Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

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Limpiacobardes
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Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

Post by Limpiacobardes »

Gentlemen,

I think you would like to see this tweet.
https://twitter.com/Jose_Raluy/status/1 ... 4990358529

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Re: Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

Post by sfb »

This is awesome!

I've never used google translate more in my life!

Thanks for sharing.

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Re: Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

Post by Limpiacobardes »

Lol, you´re wellcome :)

I will translate most of it, to save others the trouble.
--
https://twitter.com/Jose_Raluy/status/1 ... 1583933448

@Jose_Raluy
First, a huge hug to ALL my colleagues in the project. Fond memories of the adventure without a doubt, personally and professionally speaking.
To pay tribute to it, I will comment 20 anecdotes in the coming days. Here we go!

1. Here you have the first logo of the project (from the time we were with "Gremlin Interactive").In the first playable build it was actually used in the game menu. Then, when it was signed with Codemasters, was changed to the definitive one. Sorry for the quality, I haven't found a better one.
Image

2. Video of the year 96 (I think). Here the Angel Cuñado's engine is showing muscle. Details:
-100% software engine
-Lights and shadows in real time (in 96!)
-Character shadows are missing...
-Notice the influence of the "demoscene" in the music of the video . Awesome ;)
https://twitter.com/i/status/1365697196209938434

3. The origin of "Blade" is the sum of two: the distributor FRIENDWARE and DUKE NUKEM 3D (yes, you read that right).
FRIENDWARE took the step to create a development company, thanks to the benefits of the unexpected success of the distribution of DUKE3D in Spain and Latin America of which it had the distribution rights.
It's something very similar to what "Proein" did with "Pyro Studios" also around that time (on a different scale and with different luck, of course).
So if it wasn't for DUKE NUKEM 3D, Blade wouldn't exist. Keep that in mind!
Image Image

4. Photo of the team at the end of 97. There are a couple of absences in the photo (Dani and a map person, I don't remember his name). The team would change a lot from the end of 97 to the beginning of 98 (but that's in another tweet ;)
How young we are in the picture, eh? ;)
Image

5. From the same period ( 96 and 97 ) here you have the first iteration of some of the characters, I think all of them under 1000 polygons. So when I talk about "low poly", in my head it has another dimension.
Image Image Image Image

6. Here you have the preview that EDGE magazine did in '96(!) about #Blade. The first sentence is priceless:
Madrid is perhaps one of the last places one would look when scanning the globe´s videogame development community for innovation
I think we have indeed improved ;)
Image Image

7. The game had 3 (!) names according to the territory, with their respective covers. Besides the SE [Special Edition], of course.
If you are curious:
- "Blade:The Edge of darkeness". Spain and Latin America
- "Blade of Darkness". USA
- "Severance: The Blade of Darkness" UK (and the rest of Europe).
Image Image Image Image

8. The development was from mid-96 to February 2001. A long (too long?) time. Logically was evolving.
Here you have pictures of the second period, post Christmas 98, which marked the biggest change, being the theam quite stable until the end.
Image Image

9. RebelAct closed at the beginning of 2002 (but with serious problems at the end of 2001). After Blade the team split up (and expanded), one on "Blade 2" and the other on "Ultimate Blade". The improved conversion for Xbox ( yes, the first one ;)
Xbox version models
Image Image Image Image Image Image

10. The XBox version had animation skinning (something that Blade did not). That allowed more realistic models and that in the "joints" the vertices "float" between more than one bone resulting in much more realistic models.
Image

Here are some progress images of the Barbarian, running on one of the development XBoxes (the picture is from the same one) . Wasn't it promising?
Image Image Image

11. Here you see the collision models, debugging screenshot of the time. "In a perfect world, everything is spheres". Spheres "slip" well and computationally they are VERY cheap for collisions. We "climbed" them so that the characters could climb stairs without problems.
Image

[Someone asked if it functioned the same way in combat]
No, if I remember correctly in combat (the edges of the weapons when they were active in a combo) the real model were taken into account.

12. We were in two offices, in Rafael Calvo 18 (Ruben Dario subway) and then at the beginning of 1999 (I think) Francisco Remiro 2, Cartagena subway. The second one was much bigger. In the first ones we were less and more chaotic with the schedules. When we moved to the second one everything improved, largely helped by the entry of Xavier Carrillo as producer (later co-founder of Digital Legends with Ángel Cuñado and José Luis Vaello).
In that second period, almost every morning when I arrived (I was one of the first ones), I played this [Crimston Tide] BSO by Zimmer at full blast. The compis ended up hating it I think... In the official guide there is some "taunt" about it (and rightly so).

