Managed to delegate some more, reduce my inbox count and get an internal version out the door for more testing and veg video production, but the main headline story is the sequence of inexplicable crashes I have had to wade through. You all know the frustration as developers of not getting to the task you want to start because of a handful of totally mysterious bugs that need fixing first. Well that was my day. Even after 30 years of coding I can still be tripped up by a crash who's cause is the random corruption of some data at some point in time, and the crash event sheds no light on either.
Add a new flag in the meantime called "dividetexturesize=X" which scales down the textures loaded into the engine. I will have it default to 2 so that lower end machines are not choking their GPU video memory with 2048x2048 textures, and those with higher end cards can simply adjust this value to 1 for the highest resolution textures. In the future I might introduce some modes which do not reduce very small textures as they have much less impact on overall video memory usage.
I've just had a bath, and waiting for a Eureka moment on the crash issues, but none came. I have thus decided to approach the problem methodically. I will totally analyse the area of memory that the crash occurs on, and record as much as possible the before, during and after states, and setup monitors of the data around the memory block in case something else changes it. It's long-winded, but it eliminates the need for intuitive guesswork, and if I can finish off today (by 3AM) with a fix of this most illusive bug, I will be a happy chappy.
My plan (for Wednesday now), is to skip the LOAD OBJECT memory work (which would only yield a small saving overall) and go for the huge performance gain of making all distant objects QUAD buffers, and then extend it to shadows, reflection and light ray cameras. It will reduce draw calls by MORE than half for the same visual, so it's well worth it and early tests show a marked improvement in FPS, even at lower levels. My run-to-the-river currently runs at 10fps with everything on and 15fps with some conservative reductions. The game plays well at 30-35fps so that will be my initial aim on the GeForce 9600 GT card I am currently using. I also plan to recruit one of my coders to help me with some terrain work which should vastly reduce the memory and performance footprint too.