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 on: September 12, 2015, 03:30:06 PM 
Started by Mick P. - Last post by Mick P.
Maybe you've been sitting in front of your monitor for too long? Wink

No, the distortion is a well documented problem and it is very extreme distortion. It happens because if you draw a circle around the head in your graphic and expand it until the top and bottom of the display touch at two points on the edge of the circle, the display isn't curved so it causes distortion. And then if you increase the angle beyond what is recommended, which is conventional wisdom, then the distortion really ramps up.

I don't notice the distortion too much horizontally, but vertically it is like vertigo, and a tower for example if you look up at it, as you do it will lean inward towards the center of the screen like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but more so. And if you look up and down along a towering statue, or anything really, its shape will ripple and swim. So yes, maybe you don't notice it if you are not paying attention, but if you ever do notice it, you might have a hard time NOT noticing from thereon on. Especially the leaning tower effect is extreme and impossible not to notice.

AS for your VR parenthetical, I actually came here to remove my addendum that was hopeful about VR being of help. Intuitively it seems like it would be, but I realized that if the recommendation is to use larger angles the closer you are to the screen, then the logical extension of that is if the display is right in your face then you'd need a really large angle then, that would be worse than a hall of mirrors effect. This might explain why they want to use distortion shaders to prepare the image for special lenses in the new VR kits. OR this could just be the ultimate proof of the failure of this logic. Small angles make you feel like you are much closer to things, which seems like what you'd want with a VR headset.

PS: As for matching up the display in the graphic. I really don't think that's what people want, as you allude to. Treating your display like a window sounds good in theory, and that seems often said to explain why console games tend to use smaller angles (perhaps more so traditionally) because they make assumptions about television arrangements, but I'm skeptical of that. But yeah, at the end of the day your display can only show a small section of the video world, so the question you have to ask, is what are the pros and cons here. And what I'm trying to say is there are a lot of cons involved with the default assumption for PC games, and that most of the pros have to do with beating the game, instead of esthetic considerations. It's possible we shouldn't even be making action/fighting games because the technology really isn't there for doing that yet.

EDITED: If people are interested in this subject and not already well versed in it, I will prepare some screenshots to illustrate the differences.

 on: September 12, 2015, 02:45:40 PM 
Started by Mick P. - Last post by Kjell
The area that your monitor occupies in your physical view usually doesn't correspond with the virtual projection. For instance, if you have a screen that is 45cm high ( comparable to a 27 inch iMac ) and your eyes are 62cm away from the screen, the virtual field of view should be 40 degrees ( vertically ).

In order to ensure a matching field of view you could use head tracking, as demonstrated in this video. Unfortunately this technology never caught on ( VR to the rescue? ).

Fortunately humans are pretty good at reinterpreting ( moving ) pictures that don't correspond with their natural field of view. We've been conditioned by looking at print & TV ( shot using various lenses & zoom-levels ) from various angles & distances, so our brains ( usually ) deal with it sans problème.

Maybe you've been sitting in front of your monitor for too long? Wink

 on: September 12, 2015, 01:23:28 AM 
Started by Mick P. - Last post by Mick P.
Has anyone ever thought about this? This thing called "field of view".

Really it's angle of view or focal length in cameras. I noticed the other day that the image in the software I work with is very distorted. I've been noticing it for a while, actually, or how there seemed to be an absurd amount of parallax in the perspective, where things sore up into the air, or down below, but not even to great heights.

I've thought this is funny, and I'm embarrassed that I've been working with 3D software for what feels like many lifetimes without taking notice. But it wasn't until I began to see actual distortions, like ripples, and then I began to see them everywhere I looked...

Part of me wonders if this is because of my other post of late where I discovered an aliasing free 3D display technique. So I've been seeing 3D images devoid of jagged edges, and I've been spending a lot of time just lost in the images, because they're miraculous. But I wonder if being bombarded by so many jagged edges everywhere has a way of diffusing the senses, so you do not notice the ripples and distortions of this thing called "FOV".

What's even more interesting about this subject, is from what I've read, in computer games, conventional wisdom about "FOV", what is the right settings and so on, seems very misplaced to me upon examination.

It's hard to tell what numbers mean what. The software I've inherited uses a 50 degree vertical field of view. I would describe this as very distorted. About as much so as could possibly be acceptable. Other places I read 90 degrees is recommended. Valve's Source Engine website says its default is 75 degrees. But even though I think vertical "FOV" is almost universally used, I get the impression that if anyone is using 90 it must be either a horizontal or diagonal measurement.

