I took my bodies advice and slept for over 12 hours, then logged on long enough to check for any urgent emails. The plan was to find nothing and log off immediately, and so to enjoy my weekend off. Alas.
First thing I saw was that one of the internal versions had escaped, and was the star in a blog video on the FPSC-R forums ;) I knew it was an internal version on account of the sand cubes where corrupted, which has been fixed in the official final version of BETA 1.003. I also got an email from Rick green lighting this version for release, so I stayed logged on to supervise the release of the beta for today. Upload takes a while, so watch your Products page and your inbox for news of the new update.
Occluding In Brief
As you explore the new update, you will notice two things. One is that your frame rate goes up (or should) and the second is that some objects are disappearing (and reappearing) on you.
The visibility issue is due to the way the occlusion system has been created, and relies on the fact the larger invisible bound-box that surrounds each object will be visible BEFORE the actual object to which the box relates is visible to the player. Unfortunately there are situations where the player can turn a corner and surprise the system, meaning for a second the object is not there and then it appears. This happens for only one render cycles, but it is enough to spot the artifact! I am currently looking for options to minimize this effect but all the Google links I found so far elude to the fact that this is acceptable and common for occlusion systems. If anyone can find a link which identifies this issue, AND SOLVES IT, then please let me know through the comments section.
Another issue you MAY spot is that really distant objects now completely disappear. In the final version, objects at this distance are replaced with quads (two polygon billboards) to fake the object's appearance for increased rendering performance. Alas my R&D into the technique of generating the textures for these quads over-ran the planned release schedule for this update and so the quads had to be hidden for their own sake.
A Secret Tip
If you want to see what the quads look like, you can comment back in the two CLIP commands in the entity and quad shaders. I only recommend this if you don't mind the technical challenge and the less than satisfactory visual effect.
A Special Thanks
All is not lost however as on the eve of the official 1.003 release, I received essential advice from my new best friend Matty, the author of DarkImposters who had already solved the issue of projecting objects onto quads and very kindly shared his secret sauce with me.
I have glanced through his equations and I 'just about' understand the technique used, and am now very eager to code this into the engine and see what happens.
The Question Of Performance
We still have a LONG way to go on the subject of performance, and I still have some hellish optimizations I want to attack the engine with. I did take a little time out to solve some legacy model issues and adding the store to start the whole legacy support ball rolling, but I am curious what the community (you guys and gals) would have me do at this point.
I could continue to work on PPP (Performance Performance Performance) at the exclusion of all else, or I could blend in a little non-Performance work such as more legacy support, Weapon HUDs (of which the art is now available to me), auto-fence builder, adding the RPG, e.t.c. I am sure I will do one or two of these things for the next update in December, but I am curious to what percentage the wider world would set for this division of labors. Imagine it was another slider between 0% and 100% to control Lee's non-performance activity :)
I know it's against policy to blog at the weekend, but I have 450MB of data to upload and decided to give you an update while I waited for the files to leave Wales. I have a meeting Monday and Tuesday next week so I can't imagine I would have much Reloaded news to blog, but if anything does occur, I will be sure to include it!