Confused on today's low end spec

Discussion in 'Game Development (Technical)' started by JGOware, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. Bad Sector

    Original Member

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    I think what Applewoord means that using shaders (and code and effects) which dont require much time to be taken advantage of, is a good thing. A shader doesn't always mean a normal mapping shader (which will need an extra effort to make the normal maps and specular maps, if you want it shiny). It can also mean a toon shader (which can produce better looking results than a fixed function toon shader - and will require less texturework). Or for realistic 3D titles, a SSAO shader, which will produce more "alive" results with zero effort from your art team (as a programmer you'll need to spend a few days making it look good and be fast, but thats one time thing and you just drop it in new projects without much thought). And since its a heavy post-processing effect, you can just turn it off. And a glow/bloom shader, the worst thing it might require is to partition your game in areas with settings for this shader in each area (but really most games -even "AAA" games- just drop it at the end of their frame render function and leave it as is). A noise shader is the easiest thing to code and will make your "flashback cutscenes" much better looking (imho) with an effort of maximum 10 minutes (less if your engine has a flexible and working "post process" pipeline).

    And all these shaders are optional really, you can turn them off without making the game unplayable. I mean, even Doom 3 has all of its effects turnoffable. You can make it look like a Voodoo-era game with little effort (and someone actually did it in a Voodoo :p).

    But shaders != normal maps. In fact most shaders are just drop-ins without a need of special assets for them.
     
  2. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Indeed. People can make bad shaders and effects in the same way as they can make bad art, bad code and bad design. Bad is just bad.

    But I don't want to derail this thread into yet another outing of "I can't do effects therefore effects aren't needed"...

    Oh, ok then. Just a little bit - looks like this is the first time our outlook has differed even slightly...

    They add a lot actually. It makes me smile when I read this. Games are about many things but one of them is visual excitement. I'll take your point at face value if the next game you release is in text mode.

    Nope, what I'm saying is within a couple more days spent you can make that and all your next games look even more interesting.

    Bad Sector got my meaning perfectly
     
    #22 Applewood, Aug 10, 2008
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2008
  3. Mattias Gustavsson

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    Yeah :) And what I mean is, that it's particularly common that shaders are used badly, and as a way to try to replace (or at least cover up the lack of) good art and design...

    Just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should do it. When I was working with games, I spent a lot of time on shaders and graphical effects, and it's good fun to work on, but I wouldn't choose to add it to my own games...

    :D I actualy have a text-based game on my website...

    This is actually where our opinions differ... I don't think it makes the games look more interesting. I think that quite often, they are overused and can make things look more cluttered and messy, but most times it's just... unnecessary...

    But that's a personal opinion of course :cool:
     
  4. Moose2000

    Moose2000 New Member

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    I'm with Applewood and Bad Sector on this. You get a large amount of visual polish for a surprisingly small amount of effort when you can use shaders.

    Even the (apparently) dreaded normal map can be an easy win. My game is 2D (in the sense that I build everything from screen-facing polygons - and anyone who wants to claim '2D is better than 3D' had better remove the drop shadows from their menus and the shading from their sprites, right?). But because my central character is a frog, and frogs are wet, and wet things glisten, I need specular highlights on it. My min-spec version renders some additive blended sparkle textures on top of it, which meant making a sparkle texture, defining positions in the data for each frog species, rendering various quads at the right point in the draw order, and so on through a bunch of trivial but time-consuming add-hoc processes. The shader version, though, just involved adding a shader to the body material, and creating a height map by crudely drawing some blurry shades of gray on the body outline. The end result looks better, and took less time to implement.

    Another example is in text transition effects. When I bring up text, I fade it in by ramping up the alpha. That's all that happens on min-spec, but on machines which support shaders, that same alpha value is used to make the text stretch and bounce its way in. It's wonderfully simple - the fallback path just involves failing to compile the shader.

    I think there's a problem of perception. People associate shaders with AAA games, huge dev teams and high-end equipment. In fact, there's a shocking amount of power sitting unused on hordes of old machines out there, and the average shader is a trivial scrap of code which only becomes interesting because it's applied to a million pixels at once. Small buck, big bang.