I briefly tried using 90 but scaled by the reciprocal of the aspect ratio, and I couldn't tell the difference from 50 degrees on my system, even though it would depend on the aspect ratio.

Supposedly a high value is recommended on computer games. For PCs. I'm not sure why, but some reasons are given as it is better suited for sitting close to a smaller screen, and it is supposed to be better for people who feel motion sickness, but I'm skeptical of that, I wouldn't be surprised if the distortions could be causing the sickness in many cases.

What I do know is if you lower the value, perhaps to what is used on consoles, but I doubt it truly, although I wonder why I've never played a console game with a preference to control this... if you lower it, the distortions go away, and to me the scene begins to look like a movie. In fact on Valve's Source Engine website it suggests using a low setting and long shots for trailers to give them a movie like feel, but out of the other side of its mouth it says that players do not notice the distortion. I'm very skeptical of this...

From what I can see players seem to be using this setting to give themselves play advantages, because a greater field of view means that you can see more of your surroundings. And also this makes them feel more secure, when virtual combat and threats can come from anywhere. Being able to see less, means your targets can more easily go where you cannot see them, and so on.

So I just want to share this, because I worry about conventional wisdom's way of creating defaults, that we do, never knowing there is an other way.

This setting is how games zoom in to use gun scopes and things. So when it is lowered, it can feel like you are zooming in, but this is truly a matter of context. You wouldn't know that you are zooming in if you were always zoomed in. The problem itself really boils down to vision being circular and screens being flat. Our displays must pick a spot to map to the orb, like flat polygons that form a sphere. I really like the intimacy of the "zoomed in" image...

When you come face to face with a character, they fill the entire screen, you really feel like you are in their presence, and not orbiting around them from a distance that can never be crossed. And of course, there is no warping or towering things that close in on themselves as if to kiss, or like two staves lowered by guards blocking your path. I think subconsciously this distortion like jagged edges separates the video game realm from the cinematic.

When the setting is lowered, it can keep you from seeing things above and below, if there is a limit on looking up and down. I think this might be why some games use black bars to even this out. But I found that for a range of 30 to 50 (30 or 35 I recommend) to allow the lower settings to see the same amount as 50 the position of the view can be pulled back a little ways. Not being able to see as much means that the game doesn't have to display as many things, so you can see your frame rate improve by significant figures.

if(SOM::zoom<50) //back up so you can see above and below
//20: this is just 50-30 covering the zoom modes in full
//4: works surprisingly well for 1.5m tall player character

float up = fabsf(SOM::pov[1])/4;
float back[3] = {SOM::pov[0],0,SOM::pov[2]};

In this code "pov" is the normalized view vector. So its vertical component is used to scale the push back vector, and its horizontal components are renormalized and scaled by the simple linear formula.

PS: In the code, it should really be pos.remove<3>(back); except it is operating on the translation component of the scene's view matrix, so it is inverted.

EDITED: float up = powf(fabsf(SOM::pov[1]),1.5f)/4; smooths out the code so it isn't camel humpy. For homework you can do first-person avatar body parts. I find with absurdly widescreen/matted settings I don't see distortion, but I'm sure it's there. I'll probably see it eventually. But it's cool to go really widescreen because you can frame the whole NPC on one side, and put whole blocks of spoken subtitles beside them out of the way.

 on: September 06, 2015, 07:12:09 AM 
Started by Mick P. - Last post by Mick P.
I enjoyed the Prototypes package, which was like an All-in-1. I have only messed with a quarter of it or so. If only on the Payloadz page there was a ZIP file with everything in it!!! So it wasn't necessary to download what seemed like 20 files and then decompress them individually, and then unpack archives inside of them. That's a lot of work to make everyone who buys your product go through. The kind of thing that an All-in-1 package ideally circumvents.

 on: September 06, 2015, 06:41:07 AM 
Started by Mick P. - Last post by Mick P.
FYI: Today I'm going to begin the process of removing all of my posts/threads that did not generate responses...

A while back Michael sent me a PM that I misunderstood because I either failed to read the operative sentence or glossed over it or because that's unlike me (or at least I like to think so) it's even possible a subconscious block prevented me from seeing it at the time. I am going to leave up my last post (*) that has to do with either a completely novel or completely underutilized graphical technique that kind of fell into my lap, and was the reason I went back to read Michael's PM in the first place, because he included his email address in it, and I wanted to privately share this technique with him in the hope he'd use it in his future projects, especially the "virtual sculpture" one described on Patreon.


