May SKOTM Signup

posted by Fred Bot on 24 April 2016 at 00:00

Signup for the new Skill of The Month has started! The skill this month is: Woodcutting. Please signup at http://www.rsbandb.com/skotm, you will need a valid forum account to signup. Signups close on the first day of the month. The competitions begin as soon as signups close.

The April competition continues until May 1st.

PC Gaming - Revamped

posted by Earth on 29 July 2014 at 21:37

Hi everyone! This will now be the official thread for our weekly PC Gaming Event!

We are in the process of redoing our PC Gaming Event; if you have any suggestions for what we might do, post here!

When: Every Tuesday, 8PM RSBandB Time/MDT (7PM PDT, 9PM CDT, 10PM EDT, 2AM UTC, 3AM BST)

Where: Our servers are hosted at 45.33.88.205 Add us to your favorites!

Started: April 30, 2009

Run By: Pfkninenines and Earth

Announcements:
We are switching up the games each week so that we don't have duplicate games in a row anymore.

Event Winners & Prize:
9/16/14 - artofdvorak - Surgeon Simulator 2013
10/28/14 - Col. Sanders - Metro 2033, Risen, and Sacred Citadel
11/18/14 - Vladimir Putin - Not Claimed
1/13/15 - MageGuy08 - Cave Story+
1/20/15 - Apathy - Not yet claimed

System Requirements:
Minimum: Potato from 2008
Recommended: Better potato from 2012
Mac: Minimum: Tin-foil-wrapped potato from 2012+

If you're wondering if your computer can handle any of these games, please refer to the 'Can You Run It' site. It should give you an idea as to your system specs, and what they can do. It's not 100% accurate, though it should give you a baseline.

Other Info:

Half-Life 2: Deathmatch can be found here on Steam.

Our very own Duke Juker wrote a guide for Half-Life 2: Deathmatch here!

Team Fortress 2 (TF2) is free and can be downloaded from Steam


Counter-Strike: Global Offensive can be found here on Steam.

We now have an official Steam community page. Join it to keep up to date on the current weekly event.

TIEBREAKERS
CSGO vs. TF2 - next winner will be TF2

Event List:

Past Events:
8/5/14 - TF2
8/12/14 - TF2
8/19/14 - TF2
8/26/14 - TF2
9/2/14 - TF2
9/9/14 - TF2
9/16/14 - CS:GO
9/23/14 - HL2:DM
9/30/14 - TF2
10/7/14 - HL2:DM
10/14/14 - TF2
10/21/14 - HL2:DM
10/28/14 - TF2
11/4/14 - CS:GO
11/11/14 - TF2
11/18/14 - GMod:TiTT
11/25/14 - CS:GO
12/2/14 - TF2
12/9/14 - HL2:DM
12/16/14 - GMod:TiTT
12/23/14 - TF2
12/30/14 - GMod:TiTT / Prop Hunt
1/6/15 - TF2
1/13/15 - GMod:TiTT / Prop Hunt
1/20/15 - TF2
1/27/15 - GMod:TiTT / Prop Hunt
2/3/15 - TF2
2/10/15 - HL2:DM
2/17/15 - TF2
2/24/15 - CS:GO
3/3/15 - TF2
3/10/15 - GMod / CS:GO
3/17/15 - TF2
3/24/15 - HL2:DM
3/31/15 - GMod - Prop Hunt
4/7/15 - TF2
4/14/15 - CS:GO
4/21/15 - TF2
4/28/15 - HL2:DM
5/5/15 - TF2
5/12/15 - HL2:DM
5/19/15 - TF2
5/26/15 - GMod
6/2/15 - TF2
6/9/15 - HL2:DM
6/16/15 - TF2
6/23/15 - HL2:DM
6/30/15 - TF2
7/7/15 - HL2:DM
7/14/15 - TF2
7/21/15 - TF2
7/28/15 - HL2:DM
8/4/15 - TF2
8/11/15 - HL2:DM
8/18/15 - TF2
8/25/15 - TF2
9/1/15 - HL2:DM
9/8/15 - TF2
9/15/15 - CS:GO
9/22/15 - TF2
9-29-15 - TF2
10-13-15 - TF2
10-20-15 - TF2
10-27-15 - TF2

11-3-15 - TF2
11-10-15 - TF2
11-17-15 - TF2
... TF2
1-5-16 - TF2


Image Half-Life 2: Deathmatch
Image Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Image Team Fortress 2


Image Garry's Mod: Trouble in Terrorist Town / Prop Hunt
Image Counter-Strike: Source [GunGame]
Image Left 4 Dead 2
Image GoldenEye: Source

Written in the most soothing voice of Cireon. Cireon is high councillor and leader of Clan Quest.

