Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pulse Lasers

Finally I have implemented the Pulse Laser onboard system.  This was an exciting build, as it leverages a number of features I've been wanting to play with.

Ship System
Each Pulse Laser attached to the ship is a ship system, and has a power capacitor which draws energy from the main power unit.  When you fire, it fires continuously until the capacitor runs out of juice.  After that, the rate of fire for the lasers is limited to the capacitor's recharge rate.  What this means is if you let the lasers fully charge, you get an initial ultra-burst of pulse laser fire, followed by a slower volley that can be sustained indefinitely.


It's important to batch objects.  A GPU can draw 1000s of lasers in the blink of an eye, as long as you submit it with 1 or 2 draw calls.  If you draw each laser individually, you'd easily use up your 33 msec or more.

In Pegwars, a python pulse laser fire event writes a pulse laser into a single dyanmic vertex buffer.  The initial position and velocity is written into the vertices, and all of the animation is done in shaders afterwards.  This buffer is circular, and as such depending on the head/tail indices, it requires at a maximum just two draw calls to render 1000's of laser beams.

Lasers are bound to both the additive render channel and the bloom render channel to give a nice glowing-hot look.

Also, every laser beam also generates a screen-space light that looks great when shooting over the top of space stations or planets.

Here's a collage of the pulse laser lighting work-in-progress, from the very first blob of light, to attenuation work, debug shaders and finally the results - firing lasers through a set of buildings on a space-station :)

Oculus Rift Integration

There's still a lot of work to do to get the rift running smoothly, specifically I can't seem to get the thing to focus properly in fullscreen mode (but works great in windowed!).

I found the SDK alright, but a little basic.  The examples and API itself use a RH (right handed) coordinate system, which is not what DirectX uses, and I wish they supported both out-of-the-box instead of me having to map between them. "Oh here's a quaternion providing the headset rotation, but it needs its coordinate system remapped"..uh-huh.  Oh yeah, some documentation on using the rift with DirectX would be nice!!  OR am I the only one using DirectX these days?

In order to render for the rift, you need to draw your scene twice, with the camera offset by the distance between your eyes.  It's nice and easy, as the geometry of the rift lenses is such that you don't need to skew or rotate your projection matrices, it's just a translation.  However, drawing the scene twice obviously incurs a performance hit if you're not careful.  Thankfully the Stingray Engine I built for Pegwars builds up command buffers for drawing, meaning you can re-render just the scene's draw commands from two perspectives - without duplicating any setup work.  Nice!  My only problem right now is I'm creating light-maps twice, which obviously can be reduced down to just once per frame.  But overall, I was very happy with the rift rendering performance... certainly much faster than 50% of the single-view frame-rate!

I must say, it's pretty special to sit in a virtual 3D spaceship cockpit!