Kingdoms Crusader 2

Stronghold 2

Experience castle building and medieval life for yourself with the free downloadable Stronghold 2 demo
Stronghold 2 Tech feature online!
Thursday, 14 April 2005

In the run up to the release of Stronghold 2 next week we've put together a new feature on - a preview of some of the graphic technology developed for Stronghold 2's 3D engine.
Stronghold 2 uses DragonFly, Firefly's own 3D engine, to create a living medieval world. In order to make Stronghold 2 look as good as possible, Firefly's programmers have coded DragonFly with some of the latest graphical technologies to enhance the environment. Three of these technologies are described below:

Pixel Shaders

DragonFly uses Pixel Shaders to improve lighting quality on surfaces providing a more realistic and appealing look and feel to the game. A computer with a Pixel Shader enabled graphics card is able to render and produce some truely impressive effects. The water in Stronghold 2 is one of the effects where the benefits of Pixel Shaders can be seen.

This first shot is an in-game shot from Stronghold 2 where Pixel Shaders have been disabled. Although the waves are animated, the surface is flat and dull, and the water doesn't react in a realistic manner to the light.

The second shot shows the same scene, this time with the water being rendered with Pixel Shaders enabled. Now the water looks much more realistic. The water is animated in the same way, has lot depth to it and picks up light realistically depending on the angle of the camera, making the water look like it is reflecting the light from the sun.

Bump Mapping

Another feature that DragonFly takes advantage of is Bump Mapping. The main purpose of Bump Mapping is to increase the detail of an image without increasing the number of polygons in the scene. The more polygons you have to draw on the screen at one time, the more computational power is required. So in general, the less polygons you have to draw the better.

The first shot below shows one of the larger keeps from the game drawn without Bump Mapping. Although the keep has a lot of detail drawn into it's texture, the bricks appear flat and unpronounced. When the camera is rotated the amount of light reflected from the bricks stays the same, further adding to the impressive that they have little depth.

This second shot shows the same building, but this time with Bump Mapping enabled. Here every brick appears to have a lot more detail, and when you rotate the camera, the surface will pick up light giving the surface depth and detail that you would not normally get without Bump Mapping..

N-Patching (Truform)

Truform is a special technology that is currently only available on modern ATI graphics cards. Truform uses a special process called tessellation to increase the number of polygons based on the distance of the object from the camera. That way, as you get closer to objects in Stronghold 2, Truform increases the polygon count and gives the object a much smooth appearence.
The first shot here shows one of the swordsmen from Stronghold 2. Half the screen is being drawn in wireframe mode to allow you to see how many polygons are being drawn. This version of the swordsman is exactly as it was put into the game and the polygon count remains the same. Although there are quite a lot of polygons in this one swordsman, Truform would increase it a lot more...
This second shot shows the same swordsman, again with half the screen in wireframe mode, but this time Truform is enabled. As the swordsman gets closer to the camera, Truform increases the polygon count by sub-dividing the polygons, producing a model with much smoother curves.
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