Good Coders Are Bouncy Coders
That's right, you can't keep us down for long! Given the overwhelming support for increasing the texture stage count to 16, even from my good friend at a certain graphics card company, I solved the issue of terrain shadows and normals in a stroke.
In fact, when I had completed the leviathan shader, it turned out that it's performance was very reasonable for the amazing number of things it was doing. Turns out the performance hog happened a little later when I switched EVERYTHING ELSE on and ran it as one combined program.
Performance Tuning A Must
I had hoped to get away with avoiding performance tuning until later in the project, ideally after the beta, but it seems I will need to face this one earlier than planned. To that end I have ordered a mid-range GTX 650 Ti graphics card to compliment the NVIDIA NSIGHT tool, which will give me unparalleled access into the innards of what my graphics engine is doing. Turns out my chunky old AMD card can't run the tool :) That said, I am still running 45fps with everything switched on and unoptimised, which means it is certainly fast enough to continue developing, testing, adding different content and generally allowing a few screenshots and videos to be had.
Your New Shadows and Normals
As you have pushed for them, I though it thoughtful to give you a screenshot showing the new features. Here is the new ground shadow system which provides real time dynamic shadows for the terrain and the grass coverage:
And here is a blatant normal map poking through the muddy terrain by the waters edge. I have also toned down the water reflectivity, adjusted the fresnel term and muddied the water tint some more:
As you can see, I re-used the palm tree leaf normal map while I await final artwork from Mark who is currently busy producing lots of lovely terrain art!
I also checked out some of the 'competition' by viewing all the best of the best E3 game releases for 2013, and tried to mine more ideas for shaders I could throw into this engine. Alas most of what I saw was either scripted sequences or mountains of content, nothing technical I could pull out quickly and convert into an new engine feature that could improve the shots and vids. If you find inspirational material that contradicts my findings, please do post a comment so I can check it out. I am not in the least bit phased by the lofty heights established by 20 million dollar projects, and I don't mind having a go :)
What you are not seeing here is the work progressing on the weapons side of things. We now have complete animations for all weapons, sounds are coming along nicely, lots of subtle touches in there over and above the airmod tricks such as a separate running animation for weapons, weapon wobble based on parent camera wobble and some new weapon lag code to create a natural effect when you swing around quickly. Running along now feels more realistic and I am looking forward to completing the rest of the weapon systems once visuals have been cracked.
As customary, it's getting pretty late (or early) and my list still has a few items un-ticked which will be pushed to the next days. I had hoped to play around with dust particle effects and sugar steelers, and might plop another hour into it before noddy time. Hopefully I will get some terrain content on Friday and have a fun filled weekend populating my little world. I am pretty sure the only thing I need now to get some nice screenshots is enough content scattered about the empty fields to make it look like something ;)