Looks Like Confed Has Been Taking Care Of You
As previously mentioned, for the demo we plan to replace the Intrepid with the Lexington; and that means it was time to import it.
She wasn’t really ready
The Lexington was our first real-world worst case test scenario for performance, having almost 100,000 triangles which, due to the size of it, will often end up in most of the shadow depth buffers. This highlighted a few performance bottlenecks in the untested Vulkan rendering implementation. However we managed to track down the cause quickly enough and I’m happy to say that even older machines should not struggle with performance. Most of the render time is again going to post processing (all of which is optional). We probably could have set our poly targets slightly higher for the visible mesh.
With the Lexington in place we started focusing on any visual issues. For example, the ambient occlusion had been impacting emissive maps, so we adjusted the effect to multiply with the albedo texture prior to calculating the lighting. The result is brighter engine glows. We then adjusted the values we were using for bloom to ensure the bloom actually read, whilst avoiding disruption to the scene.
I have a big gun, I have a happy gun
When we first showed footage of the game you’ll have noticed turrets on capships firing at fighters. Had you actually played the game you’d have noticed they weren’t destructible as they’d been set up as a quick hack. Now the turrets use physical joints with angular constraints; possibly overkill, but it means their collision mesh will perfectly match their renderable geometry regardless of orientation. With the correct collision geometry in place it’s now of course possible to take out the turrets.
You’re a total Maniac
Happy with performance and the external appearance, we turned our attention to the hangar. The first thing we decided to do was reduce our reliance on baked lighting and illuminate as much as possible with fully shadow mapped spot lights. This is traditionally something you should never do; spotlights aren’t cheap and a generation ago this would have killed performance. But going this route means that the bump map & specular highlights really pop as intended and lighting is fully dynamic as your fighter flies through the hangar.
The downside of this decision is that the highest polygon models in the game now need to be rendered not just just for the visible scene and the directional shadow, but also the 43 spot lights in the hangar! Obviously the next major optimization was to optimize the shadows so that they wouldn’t redraw even if the capship moved; so long as all the objects currently in had moved the same relative amount. I’m happy to say that we have achieved our dream of fully dynamic lighting whilst still maintaining excellent performance.
The point lights on the Lexington are also dynamic. I don’t imagine players will even notice but if you were to fly close enough to any of the light sources you would find the light casting onto your ship.
Full House. Aces and Eights.
Now that we had a hangar we needed to populate it. Even the original game had parked fighters and various items. Defiance placed a number of locations for items and provided models for oil drums and deck vehicles – and of course we park fighters in some of them.
All together we think this has really started to come together and we are getting close to the final look we want to achieve.
Defiance Industries has even started to add props that match the FMV footage.
We considered adding a forcefield effect on entering and exiting the hangar, ala the movie – but as we are attempting to match the FMV we decided against it. Still we do have future plans such as atmospheric effects and light shafts for the spotlights.
That’s not the Confed fleet!
People may think that the lighting doesn’t match what was in the FMV; however this isn’t quite the case. We captured a number of scenes from the Lexington hangar and what we realised is that there appear to be two sets of colour grading on the Confed track; the tint on the Lexington changes from reds to blues after captain Eisen is replaced by Paulsen. Although not relevant for the demo we are talking about matching the in-game colour grading to the FMV for the final release. I do love discovering things like this about my favourite game all these years later.
But wait, there’s more!
The Lexington isn’t the only ship to have received some TLC lately. In the previous post we showed you the remake’s take on the Confed variant of the Caernaven-class frigate. We have now also imported the Pirate and Border World variants.
I absolutely love the paint job Defiance has given to the pirates and can’t wait to start taking them down in the demo.
Like the Lexington they also have fully articulated turrets. Whilst capital ships move they can, for all intents and purposes, be treated as infinitely heavy objects which cannot be moved by outside forces. Making this assumption has allowed us to use much more complex collision geometry than before for all capital ships (no bouncing off of invisible, over-simplified geometry ala Wing Commander Prophecy for us).
There has been work on a few odds and ends. The biggest thing to report is that we have created an installer in anticipation of the demo which has had the bonus effect of getting team members set up more easily. Now the team can test and alter assets directly, which should hopefully massively improve productivity and we will be discussing one of the things to come out of this in the next update.
Last but most definitely not least we should mention that Wing Commander IV: Remastered won fan project of the year at the Wing Commander CIC. Thank you to everyone who voted for us, and to the CIC for maintaining a thriving community and collection of resources, without which projects like this would be impossible.