An adventure game with some action elements, set in a Sci-Fi setting. The game will have 'modern' 3D graphic, with some advanced tricks (screen space reflections, FXAA, a lens flare shader, soft shadows etc.) but the gamplay will be closer to the classic 2D, point-and-click puzzle-adventure games of the mid '90.
If you're the kind of person who has no idea what MSAA stands for, if screen space ambient occlusion looks like a magic spell to you, if have no idea why a pixel shader should be called a fragment shader or what a shader is, then just enjoy the pretty pictures and skip to the last paragraph.
I'm forced to use some advanced, flashy effects in my game. I know it sounds strange, but that's how it is - a story set in a sci-fi, futuristic setting wouldn't be the same without shiny metallic panels, fluorescent lights, glowing computer displays and the overall 'flashiness'. So, let me tell you about the techniques and effects that I will use.
Per-pixel lighting with specular reflections and normal maps. This is the basic, anyone using anything less in this day and age is most likely doing something wrong. The surprise here maybe the fact that I decided to use good old forward shading and not the more and more popular deferred shading approach. The reason behind this is really simple - I don't need more then 3 lights, also not all of my experiments with deferred shading where successful. I'll stick to what works - as they say in my neighborhood 'better is the worst enemy of good'.
Yep, the same technique introduced by Crytek for the 'Crisis2 Direct X 11 Ultra Update', except it runs in Panda3D, using OpenGL. I wish I could say it's my work - but it's not. Ninth at the Panda3D forum is to blame. For my own defense I'll just say that I made it look better and run faster.
I know it's a cheap, cliché effect, but I love it! The technique I use renders the effect for every bright spot in the scene, there's no need to manually place particle effects, billboard sprites or any other type of helpers - all the magic is in the shaders. The shader itself was described in John Chapmans blog and Ninth was the one to make a Panda3D port for it.
The downside of using the techniques mentioned above is that multi-sample anti-aliasing stops to work. But worry not, it's ok, in the past years anti-aliasing has made a big step forward, we now have tricks like FXAA and SMAA - they are post-process effect that can be used in scenarios like this, where the multisamples are lost duo to rendering to a fullscreen quad. Some people on the internet claim that performance-wise SMAA and FXAA are the same. That's not true (on my low end hardware), FXAA performs (a bit) better and it's also simpler to implement, that's why I use it.
Good shadows are important, but making good shadows is hard. There are some really complex shadowing techniques described on the internet - stencil shadow volumes with penumbra wedges, summed-area variance shadow maps, parallel split shadow maps just to name a few. I'd forgive them the funny names if they'd only work without problems. It could be my hardware, it could be my drivers, it could be my luck, but when I try to use these techniques something always goes wrong and all I get are artifacts and bad framerate. Fortunately there's something I like to call ICBITSS or I-Can't-Believe-It's-That-Simple-Shadows. The trick is to actually render the scene from the lights perspective but it a specific way - things that cast shadows are rendered black (pitch black) and things receiving shadows are not rendered at all. This way you get a texture that you can just project back onto the scene, and since it's just a normal texture you can add an extra step and run it through a gauss blur filter - behold soft shadows!
Now, the important stuff. Lately I felt the urge to play a good adventure game, like those titles made by LucasArt back in the '90. I found my old CD with "The Dig" but dared not install it. I have good memories with that game but I fear the graphic has aged - I don't want to ruin my memories. I wanted to try something modern, but it turns out it's not that simple. There are few adventure games in a sci-fi setting and even fewer that are not about monsters coming out of the walls. All I wanted was a game where you wakeup alone on a spaceship and the only thing I found was KotoR, but I don't feel like running around with light sabers. So I sat down and written down all my ideas. This should make a good game. Imagine you wake up alone, on a spaceship...
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