Dev Blog

Dev-Blog 239: 4k, baby!

09/21/2016

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Welcome back, followers of the fearsome! Nick here, with a bit of info on the tech stuff going on behind the scenes here at Slick Entertainment.

This week I’ll be talking a bit about supporting 4k TV’s in Viking Squad. As you probably know, the regular PS4 supports up to 1080p, which is the resolution we initially designed our game for. 1080p should be enough for everybody, right? Recently 4k monitors and video cards have become more affordable, so naturally there is more of a demand to support 4k resolutions. So it was about time I started looking into what would be required to get our game to run at 4k, in a way that makes it ‘worth it’.

The nice part about our user interface (UI) system is that it is able to work with different screen aspect ratios and sizes, because the UI elements are not linked to exact pixels, but rather to more abstract coordinates. For some games pixel-precise UI is super important (for example RTS’s), but for our type of games with not-so-complicated UI it’s less important. The nice thing about linking UI to abstract window coordinates is that it’s quite easy to scale to different resolutions. So switching to 4k shouldn’t be too hard, right?

So, the first step was to actually get a 4k monitor. I bought an ASUS 4k monitor at NCIX, and connected it, but it turned out that monitor didn’t support HDMI 2.0. This, I found out the hard way, means it will only do 4k resolutions at 30fps. Unacceptable! So I checked Staples, and they had a 4k Samsung monitor for sale for $550 CAD, and it had HDMI 2.0 support. That’s more like it!

I set it all up, connected the monitor, ran the game, and boom 4k! It just worked. Well, sort of. There’s a few little gotcha’s that I solved to make it run smoothly at 60fps in 4k.

Render targets

4k screens, or 2160p as it really should be called, means you need to fill 3840×2160 pixels = 8,294,400 pixels. That’s a LOT of pixels. We’re using a 32 bit color buffer, which takes up just under 32Mb. That’s a LOT of GPU bandwidth. My old programmer brain thinks “this can’t possible be fast” every step along the way. Modern GPU’s have surprisingly little issues with it though! Of course, our game’s rendering complexity is not anywhere near a AAA type game, but it’s still pretty easy to miss frames at 4k because of the massive amounts of data flying around.

One frame in Viking Squad is rendered as follows:

Step 1: Background. All background elements are rendered to a render-target 2/3’s the size of the front buffer, which is then blurred vertically and horizontally, in two steps, requiring one more render target of 2/3s the size of the front buffer.

Step 2: Foreground. All foreground elements are rendered to a render-target 2/3’s the size of the front buffer, also blurred vertically and horizontally

Step 3: Game. The main view is rendered using a full size render target (same size as the front buffer). First the background texture from Step 1 is drawn, then all the gameplay elements are drawn over top of that, and last the texture from Step 2 is rendered over top of everything using alpha blending.

Step 4: Bloom. The texture from Step 3 is down-scaled and to a render target of 1/2 the size of the front buffer. This texture us blurred horizontally and vertically using one more render target of 1/2 the size of the front buffer.

Step 5: Combine. The texture from Step 3 is combined with the texture from Step 4, and in the same step the Color Gradingvignette, chromatic aberration and filmgrain are applied.

The texture coming out of Step 4 is now used in the UI system to render the game, and it then renders any UI over top of this.

So as you can see, there are quite a few render targets, which take up a lot of GPU bandwidth. The textures in Step 1, 2 and 4 are all blurred, so to speed up the 4k performance, I made those render targets max out at 1280×720 (which happens to be 2/3 of the front buffer at 1080p). Because of the blur, this reduction in size is hardly noticeable, except for the increased frames per second.

Polygons and Textures

I’ve written a little bit about how we polygonize our textures, and this came in really handy when rendering to 4k. The edges of our characters stay super crisp, and while we need MSAA at 1080p, at 4k resolutions the MSAA can be lowered a bit to save speed and bandwidth.

Inside the polygonized textures we still display the regular texture. I’ve also previously blogged about how I rescale all textures to 1080p resolution. Jesse usually draws all textures at a bit higher resolution than they appear in 1080p, so to get nice crisp textures in 4k, I just turned the re-scaling off.

 
And here is the result of all this:

 
Alright, that’s it for this week, keep those games rendering at 60fps!

