When Armada 2 was made, we lived in a time of the pentium 2 processor. The requirements for A2 are something along the lines of 300MHz processor, 64mb of RAM and 4MB of video memory.
The stock armada 2 on maximum graphics uses textures that are 256x256 for most things, with model poly counts sub-1000. This works smoothly any machine with say 128mb of RAM a 400MHz and an 8mb Graphics card.
Now, my PC now is outdated in as much as it uses entirely previous generation technology.
Here our it's specifications: - Pentium 4 3.4GHz - 1024mb DDR1 RAM - 256MB GeForce 7600GS AGP
Now with the exception of the graphics, the majority of new PCs for £400+ surpass this machine and that is from overpriced PC world. The graphics card is of low importance to the A2 engine, due to the nature of all games at that time, it's only over the last few years and GPUs have overtaken CPUs for the bulk of the graphics processing work. If the CPU is doing the work, the system RAM is therefore of greater importence than the VGA RAM.
Now in terms of raw processing power, my CPU has at least 11x the power requirement in terms of clock speed alone. Take into more efficant design of the cache and the general arcutecture of the CPU then you have at least a 15x advantage in CPU power. Now as I said new CPUs are better than this, any core2duo, pentium dual core (not pentiumD) or celeron 4XX conroe-l will outperform my processor in many ways. (I know this as we have a bottom standard pentium dual core processor in our other computer and it is so much faster even at gaming which only uses one core in most cases.)
In terms of RAM, I have 16x the required quantity as it is DDR the performance is also much greater than what was around when A2 was released.
In Graphics Card terms the performace is almost incalcuable to be honest, with the GPU and the GRAM being so far beyond what was originally there. To say that potential performace is 50x would not be as much of an overstatement as you may think.
DirectX and Windows have advanced too, which provides a small boost to performace as well with better link between software commands and hardware doing the job. Even harddrives and CD-ROMs are faster now!
With all this extra power by logic you would think that you could easily put 10x the poly count on models in the game, and greatly increase texture resolutions...
Well no, there is one problem, the graphics engine of armada 2 itself. It is not a power graphics engine and it where the problems begin, it doesn't benefit from all the performance increases in a system, don't ask me to explain why that is, because I don't know the complexities of the matter. Suffice to say the game engine is a performace bottle neck which we can't really change, even the fleetops team would struggle to improve the power of the storm3d engine.
So where does this leave us?
Well, it's all a matter of oppinion. A great many modders believe that poly counts over 2000 are inpractical and pointless, especially with armada 2 being a stratagy game with hundreds of ships being built and so on. Others, like myself, disagree we believe that we can be more liberal. I myself play with several 3000 poly models like p81s sov and have never experienced lag or unacceptable frame rates unless I'm playing online in which case it's cause I have a faulty internet connection.
There are some extra things to consider:
1) The a2 engine does not have advanced lighting and shaders like modern stratagy games, so the machine is working less hard with the graphics, on this basis it has more room with poly counts and the like.
2) A good TC mod is balenced totally differently the the stock game, it will generally allow for a slower build up for ships and highly costs, increasing the value of the individual ships, if you played the first edition of BI:VR the game made you play with extremely long build times for all ships. Now 2 1000 poly models take as much, if not more processing power than one 2000 poly one. A well balenced mod will have a great performace advantage over a stock balenced one.
3) There are ways of reducing the effect the high poly counts and flashy special effects have on the game. Giving ships only 1 or 2 weapons is the first way with high fire rates and lots of hardpoints. This way the weapon texture and code is only loaded once. In the ART_CFG.h file it contains the code for ships destruction and break up, making a ship break up into larger sections and giving them a shorter lifespan after the ship destruction also reduces the rendering work of the graphics card as it only has to render the visible polys and a larger chunk of a model has more polys that are facing away from you and so don't have to be rendered, also the CPU has less complicated physics based calculations than if you have it breaking up into hundreds of tiny pieces.
Now in my view I think we can be far less troubled by poly counts than we used to be, having the average poly count of a mod being 2500 to me seems reasonable. The lower limit being generally around 1500 for common ships and 4500 as a new upper limit for large uncommon capital ships. Some of you will think this insane, so I'd still like to hear your views, or if you think that some of my technical knowledge or logical reasoning is falacious then I'd still be interested in what you have to say.
A2 does have dynamic lighting, however it needs to be set on the map, and most people leave it set as the default settings, which are quite uncomplimentary. The lighting effects don't consume any notable resources unless you have a great many directional lights on the map.
