Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

This is not a story that will make all people happy.

In War of Magic, we had a requirement that the game would work on netbooks. And the good news was, it did.  But it came at a price: Pixel Shader 2.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with graphic tech, video cards support various types of on-chip programs with the best known one called Pixel Shader.

Pixel Shader 2 will work on really old machines going all the way back to the Radeon 9800 series and the Geforce FX cards and those crappy old Intel embedded cards. There were a lot of visual downsides, particularly in terms of lighting and shadowing. But the biggest had to do with memory consumption.

Because most modern video cards have lots and lots of memory on board (those would be cards that support Pixel Shader 4 and 5), when those cards had to go into Pixel Shader 2 mode, a lot of graphics got doubled up in memory because of the way we had to manually cache things in main memory to keep performance high.

The ironic result is that people with newer hardware ended up running out of memory. The better your video card, the faster it would happen.  It was a case of trying to be all things to all people. People with older video cards ended up with a much better experience.

With Fallen Enchantress, we bit the bullet and went with Pixel Shader 3. This not only gave us a lot of new lighting and shadowing options but largely eliminated the doubling of memory issue we had with Pixel Shader 2. The net result is that, voila, our memory use was halved. But it comes at a price. You need a much better video card to play Fallen Enchantress than you did War of Magic.

Now, bear in mind, what I mean by much is still a relatively low end video card. It just has to support DirectX 9c. So for instance a Radeon X1300 or a Geforce 7 series would now be the low end.  Put another way, if your video card has less than 512MB of memory on it, you will probably have problems.

A rule of thumb is, if your video card is older than 5 years…it’s probably time to upgrade it if you want to play Fallen Enchantress.


Comments (Page 1)
on Oct 25, 2011

Sounds like a necessary change to me but what to I know  (Had to say something being I was first)

on Oct 25, 2011

Backwards compatibility just doesn't seem to be worth the price of it. You need to remember that Elemental needs to be playable 10 years into the future as well. Using old tech always has the risk of it becoming incompatible with new hardware. In my opinion the best option is always to use relatively high tech solutions during development.

on Oct 25, 2011

So, my once powerful Nvidia 7300 is now .   Good .............time to start shopping around for something to last another 4 years........Oh Honey   guess what I need?

on Oct 25, 2011

Sir_Linque
Backwards compatibility just doesn't seem to be worth the price of it. You need to remember that Elemental needs to be playable 10 years into the future as well. Using old tech always has the risk of it becoming incompatible with new hardware. In my opinion the best option is always to use relatively high tech solutions during development.

 

The odds of Elemental being played 10 years in the future is slim, and also bad for Stardock.  If people are still playing FE 10 yrs into the future, it means that Stardock hasn't come up with something better in those 10 years.

 

Thankfully my old laptop should be able to squeeze by, my newer one no problem unless it overheats.

on Oct 25, 2011

Not true. I still play Balder's Gate II. Not because there is not a better RPG out there, but because it is still a good game. Good games are eternal. 

on Oct 25, 2011

Difficult to complain. It sounds like the old approach would hurt more people than it helped.

on Oct 25, 2011

*smashes hand into table!*

I WANT...NO!...I DEMAAAAND!!!....THAT YOU MAKE THIS GAME COMMODORE 64 COMPATIBLE! ! ! ! 


<---*stern eyes*   "get to work!"












but sounds good - i got good grafics card so no probs ...   *pushes commodore 64 forward and staaaares*


Alstein

The odds of Elemental being played 10 years in the future is slim, and also bad for Stardock.  If people are still playing FE 10 yrs into the future, it means that Stardock hasn't come up with something better in those 10 years..


i still play games like Master of magic - master of orion 2.  much older games than 10years. even sometimes much older games - i dug out a old amiga game once and played that happily - because it was good and reminded me of how awesome it was to me back then.

 

on Oct 25, 2011

Bummer I've got 256MB (Radeon HD 2400 Pro).  Hard work just isn't paying enough.

on Oct 25, 2011

WhiteElk
Bummer I've got 256MB (Radeon HD 2400 Pro).  Hard work just isn't paying enough.

Are you working or occupying?

on Oct 25, 2011

Re the 10 years in the future... games I like are rare and I stick with them a loooong time.  Besides EWoM,  all I have played in the last year is Shogun 1 (about a decade old), and MoM (already old when Shogun came out).  I will be bummed if I am not playing FE or at least FE2 nth  expansion-pack 10 years from now.  

(EWoM --  well, I will be bummed if I AM playing that one in 10 years, because that would mean something horrible happened to FE)

on Oct 25, 2011

If I don't have to post another memory leak or OOM error, me and Harpo will be happy campers.

on Oct 26, 2011

Games like WoM tend to appeal primarily to those that are PC enthusiasts who tend to keep their rigs up-to-date as much as finances allow. Five years is a long time and if you are still chugging away with a graphics card powered by a hamster in a wheel then maybe saving up is a good idea. Surely even a moderate upgrade from a 5 to a 3 year old card from e-bay wouldn't break the bank.

If Pixel shader 3 halves memory usage then bring it on. It might reduce sales but at leaast the product will be more stable.

on Oct 26, 2011

I'm glad the decision was taken. Although I won't be able to play on my netbook any more, I much prefer a better experience when I play on my real rig.

on Oct 26, 2011

leeboy26
Games like WoM tend to appeal primarily to those that are PC enthusiasts who tend to keep their rigs up-to-date as much as finances allow. Five years is a long time and if you are still chugging away with a graphics card powered by a hamster in a wheel then maybe saving up is a good idea. Surely even a moderate upgrade from a 5 to a 3 year old card from e-bay wouldn't break the bank.

 

If Pixel shader 3 halves memory usage then bring it on. It might reduce sales but at leaast the product will be more stable.

 

I think those times are changing though.  There's less need for high-end rigs now, as companies are making games with lower reqs (except for the AAA stuff, but AAA games are primarily console gamers)  

 

l think a big reason indie games have done well these past few years is primarily DD, but a secondary reason is consumers have internalized the cost of DLC into their game purchase.

 

As for my not playing in 10 years- that assumes Stardock makes another Elemental, or a Gal Civ 3 that's even better.  MoM didn't have a sequel, and Shogun 2's sequel was good but had some insanely high requirements.

 

on Oct 26, 2011

I don't see how AAA games are for console gamers. COD etc are AAA and FPS are meant to be played on PCs with keyboard and mouse. I much prefer games that ramp up graphics for high end rigs so that you get to use your lovely dx11 cards etc while still having a playable game on older dx9 hardware