Sunday, May 9, 2010

Guess what I see

I had a few things on the planning board this week; fixing the flashlight, creating a new scene, fixing some visual bugs, and letting the legs of my Dumpbot walk (again). Unfortunately, Three days and another half million brain cells were wasted during my alcoholic activities this week. And yet more will follow. A good old friend is finally marrying his girl next Friday so you know what that means. Kidnapping the poor guy to Amsterdam, beer, boobs, dirty hamburgers, and a lot more beer. I never saw so many bars in one night. From the Hardrock café to classy bars where access was initially denied for us Hillbillies. Too drunk to notice the doorman though, so we walked in anyway. Well, for each bar we visited two or more beers were captured, so do the math. The result was a terrible headache while strolling around grumpy in the famous red-light district of Amsterdam. Even the ladies behind the red windows quickly closed their curtains for us.

No surprise the planning vaporized this week. However, I promised to open the doors to a new scene last week, so I did my stinking best to repair the damage today. That's the downside of having a few people finally reading this blog; I actually have to do something now. Can't come up with (alcohol) excuses every week :)

Alright, my Dumpbot still is crippled, but at least he can hover-skate with a flashlight now. The problem is somewhere with mixing multiple bone-transformations on an animated character. While the legs walk, the torso can fire a shotgun or read a newspaper. Also the player can override a few bones with ragdoll physics or aiming the chest/head at a target. Well, for some reasons the legs stopped walking after some adjustments.

The brown sausages with the black stick = A robot hand with MAG-lite. Or something. It's switched off now by the way. Another bug suddenly appeared, the screen goes totally black when shining at some parts. I suppose it has to do with screwed up normals in combination with HDR / Tone Mapping...

Another improvement you can't see are "blocking portals". The engine uses Portal culling to boost speed. For those who don't know what these fancy words mean, imagine your house. You can divide it in hallways and rooms. In computing terms I would call those chambers "sectors". Logically, you always see the sector you are standing in. But how about the others? You'll need (open) doors, windows or holes in the wall to look into other chambers. These openings are called "portals". Portal culling means you'll check which sectors are visible via which portals for a certain point in space. Why would you want to do that? Well, Tower 22 is a skyscraper. Skyscrapers typically have hundreds, if not thousands rooms close together. And your computer really doesn't want to update/compute/render all that shit at once. So instead only render what you'll see.

Not much to see here, except a meat hook. So there is really no need to render all chambers and corridors of the entire tower. By the way a crunchy screen filter has been applied. Noise, HDR, DoF, and overall saturation/contrast/coloring parameters can be adjusted for each room, I mean "sector".

Ok, and what the hell are "blocking portals" then? Well pretty simple, as the distance increases a portal can fade-out the sector behind it. A simple color will replace the sector. The hallway below is much longer than you'll see. But since you only see a small fraction due fog, the portal can close pretty soon to prevent rendering the sector behind it. This is also suitable for the windows you might have seen in previous posts. The floor brightly reflects the glass windows, but not the complex geometry behind them. The cubemaps are too blurry for that. So instead of rendering all those background skyscrapers outside for nothing, a simple sky-colored portal (a quad) is accurate enough. Color and Fade-in/fade-out distances are configurable for every portal of course.

What will await in the darkness? Let's find out, and hopefully with a working flashlight next week. If I still have enough brain cells to operate a computer after the marriage that is...

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