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The Pub at MMORPG.COM  » Did modern graphics kill the seamless world?

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  Axxar

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/09/08
Posts: 1760

"See how I reward those who fail me!"

9/28/12 1:39:47 AM#41
Obviously if it could be done back then it can be done now. Graphics are higher but computer power is astronomically higher as well. I want my MMO world to actually feel like one, so bring on the seamless games.

Currently playing: FTL, Hearthstone and Reaper of Souls.
Eagerly anticipating: Divinity: Original Sin, Elite: Dangerous, Legend of Grimrock 2 and Star Citizen.

  asmkm22

Elite Member

Joined: 11/29/06
Posts: 1636

9/28/12 1:43:44 AM#42
Originally posted by Axxar
Obviously if it could be done back then it can be done now. Graphics are higher but computer power is astronomically higher as well. I want my MMO world to actually feel like one, so bring on the seamless games.

Processing power actually hasn't really increased that much in the last 6 to 8 years.  In fact, it's decreased a bit.  Cores have increased, meaning programs can run more things at the same time more efficiently, but raw power (clock rate) has gone down.  Memory is dirt cheap though, but still bottlenecked with the slow rate of adoption for 64-bit OS's.

You make me like charity

  fenistil

Novice Member

Joined: 9/22/11
Posts: 3016

9/28/12 2:00:25 AM#43
Originally posted by Quizzical
Originally posted by fenistil
Originally posted by Quirhid
Originally posted by fenistil
Originally posted by Quirhid

Seamlessness or not (loading screens or not), comes from what Quizzical wrote, but all games will probably use zones because of the limited amount of players a single server can handle at any given time.

Seamless world games also use multple physical servers per one game servers.  That actually is not an main obstacle.

It is if one zone gets too crowded.

You just design game in a way that it almost never happen.

The question isn't whether a game has seams internally.  Of course a game world will have a bunch of seams internally.  The question is whether those seams are clearly visible to players.  A "seamless" world is one in which the seams aren't glaringly obvious, such as a "please wait 10 seconds for the next zone to load" loading screen, or even a "we're going to freeze the game for a while to load the next zone" like Vanguard.

Look here.  I'm at a seam between two zones.  Can you see it?

If you think it's the darker green on one side and the lighter green on the other, you're wrong.  Here, I'll zoom in.

Now can you see the seam?  You'll have to click on the picture to see a higher resolution.  If you can't see the seam unless you zoom in far enough for individual pixels of the texture to be clearly visible, then that's pretty much seamless.

If you question why the weird angle, it's because I want to get rid of the other kind of seam, too.  I say that a wall that implicitly says, "You have reached the end of the world.  Now turn around." is a huge seam.  Make the world round (or in my case, a truncated icosahedron) and you can get rid of that.

Thanks Quizzical. I know that.

 

For seamlessness looking at ArcheAge videos can show how they deal with that.  ArcheAge is preety seamless, not absolutely totally 100%, since few of dungeons will be instanced(but there will be open dungeons as well) and sieges will be instanced as well.  

Rest afaik is preety much seamless,  you can cross whole world on foot,  sail between continents and enter buildings and don't see any loading screen. 

Additionaly I don't know how to call it, but in most zoned games, zones are just like bits of terrain that if you would merge would not create complete continent or world.   Of course that's one of the point of zones. Still not sure how to describe it better in english. (and I haven't got my morning coffee yet ;p)

 

Anyway back to ArcheAge - one of ways how they deal with technicalities. World in ArcheAge is not as cluttered as in many zoned games, and to some people that are used to heavily zoned games it might seem 'empty' at times.

This is I think partially because of less strain on harddrive and generally hardware and because of how large AA world is. Think it is at least WoW Vanilla large or bigger.

Another "solution" is that ground textures and amount of details there is preety small compared to some other newest mmorpg's.Another is that mountain textures and some high building textures especially in high places can be really low-res.

Of couse AA is a 32-bit aplication and is meant to run on PC with HDD's.  So that's why there are above things and more things to help achieve seamlessness - I just don't see it.

 

In future when SSD's (or other non-NAND non-HDD fast storage) are common and 32-bit is preety much scrapped (it is coming soon - in example EA Frostbite 2.0 "big" games like next Balltefiled released in end of 2013 or later will be 64-bit only)  there might be easier to make seamless mmo's / mmorpg's.

