RSS Feed

HCW Tech Blog

For the latest info on computer hardware, tech, news, video games, software tips, and Linux, check out our new improved front page: HCW Tech Blog

Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [03.18.03]
Developer: Egosoft
Publisher: TBA

Discuss this article in the forum!
Registration NOT required!


HCW: We know the game will have cinematics and combat.  What can you tell us about the cinematics?

Egosoft: We have developed a new system for bringing to life the characters and locations in the game. Skin and bone structures and so forth have been developed. We will release pictures of these soon.

HCW: Will the combat engine be limited to space combat, or will atmospheric combat be possible in the game as well?

Egosoft: Yes, only combat in space. If you enter a planet’s atmosphere, you will disintegrate. But you can get pretty close.

HCW: Will the game use any DirectX9 features, or will it strictly be DirectX8.1?
Egosoft: The game will come with DirectX9 of course and yes; some of the newest features of our engine will also make use of DirectX9. However 90% of our latest effects are possible with DX8 cards and we only use a couple of DX9 features (if available) to speed up some shaders.

An example for effects which are basically possible even with DX7 cards but which can be sped up enormously with Direct X8 and 9 shaders are the two pass DP3 bumpmaps. If you look at the latest screenshots from X2 you can see that many ship hulls have specular as well as diffuse bumpmaps. This really looks very cool especially with very shiny metallic surfaces. Some effects just become faster with the new cards, while others look better.

The example of the two specular DP3 bumpmaps is also an example for this. With cards that have additional previously unused texture stages, we can enhance the shininess of materials.
HCW: So the game will detect extra texture units and the presence and version number of shaders and dynamically adjust itself for optimal performance and quality?  Will this be able to be overridden by the user?

Egosoft It should not be necessary that the user is required to configure anything in regards to the graphic settings other than what resolution they want to see. The player should never have to mess with internal things like what shaders are used or how the game archives an effect, but they can turn on / off a whole subset of features like the bumpmapping.
HCW: What about loopback architectutures such as the RADEON 9500 and up?  Will it detect that the game will run faster using only single-texturing, or will it try and implement 2 textures per pass even though there is only one unit per pipeline?

Egosoft: I don’t think we have optimizations for this special case.
HCW: What versions of vertex and pixel shaders will X2 support?

Egosoft: At the moment we try to avoid pixel shaders completely. This may change for the final release, but since we always want to simulate features on cards that do not natively support an effect, pixel shaders are no big help for us.
Vertex shaders are a different story altogether. They have shown to be a great tool to allow effects which were not possible at all before, or which were terribly slow when implemented with the fixed pipeline.
Up to now we only use vertex shaders of version 1.0 and are currently looking at 2.0 DX9 shaders for new improvements. But again the same rule applies, if we can manage to get the effect by a combination of version 1.0 shaders and other "tricks", then we would prefer to not use the 2.0 features. Especially when they are not considerably faster.

HCW: What other specific DirectX8 and DirecX9 functions will the X2 engine support?

Egosoft: Aside from vertex shaders, the most important "new" tricks are based on using stencil buffers. They are not new, but only now they start to be fast enough to be really useful for cool effects.

Next Page: (5)