Anybody for some ambient occlusion?

The work I’ve been doing for rendering the network layer has given me about 80% of the infrastructure we need to implement SSAO: Screen-Space Ambient Occlusion.

It’s basically an estimate of how much ambient light will reach each pixel, done as a rendering post-process based upon the depth and normal of each pixel, compared against the pixels around it.

Since it was half-implemented anyway, I spent a couple hours last night just mocking this up to see what it looks like in the game. Here it is:

By comparison, here’s exactly the same shot without SSAO:

Notice how it’s picking out the crevices; the little gaps between model parts. It darkens around the spots where pieces of fence link together, and in all the little corners of statues, and makes it much easier to see the columns on that tomb in the background.

…it also completely breaks the clouds, or anything else that uses additive blending; those will require a little more work. But this makes a bigger visual difference than I’d expected it to. Going to be difficult to say ‘no’ to artists about this!

SSAO won’t be in the next build of the game; this is advance-preview rendering tech; not yet ready for prime time. But… I suspect it’ll be in sooner than I’d have predicted it to be, if you’d asked me two days ago!


I will give you everything in my bank for an alpha. I would give you 8.62 to get my hand to test this. I would fly to the Eastern States and personally hand you what I have left after buying a ticket with $8.62, to play this game. I would walk across Australia with Julia Gillard to play this game already.

I would give you everything. Please, give me something.

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We’re moving toward the Milestone 13 build. I thought I’d have reached that point by now, but the network layer stuff I’ve been talking about in the other thread has been taking a lot longer than I expected. As a rough guess, it’s probably about two or three weeks off, I think, if no other major showstoppers pop up.

(I have to keep reminding myself that I need to bring the game’s tutorial up to date before the next milestone build; tutorials always take a surprising amount of time to implement properly!)

In any case, at Milestone 13, we’ll be bringing on a lot more testers. Probably ten times as many as we have now. If you’re interested, pop me an email or a private message or something and I’ll add you to the list of candidates. If you’re able to run things on OS X or Linux, please mention that too; we don’t have nearly enough testers on those operating systems!

At some point after milestone 13, I’ll start considering doing some pre-sales. But not until I feel like the game is worth paying money for. And I don’t feel like the game is at that stage yet. I’m working towards it, though! I feel like Tycoon-style games need to have a certain minimum level of content before they really start to feel like proper games, and I may be biased, but I feel like this one isn’t to that point yet.