Hey there! Welcome to the first SPV3 community update. My name is Simon, the new community manager for SPV3 & will be sharing with you all the juicy tidbits going on behind the scenes to further develop and improve the SPV3 experience, this will include details on how we approach development, teasers for upcoming improvements & additions as well as insights into the development of the mod.
With the SPV3.2 release, one of the most vocal pieces of feedback we received was the darkness in SPV3, most prominently in the Commander missions. It's been just about 2 months since we released SPV3.2, and we greatly appreciate all the feedback and interest in the project. We have plans for an update to release alongside our firefight expansion, though both of these will arrive at a yet to be decided date.
As we've received feedback about the 3.2 release, we have been able to isolate reasons for why areas of the game were darker for users than intended. Masterz1337 has written a rather detailed explanation of how and why this happened. But if you want a shorter and less technical explanation, it basically came down to an incorrect setting with our HDR system which was more severe for some users setups and fine on others. You can read the full in depth explanation below.
Hey everyone, it's been just about 2 months since we released SPV3.2, and we greatly appreciate all the feedback and interest in the project. We are still assessing when the next update will come, as our plans for smaller updates was somewhat derailed due to a fairly common complaint regarding the brightness of SPV3. We have been silent on the issue mostly, as we assessed what is actually going on with it, as we did not have issues with it in testing and development. What you got in the current release, is a consequence of a number of things.
The first one, is simply an error on our part. A large part of what we did with SPV3.2 was experimenting with post processing. In short, the implementation of post processing into SPV3 allowed for us to make our colours more vivid and in depth. For our more darker missions this meant darker colours became deeper.
Although we have developed and experienced QA team there were a number of different variables within our dev environment that meant that we were unable to pick up on these errors.
- We test in a dev environment where our games draw off our Halo CE settings, including gamma values many of us have had for years.
- A number of us have some pretty high quality displays, where our brightness helped overcome any sort of extra darkness which would present itself on other peoples displays. Obviously, not everyone has the same displays as us, and even with the most rigorous testing,we have no way of being prepared to anticipate how the game will look on 40,000 users displays
- Halo CE's lightmapping process is extremely slow. Given the tools we use date back to 2001, they are designed for single core performance and often bottleneck. There are some lightmaps that take literally 2-3 months to render out. Because of that, we often use debug lightmaps while doing tests until the final ones are ready. These are often brighter, and doing revisions on final lightmaps can be a hit or a miss with long periods of time to render out.
- Because what your eye sees is based on what you are looking at on your display, screenshots and videos do not represent what you are actually seeing vs sharing with us, and that includes our testing team.
- The launcher which manages your SPV3 profile, has settings that do not match those some users traditionally have used for Halo CE, because of that, people who had settings which made the game display fine before, did not have those same settings applied when they loaded SPV3.
- This is a big one, Halo CE, and SPV3 by extension, override windows gamma settings. This means that even a properly configured display, with correct brightness levels can be upset by the launching of SPV3 and thus making the image darker than intended. If you look at HiddenXperia's videos on SPV3.2, you will notice he mentions that his video editing software for some reason brightened the footage he captured. It's actually the opposite. The game was darkening his display, and his video footage was playing back to him with brighter settings than the game was playing at. We mention this not to "shame" him for being incorrect, but simply to show you how confusing and complex it can be to correctly identify brightness issues.
When dealing with a game as old as this, with so many layers of complexity we can't expect users to be as well versed in the intricacies of displays and settings. It should be something that works best it can out of the proverbial box. With all this said, it was our broken HDR values which exacerbated this issue. It should also be noted, that we do want dark levels, and some of these may not be up everyone's alley when it comes to what they prefer. When designing SPV3.2, we always knew we wanted to do more spooky horror based stuff, like we did with the Maw, and other brighter more action packed missions. None of this is changing. What will be changing, is the HDR settings which should provide you the spooky dark atmosphere we intended, without crushing those blacks and making things unplayable for some users. We will be doing public tests on some maps for anyone who would like to partake in them in our discord shortly in the future. We are also obviously changing the way we do testing, and taking into account more hardware on our end to test these issues to make sure older and darker displays will provide an enjoyable experience for users. We've also provided some screenshots of how things have changed between 3.2 and this update we have planned. Unfortunately, the problem with doing this update is that every map needs to be updated, more or less requiring an entire redownload of the game. We obviously don't want to push this on people multiple times, as the Firefight update (now slated for fall) will require a large update as well to almost every map in the game. It basically comes down to how many times do we want to push an update that requires a total redownload of the game. We will provide new updates in our public testing channel in our discord, where users can see how new and updated lighting works for them where we can get feedback from a large variety of users.
We've got some screenshots to show you progress on this front. We've provided you guys with 5 images of certain parts of the level. The first is the level as it appeared in 3.2, and then we have a picture of the levels with the same lightmaps, but adjusted HDR settings, a picture of the level with no post processing (HDR requires post processing), and then in some cases where we re-ran the lightmaps, a picture of the new lightmaps with new HDR settings, and a picture of the new lightmaps with no post processing (and thus no HDR).
Tools, Guns, Keys To Super Weapons
Since the team released the 3.2 update, the SPV3 tech team have been busy working on a plethora of different upgrades to improve the SPV3 experience. Here’s just a few that have been successfully implemented as of writing,
New SPV3 Kernel
This one's for the tech-oriented people. Since the release, the kernel (the hxe.exe program you'll often see) has been rewritten from the ground up with improved granularity and efficiency. The beauty of the kernel lies in the plethora of under-the-hood features, such as:
- Wrapper around the HCE executable
- Compatibility with HCE arguments (-window, -vidmode, etc.)
- Automatic video/audio enhancements
- Custom native video resolution
- Border-less HCE window mode
- Support for the SPV3 mod
- SPV3.2 loading, updating, installing
- SPV3.2/Lumoria campaign resuming
- SPV3.2 post-processing tweaking
- Backwards compatibility with SPV3.1
- Campaign resume
- Maps unlocking
- Automatic profile detection
Everything is conducted automatically behind the scenes when you load SPV3, and each option can be configured according to your liking.
Borderless window mode
Borderless mode is a feature that many modern games implement. It makes life incredibly convenient by combining the best of both worlds: the experience of playing a game in fullscreen, and the flexibility of running a game in windowed mode.
With borderless mode, SPV3 takes up the entire screen, yet permits easy alt-tabbing and moving the cursor across multiple monitors. On top of that, it also avoids changing the monitor's resolution, which makes the overall experience much smoother.
Discord Rich Presence for SPV3.2 missions
With help from giraffe, Arecaidian Fox and sbdJazz, the SPV3 loader now allows for full SPV3.2 integration with Discord. When the game is running, people can see the mission and difficulty you're currently playing on. This adds a layer of professionalism and modernity to a mod which is built on a legacy engine from the ancient times.
Windows 10 Tile Support
In similar fashion to the aforementioned Discord Rich Presence, the loader improves the user experience by introducing tiling compatibility for the Windows 10 start menu. This means that when you install SPV3.2 or create a start-menu shortcut, the icon which pops up will look large and sweet, rather than small and boring. The necessary code and assets have been provided by sbdJazz as part of his series of contributions to the overall UX of the loader.
This all about wraps up this update! We hope to do these every Friday going forward, or every other Friday. We have a lot of cool things in the future to discuss, and we know a lot of you have questions too! Feel free to leave a comment or questions for us, we will do our best to address them in depth in the next update. In the future, we hope to detail some of the changes coming in future updates, including some news on our long awaited firefight mode.