(I read his PM as just saying he didn't have time to check in on the forums, politely offering his private email address instead, but buried deep within the PM in a pro forma part of the letter he intimated that he'd like ME to not add to THIS forum, both because he considers the forum semi-private and mainly for his personal use and because he thought some or all of my posts were "intimidating" to other users/friends of his. I'm not sure in what sense of the word was meant, but had I seen this I'd have stopped adding to the forum immediately.)

Michael has since assured me that he has no problem with my posts not being removed. But I want to remove them for my own reasons. Michael thought I was trying to get HIS attention with them. But I explained to him in my response to his PM that his attention was the least of my concerns and that I was actually concerned that his presence undermined the forums. I thought they could function as a public venue, and also I wanted to see if I could get people to rekindle a discussion. Now that seems like both of these possibilities have evaporated I don't have any real use for THIS forum, and reading it is a little bittersweet for me and also a little tedious without the occasional plateau of being able to tack a thought or two onto a thread, switching from reader of discussion to participant (in a longer asynchronous/quasi-anonymous public discussion)

For the record, I don't know which posts Michael thought were intimidating. Whether it's the ones I'll be removing or the ones I'll be leaving behind, or both.

PS: Please read this ( blog post on Gamasutra. I believe this is of the utmost importance to video games. And share it and get others to read it. Prove to me that the video game complex isn't as aloof as I believe it is. Put it on "social media" if you have accounts. The post is off. It isn't a treatise or tutorial or anything like that. It's the scene of an accident and I am a gibbering victim. Even though it's a good thing, it is traumatizing and I'm still picking up the pieces. So I apologize for whatever I usually have to apologize for. Sincerely or otherwise.

(The substance of the blog post is a way for still images to achieve perfectly clean lines, not using any "AA" (antialiasing) even though it is referred to as AA because that is what it's most like. But truly it's an AA-killer since it has no need for AA (edited: indeed it's a nuisance that the driver AA settings need to be disabled by the user so not to interfere) and it is "free" to use in computational terms. I invite you to imagine the history of film and television with the jagged edges of realtime-3D; would it have been so bewitching? I doubt it. This could be a new era for video games, if people are just willing to take the medium seriously. Before too long I'm going to work on an animated GIF based screenshot system to make 60fps screenshots of this effect, since it cannot be perceived in a still image.)

(EDITED: Michael says he does not see the jagged edges in "games" or does not mind them. But I can't un-see them now, and I can see jagged edges from 10ft away on very small pixels (10ft has my back against the wall) so I don't think they are going anywhere just by making pixels smaller and smaller anytime soon. Especially since some of us are putting displays right up in our faces now. So it's either embrace the jagged edges as some kind of calling card, or continue with costly pixel smudging AA techniques that require multi-hundred dollar devices, or get off the AA wagon. I think this is the only way off. And it's a weird freak of nature that we haven't been doing this since the 90s!)

 on: August 29, 2015, 06:56:14 AM 
Started by Orihaus - Last post by Orihaus

Really happy the game is in a stage where I can post screenshots. Still need to put a little more work into the engine before I'm happy with it, but totally on schedule.

 on: August 22, 2015, 08:26:38 PM 
Started by Mick P. - Last post by Mick P.
I've been playing around with different AA (anti-aliasing) techniques that I've never heard of anywhere (I invented them all myself) and I don't think the general gaming community will be very receptive to, but I think this is something that all games should use. It really should be the standard everywhere. I want to share it here because I think the audience will be receptive.

I just put the last piece of the puzzle together minutes ago. Probably the single largest problem for realtime 3D is how to get straight lines. No staircase patterns. I'm not shallow about visuals, I think this is a fundamental problem. The trends have all been to solve this problem by brute force. I wanted to do otherwise. I always thought computers would be much more affordable by this decade, they haven't been, so I've been in a kind of rebellion for some time, only using very inexpensive computers.

Two or three months ago I wanted to play someone's game, since they made it with the tools I maintain for this purpose. But it pushed my workstation beyond its limits. So the first thing I did was turn off MSAA to gain back some "FPS". But I was only using the first level of MSAA (2x I think it's called) so it was a compromise that didn't always work, failing especially to address lines that were high contrast and had very long runs of pixels, like 5 to 10 pixels plus in a straight line, and then 1 pixel along the other bias...

