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Oolala

Cost of area transitions

6 posts in this topic

carefully consider the costs of building a continuous world as opposed to a section or level based one. they may not be that bad. CAVEMAN is continuous, 2500x2500 miles in size,  at 1 foot = 1 d3d unit scale. although continuous, it still draws the world terrain in 300x300 "chunks" generated as needed on the fly. the world is divided into 500x500 map squares of 5x5 miles each. each map square has its own d3d coordinate system 26400x26400 in size. a location in world coordinates is specified by  (map_x, map_z, x,y,z). AI and graphics work across map squares. just do everything in world coordinates, then convert to camera relative just before frustum cull and draw. you can walk all the way across the world with no load screens.

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CAVEMAN is continuous, 2500x2500 miles in size,  at 1 foot = 1 d3d unit scale. although continuous, it still draws the world terrain in 300x300 "chunks" generated as needed on the fly

 

I can't tell you how annoyed I've been when I've had to exit/enter a building in a city in Skyrim twice in a row, spending nearly five minutes just because I forgot to leave some random item.  Something that should have taken me a minute tops, suddenly took about five times longer.

 

Similar to that, Minecraft does a very similar thing, and I'm willing to bet Dwarf Fortress (Adventure Mode) does something akin to that as well. (Although to be honest, that game is a scary scary enigma. Toady probably doesn't even know how it works.) Depending on your game this could be a feasible (and in some cases even relatively easy to do) option. Even if your world isn't tile based or anything of the sorts, loading the world in to multiple 'chunks' of sorts could be a good step in reducing load times if you can pre-load some of the data before you cross that proverbial boundary in to another zone. Perhaps when a player gets within a certain distance of a predefined area transition assets that are smaller and quick to load are loaded? Though, this is more of a game programming issue rather than a design one in regards to how to tackle such an issue specifically.

With the Skyrim example though, the same technique could be used, even if there has to be a hard transition because of a change of scale. Generally the world in that game is one gigantic no-load screen block isn't it? Why is there no system of detecting that the player is near one of these boundaries and make a best attempt at loading assets that they might come in to contact with in the near future? This is especially the case of shared assets. 

Player enters a town for the first time and has a quest to talk to the mayor of the town. Why not load assets like common beds, interior wall textures, things of that nature? On top of that, it's reasonable to believe the player will be visiting the town hall, so why not pull out more specific stuff while they're at it? The banners and conference room chairs could be loaded as well? (Assuming there is room in memory for all this extra stuff. Nothing trumps fast loading times like low memory and slow file read write speeds)

Edited by Archbishop
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Loading time (transition delay). I think that's the most important "annoyance" factor.

 

 

 

definitely.

 

a seamless world with zero load time is the ideal to be striven for.

 

while true zero load times are probably not possible on today's PCs, very low load times are.

 

you keep as many chunks as you can in ram, and page from disk as needed. keep the paging routines fast. uncompressed unencrypted binary blobs, basically a disk image of the chunk in ram.

 

the size of the chunk will determine load times.   too small will thrash the hard drive, too big will cause loading delays.

 

the complexity of the scene in the chunk will also affect load times. a chunk with 4 meshes and 4 textures will load faster than one with 25 textures and 5000 meshes.

 

chunk size will also affect drawing speeds.  larger chunks will include more objects that eventually get frustum culled.  smaller chunks means more chunks to iterate through.

 

i've been getting good results with chunksize = 1/2 visual range.  even with complex scenes.

 

if you want to get really fancy, you can do something like a continuous streaming background load routine on a separate thread that anticipates chunks required, and streams them into ram before they're needed. when you go to draw a chunk, if its in ram, you draw it, if the background loader didn't finish loading it yet, you just page read the blob in the foreground, then draw.

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