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Richards Software Ramblings

Pathfinding 1: Map Representation and Preprocessing

Posted by , 30 December 2013 - - - - - - · 1,060 views
C#, SlimDX, DirectX11 and 2 more...
This was originally intended to be a single post on pathfinding, but it got too long, and so I am splitting it up into three or four smaller pieces. Today,we’re going to look at the data structures that we will use to represent the nodes of our pathfinding graph, and generating that graph from our terrain class.

When we were working on our quadtree to detect mouse clicks on the terrain, we introduced the concept of logical terrain tiles; these were the smallest sections of the terrain mesh that we wanted to hit when we did mouse picking, representing a 2x2 portion of our fully-tessellated mesh. These logical terrain tiles are a good starting point for generating what I am going to call our map: the 2D grid that we will use for pathfinding, placing units and other objects, defining areas of the terrain, AI calculations, and so forth. At the moment, there isn’t really anything to these tiles, as they are simply a bounding box attached to the leaf nodes of our quad tree. That’s not terribly useful by itself, so we are going to create a data structure to represent these tiles, along with an array to contain them in our Terrain class. Once we have a structure to contain our tile information, we need to extract that information from our Terrain class and heightmap, and generate the graph representing the tiles and the connections between them, so that we can use it in our pathfinding algorithm.

The pathfinding code implemented here was originally derived from Chapter 4 of Carl Granberg’s Programming an RTS Game with Direct3D. I’ve made some heavy modifications, working from that starting point, using material from Amit Patel’s blog and BlueRaja’s C# PriorityQueue implementation. The full code for this example can be found on my GitHub repository, https://github.com/ericrrichards/dx11.git, under the 33-Pathfinding project.
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OutOfMemoryException - Eliminating Temporary Allocations with Static Buffers in Effect Wrapper Code

Posted by , 13 December 2013 - - - - - - · 747 views
C#, SlimDX, DirectX 11, Memory
I came across an interesting bug in the wrapper classes for my HLSL shader effects today. In preparation for creating a class to represent a game unit, for the purposes of demonstrating the terrain pathfinding code that I finished up last night, I had been refactoring my BasicModeland SkinnedModel classes to inherit from a common abstract base class, and after getting everything to the state that it could compile again, I had fired up the SkinnedModels example project to make sure everything was still rendering and updating correctly. I got called away to do something else, and ended up checking back in on it a half hour or so later, to find that the example had died with an OutOfMemoryException. Looking at Task Manager, this relatively small demo program was consuming over 1.5 GB of memory!

I restarted the demo, and watched the memory allocation as it ran, and noticed that the memory used seemed to be climbing quite alarmingly, 0.5-1 MB every time Task Manager updated. Somehow, I’d never noticed this before… So I started the project in Visual Studio, using the Performance Wizard to sample the .Net memory allocation, and let the demo run for a couple of minutes. Memory usage had spiked up to about 150MB, in this simple demo that loaded maybe 35 MB of textures, models, code and external libraries…
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Refactoring Rendering Code out of the Terrain Class

Posted by , 12 December 2013 - - - - - - · 672 views
Terrain, SlimDX, C#, DirectX 11 and 2 more...
Howdy, time for an update. I’ve mostly gotten my terrain pathfinding code first cut completed; I’m creating the navigation graph, and I’ve got an implementation of A* finished that allows me to create a list of terrain nodes that represents the path between tile A and tile B. I’m going to hold off a bit on presenting all of that, since I haven’t yet managed to get a nice looking demo to show off the pathfinding yet. I need to do some more work to create a simple unit class that can follow the path generated by A*, and between work and life stuff, I haven’t gotten the chance to round that out satisfactorily yet.

I’ve also been doing some pretty heavy refactoring on various engine components, both for design and performance reasons. After the last series of posts on augmenting the Terrain class, and in anticipation of adding even more functionality as I added pathfinding support, I decided to take some time and split out the code that handles Direct3D resources and rendering from the more agnostic logical terrain representation. I’m not looking to do this at the moment, but this might also make implementing an OpenGL rendering system less painful, potentially.

Going through this, I don’t think I am done splitting things up. I’m kind of a fan of small, tightly focused classes, but I’m not necessarily an OOP junkie. Right now, I’m pretty happy with how I have split things out. I’ve got the Terrain class, which contains mostly the rendering independent logical terrain representation, such as the quad tree and picking code, the terrain heightmap and heightmap generation code, and the global terrain state properties (world-space size, initialization information struct, etc). The rendering and DirectX resource management code has been split out into the new TerrainRenderer class, which does all of the drawing and creates all of the DirectX vertex buffers and texture resources.

I’ll spare you all the intermediate gyrations that this refactoring push put me through, and just post the resulting two classes. Resharper was invaluable in this process; if you have access to a full version of Visual Studio, I don’t think there is a better way to spend $100. I shiver to think of how difficult this would have been without access to its refactoring and renaming tools.


Terrain Tile Picking in 3D

Posted by , 05 December 2013 - - - - - - · 1,011 views
C#, SlimDX, DirectX 11, Terrain and 1 more...
Typically, in a strategy game, in addition to the triangle mesh that we use to draw the terrain, there is an underlying logical representation, usually dividing the terrain into rectangular or hexagonal tiles. This grid is generally what is used to order units around, construct buildings, select targets and so forth. To do all this, we need to be able to select locations on the terrain using the mouse, so we will need to implement terrain/mouse-ray picking for our terrain, similar to what we have done previously, with model triangle picking.

We cannot simply use the same techniques that we used earlier for our terrain, however. For one, in our previous example, we were using a brute-force linear searching technique to find the picked triangle out of all the triangles in the mesh. That worked in that case, however, the mesh that we were trying to pick only contained 1850 triangles. I have been using a terrain in these examples that, when fully tessellated, is 2049x2049 vertices, which means that our terrain consists of more than 8 million triangles. It’s pretty unlikely that we could manage to use the same brute-force technique with that many triangles, so we need to use some kind of space partitioning data structure to reduce the portion of the terrain that we need to consider for intersection.

Additionally, we cannot really perform a per-triangle intersection test in any case, since our terrain uses a dynamic LOD system. The triangles of the terrain mesh are only generated on the GPU, in the hull shader, so we don’t have access to the terrain mesh triangles on the CPU, where we will be doing our picking. Because of these two constraints, I have decide on using a quadtree of axis-aligned bounding boxes to implement picking on the terrain. Using a quad tree speeds up our intersection testing considerably, since most of the time we will be able to exclude three-fourths of our terrain from further consideration at each level of the tree. This also maps quite nicely to the concept of a grid layout for representing our terrain, and allows us to select individual terrain tiles fairly efficiently, since the bounding boxes at the terminal leaves of the tree will thus encompass a single logical terrain tile. In the screenshot below, you can see how this works; the boxes drawn in color over the terrain are at double the size of the logical terrain tiles, since I ran out of video memory drawing the terminal bounding boxes, but you can see that the red ball is located on the upper-quadrant of the white bounding box containing it.

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