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Richards Software Ramblings

Shadow Mapping with SlimDX and DirectX 11

Posted by , 28 October 2013 - - - - - - · 1,000 views
SlimDX, C#, DirectX 11 and 2 more...

Shadow mapping is a technique to cast shadows from arbitrary objects onto arbitrary 3D surfaces. You may recall that we implemented planar shadows earlier using the stencil buffer. Although this technique worked well for rendering shadows onto planar (flat) surfaces, this technique does not work well when we want to cast shadows onto curved or irregular surfaces, which renders it of relatively little use. Shadow mapping gets around these limitations by rendering the scene from the perspective of a light and saving the depth information into a texture called a shadow map. Then, when we are rendering our scene to the backbuffer, in the pixel shader, we determine the depth value of the pixel being rendered, relative to the light position, and compare it to a sampled value from the shadow map. If the computed value is greater than the sampled value, then the pixel being rendered is not visible from the light, and so the pixel is in shadow, and we do not compute the diffuse and specular lighting for the pixel; otherwise, we render the pixel as normal. Using a simple point sampling technique for shadow mapping results in very hard, aliased shadows: a pixel is either in shadow or lit; therefore, we will use a sampling technique known as percentage closer filtering (PCF), which uses a box filter to determine how shadowed the pixel is. This allows us to render partially shadowed pixels, which results in softer shadow edges.


This example is based on the example from Chapter 21 of Frank Luna’s Introduction to 3D Game Programming with Direct3D 11.0. The full source for this example can be downloaded from my GitHub repository at https://github.com/ericrrichards/dx11.git, under the ShadowDemos project.

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Expanding our BasicModel Class

Posted by , 25 October 2013 - - - - - - · 579 views
C#, SlimDX, DirectX 11, Models

I had promised that we would move on to discussing shadows, using the shadow mapping technique. However, when I got back into the code I had written for that example, I realized that I was really sick of handling all of the geometry for our stock columns & skull scene. So I decided that, rather than manage all of the buffer creation and litter the example app with all of the buffer counts, offsets, materials and world transforms necessary to create our primitive meshes, I would take some time and extend the BasicModel class with some factory methods to create geometric models for us, and leverage the BasicModel class to encapsulate and manage all of that data. This cleans up the example code considerably, so that next time when we do look at shadow mapping, there will be a lot less noise to deal with.


The heavy lifting for these methods is already done; our GeometryGenerator class already does the work of generating the vertex and index data for these geometric meshes. All that we have left to do is massage that geometry into our BasicModel’s MeshGeometry structure, add a default material and textures, and create a Subset for the entire mesh. As the material and textures are public, we can safely initialize the model with a default material and null textures, since we can apply a different material or apply diffuse or normal maps to the model after it is created.


The full source for this example can be downloaded from my GitHub repository, at https://github.com/ericrrichards/dx11.git, under the ShapeModels project.


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Particle Systems using Stream-Out in DirectX 11 and SlimDX

Posted by , 21 October 2013 - - - - - - · 1,319 views
C#SlimDX, DirectX 11 and 3 more...

Particle systems are a technique commonly used to simulate chaotic phenomena, which are not easy to render using normal polygons. Some common examples include fire, smoke, rain, snow, or sparks. The particle system implementation that we are going to develop will be general enough to support many different effects; we will be using the GPU’s StreamOut stage to update our particle systems, which means that all of the physics calculations and logic to update the particles will reside in our shader code, so that by substituting different shaders, we can achieve different effects using our base particle system implementation.


The code for this example was adapted from Chapter 20 of Frank Luna’s Introduction to 3D Game Programming with Direct3D 11.0, ported to C# and SlimDX. The full source for the example can be found at my GitHub repository, at https://github.com/ericrrichards/dx11.git, under the ParticlesDemo project.


Below, you can see the results of adding two particles systems to our terrain demo. At the center of the screen, we have a flame particle effect, along with a rain particle effect.

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Skinned Models in DirectX 11 with SlimDX and Assimp.Net

Posted by , 15 October 2013 - - - - - - · 1,367 views
C#, SlimDX, Assimp, DirectX 11 and 2 more...

Sorry for the hiatus, I’ve been very busy with work and life the last couple weeks. Today, we’re going to look at loading meshes with skeletal animations in DirectX 11, using SlimDX and Assimp.Net in C#. This will probably be our most complicated example yet, so bear with me. This example is inspired by Chapter 25 of Frank Luna’s Introduction to 3D Game Programming with Direct3D 11.0, although with some heavy modifications. Mr. Luna’s code uses a custom animation format, which I found less than totally useful; realistically, we would want to be able to load skinned meshes exported in one of the commonly used 3D modeling formats. To facilitate this, we will again use the .NET port of the Assimp library, Assimp.Net. The code I am using to load and interpret the animation and bone data is heavily based on Scott Lee’s Animation Importer code, ported to C#. The full source for this example can be found on my GitHub repository, at https://github.com/ericrrichards/dx11.git under the SkinnedModels project. The meshes used in the example are taken from the example code for Carl Granberg’s Programming an RTS Game with Direct3D.


