June 2008

Hex battles evolved

While working on the remaining settings for the battlefields in “Phase 2” (in total, there will be eight different settings, including snow, deserts, lush and dry scenarios and so on) I felt that the look of the hex battles didn’t match the rest of the games visuals. They were too flat, no shadows and nothing surrounding them except the skybox. It just felt bland and urged me to change something about it, and I did.
If you look at the screenshots from below you should quickly note the difference to the shots I posted some time ago. First, the terrain can now have different heights which adds a lot compared to the old only flat one, then there is an almost infinite water plane that surrounds the battle scenery. Together with the reflections and refractions (the later one are mostly visible in close-ups) this water plane adds a lot and makes the scenery much more dynamic. As with the other reflective surfaces in the game this one is also done using a shader, the reflective part of the terrain (above water level) and the refraction part (below water level) are each rendered into a texture and are distorted in the shader using a noise lookup (nothing special, but it makes up for a great visual effect). Another visual addition are the unit shadows, though the implementation is much simpler than you may think. Instead of doing real shadows (e.g. stencil volumes, shadowmapping) I decided for a simple implementation so that they won’t be too heavy on performance. So I create the shadows in the game’s editor by rendering the units in black from above to textures that are loaded into the game and just rendered below the units. Neither spectacular nor realistic, but easy to do and adding a lot.

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