This month's news shows off the problem we're having when generating the Distant Land, or LOD of our worldspace, and some of our other tasks.
Posted by Thaiauxn on Oct 5th, 2012
Since it has been a long while since we reported on our worldspace, here are a few updates illustrating what the holdup is.
THE GOOD NEWS IS: Vault 18 is shaping up. By the end of the year, the first two chapters will be released for all to enjoy! Expect it between December and January, with updates following into 2013 to finish and release Chapters 2 & 3, and finally Chapter 4.
Now for the bad news. Be aware, it gets technical.
As you saw in our previous news post, Project Brazil's San Bernardino Valley is HUGE. The playable area is roughly the same size as the New Vegas world, while our surrounding "skyline" is a little bit smaller, but contains epic images of majestic mountains and endless deserts littered with ruins of the old world.
You can see the scale comparison using the green zones, which indicate our playable area.
The area outside the green zone indicates terrain that only exists to create the illusion of distant landscape. In our case, to the north of the map is southern Navada, and to the South are the ruins of San Bernardino; then to the south west are the ruins of Los Angeles, and to the south east, I-10 heading towards Arizona. There are mountain ranges on the east and west sides, with large, seemingly infinite flat land scrubs extending north and south past some impenetrable barriers. In our case, knee high nuclear craters and shattered suspension bridges.
It's a great place to tell a story about civilization trying to begin again centuries after a nuclear war.
We've used a lot of the same tricks that Bethesda / Obsidian have employed in their games over the years to mimic real terrain, as well as a few new ideas built into the world to make it feel "genuine." Some of our techniques were developed to hide the "infinite digital abyss" when making mods for Mechwarrior 2, believe it or not, and we've used them as matte paintings in various feature films in real ilfe.
The problem with a map our size in a 21st century video game, is that the GECK that shipped with New Vegas simply can't handle the data when rendering Distant Lands. You would actually need the professional version of the GECK from Bethesda Softworks to render the model, with their professional hardware. We're getting by on the consumer GECK and pro-grade computers for Film & Television.
The problem is, our Worldspace is made up of 9 Blocks (New Vegas is 16) - which are are groups of 16 "Sub-Blocks," each comprised of about 6 "Chunks," which hold all the cells in the entire landscape. Each Chunk takes anywhere between 5 and 12 minutes to render, which means (roughly) 6x16x9 = 864 x 6mis = 5184 minutes, or 86 hours of rendering (likely more as heat buildup and various processes turn on and off.)
That wouldn't be so bad, if the consumer grade GECK could handle it. As it stands, the "border" chunks, the ones that link the pair edges of each chunk together, cause the GECK to freeze as it runs out of memory. The GECK wasn't designed to handle more than 2 processor cores or anymore than 4GB of RAM, of which it only ever uses roughly 2 GB. (We have 32GB of RAM and 6x2.8 GHz cores.)
The workaround we're trying to use this month was pioneered by EMH, creator of the Alton, IL and Ethas: Embrace of Destiny. We're essentially breaking up our terrain into 9 "Blocks," saved in individual plugins. With luck, the GECK will not crash as we render them one by one, just 96 Chunks at a time. But, that means someone sitting at the computer has to manually change the plugins every few hours. :p So for 86 hours, I have to sit here and babysit. Day job? Pah. XD
After that is done, we won't have the object data for distant objects, like buildings, trees, or rocks. Basically, to tie the 9 Block plugins together, we need a new dlodsettings file, which control what meshes show up when you look at them, and that "ass pull file" won't contain the right UV settings to render objects. You know that annoying thing that happens in Bethesda games, where objects pop in and out of existence as you come close to them? It will mean all of our objects only appear up close, even the huge Interstate 15, or Fort Daggerpoint Complex, which cross whole cells.
So, TO WORKAROUND THAT, we're using a 3rd party programme, TESAnnwyn, to render a new dlodsettings file based on their LOD2 system. THEN, we might have objects that don't look awful. OR, as happened to EMH during development of the Alton, IL mod, the GECK will spontaneously start working off of the hacked in LOD files, and render the basic landscape we have been looking forward to for 4 years. Maybe.
Long story summed up, this will take us a while.
Update: It seems to have worked much faster than predicted! Sortof...
You can see that it is trying to work. :) Not -quite- the way it should be, but it's getting there. :)
With Fallout 4 rumors hitting the fan, here is to praying that future releases (or hell, if they hire us out of the blue, future solutions) will contain: working lip-sync utilities, and fixed LOD systems.
You don't even want to know what the workaround for our 3000+ lines of voiced dialog looks like. Thanks you for RJHelms for the tutorial that has eaten many, many hours of our lives. :p
As always, you can keep up with us on Facebook: Facebook.com
and our Fallout New Vegas Nexus Site: Newvegas.nexusmods.com