I don't think that technical difficulities are what keep most designers from creating seamless mmo's.  I think it is design choice, because with seamless worlds many design challanges come.  What immedietaly come to mind - if in example mmorpg is seamless and use seamless open world for in example housing - then merging servers in necessary can be really problematic for obvious reasons.   With seamless worlds often come big design problems.

That does not change a fact - that I totally prefer seamless mmorpg's.  Zoned one kinda kill huge part of "world" feeling. Of course most mmorpg's are not designed anymore to be 'worlds' and big part of playerbase don't want 'worlds' - but that's whole another matter ;p

  fenistil

Novice Member

Joined: 9/22/11
Posts: 3016

9/28/12 2:09:56 AM#44
Originally posted by DavisFlight

First issue. People need to stop saying instance when they mean zone.

Second issue, it's purely design.

Actually zone is an instance. 

Totally seamless world is just one big instance. 

Game composed of 10 zones with loading screens are just 10 instances.

 

================================================================

 

Anyway I know what you're trying to do.  You're trying to make a diffrence between instanced dungeon or instanced arena which is used usually by more or less 1-40 players and between a zone that has a limit of let's say 100-300 players before game won't let more players or spawn anothe zone 'copy' (aka next instance of this zone).

Technically both of those things are instances and there is not much diffrence between them - there are similar reasons and simialr philosophy between creating them.

  bobfish

Elite Member

Joined: 2/10/06
Posts: 1610

9/28/12 2:10:11 AM#45

Modern graphics aren't an issue, it is just infinitely easier to program zones than a seamless world, especially if you're using an off the shelf engine.

 

So it simply comes down to cost and targets. How much time (money) you want to spend on it and what minimum system requirement you're aiming for.

  Axxar

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/09/08
Posts: 1760

"See how I reward those who fail me!"

9/28/12 3:11:49 AM#46
Originally posted by asmkm22
Originally posted by Axxar
Obviously if it could be done back then it can be done now. Graphics are higher but computer power is astronomically higher as well. I want my MMO world to actually feel like one, so bring on the seamless games.

Processing power actually hasn't really increased that much in the last 6 to 8 years.  In fact, it's decreased a bit.  Cores have increased, meaning programs can run more things at the same time more efficiently, but raw power (clock rate) has gone down.  Memory is dirt cheap though, but still bottlenecked with the slow rate of adoption for 64-bit OS's.

So? Computers are still vastly more powerful. Really, really bad excuse.

Currently playing: FTL, Hearthstone and Reaper of Souls.
Eagerly anticipating: Divinity: Original Sin, Elite: Dangerous, Legend of Grimrock 2 and Star Citizen.

  asmkm22

Elite Member

Joined: 11/29/06
Posts: 1636

9/28/12 3:21:28 AM#47
Originally posted by Axxar
Originally posted by asmkm22
Originally posted by Axxar
Obviously if it could be done back then it can be done now. Graphics are higher but computer power is astronomically higher as well. I want my MMO world to actually feel like one, so bring on the seamless games.

Processing power actually hasn't really increased that much in the last 6 to 8 years.  In fact, it's decreased a bit.  Cores have increased, meaning programs can run more things at the same time more efficiently, but raw power (clock rate) has gone down.  Memory is dirt cheap though, but still bottlenecked with the slow rate of adoption for 64-bit OS's.

So? Computers are still vastly more powerful. Really, really bad excuse.

they really aren't that much more powerful.  I mean, the graphics cards are, for sure, but that's it.  Not saying they are worse, just that the power of the computer is not the limiting factor here.  It's the tech and software required to make a seamless world with modern graphics and features like people are asking for.  It's not as simple as just building something "bigger" because the hardware is a little better.

You make me like charity

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 12780

9/28/12 8:27:53 AM#48
Originally posted by DavisFlight

There have been dozens of MMOs in the past and present that are not only seamless, but have no instances either. It's all about how you design the game. A game like WoW would break in half if there weren't instances. Meanwhile, a game made with much worse tech, dark age of Camelot, NEVER had issues with crowding, camping, or anything like that, and there wasn't a single instance in that game.

Instances have some major gameplay advantages.  For starters, they let players see the world as it is "supposed" to be, rather than heading out to kill a mob only to find that someone else already did.  There are drawbacks, too, but even with no technical impediments, there are good reasons why a game might want to use instances in various ways.

You cite DAoC, but that game had instances, too.  A "server" (as it appears to players, not necessarily a physical server on the back end) is an instance.

