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Exit: December, 2021 Archive

Long time no update! (Sorry about that)

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021 by Holy at www.swordofmoonlight.net

Exit: Brave new world

I’m pleased to announce I’ve completed the most grueling round of work I’ve ever done on Sword of Moonlight and all the new files are online for the taking.

I did two long release cycles back-to-back except the first was not published because it didn’t have anything to offer to the general public. What it was instead was a big task to bolt on an OpenGL based alternative mode for SOM because new VR peripherals for PC don’t work with Direct3D 9. I chose OpenGL because I’ve used it plenty in the past and the newer systems like Vulkan and Direct3D 11 or 12 are completely different in terms of their design and are much more complicated, so it would be an even bigger effort to write code for those and it would be very alien to my past experience.

Once I completed that task the OpenGL performance wasn’t good enough, so I wanted to experiment with the dynamic vertex buffers, since SOM only uses dynamic buffers, which OpenGL is not good for. But to do that it’s necessary to rebuild all of the model files, like the MDO files, and remove the MDL files, so I realized that the time had finally come to do a project I’ve long been considering to unify SOM’s model files and build an art system into SOM to make it aware of the art development process.

SOM’s animated model files inherited a lot of quirks from the PlayStation’s design and the model format used by Sony’s SDK. These were unsuited for PC. SOM has a better format called MDO but it’s not animated, so you can say that its team were relying on this Sony style format as a crutch that shouldn’t have been published to an unsuited system. As a result this format has to be converted into a MDO like layout when the game loads, which is bad for performance, and both formats had used very small vertex chunks, which seem to be almost a clerical error, that would make them 32 times smaller than the target vertex buffer, which always remained until now only 1/32nd full, the rest going to disuse.

Working on this ended up being the culmination of all of my time working on the model conversion tools since I originally started working on SOM. These tools were the first things users at the time asked for, however I developed them and their reception was lukewarm at best, so don’t give people what they ask for I guess is the moral of this story, or don’t expect them to be grateful. I never know what to expect in terms of details when I start a programming task, it’s hard to predict, but this project turned into a never-ending slog very fast, to the point for the first time in my career I did what video game developers call “crunch” for weeks on end. I didn’t do this because I had to hit a deadline. I did it because if I hadn’t I would grow crazy forever pushing this rock up a proverbial Sisyphean ramp… and at least if you focus singularly on a task it tends to help to distract from the difficulty and monotony of the task. That was my thinking anyway. In the end it took hundreds of hours and add that to the hundreds of hours that I’ve already poured into the conversion tools, which had to be entirely battle tested for this effort, which itself proved to be a big part of the work.

In practical terms how to think about this development is SOM now will act as if it works directly with your art files, but in fact what it does is monitor changes to your art files and when they change it rebuilds its proprietary runtime files to reflect your changes. This can take a little bit of time, so it will be experienced as a pause with a busy cursor, or the splash screen taking longer to lower.

To make all of SOM’s components comply with this change it was necessary to upgrade its level editor. I had to rewrite all of that tool’s graphics from scratch. But this is good because it finally brought it up to the same standard as the rest of SOM, where before it had been noticeably lacking; another thing I long wanted to address. Its mouse input model has also been upgraded, and the screens that use gray and white squares has been upgraded to show an impression of the tiles underneath them so that they’re not so disorienting as before.

In addition I had to do forensics on all of SOM’s built-in models to reverse them back to the state of art files and archive them in an MM3D format I’m using for my King’s Field II project. You can download pretty competent 3D modeling software from my Github to work with them. I made some corrections to them where I found major non-cosmetic issues, however I haven’t yet made the effort to fix their many blemishes, although this work has moved that goal within reach. I will try to speak to more details in the forum post attached to this blog post.

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