The Storm After The Calm
A good rest does one a world of good, and I started at noon today and just finishing off now at 45 minutes past midnight, so a good long stint. Made a huge boo-boo half way through when I realized I was operating from two different source code bases and in danger of loosing some work from some unspecified number of days. Fortunately WinDiff came to my rescue and I once again had the best of both worlds compiling as normal.
As you can see, a new Shader Panel has emerged which can set the terrain to MEDIUM, which retains the texturing and fog effects, but removes normals and shadows from the mix. I plan to continue working on this shader level, plus add a few more so that you have a good selection of visual options that represent the best compromise between visuals and performance.
So What's Been Done
The shader panel, which has been my sole goal today, is now refined and working well. It can step right down to the most basic of Pixel Shader 2.0 shaders, allowing us to get a real feel for the performance 'starting point' for low-end devices. High end effects are unaffected for those with meaty systems, but I am hopeful that my shader work at the lower end will start to show some real gains. From these benchmarks, I can decide which visual effects to promote into the shader until we basically run out of GPU cycles.
I am already getting super frame rates on my Ultrabook now, so I decided to dig out a Windows Surface Tablet (Intel ATOM processor using a GMA chip). As a point of comparison, running the 1.003 software fully loaded AND at low settings I got 1-2fps, and was essentially un-usable. I am not sure yet whether this should be a platform to target, but I do know there will be a lot of devices out there at this processor level and you can imagine some users will want to play their FPS games on the Windows Tablet. I am not going to obsess over this far end of the spectrum, but I will be very interested to see what basic shaders and a massive reduction in polygons would yield here. If the engine was able to create and play games at this level, it would effectively span any type of system you might have and create a very accessible solution. We will see...
My last task for the week will be to build an installer from this version which has the shader panel and then try on a few systems I have here. It will also be a stand-by version should the QUAD work which is next week turn out to be a nightmare (again). I also plan to do a little over the weekend to make up for my transient life earlier this week.
I must also thank Rodrigo for his suggestions for shader improvements, who went to the trouble of going through all the shaders and documenting small savings which no doubt will add up to a few extra FPS units for some of you guys out there. I am sure the community will want to thank you as well!
We Want Your Vote
One last thing before I go. I noticed in our new Voting System that Performance is scoring less than the Character Creator feature :)
Fortunately I started Performance work so that box is being actively developed now, but it was interesting to note that you are using your votes to push a new feature into the engine ahead of more performance. It will be interesting to see how the chart moves after BETA 1.004 :)
We Want Your GREEN Vote Too
Today we also launched our bid to get a Green Light on Steam, which would open the doors to a lot more eyeballs and interest in what we are building. I encourage you to check it out, sign in and click YES to Reloaded's invasion of Steam :)
I am not sure how many YES votes we need, but once I get some statistics from somewhere, I will keep you updated on how we are fairing there!!