I just love the new LOD switcher! It works great. It has better visual quality and uses considerably less CPU to update LOD levels. Everything is quite snappy. It even uses slightly less resources, so it even renders faster. Pop-in is not completely gone, but I am happy with it's current levels. So I have an engine which supports tens of thousand of objects without bill boarding and pop-in is (IMHO) minor. Has anyone else created such and engine before? I want to find the best there is at stuff like this. Please link me to such and engine or game if you know about it's existence. The only thing that comes to mind is the Total War series.
I also managed to adjust the LOD system it to work for top down mode. It is not quite as good as the old one for top down, but rather than looking back I'll keep it for all modes.
I also tested fly camera and the LOD switcher works great. While doing this I realized that I was still running on the quarter map, so I redid the experiments on full map. It still runs great, but 90K objects on "ultra" sure gives the good old a run for the money. I am getting between 50 and 60 FPS under these settings. But with only 22.5K items ultra works great! I don't know how many object a normal map will have, but if it's under 15k I'll probably add "Super Duper Ultra" mode too.
I tried to take the finished model of the barrel made by BrewStew and adjust it for the new LOD levels. Near the middle point I made a mess of things and I had to revert back tot the base model and start over. This after an hour of work. Second time it only took me minutes. After you get some practice with Blender you can become quite fast.
Confident in my abilities, I decide it is time to do my first ever texturing job. I chose the chest. Under Blender the results look absolutely horrible and I am ashamed of them. In game it looks a lot better. Still a poor quality texture, but it is OK for my first try:
Of course I went in with no plan, no measurements and no sense of proportions. I make extremely poor use of the texture's resolution and I managed to screw up the little handle:
How the hell are you supposed to open this chest? Good job, mister texturer.
Then I decide to test out the barrels. They look great, except for the old problem of the seam. I tried for about an hour to fix it and I couldn't. Then I modeled a new barrel. Not quite as good as BrewStew's, but not bad. I am no longer horrible at this. This didn't work either. So I modeled another one. For this one I had the theory that the seams that were marked inside Blender are the cause. And I was right, because after I fixed all the problems caused by the seam marking in Blender on the original barrel (just removing the markings does not fix this), we got this result:
There is still a small seam. Can you see it? But look at the chair to the right to see how bad it used to be. Here is the same picture with the seams marked:
I have a theory that these seams can be fixed/improved by texture work. I'll try and mirror the two corners of the texture where the seam is. This way the GPU should blend the border of a mirrored image, basically creating a tiling effect. If this does not work, still the new seams are barely noticeable.
I also need to export normals from Blender. Without Irrlicht computes it's own normals and quite frankly the results are not that good.
You will also notice that everything is more shiny and bright. I'm not sure about the shininess, but the brightness I like. I needed to stick a ton of lighting on objects to not cause them to be super dark. The change is done by different export options. Now maybe I can try alternative lighting. Probably still need the help of a professional. Somebody who's done lighting for games in the past, who can look at my meshes and give me advice on all the 9000 parameters lights and materials have.
I'm off to retexture the chest again and fix the seam on all objects now that I know how. Anyway, after about 6 hours messing around with Blender I am starting to get comfortable.