality: Strong/Quality/Trilateral
Super High Quality: Strong/High Quality/Trilateral
Ultra: Strong with color bleeding/Quality/Trilateral

Advanced Graphics Settings

Suppress FX When Close:(Stops visual effects when enabled and you zoom your camera in really close.)

Enable
Disable

AGEIA(TM) PhysX(TM) Support: Hardware/Software Physics acceleration.

Particle Physics Quality: Controls visual effects such as explosions, smoke/fog, water displacement (splashing), precipitation (falling water), etc.

None
Medium
High
Very High (Recommends PPU)

World Texture Quality: Handles how well textures in your environment are rendered.

Low
Medium
High
Very High

Character Texture Quality: Handles how well textures on player/NPC models are rendered.

Low
Medium
High
Very High

World Detail: Changes the detail level of the world. This affects how far you can see details on things like buildings. Lower values yield increased performance.

50%-200% (100 is default)

Character Detail: Changes the detail level of characters. This affects how far you can see high resolution versions of characters such as heroes or villains. Lower values yield increased performance.

30%-200% (100 is default)

Max Particle Count: Caps the number of particles being computed and drawn in special effects. Lower values will yield better performance.

100-50,000

Vertical Sync:Syncs your frame rate with your monitor’s screen refresh rate.

Enabled
Disabled

Shadow Mode: See in Ultra Mode Settings
Shadow Map Shader: See in Ultra Mode Settings
Environment Reflections: See in Ultra Mode Settings
Use Geometry Buffers: Helps to optimize rendering by computing what is and is not visible. This way you render only what is visible.
Anisotropic Filtering: Enhances the image quality of textures that are viewed at oblique angles.
Texture Crispness:Changes how textures are drawn (“texture Level of Detail Bias”). Any value other than “Smooth” does not look good if your video card supports Anisotropic Filtering. Works in conjunction with Anisotropic Filtering to determine how accurately to render textures viewed at an oblique angle.

Smooth
Medium (Not Recommended)
Crisp (Not Recommended)

Shader Quality: Shaders are sets of instructions for rendering visual effects on game geometry.

Lowest
Low (No World Bumpmaps:Surfaces appear pristine with no texture deformations. (Think: Pingpong ball.)
Low (With World Bumpmaps): Surfaces are more textured, possibly pitted or extruding above the surface of the raw geometry. (Think: Golf ball.
Medium
High

N/A: (Essentially High when Graphics Quality under Graphics set to Quality or better)

Water Effects: See Ultra Mode Settings
Depth of Field Effects:

Enabled
Disabled

Bloom Effects:Enables or disables full-screen postprocessing effects, including Bloom and Light Adaptation. Turning it off will yield an increase in performance. Bloom is shader effect that simulates the blurring of image edges when backed by a bright light source. Note: Bloom is meant to simulate how light is captured in this way by a camera. This, this is simulation of a visual artifact in certain media.

None
Regular
Heavy

Bloom Amount:The amount of Bloom to apply. Higher values will make bright objects appear to glow more intensely.

10%-200% (100 is default)

Desaturation Effects:Where the color is leached from the image giving a grayscale or sepia tone (Flashback missions do this)

Enabled
Disabled

Advanced Occlusion Settings: See Ultra Mode Settings
Ambient Occlusion: See Ultra Mode Settings

Slider Equivallents for advanced settings:

Off: Off/NA/NA
High Performance: Slight/High Performance/Fast
Performance: Slight/Performance/Bilateral
Balanced: Medium/Performance/Bilateral Quality: Medium/Quality/Trilateral
High Quality: Strong/Quality/Trialateral
Super High Quality: Strong/High Quality/Trilateral
Ultra: Strong with color bleeding/Quality/Trilateral

And here’s a current list of what changes when you use the Graphics Quality slider, as opposed to manually setting up in Advanced Mode..

