Jed rants about distance field shadows

Distance field shadows are nice, but they would be even nicer if they could cast plain old cascaded shadows on skeletal meshes. It looks a bit odd to have characters not cast a shadow. In their current form, these shadows are only useful for portfolio pieces and beauty renders, which is an important role for the engine to fulfill, but they’re not really any better than cascaded shadows for a real game.

I also don’t like the way the distance field shadow parameters are set up for directional lights. With point and spot lights, you click a checkbox and distance field shadows are enabled. Easy and effective! I realize that directional lights need some way to have a cutoff for their shadow distance, as they don’t have an end to where they can light, but there’s got to be a better way to switch between distance field shadows and normal shadows than clicking the enable button, then wondering why the shadows are the same, then finally realizing that you need to turn off cascade shadows manually by changing the dynamic shadow distance movable parameter to zero. Unless you guys can justify a use case where someone might need to have cascaded shadows closer to the camera, then switch to distance field shadows at a particular distance away from the camera, the whole thing seems more unwieldy than it needs to be. I guess it could be useful for shadowing skeletal meshes that are closer to the camera, but that means that we can only practically use distance field shadows at such great distances that cascaded shadow maps have much the same quality, and that doesn’t do distance field shadows justice in my opinion. They really look good!

I don’t expect you to get distance field shadows working with skeletal meshes overnight, but surely there’s some way to make the directional light parameters less unwieldy than they are. I guess I just want to know what the plan is for distance field shadows and the best way for me to make use of them.

I also think it’s a little odd that for point lights there’s no way to adjust the angle for the distance field shadows. I thought that adjusting the light source radius might do something, but all that happened when I changed that is that the distance field shadows became really sharp.