13. Games require debugging and finding bugs. One way is to dump debugging information on the screen. Even then, we had to be very careful. Here are some examples:
Image Image Image Image

One is the debugging of the AI (with its algorithm for routing the state of the enemies in the level), another is the sound system and audio channels and various functions. We had to keep a close eye on CPU consumption to keep performance and FPS high.
In fact, the 3d audio system consumed so much that depending on the hardware, it was updated with more latency than the visual image ( up to only 15 times per second ). It sounds horrible . But nobody noticed and gave the freeze. (note: it didn't happen all the time, for the record ;)

14. The work of @VaelloBertol was wonderful ( and it shows in his later career ). I leave you some concepts that I think are wonderful.
https://twitter.com/Jose_Raluy/status/1 ... 9379957763

15. "THE PATCH".
The patch of this game, did several things, 3 very important that I remember:
1) Fixed a LOT of save game bugs. Sometimes we said that it was strange that the game didn't "crash" more because of the bugs. It was very reckless to play the game without the patch.
2) Remove the CD protection system (which forced to always have it in the unit). It was the usual protection system at the time, but as the game was all installed on the HD it was thought that legal users should not be punished.
3) Add support for OpenGL and 3dfx (do you remember any of them?) that were not wanted to be in the box. This was by Codemasters, and in fact, it was a drawback since the openGL version was for a long time the main and most tested. As they say, "Where there is a captain..."

16. GRAPHIC ENGINES.
The most famous were the BSP (Binary Space Partitioning): Doom (BSP 2d) and Quake (BSP 3d).
Problem: requires pre-calculation, the mesh is divided by partitions, and zero dynamic.
Advantage: sorting and good area rejection.
Image

Still, quite redrawn, which in Quake was solved with the PVS (Potentially Visible Sets).
In short: it lists the zones that are potentially visible from other zones. Minimizes even more the redrawing and you gain speed.
Disadvantage (as before): pre-calculation, and zero dynamic.
Image
[Here is a animated GIF that explains it better] https://twitter.com/Jose_Raluy/status/1 ... 6735485953

The engine of the Blade (by Angel Cuñado) is of portals.
Advantages:
-No precalculations
-Real time modifications
-Dynamic lights and shadows (!!!!)
-Less redrawing
Image

They are based on sectors connected by portals . The visible sectors are "clipped" through the portals to calculate (in 3d space) the part of the new sectors that is actually visible. Like that recursively.
Image

There are others like octrees, different ways of applying LOD (level of detail) to terrain, with greater or lesser complexity, very typical at the time. Man, how the story has changed...
Image Image

Just know that we also used to use fixed-point math on integers (floats were prohibitive), etc.
That said, Blade's engine was C++ and except for a sorting routine, no assembler. And with heavy use of DLLS to reduce compile times.
Image Image

To finish, an image that in spite of being more optimal in closed areas, with an intelligent use it was possible to make very cool things for that time. As an example, I close with this image.
Image

17. About the team. https://twitter.com/Jose_Raluy/status/1 ... 97313?s=20
18. About playing Diablo 1 and 2 that came out in june 2000. https://twitter.com/Jose_Raluy/status/1 ... 60643?s=20

19. The game uses PYTHON as script language, and is accessible as is in plain text ALL files. One of the great contributions of Carlos Garcia, to generate community. An example with the life points table as is, modifiable with a text editor ;)
Image

20. LIGHTING and 3D CARDS.
The engine was initially rendered by software. When we moved to 3d acceleration, Angel Cuñado's approach was to tessellate the polygon to take advantage of the color of each vertex of a triangle to achieve that illumination sensation.
Image

The graphs interpolated this illumination at each vertex (Gouraud shading). The important thing was to achieve an adequate division so that the "peak" brightness on the surface is not lost, an important challenge of the algorithm together with the tessellation balance.
This was radically different from QUAKE, which had a recalculated shadow map, which drew it in a second pass, as you can see in the images. Being pre-calculated, it is zero dynamic and requires a double pass for each triangle.
Image Image

Here is an example from Blade , so you can see how this dynamic tessellation was changing as you moved. This, by the way, is one of the reasons why the game required much more CPU than GPU.
Image Image Image Image
Image Image

[Someone asked about the shadows and reflections]
[They were generated] Well, by "brute force", they were projected like other things. As the project was delayed, there was more CPU power and it was not "so much" problem. Here is an image .
Image

FINAL. I hope you liked the thread. For me it has been a real pleasure to do it.
As a closing, an image of the official credits, according to mobygames (I think it's 100% correct).
A pleasure to have been in this adventure with you.

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Re: Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

Post by prospero »

That's Fantastic Limpiacobardes. :D

Thank You for your effort.

I will study that at length even though I don't understand half of it. :lol:

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Limpiacobardes
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Re: Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

Post by Limpiacobardes »

You're wellcome Elder Dragon ;)

Maybe the info on the engine, made by portals, it´s something usefull for you.
Jose Raluy made an interview for a spanish podcast a few months ago, in it he mentioned that the level editor somehow wasn't able to keep up with the engine's capability. Angel Cuñado, the lead programmer and engine´s creator, was (and is) a genius.

But the Xbox version... we can only dream what would have become of Blade if they had been able to release it.

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Re: Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

Post by Blackbeard »

ffffffffffffuuuck!, that xbox version, oh man.

In an alternate universe i guess...

now im depressed.

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technical details

Post by cieply »

For me it explanation why CPU is so much more important than GPU in this game was interesting.