Zones, and more to the point, loading screens, are a very different matter.  The only reason why any game would ever have loading screens at all is technical impediments that make it so that they have to stop to load things, or at least have serious gameplay problems if they don't.  Surely no game designers think, hey, this loading screen is really cool, so we bet players would like to sit there and stare at it for an extra five seconds every time.  You make the loading screen as short as you can.

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 12780

9/28/12 8:30:52 AM#49
Originally posted by asmkm22

The tech just doesn't exist for huge seamless worlds, and no MMO studios have the budget to create the tech when making an MMO is so expsive anyway.

Seamless or zoned has nothing to do with the size of the game world unless it's small enough that you can load the whole thing all at once.  I'm not aware of any MMORPGs that fit that description.

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 12780

9/28/12 8:38:06 AM#50
Originally posted by Loke666
Originally posted by Quizzical

The problem is hard drives.  Or more to the point, loading times off of hard drives.  If you want to load too much stuff off of a hard drive too often, then a seamless world is impossible and you have to make the game heavily zoned.  Reduce the amount of stuff you have to load off of a hard drive and a seamless world is easy to implement.

One way to do this is by requiring everyone to have an SSD in order to play the game.  While SSDs are seeing wider adoption, that would still greatly restrict your potential playerbase.

The other way is to reduce what players have to load, period.  What are games loading off of hard drives so much?  Mostly it's textures as used in 3D graphics.  Don't give a game so many textures or such high resolution textures in a given area, and making the world seamless would be easy.  Alternatively, if the textures are procedurally generated rather than loaded off of a hard drive, then you can skip the loading times.

It's not modern graphics in general that killed the seamless world.  A wide variety of high-resolution textures stored on the hard drive is the specific culprit.  Everything else in modern graphics is perfectly compatible with a seamless world.

I would say it is the combination of slow harddrives and not enough memory that is the problem but otherwise I agree with you.

On the plus side will faster harddrives than the SSD take over in the not too distant future, and hopefully will that eventually solve the problem but it will take years until enough people have the technology and until a MMO that uses it will get released.

If your "hard drive" is fast enough (i.e., is a good SSD), then you don't have to use system memory so much to dodge hard drive accesses.  If you could say, oh hey, I need this texture loaded from the hard drive and decompressed, and reliably have it done within a small fraction of a second--even when you need a bunch of other textures at the same time--there would be no need to cache such stuff in system memory.

Both system memory and video memory are meaningful constraints on how much different stuff you can have going on at once.  But the only way that making a game zoned helps with that is if there's a bunch of stuff that you need to have loaded if you're barely on one side of the zone boundary and a bunch of totally different stuff if you're barely on the other side, and then the loading screen makes it so that you never have to have both sets of data loaded at once.

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 12780

9/28/12 8:42:51 AM#51
Originally posted by asmkm22
Originally posted by Axxar
Obviously if it could be done back then it can be done now. Graphics are higher but computer power is astronomically higher as well. I want my MMO world to actually feel like one, so bring on the seamless games.

Processing power actually hasn't really increased that much in the last 6 to 8 years.  In fact, it's decreased a bit.  Cores have increased, meaning programs can run more things at the same time more efficiently, but raw power (clock rate) has gone down.  Memory is dirt cheap though, but still bottlenecked with the slow rate of adoption for 64-bit OS's.

Processing power has increased greatly.  Going from a 3.8 GHz Pentium 4 to a 3.4 GHz Core i5-3570K didn't mean you got four slower cores instead of one faster core.  The latter processor might well triple the performance of the former even in purely single-threaded programs.  Per-core performance is clock speed times how much the core can do per clock cycle, and processors have gotten a lot better at the latter in recent years.  And then you get four cores on top of that.

What hasn't scaled is hard drive speed, and that's the relevant bottleneck.  When I bought a computer in 1998, it had a 7200 RPM hard drive.  Today, the relatively fast hard drives are still 7200 RPM.  They've gotten dramatically faster at sequential accesses, but that's not the bottleneck.  The problem is waiting for a hard drive to physically move to the right spot before you can do anything, and that isn't that much faster than it was many years ago.

  Scot

Hard Core Member

Joined: 10/10/03
Posts: 4754

9/28/12 8:53:06 AM#52
Tech and bandwith issues have pushed MMO's away from seamless worlds. But they would have headed in that direction to make the games more solo friendly anway.
  Schwa

Novice Member

Joined: 9/03/07
Posts: 28

9/28/12 9:32:48 AM#53

I have a sort of on topic question about zoning tech.

