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Jon Alma

Zooming Billboards and Maintaining Image Quality

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I have implemented a 3D map display for the game I am currently working on.  The map can be scrolled and zoomed as required so the player can either have a zoomed out view of the whole game world or zoom right in to get close to the action.
 
 
For the landmarks (buildings) on the map I have played around with using fully 3D models, but have eventually gone with a billboarding system.  This works great when zoomed right in with the texturing on the billboards nice and crisp with each building being surrounded with a border (worked into the texture) to maximise visibility.  However, when zooming right out the billboards obviously get smaller and the buildings more indistinct.  This is okay up to a point but one thing that annoys me is that the border around the buildings gets finer and finer until it looses its clarity.  To give an example the image below shows one building at maximum zoom and minimum zoom.
 
k4er.jpg
 
I would like to improve on this and as a minimum ensure that a clear border is visible around each building.  As an idea I am thinking about creating additional textures for use when zoomed further out, the basic texture being unchanged but a progressively thicker and thicker border being applied to ensure this.  However, before I start down this road I wanted to check if there is any alternative out there (one point to note is that certain buildings have 'cutouts' meaning that a border may be needed inside the outline of the building).
 
Any help appreciated ... thanks.
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Such textures could easily be programmatically generated at run-time (or load-time), however, having all those extra textures will consume texture-memory that could otherwise be used for more interesting stuff.

 

It might be technically feasible to write a fragment-shader which applies the border, my knowledge of shaders is insufficient to know whether this is feasible or efficient.

 

Another possibility is to vectorise the outline of the building and just overdraw it on the billboards, which again, could be automated and might not be too bad for efficiency (as a bonus, you may get a higher quality, it would smoothly change rather than suddenly changing)

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