Measuring PC Power in game

Discussion in 'Game Development (Technical)' started by Grey Alien, Mar 5, 2006.

  1. Grey Alien

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    My game has an option to turn up or down the particle effects. It currently has a default level but I'm thinking of testing the PC power by performing a CPU/Video Speed Test the first time the game is loaded and adjusting the particle effects accordingly. I don't want the test to be long and it should probably be invisible. Does this sounds like a good idea?
     
  2. Arkadesh

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    Hmm.. what about checking framerate in game and adjusting particles dynamically to keep it constant? Ie if you have more power available at the moment you display more particles, if framerate starts getting lower, you reduce them. This way you could have always the best possible experience.

    cheers,
    Arkadesh
     
  3. Fabio

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    Yes, draw to the backbuffer and never switch it to front. That's how I do it to compute optimal defaults (e.g. trilinear vs bilinear filtering, etc..) to be proposed to the user at first run or when he/she askes for this.

    You may want to render a full scene to measure fps and modify the options adaptively, or you may just want to know if a certain feature is fast enough on the host gfx card (e.g. on GeForce2 GL_CLAMP_TO_BORDER is supported but slow like hell, so it's better to ignore this feature although it is present. Of course you shouldn't rely on a database to decide what feature is unusable, but you should benchmark it yourself: you can't take into account hundreds cards * hundreds driver releases (let away future ones), so compute, compute, compute).

    While Arkadesh's solution is valid as well, in my personal opinion it's to be avoided because:

    1) on slow PCs the game will jerk and then the user will start seeing less and less visual quality till the frame rate will raise again (did she/he ask for this? he/she may be annoyed).

    2) doing it once at first run (or in the options screen) seems, to me at least, a more proper way to handle this. Then it's up to the user to accept these computed "optimal" defaults or express a different (conscious) choice.

    You should not enforce it.

     
    #3 Fabio, Mar 5, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2006
  4. Grey Alien

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    hmm well I was thinking of the default being computed and applied without them knowing as a choice may be too technical for them, and it should result in better gameplay having the correct amount of particles to avoid frame rate loss.

    Arkadesh: I don't like the idea of dynamically altering as I don't want particles disappearing or appearing, that would seem odd unless you mean something else?
     
  5. Arkadesh

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    Well, this was a loose thought.. so maybe it really isn't good idea. But, on the other hand - it depends on the game and how you use the particles. If thats ie shmup and particles are for explosions, if framerate drops lower, you could create new particles with lower number of particles, but bigger particle size. But sure, this would need much more forethought than just changing particle number dynamically.

    cheers,
    Arkadesh
     
  6. Grey Alien

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    yeah I see what you mean now and how it could possibly be done.
     
  7. Sharkbait

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    If I may offer a suggestion, I would recommend taking a rolling average of your framerate to smooth out spikes for the purpose of determining the current rendering load. It also helps to alter particle counts smoothly so as not to cause sudden particle disappearances.
     
  8. princec

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    I recommend deciding on some minimum spec and just coding to that, avoiding all the unnecessary development time and headaches in a stroke and getting a game that pleases everybody.

    Cas :)
     
  9. Fabio

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    princec: yeah, let's do PacMan!! ;)

    seriously, if you go through the pain once and design it properly, you can reuse your "compute defaults" technology for all your games. Not a big deal, and no need to cripple support for the LOTSA more-than-crap computers out there. Technology progresses and computers get faster and more powerful, why games shouldn't as well? Of course gameplay is mostly about something else than technology, but this last statement doesn't contraddict my previous one, otherwise we should all be bored by PCs and still play with our Atari 2600 console, why aren't us?

    But since you're using Java anyway, I see where you're coming from.. ;D

    (joking :) )

    Seriously, I think one should support the lowest end of PCs but also take advantage of higher end features. For example, for a 3D game you can take HUGE advantage of LOD management to reduce geometry computing, disabling eye-candy features to increase fill rate, reduce screen resolution, etc.. the performance-need range you thus get covers very well the performance range from the crappiest old lowest end accelerator to the most modern high end one. The only problem I can see is that some features may be needed by the game itself (e.g. darkness/dynamic_shadows may be part of the gameplay, e.g. to spot a monster that else wouldn't be visible).