    I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about this at the moment, because I've just reached the point of testing my game on low-end hardware, and I've so far failed to find any equipment crappy enough to make it drop down to my laboriously-crafted fallback paths. (Incidentally, if you're in Wellington and have a really old mac or pc, PM me...)
     
  5. vjvj

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    I wonder how long it's going to take for some people to start looking at shaders rationally and stop discarding them as Impossibly Fancy Advanced Rendering Technology of the Future.

    Shader Model 2.0 (the shader model recommended as a min spec in this thread) != Crysis/Oblivion/Company of Heroes/insert AAA title here.

    All shaders are are a means to apply rendering state and rendering operations through a generalized framework. I think a lot of you would be surprised how much easier this makes your life in everyday development. The next time you waste a few hours wondering why half your scene is rendering completely fucked and it turns out to be due to a single missed glEnable/glDisable/render state call, refer to this thread :)

    I understand that those catering to the super-casual still need to target very old hardware. I respect that. But can we finally move on from the "shaders are only for AAA titles" sentiment?
     
  6. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Amen! My central underlying theme on this thread and others I've started/contributed to is this: SM 2 is in fact *very* old, cheap hardware. If you want to target further back than this, I'll say it again - go to software blitting and GDI for your present and remove *any* hardware issues.

    My 5 year old laptop has a SM2 card in it (radeon mobility fyi). That's the min spec for anything I do that has to be generally compatible.
     
  7. ManuTOO

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    Don't any of u guys have a survey of the actual PCs your customers have ?

    Me, I almost have one.
    I did an automatic crash report system, containing, amongst other things, the spec of the PC ; ie: CPU, Ram, OS, Video card.
    Since 2 years I put this in place, I think I got at least 1000 reports, maybe even 2000. (yup, I do a lot of bugs :eek: )
    Unfortunately, I didn't create a survey from these reports, and I deleted them once in while.

    Anyway, from what I saw, I think the _average_ ( = not the lowest, but the usual lowest) PC is around 1ghz CPU with 512MB and an Intel integrated chipset 8xx or 9xx .
    At least 80% of the PC have these specs or above, and amongst the people who actually paid for my games, it's more like 90%. (I got many crash reports from very old PCs used in poor countries from where I almost never get a sale)
    256MB of RAM is not unusual, but it's really not common. Most oldest PCs have seen their RAM upgraded, due to the very low prices of the past couple of years.

    And of course, a lot of people have 2ghz & newer/better CPU.
    These stats are likely slightly biased coz people with better PCs will experience less crashes than the ones with older PCs (coz a good part of the crashes come from wrong drivers & stuff like that).

    So anyway, for my next game, partly in 3D, I'm aiming for a 1ghz CPU + intel 945 with 512MB, but I'll try to make it work with less powerful IGP (by using lo-res models).
     
  8. vjvj

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    That data definitely helps, thanks man.

    For further reference, the Intel Integrated 9xx cards support SM 2.0. I have one and my app's shaders run correctly. Of course I don't know which 9xx card it is exactly (because the driver string says "Intel Integrated 915G/GM/910GMS Express"; WTF is up with that shit?!), but it's clearly a lower-end 9xx. I'll have to mine for device ids later when I'm not so busy.

    Anyway, as bad as the perf is in comparison to the discreet cards, one has to admit that its featureset is surprisingly good.
     
  9. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Well, back on my old hobbyhorse... The 800 cards support model2 also.

    (As long as you remember to create the d3d device with software vertex processing.)

    My artist buddy is running our hobby game on an 845 right now, so I know whereof I speak.
     
  10. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    That is a damn good idea, Manu.

    I'll be releasing my freeware hobby project tower game at some point and I'm going to build something into that to collect exactly this sort of data. I'll make it optional and transparent so I can get some data from the paranoids too, or I might even make it the "price" of the download.

    New term alert - "statsware" - you saw it here first :)

    Given it's price and genre I'd hope to get a lot of players so this could be very handy. I'll share my findings if I ever get that far.
     
  11. fundictive

    fundictive New Member

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    Well, I bought a Dell inspiron lappy a year or 2 ago with the Intel 945GM chipset.

    Graphics are reasonably fast but I *think* there is NO SHADER SUPPORT.

    I would seriously consider not requiring shaders!

