Poll

Dynamic skies...

...should die in a fire.
1 (3.1%)
...should probably be removed.
10 (31.3%)
...can stay or go as far as I'm concerned.
14 (43.8%)
...are something I like quite a bit, and I'd miss them.
5 (15.6%)
...must stay, because I love them so much!
2 (6.3%)

Total Members Voted: 32

Author Topic: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?  (Read 5825 times)

Offline x4000

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The case against dynamic skies:
To be blunt, the dynamic skies are a performance hog.  As in, on any machine more than a few years old they make it unplayably laggy.  And on newer machines they still account for 90% of the graphcial load.

They are also.... well, they are a bit same-y.  Since they are based on real skies, they can only look so many different ways.  It's been a while since I used static skies, but switching to those really reminds me of how cool those look.  If I had just one set of skies to maintain rather than two, I think I could push that even farther.

There's also a number of glitches with dynamic skies.  Most of them I can fix, but there's one -- the little black lines that appear and curl around in the skies sometimes -- which is never going to be fixable by me.  And the guy who does Unisky, on which the dynamic skies are based, seems to have abandoned it.

What dynamic skies chiefly offers that static skies do not:
When they are working properly, they do look pretty cool.  However, like I said, they do get pretty same-y throughout all the various areas, so once you get used to dynamic skies that cool factor really fades a lot.

Static skies do support sunsets, sunrises, and nights.  However, they do not yet support the sun or moon rising and setting in the sky (though that would be easy to add, and I really should add it).

They also don't have any moving clouds.  That's the big thing in dynamic skies that makes them interesting, is tons of motion in the background from those clouds.  That would be impossible to achieve in the same fashion with static skies, but I could eventually work on some background cloud movements for static skies if folks were interested in that.  But probably prior to 1.0, that would simply mean the end of the moving clouds for now.

What do folks think?
Remembering that first impressions are really important, of course.  And that goes for videos and screenshots as well as actual gameplay.  If someone is underwhelmed why the graphics, that's bad.  But if their first experience is that the game is playing at 20fps instead of 60fps, then that's also bad.

I'm a bit torn, but you can probably tell that I'm thinking I should just dump the dynamic skies -- which are more trouble than they are worth, I'm starting to feel -- and push onward with making static skies look as good as I can make them within the time budget that we have before 1.0 ("shipping is also a feature," etc).

Thoughts?



EDIT: Updated to add a poll.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 11:04:03 AM by x4000 »
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Offline zebramatt

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 11:20:00 AM »
Can't use 'em, myself.

Don't mind if other people want to keep them, though!

Offline x4000

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 11:21:16 AM »
The population of people able to actually use them at all seems abysmally low, to be honest.
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Offline KDR_11k

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2012, 11:22:04 AM »
I don't care but I don't think they look particularly good anyway. A problem might be that the dynamics are on a flat vertical plane which is not how the sky works in reality.

Offline x4000

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2012, 11:23:49 AM »
A problem might be that the dynamics are on a flat vertical plane which is not how the sky works in reality.

They actually are on a dome, but we're using an orthographic camera at a very specific angle, and so that messes with it some.
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Offline laughingman

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2012, 11:24:13 AM »
I voted they should probably be removed, mostly because it seems like a ton of extra work on your part for a small proportion of your intended audience. I would rather that time be spent on other content that the vast majority of players could enjoy.

Offline x4000

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2012, 11:27:28 AM »
That was my thought, too.
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Offline Toll

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2012, 11:46:38 AM »
I use them, but... to be honest, I don't even think about them most of the time. I honestly doubt I would've noticed them being gone unless you had brought this topic up, so I'm certainly not opposed to them being removed. And if they actually eat 90% of the graphics load... yeah, that's a lot of load for such a small perk.

Offline BobTheJanitor

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2012, 11:48:41 AM »
Voted either-or. I can use them just fine, and I do remember noticing that they were quite pretty at one point. But in general play I hardly pay attention to them. If they were replaced with static skies with the same level of graphical quality, I probably would barely notice the change. But when I do actually stop to look at them, they are quite striking... so there is that.

Offline x4000

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2012, 12:01:16 PM »
The reason for the insane graphics load from these skies is that they are being procedurally generated on your GPU.  It requires something like... I'm not sure exactly, but at least let's say 50ish floating point operations (mostly multiplies or similar) per pixel per frame.  It might actually be a lot higher than that.  At 1920x1280, that's 2,457,600 pixels in the first place.  Then that's 122,880,000 floating point operations in general per frame.  Or thereabouts.  If you're hoping to run at 60fps, then that's 7,372,800,000 floating point operations per second.

Is that math right?  Man that seems insane.  I can still run the game at well north of 60fps even with the dynamic skies on, but if you're wondering why these are such a load, that's why.  And that's why so few GPUs are able to run these.  At smaller screen resolutions the effect is much less severe: 1024x768 is just 786,434 pixels to fill, and thus 39,321,600 floating point operations per frame, and thus 2,359,296,000 floating point operations per second.  Well, actually that was less savings than I imagined, once I did the math.

And all of those operations are what is happening ASIDE from drawing anything from the actual game itself.  The game itself takes vastly fewer operations to draw than that, so 90% of the graphics load may have been undershooting it in a lot of cases, heh.
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2012, 12:04:47 PM »
I think the dynamic skies are awesome, but I use static because I have integrated graphics.  Haven't tried them on my wife's new (middle-of-the-road) discrete card.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2012, 12:06:53 PM »
I think their motion and general quality is awesome, but I think that their colors leave a lot to be desired.  It tends to trend toward making everything blander and less saturated than the rest of the game, which is something I've been unable to fix with them.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2012, 12:10:55 PM »
Oh, and I also have a lot less control over dynamic skies than I do over static.  At least in a straightforward fashion.  I thought about making the various seasons have different lengths of days and nights (matching what you'd expect -- more sun in summer, more night in winter, etc), but that's not something I can really control with the dynamic skies without rewiring huge swathes of someone else's code and probably introducing tons of bugs in the process.
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Offline Underfot

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2012, 12:12:55 PM »
I actually do stop to watch and enjoy them from time to time.  I've actually never played with them disabled, so I can't do a real comparison.

Offline Hearteater

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Re: Poll: Is there anyone here particularly attached to dynamic skies?
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2012, 12:19:41 PM »
It's been awhile, but I just installed 10 patches to test this.  Wow, I really can't stand those dynamic skies.  The static skies just made the levels look so much nicer.  Part of it is an Uncanny Valley problem I think.