And, because SOMEONE will ask (Hey, *I* was stupid enough to). Safe Mode is the same as Minimum, but resolution is reduced to 800×600.

Graphics Quality: Minimum

Ultra Mode Options:

Shadow Mode: Disabled
Environment Reflections: Disabled
Water Effects: None
Advanced Occlusion Setings: Disabled
Ambient Occlusion: Off


Advanced Graphics Settings:

Suppress FX When Close: Enabled
Particle Physics Quality: None (No Particle Physics)
World Texture Quality: Low
Character Texture Quality: Medium
World Detail: 50%
Character Detail: 30%
Max Particle Count: 100
Vertical Sync: Disabled
Anisotropic Filtering: Off
Texture Crispness: Crisp
Shader Quality: Lowest
Depth of Field Effects: Disabled
Bloom Effects: None
Desaturation Effects: Disabled


Graphics Quality: Performance

Ultra Mode Options:

Shadow Mode: Stencil Shadows
Environment Reflections: Disabled
Water Effects: None
Advanced Occlusion Setings: Disabled
Ambient Occlusion: Off

Advanced Graphics Settings:

Suppress FX When Close: Disabled
Particle Physics Quality: None (No Particle Physics)
World Texture Quality: Medium
Character Texture Quality: Very High
World Detail: 80%
Character Detail: 100%
Max Particle Count: 50,000
Vertical Sync: Disabled
Anisotropic Filtering: 4x
Texture Crispness: Smooth
Shader Quality: Low (No world bumpmaps)
Depth of Field Effects: Disabled
Bloom Effects: None
Desaturation Effects: Enabled


Graphics Quality: Recommended

Ultra Mode Options:

Shadow Mode: Stencil Shadows
Environment Reflections: Disabled
Water Effects: Medium Quality
Advanced Occlusion Setings: Disabled
Ambient Occlusion: Off

Advanced Graphics Settings:

Suppress FX When Close: Disabled
Particle Physics Quality: Medium
World Texture Quality: Very High
Character Texture Quality: Very High
World Detail: 100%
Character Detail: 100%
Max Particle Count: 50,000
Vertical Sync: Enabled
Anisotropic Filtering: 4x
Texture Crispness: Smooth
Shader Quality: High
Depth of Field Effects: Enabled
Bloom Effects: Regular
Bloom Amount: 100%
Desaturation Effects: Enabled

Graphics Quality: Quality

Ultra Mode Options:

Shadow Mode: Shadow Maps
Shadow Map Shader: Low Quality
Environment Reflections: Low Quality
Water Effects: High Quality
Advanced Occlusion Setings: Disabled
Ambient Occlusion: High Performance

Advanced Graphics Settings:

Suppress FX When Close: Disabled
Particle Physics Quality: High
World Texture Quality: Very High
Character Texture Quality: Very High
World Detail: 100%
Character Detail: 100%
Max Particle Count: 50,000
Vertical Sync: Enabled
Anisotropic Filtering: 4x
Texture Crispness: Smooth
Shader Quality: N/A
Depth of Field Effects: Enabled
Bloom Effects: Regular
Bloom Amount: 100%
Desaturation Effects: Enabled

Graphics Quality: Ultra

Ultra Mode Options:

Shadow Mode: Shadow Maps
Shadow Map Shader: High Quality
Environment Reflections: High Quality
Water Effects: Ultra Quality
Advanced Occlusion Setings: Disabled
Ambient Occlusion: High Quality

Advanced Graphics Settings:

Suppress FX When Close: Disabled
Particle Physics Quality: High
World Texture Quality: Very High
Character Texture Quality: Very High
World Detail: 100%
Character Detail: 100%
Max Particle Count: 50,000
Vertical Sync: Enabled
Anisotropic Filtering: 4x
Texture Crispness: Smooth
Shader Quality: N/A
Depth of Field Effects: Enabled
Bloom Effects: Regular
Bloom Amount: 100%
Desaturation Effects: Enabled