Taking a look at WoW.  It's PRESENTED as seamless but does actually zone (as mentione several times earlier in the thread).  This is done by walking your character through corridors between zones.  i.e. mountain passes, gates, bridges, hallways.  This allows the zoning to happen wothout breaking (much) of player immersion.

My question is How is zoning handled on flying mounts?  I would assume zoning is still happening, but there is no corridor.  Does anyone know how this is implemented?

Other points in this thread:

1) Somehow I haven't seen LotRO listed as a seamless world, it is with the exception of Hobbitland -> Elfland which have an unplayable land area between them.  (This would make my known list WoW, Vanguard, LotRO and Darkfall)

2) Someone asked why I prefer seamless.  The answer is one word, immersion.  However I don't mind loading screens if done well.  GW2 is just one example of this (there are others, yes).  As  the whole map makes sense.  An example of one done bad is EQ2 (for me)  as that map required complicated flow charts to figure out where I was going.  Same with Warhammer, lots of zones that connected strangely ( I remember a zone portal that occured IN THE MIDDLE of a dwarf zone  that took you to another dwarf zone..... wuh?

3) Someone mentioned Skyrim as a seamless world.  Um, single player tech != multiplayer tech.  MMOs have been way behind single player RPGs since the dawn of time. 

And to add my 2 cents to the OP question.  I agree with others, it's all about hard drive texture loads.  As developer the choice is invisible corridors or load screens.  The end result is the same.

  fenistil

Novice Member

Joined: 9/22/11
Posts: 3016

9/28/12 9:42:22 AM#54
Originally posted by Scot
Tech and bandwith issues have pushed MMO's away from seamless worlds. But they would have headed in that direction to make the games more solo friendly anway.

Modern mmorpg's even those few that are seamless or close to don't use much more bandwidth than in past - so actually bandwith is not a problem.  You're not transferring  any graphics while playing anyway.

  ultrastoat

Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/14/10
Posts: 167

9/28/12 9:54:03 AM#55
Posted by Quizzical on 9/27/12 at 5:20:36 PM

 

<div showborder"="">
Originally posted by ShakyMo
High polygon models (sort of because the more polys kinda leads to more textures)
 

That depends very strongly on how it's implemented.  If you have a separate texture for each triangle, you're doing it wrong.  It's pretty easy to wrap a single texture continuously across thousands of triangles in cases where it's appropriate.

 

 

Yeah, it's called UV mapping. You can't have a 3D object without it. Texture loading and polygon rendering aren'y issues that contribute to smaller areas, because you can always reference level of detail meshes that are lower and lower poly the farther away from an object you get. The textures are also usually set up with "mip maps" that filter the texture down to 1x1 pixel so that they don't look odd when seen from far away, and it also reduces the amount of space needed by a texture relative to it's distance from the player camera.

 
  fenistil

Novice Member

Joined: 9/22/11
Posts: 3016

9/28/12 9:56:12 AM#56
Originally posted by Quizzical

Zones, and more to the point, loading screens, are a very different matter.  The only reason why any game would ever have loading screens at all is technical impediments that make it so that they have to stop to load things, or at least have serious gameplay problems if they don't.  Surely no game designers think, hey, this loading screen is really cool, so we bet players would like to sit there and stare at it for an extra five seconds every time.  You make the loading screen as short as you can.

It is not only about loading screens and way to not have load another terrain.   In zoned games - zone is usually an indepenent piece of land that is not simply part of bigger whole just cut of.   You could not simply merge few zones and create a whole region.   

It is like you would do an mmoprg that would have whole USA as an world. 

(Technical and practical things aside for discussion) Seamless is like taking everything : mountains, villages, small and big cities, forests, lakes. etc

Zoned could be simply above chopped to pieces with loading screens.  That's not how zoned games opeatae though.  Zoned mmorpg would be like taking part of few cities and part of few regions. 

Comparing parts of few regions and parts of few cities would not create whole USA.

 

I am talking about how zoned mmorpg's are done and not how technicaly could have been done. Because obviously it would be possible to take in example Ultima Online and simply chop it to few zones with like scissor cut. 

  SnarlingWolf

Novice Member

Joined: 6/23/09
Posts: 2728

9/28/12 9:59:03 AM#57

To the OP, graphics literally have nothing to do with a world being seamless or not.

 

A seamless world doesn't load the whole world at once, it loads a couple blocks max away from the character and is dynamically loading and unloading depending on the direction of the character all the time. It has always been that way and that is specifically to keep the system load down.

