NEWS

Master your own destiny! Command a nation!

A change in the dark – shadows revisited

We’ve been running with Cascaded Shadow Maps (CSM) for quite some time now, with a user adjustable cascade count ranging from 1 to 3 cascades. The last cascade (number 4) has been a one time calculated shadow map for the entire scene, to avoid shadows missing in the distance. The last has been an important addition to standard CSM as we have airplanes in the game, and the landscape just looks flat if we omit it. Initially we talked about precalculated shadows/lighting, but we wanted a more dynamic solution to allow weather changes, and didn’t want to increase the download size of the game.

Even though CSM solves a lot of issues with the quality when covering a large area, they have some really heavy performance requirements. Especially when running with 3 cascades, the number of objects visited and revisited during drawing can become very high. In certain scenarios the CPU time for setting up the objects to be rendered would climb up to 16-20 ms on high-end machines, effectively dropping the framerate from 60 fps to 30 fps.

So I started looking around for alternatives to the CSM and fell across an article written in GPU Pro 2 by Pavlo Turchyn about the game Age of Conan. They were fighting the same issues as I was, but had solved the problem by switching to Adaptive Shadow Maps instead.

adativeshadowmaptiles A debug view of the Adaptive Shadow Map Tiles. The red lines shows the active tiles, and the white lines shows the current camera frustum as seen from the light.

In short, ASM works by dividing the world seen from the light source into tiles, as compared to CSM where it’s the camera frustum that is divided. Each tile is then given an index into a tile map and a shadow map for that tile is calculated and stored in this tile map. For those familar with virtual texturing/mega textures etc.. the algorithm is very much the same. To avoid rendering many small tiles in the distance, the tiles are combined into progressively larger tiles in a quad tree hierachy using the distance from the camera as a guide to the depth of the quad tree. This quad tree is evaluated each frame, and if a new tile has entered the visible range or if the quad tree detail level has changed somewhere, the new tiles are calculated. Typically a single tile every several frames has to be recalculated, giving a huge performance burst compared to CSM.

ASM has one short coming. It doesn’t do dynamic shadows from vehicles or characters. To overcome this problem I maintain a separate shadow map for dynamic objects and combine the ASM with the dynamic during drawing.

The next major release of the game (internally called Avery) will contain the new shadow map system.

Screenshot Competition Extended

Come on! This can’t be true… Only three entries in the Screenshot Competition on facebook? We need to do better than this, so we’ve extended the competition one more week. :-D

So go on and grab a screenshot, post in on facebook as a comment to the ‘EXCLUSIVE HEROES & GENERALS SWAG FOR THE MOST “LIKED” SCREENSHOT‘  post and “Like” your favourites to vote. Voting ends the 5th of June at 10.00 CEST.

swag Post a great screenshot on our facebook page and win swag

And as a reminder – The winner will receive:

  • Heroes & Generals T-shirt
  • Heroes & Generals Stickers
  • 8 GB Heroes & Generals USB stick
  • Unique Heroes & Generals ‘community card’

To take screenshots in the Action game, press ‘F9′ while in the game. This will save the image in the “screenshots” folder in the installation folder (‘%temp%\HNG\live\screenshots’). ‎’F9′ currently saves the image as a ‘.tga’ image – you probably need to convert this to ‘.jpg’ in order to upload it somewhere.

Intelligence Bulletin Vol 2 * No 18

intelligencebulletingvol02no18 This week we proudly announced that we went into Closed Beta and that we’re encouraging gamers to sign up for a Beta-key.

But what does “Closed Beta” really mean for us, for you and for Heroes & Generals? Here is how we interpret “Beta”:

Well first of all “Beta” really is just a name… Well, it’s actually a letter… Wikipedia says: Beta (pronounced UK: /ˈbiːtə/, US: /ˈbeɪtə/) (uppercase Β, lowercase β; Greek: Βήτα Bḗta) is the second letter of the Greek alphabet.”.

But Wikipedia also says “In computing the term ‘beta’ is used as (usually) the last pre-release in the Software release life cycle.”

To us, “Beta” is simply a milestone and a statement that we’ve made a solid platform where we can continue to expand the game on and that we’re ready to invite more players.

Please don’t compare a Battlefield or a Call of Duty beta with ours – those games are “boxed” titles and their betas really aren’t beta’s in the first place. It’s release candidates and much more meant as marketing tools. Instead look at Minecraft, World of Tanks, Firefall, Tribes Ascend and all the other recent online games. They all went “beta” at a similar stage in the development, and the games were (and still are) further developed throughout the beta and after launch.

We’re not making a boxed and fixed product, where we lock down the development in the beta stage, and then never again touch the game. No, this is a living and breathing process, where we’ll continue to develop the game, tweak gameplay, graphics and sound – and add new features and content, no matter what we call it; alpha, pre-beta, closed beta, open beta, launch, v1.0, v2.0, etc…

What we have implemented in the current build is only a fraction of all the ideas we currently have in our design manual but releasing the game to a (hopefully) larger audience will help us prioritize the development of the features.