The real problem with increasing limits drastically is that not everybody's computers would be capable of running them. A previous poll on this subject revealed many people are running on older hardware passed down from someone else. I think the poll was around 12 months ago, but I can't remember the date.
Personally, I trust that every mod author knows what they are doing when they design their mods. K7 for example has used poly counts significantly higher than most other mods but he has reduced the total number of ships to do it.
I would say its probably best to avoid arbitrarily raising poly limits for everything as it may mean a silent majority of the people downloading files would have trouble running your mod on older hardware. However, thats just my opinion.
I'm not saying that it should be complusary, but I don't want it to be frowned upon in the way that many people do and that for people to realise that there is perhaps a lot more scope with these things that you imagine. Yes lots of people use older computers, but then loads use newer ones too. I think the attitude of many people to things like poly counts breed serious misconceptions as to what you can and can't do.
well I have to admit I have a Power PC with slightly more processing power than ryans and twice the ram and a GeForce 8800 768mb card and armada runs very well at any setting or condition, but I also do testing on my other pc which is a low end that barely meets the requirements to play. that being said I don't think high poly ships are evil. if anything its a sign that we armada modders are keeping up with the times!
In my view ships in a TC should be priced (resource-wise) by their poly count. If you have a 5,000+ battleship then make it very expensive and time-consuming to build, this will deter the average user from clogging up their system with too many of these.. To justify the ship's time and resource costs, you can give it alot of firepower and hull strength, so when the user builds one they will get their "moneys" worth for doing so.
Also it would be prudent to place a comment in the odf above the cost parameters warning the user that these values are set due to the model's high poly count so if they go messing with the odf's they will be warned.
I didn't make it!
I think what people underestimate is a good texture. Look at K7AV's new Shadow Class model. No-one can deny that it looks stunning, and yet, its LESS polys than the original stock model. Its the texture, and to a smaller extend the areas on which polys were spent, that makes it look so good. I think the highest poly model in KA is up around 3000, but thats due to conversion from someones very good SFC II model, and you only encounter it once in the campaigns and maybe once or twice as a map object. (Namely, the Langley Class) but the majority of buildable ship models are well under 1500. I think another thing that can make even a rather mediocre model look fantastic is a well implemented lightmap. Thats part of the reason I love SFC models. Sure, they are low poly, but with their little twinkly lights, glowing nacelles and so forth, they just really work well in the A2 Engine. I've tried to follow that look with every model I've implemented, including those from KA and from third party sources.
A light map can go a long ways indeed.
yep, the problem is getting people to create maps with lighting to show them off though.
Freyr;4010666A2 does have dynamic lighting, however it needs to be set on the map, and most people leave it set as the default settings, which are quite uncomplimentary. The lighting effects don't consume any notable resources unless you have a great many directional lights on the map. The real problem with increasing limits drastically is that not everybody's computers would be capable of running them. A previous poll on this subject revealed many people are running on older hardware passed down from someone else. I think the poll was around 12 months ago, but I can't remember the date. Personally, I trust that every mod author knows what they are doing when they design their mods. K7 for example has used poly counts significantly higher than most other mods but he has reduced the total number of ships to do it. I would say its probably best to avoid arbitrarily raising poly limits for everything as it may mean a silent majority of the people downloading files would have trouble running your mod on older hardware. However, thats just my opinion.[/quote] [quote=AdmarilRyan;4010737]I'm not saying that it should be complusary, but I don't want it to be frowned upon in the way that many people do and that for people to realise that there is perhaps a lot more scope with these things that you imagine. Yes lots of people use older computers, but then loads use newer ones too. I think the attitude of many people to things like poly counts breed serious misconceptions as to what you can and can't do.
I agree with Freyr. I have always been against high poly vessels in Armada1/2, I believe 2500 is the absolute max a ship should be, with 2000 being a much better size. As James has said the texture makes the model more than the model itself. But it is up to the modeller/modder. I have always thought of the less fortunate people that was why I have always made sure the models in my projects are as low poly as possible while still looking good. I don't think you would get frown upon Ryan if you use higher poly it is just some like myself would not do the same in your shoes. But you can also use what you have at hand.
My main point is, we've been using models of those poly counts for about 2 years. 3 years ago 2000 was the limit, then it became the normal for a good many larger ships, my question is, how much does the acceptable average poly count increase over time.
Also on a lot of reviews or comments regarding new ship models are directly a "What's the poly count?" and "hmm, that's a bit too high I think." which makes modders like me worried about using these models or converting them from other games. (BC has many nice models in the 3000-4000 poly bracket for example.)