 

-Nick

Twitter: Nick: @nickwaanders Jesse: @jouste Caley: @caleycharchuk SlickEntertainment: @SlickEntInc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SlickEntertainmentInc

Twitch: http://www.twitch.tv/slickentertainmentinc

Posted by: Under: Slick Entertainment,Tech,Vikingsquad Comments: Comments Off on Dev-Blog 239: 4k, baby!

Dev-Blog 238: Working on that Background Game!

09/14/2016

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Welcome back followers of the fearsome!

Hope your week has been good! We’re here at Slick working towards wrapping up Viking Squad! It’s feeling really tight and we are really excited to get it out to you guys!

Large art changes to the game definitely aren’t happening as we submit it and get it all ready to go. So I’ve been tackling some of the store art and other things that could use a bit of a visual upgrade. This is great for me because it helps me get better at a weaker element of my art skills and that’s backgrounds! Here’s just a small amount of what I’ve been getting up too.

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I’ve started to get the hang of clouds which has always been tricky. Clouds are wispy and still have a lot of volume and I typically rely on my lines to visually describe all my stuff. This always made clouds that “fit” into my art a bit of a challenge, but as with most challenges, if you hammer your head at it for long enough you eventually have a breakthrough! Or at least beat yourself into a delusion of marginal success.

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Above there’s a quick step by step of how I approach the clouds now. I think the most important thing is to start with a direction and use that to build your clouds. eventually, after a few passes of shading and some line color shifts you have yourself a cartoon cloud to match your bright, 1990’s style characters!


And remember to stop by our Dev-Stream today at 4pm-6pm PST! We’ll be having a great time as usual with all our regulars and new viewers! Be sure to tell your pals to stop by if they are after some Drawbarian art slams!

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And that’s it for this week! The game is so close you guys! Hope your week is a good one and remember to always be perfecting your skills!

-JesseJesse_avatar64

Twitter: Nick: @nickwaanders Jesse: @jouste Caley: @caleycharchuk SlickEntertainment: @SlickEntInc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SlickEntertainmentInc

Twitch: http://www.twitch.tv/slickentertainmentinc

Merch: https://shop.spreadshirt.com/slickentertainment

 

Posted by: Under: Art Work,Slick Entertainment,Vikingsquad Comments: Comments Off on Dev-Blog 238: Working on that Background Game!

Dev-Blog 237: Back from the PAX! Lets do this!

09/07/2016

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Welcome back followers of the fearsome!

We are back from our show at PAX West!  It was an absolute blast! 3 stations, 4 days, and a pile of great people! With the help of all the great people at Indie MEGABOOTH and the Enforcers it was an absolutely awesome show! Big Shout outs to Kay!

We were beside the great folks at Funomena with their game “Luna“, Our Ontario pals of Vagabond Dog with “Sometimes Always Monsters”,  great guys from the Netherlands from Two Tribes with “Rive”, and Phillip, Matt and the rest of his cool team at Midboss with “Read Only Memories”. Great to meet new folks and reconnect with all the other awesome devs!

We were equipped with a very awesome corner booth and had a very awesome support group in the form of our  pals over at Power Up Audio that were helping to represent 12 other games at PAX!

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pictured above are the “Marines” Nedivar and JP they are the West Coast versions of our Scouts, fans that took a shine to the Squad and helped us out at the booth 2 years in a row! You can’t imagine how helpful it is when fans happily grab the controllers and help new players through  your PAX demo. It lets us talk to even more people about the project, or sometimes just lets us take a quick breather.

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We are just recovering from an amazing show and getting our game certified. It’s super close to being done guys and we are getting super excited! So thank you everybody that came by the booth and made our PAX absolutely out of control and super rewarding!


And be sure to hop into our Dev-Stream today where my voice will be absolutely shot and I try to find out if I can still draw! it’ll be at 4pm-6pm PST so we’ll be seeing you there!

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So that’s it for this week! Sorry it’s such a quick one but after a huge show like PAX West we are a little frazzled and zonked out but really close to shipping! After we collect our thoughts we will be mentioning a few specifics of the show but until them, thanks for stopping by!

So until next time, keep those PAX days full of fun and energy!

