29 Apr 2007

Nebula2 support in Nebula3 + status update

I'm currently working on the low-level graphics subsystem, resource management and basic scene rendering code. I plan to do the next SDK release as soon as the Tiger tank from the Toolkit examples will render.

A few info tidbits until then:
  • Resource setup will be decoupled from the actual resource objects through resource loaders. This was an optional mechanism in Nebula2, but is now the only way to setup a resource object. This modular approach allows more freedom for 3rd parties to extend the Nebula resource management and makes the code cleaner and easier to understand (its a similar concept to Streams and StreamReaders/StreamWriters)
  • Asynchronous loading for all graphical resources will be supported right from the beginning.
  • Nebula2 binary file formats (nvx2, nax2, n2) will be supported directly through legacy loader classes. It is possible to remove legacy file format support by changing a #define to reduce the code footprint. This should make migration to Nebula3 much simpler, since Nebula2 asset tools can be used to create resources for Nebula3 in the beginning.
  • There is now a clear separation of per-model data (shared across all instances of a model), and per-instance data. Per-instance shader attributes must now be explicitly requested by the application. This allows the rendering code to perform more optimizations under the hood for instance rendering, and it makes the rendering code much simpler.
  • Access to per-instance data is much simpler, more intuitive and much more efficient (no more nRenderContexts).
  • Most per-instance data now persists between frames, and doesn't have to be recomputed every time an instance is rendered (which may be up to multiple times per frame). Nebula2 did this only when absolutely necessary (particle systems and skinned characters). Nebula3 increases the per-instance memory footprint slightly (which is bad), but simplifies the rendering code a lot, and reduces per-instance state switch overhead drastically (which is good).

24 Apr 2007

Back To XP...

Oh well... I was just installing Visual Studio SP1 over the network and then after 10 minutes of absolutely nothing happening suddenly the screen went black and it was like beeppppeeebbeeeeppeeeepppppp... well not quite, but the machine froze for several minutes and didn't come back. Trying to re-animate with Ctrl-Alt-Del just made things worse, not even the task manager came up. Maybe I'll give it another try after adding more RAM. Other then that it becomes apparent that Vista has some serious problems when heavy file or network stuff is going on. How they could fuckup something fundamental as this is beyond me. Back to my trusty Dell and XP for now...

New Machine

We got two shiny new machines from AMD yesterday (actually, they are huge, black and very ugly). One of them is now under my desk. For some reason there's only 1GB RAM in it (thanks AMD), so I know I'll have to plug in a couple of gigs more. The more interesting fact is the operating system: Vista Home Premium, 64 Bit Edition. I resisted the instant urge to reformat and install XP immediately, instead I'll actually give Vista try.

First impressions after a few hours of use:
  • Vista installation works great. The only thing I had to type in was the user name and password.
  • Booting takes quite a bit longer then my Dell box. Could be the BIOS though.
  • Vista integrated immediately into our company network without setting anything manually. Internet works, Samba shares are visible. Cool but a bit scary.
  • Firefox installs and works just fine.
  • TortoiseCVS works, but only with the latest release candidates.
  • Tcl install is a bloody mess. Some files could be written, some don't. Guess I'll have to retry with admin rights or something...
  • The entire control panel area is a big letdown. After 2 clicks you're back in those horrible tab-ridden, fixed-size dialog boxes from XP. Just more of them with even more tabs. Shame shame shame...
  • UI feels nice and smooth as long as no heavy file system work is going on. Uninstalling some pre-installed shit, and unzipping the DirectX SDK at the same time freezes the entire UI (including mouse pointer) for up to 20 seconds. Never happened to me under XP. Horrible.
  • I hate those new display setting panels from ATI which take forever to start (NVIDIA's as well btw.). What was wrong with the old panels?
  • Whoever came up with that UAC crap should be forced to install applications day in day out, with the occasional malware thrown inbetween. After 4 or 5 times, you just don't recognize it anymore, you just click it away. It's just like EULAs, just skip the damn thing and click Next. Looks like MS replaced their usability people with lawyers. I guess you can't sue MS anymore after actively agreeing to install a virus on your machine.
  • Still have to install VStudio and Maya... wish me luck.
All in all, as a user I'm very unimpressed with Vista so far. Many things have changed, but only some of them to the better. It feels more like a new XP service pack with a custom skin. MS says it spent as much money on Vista as NASA on the moon program, and all we got are translucent, blurry window borders, what a waste. I know there are quite a few technical improvements under the hood, like virtualization of graphics memory, new driver model and so on. But nothing of this internal stuff makes my life as a user any better.

2 Apr 2007

Yet another Gamer Card...

I finally found out the one and only proper way to display gamer cards and I feel stupid now. It's as easy as linking to http://gamercard.xbox.com/flohofwoe.card. They should really advertise this somewhere on the main page. Less bells and whistles then the mygamercard.net version, but I like it better, because it's simpler but still gives some useful info on mouse-over. I spent most of the weekend playing Dynasty Warriors 5 - Empires as you can see. I didn't expect so much fun from the game, as most reviews trashed it really badly. But I saw it for 30 Euro at my local game shop and gave it a try. It's true, the graphics would look shitty even on the old Xbox, and the game-play is repetitive. But for some reason it is damn addictive. Not quite Crackdown-addictive, but still playing-til-6a.m.-addictive. It plays like a bizarre mixture of Powermonger, Z and Ninja Gaiden. Ok, maybe Powermonger is a bit far out, but it *could* be a next-gen Powermonger if it wanted to dammit. Now that would be great.

1 Apr 2007

New Gamer Card

Just replaced the code which displays my gamer card on the left with something from mygamercard.net. The previous one was a simple image, and it seemed to be broken since the recent Xbox Live maintenance (probably because of this). The new one has more functionality but requires JavaScript and Flash. Not sure yet if I like it though. I run Firefox with the NoScript-Addon, and I absolutely despise Flash (at least if an entire web site is implemented in it).