     
  10. Grey Alien

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    I made sure the basic game runs on 300MHZ, the only thing that will slow PCs down is the particle effects, thus I want to set them at a level from 1 to 10 based on PC power, simple as that really.
     
  11. princec

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    You might want to look at it this way:

    If you write a game that takes advantage only of basic features on a 300MHz PC, and it sells just fine, then why bother with all the extra code and complexity taking advantage of the special effects etc.? (Sorry it's a little OT)

    Cas :)
     
  12. Gilzu

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    well, how would you know it wouldnt maximize your sales? I'd rather take advantage of every leverage I have to sell the game.

    Its like saying your game can sell well without joystick/mouse support so why bother adding and checking for this support.
     
  13. princec

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    That's precisely what I'm saying! There are usually hundreds of these "little" things in between you and a shipping product. Consider this excellent example: Steve Verrault insisted I put a volume control in Ultratron. So I did. Did the game sell any better? Nope. Just another whistle that took up a half day of time.

    Hm, I've got tons more examples.

    Chaz insisted on doing all of the backgrounds uniquely in Ultratron too, with clever lighting patterns etc. Yet it converts no better than Puppytron which had a black background.

    I spent 20 minutes making my own parachute death sound because I didn't like the one Mike H. did much. Do you think anyone else would have noticed? Would it have affected sales? Unlikely. Waste of 20 minutes, really.

    It all adds up.

    So trying to cram in all these extra features and graphics when the game is already good enough to sell effectively without them is a waste of time, most likely. After all, if it isn't good enough to sell without the candy, why are you bothering to get it to run at all on such a poxy system? You're wasting your time either way!

    Cas :)
     
  14. Sharpfish

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    I appreciate all the little touches in games that may not make me buy but would certainly give it the edge if it was up against a competing title.

    Even with no effect on sales, to have something you can feel proud of and to have something that COULD stand out against a competitor takes work, the work is in all those little details. However for purely income related pursuits, it wouldn't be the wisest choice to spend too much time on doing such things.

    If you can live with shipping "bare minimum" products then it's cool, but for me, part of what makes a game special is the extra touches and the developer's take on the concept (along with all "expected" vanilla stuff like volume controls, correct pausing on minimize+ 0% cpu usage etc).

    You obviously can just keep the projects tight and to the point, and Cas has more experience than me in selling his stuff so he must be right about something, but I don't approach the extra spit and polish as icing on a money maker, I do it because I consider a game not really complete without it. :)
     
  15. Chozabu

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    Yes! it all adds up to take up lots of time.
    But it goes the other way too perhaps? any one minor feature can be removed without much of a dent - but remove them all, and your game may have a few large holes...
     
  16. mahlzeit

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    Only if money is the sole reason for making the games. And if that's the case, then you're better off finding a more lucrative business. But you already knew that. ;)
     
  17. StGabriel

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    Graphics sell games. Period. Some of us may not like it but it's true. Conversion isn't necessarily a good way to measure this as graphics in screenshots will have a large impact on whether a person downloads the game to begin with. If a person looks at some screenshots and your webpage and downloads a game with mediocre graphics then they are already in the sample of people who can look beyond graphics as a selling point. In fact, having very pretty high-end graphics can help you even with people who don't have a computer that will support those graphics. The user will still see very pretty screenshots that will make them more likely to download a game in the first place (after which the gameplay may convert them even if the graphics aren't as good on their machine as in the screenshots).

    If you can sell a product without good graphics to a wide audience then all the more power to you. However that isn't the only route to success.
     
  18. Grey Alien

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    Interesting stuff. Yep the bells & whistles do take ages, but they add to the overall polish which I believe will help sales as follows a) the portals are more likely to accept it b) screenshots look better as per the "more downloads" point c) it gives people a feeling of confidence that they are buying a quality game not just a bedroom coder's demo. d) you need to compete with other polished games, keep up with the Jones's

    But I do often wonder, hmm will this feature make more sales, probably not, but it's part of the whole.

    I want everyone to enjoy the particle effecs in my game but only at a level suitable for their Pc so they don't get dropped frames or bad slowdown.
     
  19. princec

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    Touché. I can't help but think that for a first game one should aim rather low in the wow factor stakes though.

    Having said that I aim rather low in the wow factor stakes even now, 5 games on :)

    Cas :)
     

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