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I've played and completed Rage and currently Battlefield 3 (which looks a lot better with less hype). One thing that is immediately apparent is the lighting, or the bump maps - I can't figure out which it is - makes the experience on a high end PC a lot clearer and better looking.

What is the advancement that these games are making use of in Open-GL/Direct-X or the graphics cards that has increased the realism of the lighting engines so dramatically?

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You can find some useful info about BF3 here: geeks3d.com/20111025/… –  zacharmarz Oct 29 '11 at 18:03
    
@zacharmarz, that really is the best answer, as it comes straight from the horses mouth. I'd suggest posting it as an answer. –  Tetrad Oct 30 '11 at 0:00
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As Tetrad suggested, I'm adding my comment as answer: You can find some useful info about BF3 here: The Secrets Behind Battlefield 3 and Frostbite 2

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One of the major contributors to realistic-looking lighting is linear-color-space lighting, HDR, and filmic tonemapping, which have become a lot more widespread in the last few years. Another is the use of physically-based shading models.

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It's not explained in the videos but I'm assuming it's filmic tonemapping which gives a lot of the maps the film quality, particularly caspian border and seine crossing –  Chris S Nov 1 '11 at 21:11
    
You are really oversimplifying this :). One cannot forget that they use Enlighten's geometry shader light bounce aproximation COMBINED with a billion spherical harmonics point lights, spread across the scene, that receive bounced light from Enlighten surfaces and light up the dynamic geometry with it. That's the real reason behind the awesome lighting. –  cubrman Apr 16 at 6:19
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Video cards with programmable pipelines using high level shader languages allow developers to pull off just about any effect they want including realistic lighting, shadow mapping and soft shadows, bump/normal maps, post processing, and much more.

Some Info: https://cs.senecac.on.ca/~gam670/pages/content/shadr.html

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We've had a programmable pipeline for a while now, though. –  Tetrad Oct 29 '11 at 20:01
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