Happycake Development Notes:
More Shadows, Translucency, Buildings, Geforce FX6800
1 October 2004

It's October now, and we don't have any reason to believe that ATI is going to be releasing any hardware that does what we want, so we've switched our development board to the Geforce FX6800 GT.  This lets us render with color channels deeper than 8 bits (finally!).  That means that I'll finally start being able to tune the game settings for HDR rendering, and perhaps put in some high-quality postpass stuff like bloom.  All screenshots in this update are taken on the FX6800.

I did a bunch of shadow work.  Shadows still aren't "done", but they are now Good Enough to Ship this project with, provided we are willing to do some content tweaks in the cases where shadows get wacky (mainly this happens with really thin things).  It's possible that some minor tweaks will fix that, but if not, we have lots of ideas for shadow improvement that involve features of Shader Model 3 (which we couldn't get with the ATI hardware!)

Rather than try and rely on a bunch of filtering, as I suggested in an earlier update, I just decided to jack the shadow resolution way up -- the shadow maps are now 1024x1024 and there are 5-7 of them.  I could see raising that resolution to 2048x2048 in the future, though at that point we're talking about eating a whole lot of video memory!  Rendering shadow maps is very fast; the game runs acceptably with 5 1024x1024 shadow maps even on my laptop (an ATI Mobility 9600-class part).

Here are a couple of shots of the new shadows in action:


Matt Vitalone has joined the art team, to make buildings and miscellaneous city objects. So far he's done a couple of buildings, to replace our Programmer Art we had going on before:

I really like the first building.  I think we'll need to do more work on the bigger buildings toward the end of the project if we have time.  They look a little plain.  I think if we get some specular and bump maps in there, that will be a big help (notice how the windows are obviously the same material as the outer wall!)  Maybe we also add more variation in the color texture.  But, that stuff is a lower priority than just having enough buildings in the game, so for now the focus is on more buildings and city objects.

We can cast shadows onto translucent objects, which is pretty cool.  Check out the shadow action on this bus stop:


And just for fun, I turned the roof of this building into glass.  It looks pretty cool.  Of course it also looks a little messed up because there's no inside wall on the building (because it wasn't meant to be glass!) so you see right through to the terrain.  But, I think this bodes well for us having glass walkways and stuff like that.


Upcoming work is: adding more animations to the player character, getting accurate collision volumes for these objects running in-game (right now they all have big boxes for collision volumes!) and implementing sleeping in the physics system to increase the frame rate.


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