Friday, December 17, 2010

21 – Hollow Earth, part two

After the lengthy explanation from last time let us jump right in, and only draw front-left and front-right sides for floors only when they are needed. The world becomes quite black:

Turning on multi-level rendering we can see how few tiles need to get rendered. Keep in mind that there is on layer that covers everything like a sheet on a bed that is not visible right now:

Then, for the first time ever, we draw the top side of floors:

And then of walls:

Dwarftastic!!! Everything looks like it looked before and the frame rate is pretty much the same. But, if we turn on multi-layer rendering and scroll to the side of the map where it is the thickest, we get this result:

The thing to note is the FPS in the title bar: 91! This used to be around 20. And with single-layer rendering, we get 108. The actual numbers are not important, since they change a little based on the content of the map and a lot based on the hardware that you are running it on. What is important is the relative difference between them. Going from 100 to 20 is very bad. Going from 100 to 90 is negligible. So it seems that all the effort put into this algorithm has paid off.
One thing that you will notice is that there are black squares where I dug out the floor. This is because in the past, it was only an illusion that we are not on level 0 but on level 1. I used some tricks and faked and extra level when needed so that I didn’t have to render another floor. Now I removed this hack and we are on level zero, so there is nothing below it when digging.
Since we now have this great engine that is capable of drawing multiple levels fast, let us change from level zero to level 10 for now. That is 10 extra levels. The problem is that I have hard-coded zeroes everywhere in code. After changing that in a long and arduous process that I am not going to talk about any more, we get this:

Perfect! And this is with levels zero through 10 drawn. There is no longer the distinction between single- layer and multi-layer rendering. Now you can choose between levels 0 and your current level and rendering of the full height of the map. This also means that you can lower your current level to underground, and become completely lost because everything is uniform rock. This is also a problem in Dwarf Fortress. You can get lost so bad that you need to zoom over to your expedition drop point. You do know the keyboard shortcut for that, don’t you? Fun times...
So let us scroll over to the side of the map, enable full-map rendering and check it out:

Pretty thick. That’s what she said! The new rendering engine is not quite map height agnostic, but it is lot faster than before. And there are a lot of performance tweaks to be made yet, especially since I was quite in a hurry with the implementation. Anyway, this is not a game in which you will need hundreds of FPS. Going up to you screen refresh rate is fine, but there isn’t a lot of benefit in going further than that. The tricky part is getting the required FPS on old hardware. Right now I am only rendering worlds of 300x300x20. I would like to increase that if possible. Horizontal dimensions are easy to increase, they only eat up memory. Vertical dimension increases have negative effects on FPS.
This concludes my two part mini-feature on the new rendering engine. The code is written in such a way that later I can replace the drawing of a side with the placement of four vertexes in a vertex buffer and I already have all the visibility factors computed for a relatively painless transition to a true 3D engine when the time calls for it.

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