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April 2nd, 2019, 12:25
Dev Diary #2 for Starpoint Gemini 3 shows off some technical improvements.

Dev Diary #2

Improvements on the WhaleX engine: Part 1

Rendering Engine improvements

In the new Starpoint Gemini 3 development diary, we are shifting our focus to improvements on the technical side of the game. Our proprietary engine, WhaleX Engine has seen a lot of improvements since our last game, Starpoint Gemini Warlords; especially in the rendering aspect.

Check out what lies under the hood of Starpoint Gemini 3 in the first part of our technical development diary.

This development diary is also an entry to the first Starpoint Gemini 3 gameplay video, which is coming very, very soon!

Explosion System Improvements

Before, explosions used to be growing, glowing blobs that were meant to dazzle. Unfortunately, getting hit by numerous missiles meant that the player would quickly be coated in a potato-shaped glow. The game suffered from a limited visual variety and the details were hardly visible.

We've added support for high-fidelity explosion animations, with frame-blending support, local light casting (looks far better than simply stacking screen-space glow) and supported the creation of these effects via the game's new Editor.

What we're planning in the near future:
We've already had small debris flying into space when hitting or destroying spaceships. It gave the impression of actually fragmenting the enemy's hull during combat. This however, was never fully apparent (mostly due to our ambients being very dark), so in addition to improving those effects we're considering a more robust hull damage model as well as hull-bending during the ship's explosion to really sell the destruction effect.

Environmental Cloud and Particle system Improvements

Previously, the environmental particle system has undergone smaller changes from Starpoint Gemini 2 to Starpoint Gemini Warlords. The art team added more variety to the system and appropriately colored particles were used in various environments. The clouds, however, never underwent any changes. While traveling through space, the player would come across some flag-shaped clouds that would periodically appear and behave in a wave-like manner. This was present in every environment.

With Starpoint Gemini 3 we decided to add more variety and depth to those clouds. Artists can now craft cloud density, depth, color, add a variety of different shapes and animations. All in an effort to make nebulas, industrial areas and open space feel unique.

Tiled Forward Rendering (Forward+) upgrade to the Graphics Pipeline

Even though Starpoint Gemini Warlords featured local dynamic lights, they were never actually used because of their crippling limitations (up to 4 lights could be cast on any individual object in the game), so instead we focused our efforts on making the Gemini Suns cast impressive volumetric shadows.

The only other place we used an additional light was at the finale of each planetary battle - the moment when you fire the doomsday beam at your adversary's planet.

Starpoint Gemini 3 has had its graphics pipeline upgraded with Tile Based Light Culling technique known as Forward+ rendering. It's widely considered the best of both worlds when it comes to taking advantage of both Forward Rendering systems and Deferred renderers. Forward rendering systems typically use less memory, and are the preferred choice in games with less objects on the screen (such as games set in space). They are, however, a lot less performant when it comes to rendering lots of dynamic lights. That is, unless you sort them out in volume tiles before drawing lit objects.

We're still deciding on the final light limit but it soon became apparent that objects can now handle 100+ lights without noticable framerate drops.

Local Reflections for interiors via Reflection Probes

We've had dozens of interiors in Warlords and managed to make them look pretty good, but we've had to limit the amount of reflective surfaces. Starpoint Gemini 3 will bring significantly more interiors which means that a good variety of surface materials is mandatory. We've developed a known technique for capturing and displaying local reflections via Reflection Capture probes and added both box and spherical projection sampling to the mix to properly render reflections of both linear and curved spaces.


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April 2nd, 2019, 18:54
Ooh, I get to use 'corruscating shields' in a sentence. Nice.
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