Jesse_avatar64-Jesse

Twitter: Nick: @nickwaanders Jesse: @jouste Caley: @caleycharchuk SlickEntertainment: @SlickEntInc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SlickEntertainmentInc

Twitch: http://www.twitch.tv/slickentertainmentinc

Merch: https://shop.spreadshirt.com/slickentertainment

 

Posted by: Under: Pax,Slick Entertainment,Vikingsquad Comments: Comments Off on Dev-Blog 237: Back from the PAX! Lets do this!

Dev-Blog 236: Gone Paxin’ and some Artwork!

08/31/2016


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Welcome back followers of the fearsome!

This week we have a quick dev-Blog with some of the artwork we’ve been working on for marketing images. I always make the joke that “By the time this game is out I’ll finally be good at drawing all the guys!” and It’s pretty much there! I got to have a lot of fun drawing our characters in super cool poses and embellishing details while we get the game ready to ship!

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We can also use these images in a multitude of other things like posters, banners, and anything really as long as we keep them all separate and can align them in a pleasing image! We are also pretty lucky that we draw all our images so large so we can shrink them down to fit pretty much any format without too much quality loss.


 

Also, this week we are hitting PAX West! We’ll be at the very awesome Indie MEGABOOTH! We always have an awesome time showing off the game and meeting new faces! We got our build ready to rock so if you are down in the Seattle area and are hitting up the Penny Arcade Expo be sure to drop by and hang out with the whole crew!

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So that does mean that we won’t be able to do up our Viking Vednesday dev-stream but be sure to come by next week when we’ll have news and fun things to share about PAX!

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And that’s it for this week! Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out our stuff! Online is feeling super tight and the game keeps getting more and more close to those docks! Until next time, keep on going to PAX and play great games by great Devs!

 

Jesse_avatar64-Jesse

Twitter: Nick: @nickwaanders Jesse: @jouste Caley: @caleycharchuk SlickEntertainment: @SlickEntInc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SlickEntertainmentInc

Twitch: http://www.twitch.tv/slickentertainmentinc

Merch: https://shop.spreadshirt.com/slickentertainment

Posted by: Under: Art Work,Pax,Slick Entertainment,Vikingsquad Comments: Comments Off on Dev-Blog 236: Gone Paxin’ and some Artwork!

Dev-Blog 234: Indie MEGABOOTH at Pax West!

08/17/2016

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Welcome back followers of the fearsome!

This week we gotta let you guys know that we’ll be attending Pax West at the super awesome Indie MEGABOOTH! We’ve been with the crew of the IMB before and they are a really great resource for independent developers. They handle pretty much all the logistics of showing your game at a convention with the added bonus of being among a pile of other awesome indie games! PAX is also a really great convention. Traditionally the biggest area is given to the Indie MEGABOOTH so that the smaller guys get a chance to take up the floor along side the big guns like Sony and Nintendo!

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Conventions are always a really fun experience for us. It’s so great to see players engaging with your game and getting smashed by our bosses, or getting in that clutch save when their friends are knocked out. This will also be a great show because the very awesome Power Up Audio will be there representing the many, many games that they are working on.

So if you are attending Pax West be sure to drop by and bash some baddies with your buddies! The whole team will be there happy to answer questions and say hey! Hope to see you guys at PAX!

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And don’t forget that we’ll be doing our Dev-Stream today at 4pm-6pm PST! Be sure to drop in because we’ll be doing some very cool giveaways today that we are sure you’ll be interested in!

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And that’s it for this week! Closer and closer the Viking Squad ship sails to completion. Thanks for stopping by and checking out our dev-blog! And come see us at PAX  West and play some Squad!

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Twitter: Nick: @nickwaanders Jesse: @jouste Caley: @caleycharchuk SlickEntertainment: @SlickEntInc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SlickEntertainmentInc

Twitch: http://www.twitch.tv/slickentertainmentinc

Posted by: Under: Pax,Slick Entertainment,Vikingsquad Comments: Comments Off on Dev-Blog 234: Indie MEGABOOTH at Pax West!

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Dev Blog

September 21 2016

Welcome back, followers of the fearsome! Nick here, with a bit of info on the tech stuff going on behind the scenes here at Slick Entertainment. This week I’ll be talking a bit about supporting 4k TV’s in Viking Squad. As you probably know, the regular PS4 supports up to 1080p, which is the resolution […]