 

It is easier to build an MMO engine that has zones. You don't have to move players across server boundaries on the fly while trying to make it feel completely seamless (no pause or hiccup) as they do so. Instead you flat out say "Hey, take a rest for a second, we are moving you to another server).

 

Some companies still build seamless, others think it matters little and since it is easier to not have seamless they go with that. Personally I always prefer a seamless world. I hate stepping across a boundary to cause a loading screen.

 

The one exception to that is instancing, I can accept that and know why they do it so that groups can have a specific experience. Companies didn't have instancing back in the day which is why all dungeons were in real space and could have 200 people in them trivializing the whole thing.

 

I do think a company could create an instance that you phased across so it felt seamless, but I think it would cause too much confusion to be worth it. People would try to run across it not in a group and wonder where everyone else went.

  Quizzical

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Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 12780

9/28/12 11:58:52 AM#58
Originally posted by fenistil
Originally posted by Scot
Tech and bandwith issues have pushed MMO's away from seamless worlds. But they would have headed in that direction to make the games more solo friendly anway.

Modern mmorpg's even those few that are seamless or close to don't use much more bandwidth than in past - so actually bandwith is not a problem.  You're not transferring  any graphics while playing anyway.

For Internet bandwidth, you're more or less correct.  For SATA bandwidth, PCI Express bandwidth, video memory bandwidth, and probably also system memory bandwidth, you're wildly wrong in most cases.

  Quizzical

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Posts: 12780

9/28/12 12:13:36 PM#59
Originally posted by ultrastoat
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Yeah, it's called UV mapping. You can't have a 3D object without it. Texture loading and polygon rendering aren'y issues that contribute to smaller areas, because you can always reference level of detail meshes that are lower and lower poly the farther away from an object you get. The textures are also usually set up with "mip maps" that filter the texture down to 1x1 pixel so that they don't look odd when seen from far away, and it also reduces the amount of space needed by a texture relative to it's distance from the player camera.

 

You can do quite a lot without textures, actually.  A texture is just a lookup table.  It doesn't have to correspond intuitively to a picture.  Conversely, you can have pictures that don't correspond to any texture.  The pictures will be rather restricted, as you'd have to be able to get the color at every point from just vertex data, but there's an awful lot you can do.

For example, if you wanted to use my icon as a picture applied to an object, you wouldn't need to create a texture.  You just mark vertices as yellow, magenta, or cyan, and then interpolate.  You could have done that even with the old fixed function pipeline, even.  Programmable pixel/fragment shaders let you do a lot more.

Not all textures should use mipmaps, so for some, you have to load the entire texture right away.  For example, if you're using tessellation and using a texture to mark which vertices should go where in the tessellation evaluation shader (probably a "domain shader" in DirectX from its spot in the pipeline), mipmaps will do horrible things and make it look like your object is changing shape erratically.

But if you have to load a texture off of a hard drive, it doesn't particularly matter how large the texture is.  If you want to load a single byte, you have to wait about 10 ms for the hard drive to physically move everything to the right spot.  If you want to load a 1 MB texture, it takes about 10 ms for it to move to the right spot and then another 10 ms to read it.  Thus, a 1 MB texture only takes about twice as long as a 1 byte texture.  So you might as well just load the whole texture up front and then let the video card worry about mipmapping.

  Axxar

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/09/08
Posts: 1760

"See how I reward those who fail me!"

9/28/12 12:14:31 PM#60
Originally posted by asmkm22
Originally posted by Axxar
Originally posted by asmkm22
Originally posted by Axxar
Obviously if it could be done back then it can be done now. Graphics are higher but computer power is astronomically higher as well. I want my MMO world to actually feel like one, so bring on the seamless games.

Processing power actually hasn't really increased that much in the last 6 to 8 years.  In fact, it's decreased a bit.  Cores have increased, meaning programs can run more things at the same time more efficiently, but raw power (clock rate) has gone down.  Memory is dirt cheap though, but still bottlenecked with the slow rate of adoption for 64-bit OS's.

So? Computers are still vastly more powerful. Really, really bad excuse.

they really aren't that much more powerful.  I mean, the graphics cards are, for sure, but that's it.  Not saying they are worse, just that the power of the computer is not the limiting factor here.  It's the tech and software required to make a seamless world with modern graphics and features like people are asking for.  It's not as simple as just building something "bigger" because the hardware is a little better.

Processing power has increased greatly as well. It's not just the graphics cards.

Currently playing: FTL, Hearthstone and Reaper of Souls.
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