I didn't like turning the MSAA off, even though I knew it was a brute force technique that I probably should not have been using, even in my little testing environments. Still the image was a world of pain without it. Jagged rents everywhere. So I thought about what I could do instead; I generally prefer a dithered image, so I was already used to dithering, which is a little like pointillism. Not stylized, just enough to take the horizontal/vertical bias out of the image, so the eye/brain can be leveraged instead. I don't know of any other way to do that. Computers can't compete with the eye/brain.

So to get to the level of 2x MSAA, what I decided should work was to sample the final image (there is almost always a separate scene buffer and effects buffer in modern graphics) in a checkerboard pattern. The easiest way to think of this is to take two of the same images, and think of them as checkboards, and on one cut out the white squares, and on the other cut out the black squares, and then shift the images until the holes disappear. This is a single mathematical calculation in a "shader" just changing where the images are sampled, no difference at all really.

I should add that another simple technique that precedes this is to sample the images not in the middle of their pixels, but in the corners of the pixels, so that the colors are blurred together to smooth things out. To do that you just need to make sure that interpolation is enabled. I'm guessing that comes for free on modern systems. The checkerboard technique might be too stark without this smoothing, I don't know. It's up to the eye/brain to smooth the checkerboard, so there are two levels of smoothing/eye/brain confusion going on at this point.

The next step, which is probably not optional, is to periodically flip the squares of the checkerboard. I find the optimal rate at 60fps to be a flip every 8 frames. This causes the squares to blend together in a confusing way, and adds a grain to the image, which is important later, but also probably has applications for LOD since pop-in is something that absolutely plagues of the games of today (I'd rather play all games in their lowest LOD than have to look at any amount of pop-in myself.)

Now comes the final step. Up to this point the high-contrast long-run lines are still a problem. Last night I got tired of them and had an aborted idea to try to selectively lower the contrast in a no-cost way somehow, but this doesn't really help because it tends to just accentuate the ends the of the runs, making them fatter, and is generally a dead in. Wracking my brain I had one last idea, that I didn't know if it would even work or not. But I tried it, and it seemed like it would be technically feasible. So after a night's rest I sat down just now to program it and was surprised that the first attempt came out exactly the way I wanted it...

How to deal with these lines/edges is hard to describe. But consider that the staircase pattern is basically arbitrary. You can see it shift as you move through the scene. The points where the lines break and move up/down/left/right by one pixel is arbitrary, really it's a rounding error. So the idea is inside the "vertex shader" where the points are computed, when the points are in homogeneous coordinates, you want to modulate that rounding error every frame so the staircase pattern is always moving, and so what the eye actually sees is the superimposition of all of the staircase patterns before it (you can do blend frames like motion blur as well, which you want to do anyway, to further smooth these lines)

The last technique works without any kind of dither like techniques, but I don't know if it would be desirable without all of the other confusion happening or not. Plus to the degree these edges are always moving, the grain like jitter from flipping the checkerboard squares plays into this for an overall solid image. The checkerboard in effect creates a stipple across the entire image, which I find removes all of the origami like qualities of polygons and makes the image appear solid, substantial.

The most important points are 2. 1) these techniques don't cost a dime. They are ready for GPU-based integrated graphics, whatever you've got. 2) MSAA is falling out of fashion, and isn't applicable to everything in a scene, since it only works on edges. Instead image space AA techniques have become popular. But these are very expensive. Even when they are described as "cheap" the underlying assumption is that there is a multi hundred dollar piece of hardware involved. And screen space AA generally amounts to very expensive ways to smudge pixels around as an after effect. This is not a 3D technique, and who knows how it will distort the image unevenly...

The technique(s) described here (they really need to be used in conjunction) are also all technically screen space, but they are not smudging pixels, they are treating the image identically at every pixel. They do present problems for screenshots, since these effects are not even apparent in screenshots for the most part, except for the stipple and dither, which tends to make screenshots thumbnail poorly. The same can be said for videos. I think this may be the single reason these techniques are not common, because they don't look right in an advertisement, or cannot even be communicated without seeing the game itself. This is using the eye/brain to their utmost. I'm not sure the technique can be improved beyond this point. I believe games need to reach a common ground, and I have a feeling this is the end of the story for AA.

