Uncategorized · September 12, 2021 8

The Virus Strikes Back + Employment Status Update!

Well, New Zealand’s in lockdown again – level 4 (the most restrictive) here in Auckland, and level 2.5 in the rest of the country.

It’s only been about a month now, but it somehow feels different from the first lockdown, less exciting and novel I guess. And this time around, the lockdown is a bit more serious as considerably more people have contracted the virus due to the more infectious nature of the ‘delta’ variant.

There’s also the scary fact that all of this was caused by just *one* (the current theory goes anyway) contact with an infected person from overseas while they were in quarantine, and this somehow makes the whole thing feel a bit hopeless. New Zealand wont be able to keep our borders closed forever (the business community will be storming parliament with pitchforks if this goes on for too much longer) so there WILL be plenty of future contacts with infected travellers. At which point, I guess it’ll all come down to how effective the vaccines are, and New Zealand doesn’t seem to have been especially urgent about getting everyone vaccinated for some reason. I’ve only had my first shot, my second is due in about a weeks time.

So is it all worth it? IMO, definitely yes, as new cases ARE slowly reducing so there’s still a chance at elimination (again) so we might as well take it. And it’s also worth remembering that we’ve had pretty much a *year*’s worth of complete freedom due to following the same gameplan last time, so if we can do it again and get everyone vaccinated before the borders are opened we’ll have avoided a lot of unneccesary death and misery, so here’s hoping…

*****

In employment news, I have quit my job and decided to have another go at pretending to be a game developer for a while. To this end, I’ve been hacking away at a ‘test’ game based very loosely on the C64/Amiga classic Encounter:

https://blitzresearch.itch.io/encounter
(password tinkywinky)

I don’t intend to turn this into a fully fledged game (each time I play it I really just want to *fly* around!) but it’s been a great toy project to develop a game framework for, as it has many of the ‘core’ elements of a game (static scenery, dynamic models, bullets, overlay etc) while being small enough so it’s not a huge hassle to rearrange everything if I decide to do something in a different way, or just want to experiment. So although it hasn’t changed much visually since I start work on it about a month ago, the internals have evolved considerably.

The original game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaJMMYu9SY0

Encounter was one of my favourite games on the C64 back in 1984. I remember being incredibly impressed by the rendering engine at the time – in fact, I think it inspired my first ever (unsuccessful) attempt at a triangle renderer – and I still don’t really know how it was done, which brings me to…

A few days after I’d handed in my notice at work, a demo of Unreal Engine 5 was released to the general public, and fuck almighty it’s impressive!

I remember seeing a demo of this about a year ago and was pretty skeptical about it at the time as it was a ‘console demo’ for the PS5 and those are usually just elaborate marketing exercises. But nope, this appears to be the real deal, and it seriously has to be the most impressive ‘how do they do that?!?’ game tech I’ve seen since the original Quake.

And best of all, you can actually find out how it’s done as the author Brian Karis has put together this amazing presentation on how it all works:

https://advances.realtimerendering.com/s2021/Karis_Nanite_SIGGRAPH_Advances_2021_final.pdf

It’s not an easy read by any means (for my anyway), and it seems like he’s basically thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the problem to get such incredible performance, but the key idea seems to be an auto-pre-generated hierarchical LOD system. I’ve always thought this would be a cool approach for rendering ever since using a KD-tree to accelerate collision detection in Blitz3D, but I always assumed all the problems you’d have with cracks between polygons at different LODs would made it impractical…but not so, it just makes it very hard!

Note that I don’t plan on attempting to reproduce any of this stuff, but I do find it to be incredibly inspirational.

Bye,
Mark