Skeletal animation is the standard way to animate 3D character models. Generally, a character model will be represented by two structures: the exterior vertex mesh, or skin, and a tree of control points specifying the joints or bones that make up the skeleton of the mesh. Each vertex in the skin is associated with one or more bones, along with a weight that determines how much influence the bone should have on the final position of the skin vertex. Each bone is represented by a transformation matrix specifying the translation, rotation and scale that determines the final position of the bone. The bones are defined in a hierarchy, so that each bone’s transformation is specified relative to its parent bone. Thus, given a standard bipedal skeleton, if we rotate the upper arm bone of the model, this rotation will propagate to the lower arm and hand bones of the model, analogously to how our actual joints and bones work.


Animations are defined by a series of keyframes, each of which specifies the transformation of each bone in the skeleton at a given time. To get the appropriate transformation at a given time t, we linearly interpolate between the two closest keyframes. Because of this, we will typically store the bone transformations in a decomposed form, specifying the translation, scale and rotation components separately, building the transformation matrix at a given time from the interpolated components. A skinned model may contain many different animation sets; for instance, we’ll commonly have a walk animation, and attack animation, an idle animation, and a death animation.

The process of loading an animated mesh can be summarized as follows:
  • Extract the bone hierarchy of the model skeleton.
  • Extract the animations from the model, along with all bone keyframes for each animation.
  • Extract the skin vertex data, along with the vertex bone indices and weights.
  • Extract the model materials and textures.

To draw the skinned model, we need to advance the animation to the correct frame, then pass the bone transforms to our vertex shader, where we will use the vertex indices and weights to transform the vertex position to the proper location.


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Loading 3D Models using Assimp.Net and SlimDX

Posted by , 03 October 2013 - - - - - - · 2,231 views
C#, SlimDX, DirectX 11, Models and 1 more...
So far, we have either worked with procedurally generated meshes, like our boxes and cylinders, or loaded very simple text-based mesh formats. For any kind of real application, however, we will need to have the capability to load meshes created by artists using 3D modeling and animation programs, like Blender or 3DS Max. There are a number of potential solutions to this problem; we could write an importer to read the specific file format of the program we are most likely to use for our engine. This does present a new host of problems, however: unless we write another importer, we are limited to just using models created with that modeling software, or we will have to rely on or create plugins to our modeling software to reformat models created using different software. There is a myriad of different 3D model formats in more-or-less common use, some of which are open-source, some of which are proprietary; many of both are surprisingly hard to find good, authoritative documentation on. All this makes the prospects of creating a general-purpose, cross-format model importer a daunting task.

Fortunately, there exists an open-source library with support for loading most of the commonly used model formats, ASSIMP, or Open Asset Import Library. Although Assimp is written in C++, there exists a port for .NET, AssimpNet, which we will be able to use directly in our code, without the hassle of wrapping the native Assimp library ourselves. I am not a lawyer, but it looks like both the Assimp and AssimpNet have very permissive licenses that should allow one to use them in any kind of hobby or professional project.

While we can use Assimp to load our model data, we will need to create our own C# model class to manage and render the model. For that, I will be following the example of Chapter 23 of Frank Luna’s Introduction to 3D Game Programming with Direct3D 11.0. This example will not be a straight conversion of his example code, since I will be ditching the m3d model format which he uses, and instead loading models from the standard old Microsoft DirectX X format. The models I will be using come from the example code for Chapter 4 of Carl Granberg’s Programming an RTS Game with Direct3D, although you may use any of the supported Assimp model formats if you want to use other meshes instead. The full source for this example can be found on my GitHub repository, athttps://github.com/ericrrichards/dx11.git, under the AssimpModel project.

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A more complicated model with multiple subsets, from the Assimp test model collection.

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Generating Random Terrains using Perlin Noise

Posted by , 01 October 2013 - - - - - - · 2,380 views
C#, SlimDX, DirectX 11, Terrrain and 3 more...

Previously, we have used our Terrain class solely with heightmaps that we have loaded from a file. Now, we are going to extend our Terrain class to generate random heightmaps as well, which will add variety to our examples. We will be using Perlin Noise, which is a method of generating naturalistic pseudo-random textures developed by Ken Perlin. One of the advantages of using Perlin noise is that its output is deterministic; for a given set of control parameters, we will always generate the same noise texture. This is desirable for our terrain generation algorithm because it allows us to recreate the same heightmap given the same initial seed value and control parameters.


Because we will be generating random heightmaps for our terrain, we will also need to generate an appropriate blendmap to texture the resulting terrain. We will be using a simple method that assigns the different terrain textures based on the heightmap values; a more complex simulation might model the effects of weather, temperature and moisture to assign diffuse textures, but simply using the elevation works quite well with the texture set that we are using.


The code for this example is heavily influenced by Chapter 4 of Carl Granberg’s Programming an RTS Game with Direct3D, adapted into C# and taking advantage of some performance improvements that multi-core CPUs on modern computers offer us. The full code for this example can be found on my GitHub repository, at https://github.com/ericrrichards/dx11.git, under the RandomTerrainDemo project. In addition to the random terrain generation code, we will also look at how we can add Windows Forms controls to our application, which we will use to specify the parameters to use to create the random terrain.


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