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Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
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OffAxis Offline
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Post: #1
Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
Hello all,

I'm returning to Esenthel to work on a project I've been working away (slowly) at for some time.

I'm curious of something, though. If I wanted to avoid the use of heightmapped terrain altogether, how feasible would it be to do this?

Could I model an environment in a different program (Blender3D, specifically), model it, texture it and all this, and then bring it into Esenthel? Not as one large piece of geometry, but in chunks that can be either streamed in, or make strong use of LOD, or whatever other method might prove best.

At most, I might use heightmap "chunks" purely for ground areas, to take advantage of painting foliage and such. I just do not like using heightmap terrain for cliffs. It never looks right to me and just "feels" artificial.

So, how well would Esenthel handle this? I imagine from a resource standpoint, it should be no different than having a dungeon or cave environment created entirely out of polysoup meshes. But, well.. ya never know, so it's better to ask than assume...

Thanks!
03-29-2013 07:08 PM
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OffAxis Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
No one can chime in on this, eh? That's unfortunate :(
03-31-2013 02:47 AM
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Pixel Perfect Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
The traditional way of dealing with this is to model the terrain either using the internal tools or whatever external tools you wish and export to a heighmap for importing into Esenthel. Then cliffs, overhangs, cave systems etc can be modelled as meshes and added to the terrain. This is the technique most AAA games are still using, FarCry3 being a recent example. It's simple and works really well combining the strengths of both mechanisms.

No disrespect intended, but it's far easier to work to the strenghts of an engine than work against them.
03-31-2013 10:11 AM
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fatcoder Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
EE will handle this fine. You will just set your meshes as embedded in the terrain. Even though you would have no terrain, EE will treat your meshes like they are terrain. They will automatically be split up and streamed for you.
03-31-2013 03:05 PM
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OffAxis Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
@Pixel Perfect: No disrespect taken smile. I appreciate the feedback.

I'll likely use the heightmap terrain system in more open areas, where the detail is intended to be pretty "large" and I don't require any degree of specific "control" over how the vertices lay. Open plains, rolling hills and such will be a good place for that.

For other environments, though, I'd rather use polysoup models entirely, simply because I can be far more arbitrary and get small bits of detail exactly where I want them, where heightmaps can be restrictive on that level (only able to move vertices vertically, etc).

Also, polysoup environments just feel more "solid" to me, for some reason. I always get the impression of props on a heightmap" when the method you describe is used - though there have been a few exceptions (Skyrim comes to mind, though that game makes extensive use of polysoup meshes). So, I prefer to have the environments created entirely through polysoup meshes as much as possible. I'm taking a modular approach to that end, but will certainly take advantage of heightmap terrains where they'd make the most sense.

@Fatcoder Thanks for that info! I remember reading about embedding elements in the terrain, and saw a graphic that illustrates how that works recently. I think that will work out beautifully, in addition to using LOD.

Here's a screenshot of early "in progress" work on my first environment using this approach. It's basically a rocky cliff with what will be a staircase going from lower environment (not yet modeled) up to a higher area. Currently it's 3 pieces, the chunk with the ramp/staircase on it, the back cliff wall and the green platform portion. I'm anticipating about 2-3 more pieces needed to finish off that specific section. Then of course there's the rest of the area. Doesn't look like much, yet, but it's going to be a small town/village when it's done.
(This post was last modified: 03-31-2013 06:13 PM by OffAxis.)
03-31-2013 06:11 PM
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Donik Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
(03-31-2013 06:11 PM)OffAxis Wrote:  Doesn't look like much, yet, but it's going to be a small town/village when it's done.

It never looks like much without textures and lighting. The polycount looks good though. Seems like you know how to handle our friends the polygons wink
03-31-2013 06:57 PM
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OffAxis Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
@Donik

Indeed heheh. That's actually something that I've "struggled" with; trying to remember that the texture art - esp. with normal/bump mapping, brings the surfaces to life, and so the underlying geometry doesn't have to be that detailed. It's easy to start adding in more geometry trying to create that detail. In fact, there's a spot or two I'm already realizing I could cut back on. Gotta be careful not to get too caught up in that area, too heh.

As this is going to be a game with online play (not massively multiplayer... more in line with a larger scale Neverwinter Nights Persistent World), and there's going to be trees and building and all manner of other details as well, it's gotta stay low.

The one challenge I'm going to face, and I'm sure I'll work it out, is getting a high enough pixel density on the UV mapping so the finished results look good in-game. But that's a bridge to cross when I get to it.

I'll post more shots when I get a bit farther along and it's looking more like a village, instead of a few random chunks of polygons.
03-31-2013 08:24 PM
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Pixel Perfect Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
(03-31-2013 03:05 PM)fatcoder Wrote:  EE will handle this fine. You will just set your meshes as embedded in the terrain. Even though you would have no terrain, EE will treat your meshes like they are terrain. They will automatically be split up and streamed for you.

I had wondered about this but wasn't sure. Esenthel certainly provides great flexibility.

(03-31-2013 08:24 PM)OffAxis Wrote:  The one challenge I'm going to face, and I'm sure I'll work it out, is getting a high enough pixel density on the UV mapping so the finished results look good in-game. But that's a bridge to cross when I get to it.

I'll post more shots when I get a bit farther along and it's looking more like a village, instead of a few random chunks of polygons.

Looking forward to seeing the results.
04-02-2013 12:22 PM
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OffAxis Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Polygonsoup based environments... Feasible?
So, just a quick update. I'm keeping this to this thread for now. When I get my license for Esenthel (hopefully soon!) and have more to show, I'll start an actual "work in progress" thread for it. Some stuff to do before then.

In any case. Since my last screenshot update, I made progress on the envrionment, but then realized I was kind of "modeling myself into a corner", so to speak.

Basically, I was modeling the cliffs and such, which had the result of defining the boundaries of the area. This was not ideal, as I found that I was not giving myself enough space for where the housing should go, along with other necessary objects (trees, boulders, etc. etc).

I decided to rewind a bit, and start with the ground areas - the walkways and the grass areas. This way I could model out and make sure I have the necessary space, and then model the cliffs and boundaries around there to "wrap it all up".

So, here's an up-to-date shot of the revised work. The only piece that's still in place from the last shot is the stair-case (well, what will be a staircase anyway smile portion leading up from the lower level, because I really like how that came out.

I color coded the pieces, so you should get the idea. I have another area to add on at the "rear" of the picture. That random gray "strip" at the far left is placeholder for what will be a staircase connecting the upper and lower area, so people don't always have to run around the entire area.

You can pretty much see where the cliff walls will go in that middle area, where the hole is left. I'm modeling all that last.

I have more grass area to add to the right side of the walkway curving up, which will have more homes there. Behind the homes on that side will be a cliff which leads down to a lake down below. The lower area that the stairs on the far left lead down to will be a sort of "commerce and port/docks area", and will have the main entrance/exit to the town. There's one more area which will be built on the opposite side of the port/docks area, which will be an all-out market area. So... in all, the town will be comprised of 3 major areas.

For scale, you can see a couple small rectangles - one on the lower-left staircase, and one on the far area, just to the right of the green patch. Those are character stand-ins to provide scale. So, you get an idea of how large the area is overall.

Anyway... enough rambling from me!
04-05-2013 03:43 AM
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