So the basic Wikipedia definition “Beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet” kind of fits our interpretation – Closed Beta is simply just the next chapter in the never-ending story of developing Heroes & Generals.

Propaganda this Week

Heroes & Generals Beta Videolog 1

Heroes & Generals – Beta Videolog 1 showing gameplay and a preview of our upcoming iOS and Android app – Heroes & Generals: Mobile Command

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Server Load Test Sunday at 18.00 UTC

We need your help for a HUGE Load Test of our servers Sunday the 27th of May at 18.00 UTC.

7 Yanks in a Willys How many players can the server handle?

So if you have received a key for Heroes & Generals, please log in and play Heroes & Generals on Sunday at 18.00 UTC:
http://game.heroesandgenerals.com/

The goal for the Load Test is simply to see how many simultaneous logins our server can handle and we hope that as many as possible will log in Sunday the 27th of May at 18.00 UTC and play the game.

Load Test sessions

We have a Load Test Sunday the 27th of May and the timeslot for the play session is:

PDT EDT CEST UTC / GMT
Sunday the 27th of May 11:00 am 2:00 pm 20:00 18:00

PDT = Pacific Daylight Time (US westcoast summertime)
EDT = Eastern Daylight Time (US eastcoast summertime)
CEST = Central European Summer Time (Central europe summertime)
UTC = Coordinated Universal Time (Server time) / GMT = Greenwich Mean Time

We hope that you’ll join the Load Test and help us make Heroes & Generals the game you want to play!

See you on the battlefield!
The Heroes & Generals Team

Public Screenshots and Videos Are Now Allowed

There has been some confusion about whether or not you may capture and post screenshots and videos publicly. And just to make it clear to everyone: Yes, you are now allowed to capture and post all the screenshots and videos you like, where-ever you like!

Messerschmitt in an attack run You are now allowed to make your own screenshots and videos and post them in public!

We’ve even made a Screenshot Competition on facebook to celebrate this! (look for the post saying “EXCLUSIVE HEROES & GENERALS SWAG FOR THE MOST “LIKED” SCREENSHOT”)

In order to get the best looking screenshots and videos out there, please try to use “High” quality graphics settings and try to only use NVIDIA graphics cards as we currently have issues with AMD/ATI graphics cards, not rendering water correctly.

So go on and grab some screens and some video and help us spread the word about Heroes & Generals, and help us grow our community!

Screenshot Competition

Remember our Screenshot Competition on facebook?

swag Post a great screenshot on our facebook page and win swag

The winner will receive:

  • Heroes & Generals T-shirt
  • Heroes & Generals Stickers
  • 8 GB Heroes & Generals USB stick
  • Unique Heroes & Generals ‘community card’

Please post all screenshot entries as comments to the ‘EXCLUSIVE HEROES & GENERALS SWAG FOR THE MOST “LIKED” SCREENSHOT‘ post and “Like” your favourites to vote. Voting ends the 29th of May at 10.00 CEST. EDIT: Screenshot Competition extended – Voting ends the 5th of June at 10.00 CEST.

To take screenshots in the Action game, press ‘F9′ while in the game. This will save the image in the “screenshots” folder in the installation folder (‘%temp%\HNG\live\screenshots’). ‎’F9′ currently saves the image as a ‘.tga’ image – you probably need to convert this to ‘.jpg’ in order to upload it somewhere.

News from the front, May 2012 – Closed Beta

“Heroes & Generals Storms into Closed Beta” – this is the headline of our latest press release, and this is exactly what we do! We believe that the look and feel of the game is quite mature with most game mechanics, features, graphics and audio well on the way. So we’re going to scale up the number of players in the coming weeks as we go into a phase, where we’re very focused on fixing bugs and balancing game mechanics.

So spread the word to your friends and don’t hesitate to give us feedback of any kind – bugs, balancing issues, gameplay suggestions, etc. Head to the forum for suggestions and discussions, or check in at the Support Center for reporting bugs!

Heroes & Generals – Beta Videolog 1 showing gameplay and a preview of our upcoming iOS and Android app – Heroes & Generals: Mobile Command

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Press Release: Heroes & Generals Storms into Closed Beta

Highly anticipated shooter from the creators of Hitman enters closed beta stage, invites soldiers from across the world to help redefine a genre.

The time to enlist is now! Independent studio Reto-Moto proudly announces the launch of the official closed beta for Heroes & Generals, the upcoming massively multiplayer shooter that features explosive online battles between axis and allied forces in a persistent war for European domination.

Heroes & Generals eliminates the formulaic baggage that weighs down the shooter genre by delivering satisfying strategic action in a full blown first-person shooter experience. Players are transported from the comfort of their browsers to authentic WWII battlefields, where they fight alongside thousands of gamers for persistent progression and military supremacy.

We encourage all gamers to enlist for a Beta-key now at our www.heroesandgenerals.com community site.

Heroes & Generals – Beta Videolog 1 showing gameplay and a preview of our upcoming iOS and Android app – Heroes & Generals: Mobile Command

Read More

What are you waiting for soldier? We need heroes on the battlefield and generals to lead them!