    Tom
    http://www.armyofearth.com
     
  12. fundictive

    fundictive New Member

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    Oh and I also think you should pluck the low-hanging fruits before you worry about bloom, glow, etc.

    * good textures - this will take you a long way
    * enable fog
    * good lighting settings

    etc

    Tom
    http://www.armyofearth.com
     
  13. Moose2000

    Moose2000 New Member

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    Well, people thinking that various GPUs don't sport shader model 2 is what this thread is all about. According to the internets, the Intel 945GM chipset uses the GMA 950, which is shader model 3.

    Of course, driver support is another thing, and Intel integrated graphics have a reputation for not doing everything their device caps claim, but I've found someone who'll lend me a laptop with exactly that chipset to test on. I'll let you know what I find.
     
  14. vjvj

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    Fixed that for you :)

    You might wanna read through the whole thread before posting speculation like this, as it just throws people off. I already stated that the 915/910 chips support SM 2.0 and arbvp1/arbfp1 (the OpenGL equivalents). It's easy to run the DXCaps utility or the OpenGL Extensions Viewer and verify this for yourself.

    This is kind of the crux of the argument, here. I'm not telling people whether or not they should support shaders. What I AM trying to stress here is that that decision should NOT rest on the argument that "shaders are for AAA titles and $500 graphics cards". Not only is that stance misinformed and out of date, but it completely ignores a lot of the benefits shaders bring to you, the developer.

    In other words, min spec is obviously your decision, but don't you think that decision should be an informed one?

    The whole shaders/graphics thing on indiegamer is just weird. I would expect this sort of information about graphics architectures to be met with the same interest as say, the various sales/business data that gets passed around on these forums. Yet for some reason, doesn't seem to be. Oh well! All I can do is put the info out there :)
     
  15. Emmanuel

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    Sorry if this has already been posted: unity3d hardware stats . Apparently it phones home (with the user's consent buried in the EULA somewhere). Not surprisingly, the i945 just by itself was present on 15% of the systems!

    Applewood is right, people who actually buy games don't have a 12 years old rig; making games with nice FX will probably get you more traction. Look at Saqqarah for a great example of how a genre (match 3) advancer, broke the top 10 and stayed there a while. It's FX candy land. He's also right that you can get a lot out of intel cards if you try; even the venerable i815 can do render targets just fine (Azada 2 makes extensive use of them, and it does have a full GDI software rendering fallback just in case).

    Best regards,
    Emmanuel
     
  16. Pogacha

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    Those stats says that 38% of the machines don't have support for PS 2.0 (I have added the percentages and it was something like 91% so it may be wrong)

    I don't care about PS, mostly I'm worried about fillrate.
    It seems tat 0.2 gp/s is the cut for the 99%, after that you have 20 percent in the 0.2-0.3 range.

    For 800x600x60fps you need 0.02 gp/s, so if you add blending and other stuff it is really safe to draw 2 or 3 layers.

    That's all the info I need for now.
    Thanks for the link.
     
  17. Backov

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    I think I posted it earlier, we ran our XNA SM2.0 game on a low end machine with an Intel 945 equivalent (one of their later version numbers, but still a 945) and it runs great. Full frame rate.
     
  18. vjvj

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    Great link! Thanks, man. This is exactly the kind of information that should be taken into consideration when we have these discussions.

    What shocks me is how much penetration NVIDIA had with their 6100 product (which is essentially in the same product market as the Intel Integrated chips). I mean sure, Intel is wiping the mat with everyone else overall, but to see the 6100 hit the #2 spot on a chip-by-chip basis is pretty incredible.
     
  19. Mattias Gustavsson

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    Very interesting, yes :) I can certainly see why it would be a good idea for some indie developers to make their game run on the 30% of computers which can't use shaders. I mean, 30% is quite a sizeable chunk, and there might well be less competition for those potential customers, as there seems to be so many people perfectly happy to use shader technology for their games :)
     
  20. vjvj

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    Honestly, this kinda stuff all falls into marketing and who your target demographic is.

    We've been looking at it on a per-title basis. Our puzzle game does not use or require shaders at all. Our action game, however, requires SM 2.0 hardware. In the case of the latter, it came down to compatibility vs. some of the artistic things we'd like to express with that title. Artistic expression won out. Whether or not that was the right decision will be decided by our customers!
     

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