One thing though - comparison to Quake may be appealing, as Quake is widely known, but not very accurate, to not say misconceived. Quake was released in '96, five years earlier, and Quake III was released in '99, still two years prior. So the comparison is half-baked, I would say.
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Re: technical details

Post by LaughingSkull »

Wow, that was seriously amazing!
Thanks for sharing AND translating!

Now I am actually getting hopes up that this game will finally receive an official sequel! :D
Yes, I know this might be wishful-, if not even downright NAIVE and WRONG thinking, but damn...
...it sounds like the only gaming-related thing that an old gamer like me can eagerly await and hope for these days! :)
cieply wrote: Wed May 26, 2021 1:13 am One thing though - comparison to Quake may be appealing, as Quake is widely known, but not very accurate, to not say misconceived. Quake was released in '96, five years earlier, and Quake III was released in '99, still two years prior. So the comparison is half-baked, I would say.
I think the comparison to Quake was actually very good and accurate, and here's why:
First, as stated by the tweets, Blade's development began way back in '96, which was the same year Quake was released.
Second, and more important, Rebel Act's vision of what Blade's engine was to be like, was largely based on what they DID NOT LIKE in QUAKE's engine, and what they felt was like flaws and oversights in it.
So, in order to make a better game, they contrasted AGAINST Quake's engine.

Very apt compare/contrast by the dev team, and very good explanations in the tweets! :)

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Re: technical details

Post by Haraldzz »

cieply wrote: Wed May 26, 2021 1:13 am One thing though - comparison to Quake may be appealing, as Quake is widely known, but not very accurate, to not say misconceived. Quake was released in '96, five years earlier, and Quake III was released in '99, still two years prior. So the comparison is half-baked, I would say.
While this is true, idTech all the way until idTech 4 (Doom 3, Quake 4 - approximately 2003. Even the rudimentary dynamic stencil shadows in idTech 3 could not produce multiple shadows from one object, instead the shadow's length and direction would get averaged from all incoming light sources.) used the same method for creating level lightning (literally pre-calculated lightmaps) and would go on to be used in all of idTech derivatives, such as Gold Source (and Source by extension). Unreal, which would be a more fair comparison, also utilized pre-calculated lightmaps and while they were higher resolution than id's, suffer from the same issues.

In hindsight, we of course see that id Software's approach was correct at the time for what they were trying to achieve and the performance such a "lazy" method provides over BoD's fully dynamic one completely outweighed the graphical fidelity gains. If it was utilized on a smaller scale where you had smaller rooms, it would not have been a problem, but games kept reaching for greater view distances and ever expanding levels.

Really, compare BoD's levels (including all the alternate paths and secrets) and you will realize they are absolutely huge. Pre-calculated lightmaps would not work that well as can be seen even today in Half-Life (and even Half-Life 2) where you have sudden and very approximate lighting transitions. I believe the dynamic shadows, while not realistic with its 100% sharp borders, of BoD is the main reason the game still visually holds up, even though it lagged behind on texture resolution or detail density.
Limpiacobardes wrote: I will translate most of it, to save others the trouble.
A huge thank you. Really makes me want to get in touch with some of the developers to see if it would be possible to arrange an interview and maybe create a video of them reminiscing of BoD development.

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Re: Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

Post by Blackbeard »

Thats something i really love about stencil shadows, they dont hold back on detail. soft-shadows blur everything and imo look like shit.
Sadly all new games these days only have the blurry shadows as an option.

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Re: technical details

Post by LaughingSkull »

Haraldzz wrote: Sun May 30, 2021 1:27 pm the game still visually holds up, even though it lagged behind on texture resolution or detail density.

hm... name ONE game that looked better at the time BoD released?

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comparison

Post by cieply »

Fair comparison, even from the same genre, would be Rune on Unreal engine or Silent Hill 2, with similar stencil shadows. Comparing it to 5 year old game is contrived.
LaughingSkull wrote: name ONE game that looked better at the time BoD released?

Quake3.
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Re: comparison

Post by LaughingSkull »

cieply wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 4:14 pm
LaughingSkull wrote: name ONE game that looked better at the time BoD released?
Quake3.

is this some kind of joke? xD

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Re: Blade´s programmer celebrates 20th Anniversary

Post by cieply »

No, why?
It's bit subjective, I know, but stencil shadows are not a whole game. But, yeah, you're right, it was 1999 game. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is from 2001. That's fairer comparison. Also American McGee's Alice (2000), or Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2 (2000). That's less fair as they're already year old by the 2001, but still.
All they use same engine that introduced spline-based curved surfaces in addition to planar volumes, which are responsible for many of the surfaces present within the game and shaders. So yes, these are similar products that are definitely not worse looking.
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Re: technical details

Post by Haraldzz »

LaughingSkull wrote: Thu Jun 03, 2021 12:58 pm
Haraldzz wrote: Sun May 30, 2021 1:27 pm the game still visually holds up, even though it lagged behind on texture resolution or detail density.

hm... name ONE game that looked better at the time BoD released?
I guess I didn't make myself clear enough, I don't believe BoD looks bad now or at the time, but if you really must...
  • Silent Hill 2
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  • Shenmue
  • Final Fantasy X
Some of these might be subjective, but there are definite advantages some had over BoD.

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