So the game does support ambient occlusion - for nVidia cards only!
This improves depth of the image CONSIDERABLY by adding shading to corners of objects, however it's somewhat tricky to enable. First, you need to create a profile for Skyrim in your nVidia control panel. Just do this the usual way - point it at the tesv.exe file, if you don't already have a 'Skyrim' profile listed (I think the latest beta adds one). You don't actually need to change anything, here, just make sure you have a profile for Skyrim.
Next, you need to download and run nVidia Inspector (it's available at Guru3d's site, among other places)...basically, a GPU-Z like app specific to nVidia cards.
Once run, click the configuration icon (the screwdriver and wrench icon) to the right of the 'driver version' field. This brings up a new window with a lot of options. In the top of this window is a drop-down box. You'll note that it's set to the 'Global' stuff by default. Click the drop-down, and find the Skyrim option. (Depending on your driver version or how you added the profile, this may show up as 'Skyrim', 'tesv.exe', or 'Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim') Select it.
With the Skyrim option selected, there are three fields you need to change:
- Ambient Occlusion Compatibility (in the top section) - default "0x0000000", change to "0x00000003 (Fallout 3)"
- Ambient Occlusion setting (fourth section down) - default "Off", change to "Quality" (after a lot of testing, this is probably the best balance - the higher quality mode does look better in motion. In still screenshots, the difference between the three modes is very slight...almost unnoticeable. Indoors, when the shadows being cast are not of 'moving things', it's REALLY identical, and the 'Performance' mode really does yield MUCH better framerate. Outdoors, though, when leaves and branches are blowing in the wind, the lower quality modes create a mild 'shadow flicker' on the trees or bushes blowing. I'm using "High Quality", myself, although performance is...rough. Sure looks purdy, though.)
- Ambient Occlusion usage (same section as last) - default "Disabled", change to "Enabled"
...click 'Apply changes' in the top, and you are good to go! (This sounds more complicated than it is - the tool has a very user-friendly GUI, all these options are drop-down menu choices, so you aren't actually typing anything in, and the visual improvement is BIG)
Note, specifically, the corners and 'under' or 'behind' things (for example, the weapons rack in the left-back of the room, and the beam next to it and stone projections on the wall above it...or under the various lamp posts...or in the floor seems over to the right).
Beautiful improvement - really adds a feeling of 'depth' to the game. Without it enabled, it just looks...like a video game. Objects hovering in space over each other, 'flat' walls, sharp angles and curves with no sense of lighting on them, etc.
But OH MY GOD it is a MASSIVE performance hit.
<message edited by xanderf on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 2:07 PM>