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Case Closed

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I used to be a case-open sort of guy. About 10 years ago, when I lived in Atlanta, I would have to upgrade every time I managed to save $350 or so. I would buy more RAM, a slightly better CPU, etc. My favorite CPU back then was an IBM SLC 2 100mhz. It was cool b/c it was based on the 386 die, with a 387 tacked on, so it had a 16-bit external bus, but it clocked high, and was a great system.

Then, when I got serious about shipping my first shareware game, Hubie, which shipped in early 96, I stopped upgrading, closed my case, and got down to business. Nowadays I am very wary about opening up my case for any reason, although I did today to upgrade my PSU in anticipation of a nvidia gf8800 gtx video card - was a little touch and go for a while, but I'm glad to report that things are up and running again now.

I made one particular contribution to the g80 series, which was initiating the project that became CSAA. The plan was already in place to do a slightly better 8x aa, but I had been researching AA since the gf2 timeframe, and was convinced there had to be a better way to do high AA sample levels without the usual drawbacks, like order dependency, obvious and jarring failure modes, too much video memory, etc.

My research showed that diminishing returns really set in at each AA sample level. 2X is so much better than no AA, but 4X is not THAT much better than 2x. 6x less so, etc. 16X is way better than none, but it isn't 16 times better, so it shouldn't cost 16 times the memory or speed.

Anyway, a lot of people did great work on what became CSAA, and I am happy to see that people have really responded to it in a positive way. We worked very hard to make it high quality, fast, and compatible. I can't wait to get my g80 so I can actually see it in action on real hardware for the first time since the launch party...

** Quick reader poll - how many of you have your case open right now? **

Regarding Ancient Galaxy, I've been working on the start level, adding engine support for things only as needed. The dust looks good and is fast. The AI much improved as well. The AI will pick up any stray guns on the ground or on corpses if it has a free hand. Gives you an incentive to kill them quickly so they don't go John Woo style on you...

BTW, I will be going to GDC next week, commuting from Los Gatos in the South Bay. If anyone wants to carpool, needs a ride or wants to train commute together, let me know via pm or 'simmer at gmail.com'.

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Unfortunately not going to GDC this year, but hope you have a blast and get yourself a publisher (or have you already? I never know...)

Me, my case is open! But I mostly use my laptop.

Still got a GeForce6600 in my case ATM, but I'm saving up for a G80 as well - not so much the card that needs the savings, it's more the rest of the machine, I'm going all out with a Dell 30" screen and all the rest :D

The CSAA is interesting (and very clever idea), but mainly I'm very excited about the prospects of using CUDA for doing something useful - like generating extra detail for the world. I hope the CUDA driver plays nicely with the OGL one :)

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My case is closed. I only run it with the case open when I'm diagnosing a heat problem.

I used to run my old P200 open all the time when I was using it, but quickly decided against it as the case skeleton was getting warped from not being able to use the outer case as bracing (a very strange design).

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Your game is looking great and it's awesome that you have done so much in the computer graphics field...I read your paper on tangent space normal mapping recently, and I've seen your work/name all over the place. It's cool you're keeping a dev journal on GameDev [grin]

Anyways have fun with your 8800 [you getting GTS or GTX? ;-)], I got a whole new rig w/one a little while ago. It's an amazing piece of hardware.

Also have fun at GDC...I wish I was able to go this year :-/ The only time I've gone was '05.

Keep up the good work, that latest screenshot/level is looking really good.

- Dan

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I've always done closed cases. I make sure my components and cables are organized properly for good airflow. Haven't had a heat issue yet. I wish I could open up my laptop tho - I have a fan pad underneath and a little fan on my desk sucking away hot air and blowing cool air over it to keep it from overheating. I think a fan inside may have died.

See you at GDC!!

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I kind of assumed that by open case, and the upgrades you mentioned, you meant that you were doing lots of upgrades, not that you literally had your case open all the time. More like you was tinkering with hardware quite a bit and getting messy with the innards. Well in that respect I've been beefing up my current comp since I got it back in 04, man that's weird to write. I've finally reached a point though where upgrading isn't going to do much anymore. But it'll probably be a while before I get another system. In chance that you meant literally having your case open. I had to run my comp with the case open for about six months because the fan on the saphire card I had went kaput and ati didn't offer warranties on those cards as they're third party vendors or something. So I had an external fan blowing on the card for six months. Since I got a new card though closed case all the way.

Interestingly enough I've been a big ati fan for sometime. Primarily due to my first graphics card being a ragepro back in 2001. I think the next card I buy though will be an nvidia as I've been interested in doing some benchmark tests for sometime for comparison. Also the csaa is an interesting concept and one that I spent sometime looking into due to this journal entry. The performance gains sound impressive, but, is it really as great of an improvement as suggested?

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Yes, not to brag, but CSAA is really sweet. I can't go into implementation details, but it really compares well to other algorithms. 16X CSAA looks way better and is just a bit slower than 4xMSAA. It has very nice, per-sub-sample fallback modes, unlike say Matrox FAA, which turns off completely at times. It is order-independent, so no leak-throughs of objects that should be occluded, like, say Z3 or most fragment AA methods.

I have to say that being one of its main architects is one of my proudest technical achievements.

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Cases closed here - got 2 dev machines at home and my dev laptop here in the office and I only ever have them case-open if I'm doing maintenance. Otherwise they sit under my desk sounding like a small hurricane in an attempt to get me to pay them more TLC [grin]

I have to say that being one of its main architects is one of my proudest technical achievements.
Congrats - was reading up on CSAA a while back, does look like clever. Although, tbh, I've never been bothered with AA - far too slow with far too little improvement. I usually ramp up all the other game details at the expense of any MSAA.

Then again, I got Supreme Commander on Saturday and I can play that at 1600x1200 at maximum detail and 8x AA on my 8800 GTS [oh]


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