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JasRonq

Epic clashes of armies

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How close to the huge clashes of armies seen in movies like LOTR and Braveheart is feasible in an RPG played on modern computers assuming its single player and the rest of the units are AI and the environment is fairly simple (flat pains with grass maybe)? Just how many AI controlled units of reasonable detail (maybe use LOD on the units to keep the poly count down?) could be in an aria fighting? How much of that budget might be eaten up by FX like big fireballs exploding and such? I'm not actually at the technical side of my game development yet, its still a concept, but I really need to know if I should incorporate such situations into my idea, or work around not using them.

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Well Rome Total War handles huge armies like that pretty well depending entirely of course on the kind of computer it's played on. So I suppose that might be a good rough guide.

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I've been toying with such an Idea as well. A simple answer is that you're bound by the amount of polygons the hardware can render without slowing down the FPS. Things like Scene Management can vastly improve performance, same with Level of Detail, etc.

DirectX10 has built in instancing which is something that would help in this scenario. For example, having one model for a foot soldier would be instanced many times. I would say that if your geometry is simple enough, and you use these techniques wisely, you can probably get some 10,000 men on a screen. The AI might be your biggest challenge since running an AI for 10,000 men can be computationally expensive.

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What about the graphics cards and computers from 5 years ago? How well could those handle huge crowds like that?

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I suggest you prototype. It should take more than an hour or two to slap some simple models onto the screen with basic AI and see what happens.

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In an rpg, generally you want every character to be interactable etc - and a single player character would have so little effect on a huge battle of epic proportions. Such a thing could be awesome in a guild based mmorpg, where each of the soldiers is a player character, but that would be a technical impossibility, nobody would ever have sufficient bandwidth to play that. I think that such scenes aren't really feasible in an rpg - because look at how much last-gen pcs were killed by oblivion, when you had maybe 10-15 characters involved in a fight. Even assuming a power of 2 improvement between hardware generations, that would put us at a capability of 100-300 characters in battle, which would in fact seem pretty damn epic in an rpg setting. Of course, then your game would have no hope of running at 10fps on anything less than a quad extreme and a pair of 9800x2s... and it would take a nehalem octocore and a geforce 10 series to play it smoothly...

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I think the more important question isn't so much how to do it at this stage, but why you want it. Can you describe for us how the epic battles will factor into your gameplay? Depending on the role these battles will play in your game, it might be possible to either turn them into simple window dressing in the background, or some other such reduction in complexity that'll really save your system.

Also, in response to battles running on old hardware: Rome Total War (released in 2004) ran well enough on my 2002-era computer, and it ran great on technology that was released closer to that point. It wasn't the prettiest game, really, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. And after all, that's what matters, yes? :)

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cards and computers from 5 years ago will not be able to show large scale battles in 3D. But ones 3 years ago will. How big depends on optimizations and low poly soldiers, but Id say 400 models.

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Well, to be honest, I'm not really sure what I would do with big battles. It is of course possible to affect how much of it is shown at once, ie, indoors in a huge temple, but maybe 20 men in a room. The whole place can feel at war, yet you dont get hit with too much at once.

Mainly this comes from my having played Oblivion on XB360 and playing through these battles that by all rights should be huge affairs of save the city, save the kingdom and instead its a rabble of a half dozen town guards standing outside and a couple deadra walking out. Things that should feel epic dont, not even close. So I wanted to know if they just fucked up there, or if they tried and there are limitations currently restricting game design to small fights.

As to players not having a huge affect on the overall battle when it is so big, well, that depends on how the game is played. If I am a godlike mage bowling with 2 story high fireball, I will certainly affect the whole playing field. If I am jsut a foot soldier, then no, I wont. This isnt a bad thing though. Being in the middle of the crowd means the player cant see as far and the LOD can drop pretty hard after a short distance. The AIs can also be restricted to pretty simple fighting in a sort of AI LOD as well so that the complex fighting moves only get used when the player is there to see them. This would keep the CPU load lower.

In any case, my game idea is a huge game of king of the hill between three factions with the player getting to choose a side (not really, but thats how it plays out) so there is a big opportunity for massive battles between sides for the player to be in the middle of. I jsut want to know what is really feasable.

You have to know what tools are available before you can build anything.

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Oblivion was very graphically advanced for its time. It couldn't have rendered hundreds more people at the level of detail they are at. Most games with hundreds of combatants are rendering them as 2D sprites, and most films with hundreds of combatants don't have to render them in real time. Also, the games don't have AI anywhere near as complex as Oblivion's AI (which itself is pretty simple anyway) - they typically just approach a foe, fight to the death, and then move to the next one.

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