Update: The gravity of the final step described here finally hit me by a day or so after I originally posted this. Later the technique was perfected to the point that while the way it was when I was describing it was certainly better than jagged edges, I now find it underwhelming, as much so as I found it astonishing then, because later the technique was perfected, so the end result is NOW on a level that doesn't even seem real. It will probably take me a year or two to get used to it. I've spent hours on end just gawking at it for days on end.

I posted here ( about a Gamasutra blog post I later made for lack of a better idea. It hasn't attracted any comments. I did approach Michael first to try to arrange for something monumental to happen; why not? But just ended up making a public statement for the record, where I reckoned the video game complex/industry should be able to come to find it.

 on: August 19, 2015, 10:26:04 PM 
Started by Kaworu Nagisa - Last post by Mick P.
A weird thing that makes me slightly elitist is that I have a huge dislike of fastfood, and I have often thought that in an ideal world people would find it easier to be educated so nobody would have to work in McDonalds - to which someone once posed; but then who would make the hamburgers? But in an ideal educated world, who would want to eat McDonalds hamburgers?
The metaphore with games is obvious, I suppose. I am fortunate I do not have to work at present and hope to go to making 'good' work without spending time in the McDonalds section of games. But unless I can get a job with one of you before starting for myself that is unlikely Wink

I think there is either a specific palate for fastfood or it has changed over the last couple decades to squeeze every last drop of profit out of the system. I remember it being serviceable food 15 or 20 years ago, but either my palate changed or the food changed, and I expect because of our hyper financialization it is the food, but on the other hand it's possible you have to be raised on it from before you know what you are putting into your mouth to develop the palate. Make the same items from food at the supermarket and they taste more or less normal.

(I don't know if any of this is a helpful extended metaphor for video games or not. Probably not.)

 on: August 19, 2015, 06:41:10 PM 
Started by Henrik Flink - Last post by Mick P.
Here is a supplemental post/essay? by Michael. Insanely prolific at posting content online.

I got this from here ( which I like even better:

Anduin wrote:
I've found many of the games praised as beautiful look extremely... sterile, to me- even those whose settings are rough and dirty warzones look odd, and I can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe it's just because modern games are starting to look more real... can the uncanny valley go for game settings as well, I wonder? Razz

We call it "shiny". Wink All modern games tend to look shiny.

Also, we don't call it "beautiful", we call it "looking good (TM)" as in "Trade-Marked". There is a certain way in which commercial games are supposed to look that has nothing to do with beauty, or even realism. It just has to look "good (TM)".

See alo:

To make beautiful games with current technology I think you have to be very discriminating, and go back to techniques that are older than those used in Tale of Tale's games for the most part. I don't know if the popular Unreal/Source/Unity "engines" afford the kind of control that allow for these kinds of decisions (I would encourage ToT to not speak ill of "C++" Roll Eyes)

 on: August 19, 2015, 01:52:34 AM 
Started by Michaël Samyn - Last post by Mick P.
Shadow of the Colossus - Michael mentioned he loved Ico, which was gorgeous game.  The second game by the same studio was SotC... a jaw-dropping experience.  Yes, there is a huge "game" component to this... it is essentially a game of boss battles.... but the world they created goes beyond description.  Simply traveling through the fields on what I consider to be the most realistic horse depicted in games was a wonderful experience.  Also, a great bond is established between the unnamed main character and his horse, Agro.  You grow to depend on each other and love each other.  And you know that even though you have an impossible task ahead of you (battling a giant behemoth) you know Agro will be there when you need him!  I believe that Team ICO (the developers) are probably great examples of what success looks like for a AAA notgame.

The original (Japanese) name for this game is "Wander and the Giants." So his name is in the title Smiley (edited: just like Ico's right?)

I don't have a history of games. But I agree that the first Tomb Raider was magical on some level. The game I recommend, but it's hard to find is King's Field II, the second in the trilogy on the PlayStation. The English translation for the NA region is not handled well at all, and doesn't treat it with the level of maturity it represents. No one has ever properly translated it into English. It's hard to find to play except in Japanese, where you can play it on the PlayStation Network with a Japan account, which is not hard to arrange. But I am working on a memorial edition, which is like faithfully restoring the Parthenon, and it might be the killer app for VR. So maybe just wait until then.

A small piece of history; the first game in the trilogy seems like it must be the first modern 3D game. Especially if you limit the field to games where you play as a person.

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