With the NXT client we have gotten a large range of settings to make our game even more beautiful. While Jagex has explained some of the magic behind making things pretty in their dev blogs, most people probably still have no idea what most of the settings mean. In this article I will take you on a deep dive through the magic (while “magic” is totally an accepted technical term, it is most commonly known as shader programming) that makes RuneScape players drool all around the world.


Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 20.08.12

Yes, I am afraid these are the highest settings my laptop can manage.
The Basics

Let’s start with the basics, shall we? All objects in the game consist of small triangles. To show a coherent images, each of these triangles is processed individually by a graphics pipeline. To prevent going into technical details, we will limit ourselves to a high level overview:

The 3D coordinates of the triangle are sent to the graphics card. The first step consists of converting those 3D coordinates into 2D screen coordinates. We first have to find out where the point actually is relative to the camera and then flatten it. It’s just like making a picture with your phone: your camera is in a certain position pointing in a certain direction in three-dimensional space. When you tap the button, you get an impression of what the phone “saw” based on where the objects in the picture were with relation to the camera. Moving the camera will change where objects appear on the picture, even if the objects themselves remain static.

After mapping all the triangle corners to the screen, the graphics card finds out what pixels on the screen contain the triangle. This step is called rasterization.

Finally we come to the interesting part: for each of the pixels that the graphics card has determined to be part of the triangle, we execute a piece of code called the fragment shader or pixel shader. The sole purpose of this code is to determine the colour the pixel in the final image. In the simplest variant, it uses some simple vector math to calculate how well-lit the object is from a light source, but many interesting things can be done to come to amazing results.
Now you may be wondering why we went through the effort of discussing this pipeline. It turns out that the vast majority of the graphics settings are related to this pipeline. Changing the settings may make the pipeline be executed multiple times, or certain steps more expensive. With this basic knowledge, we can actually get a pretty good idea how the settings influence your graphics rendering pipeline.


Draw distance

The visual effects of this setting are pretty clear. The higher you set it, the further you can look. The consequences on your performance do not require a lot of imagination to figure out either. The further you can look, the more objects are visible. Not only does this blow up the amount of triangles that have to be rendered, it also means more of your surroundings have to be (down)loaded and kept in memory, which means that not only will your framerate go down, but your memory and bandwidth usage will go up as well!


Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 20.40.22

Medium Draw Distance

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 20.41.41

Ultra Draw Distance
Shadows

It is pretty straightforward what shadows do, but maybe the quality dropdown is a bit less clear. Admittedly, the visual differences are not very clear, but maybe the following images make it clearer:

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 20.44.55 Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 20.45.50

Left: Shadows on low setting; right: shadows on ultra setting.
If you don’t have a monster pc, you may have noticed that shadows - even on the lowest setting - cause quite a framerate hit if you enable them. This can be explained easily by looking at how shadows are generally implemented.

Shadows appear in places where the light can’t come. To figure out where to render shadows, we have to find out where the light shines. We can do this by replacing the light by a camera and rendering the scene from there. The image we render will contain all the points the light can “see”. We can then use this information to show the points the light doesn’t “see” as darker.

So does that mean that by enabling shadows we are basically asking the game to do twice the work to render every frame? Not really. We are not going to look at both images, so we don’t have to do all the work of determining the right colours for the pixels. Also, we can save ourselves a lot of work by not rendering the so-called shadow map at full resolution. This is where the blockiness of the shadows comes from.

Then what does the shadow detail setting do? If you increase the shadow detail, the shadow map will be rendered at a higher resolution. This results in sharper shadows (see images above), but also makes calculating the shadow map more expensive. Another effect is that the lower the shadow detail level, the smaller the area around your character for which shadows are calculated and displayed.


Anti-aliasing

Remember how we talked about the graphics card deciding whether a pixel is occupied by an object or not? This has a bit of an annoying by-effect: aliasing. Try finding a piece of grid paper (or draw a grid yourself) and fill in some the squares to make a triangle or a circle. Just like in Minecraft, you cannot make a perfect circle with squares, and yet small squares are all what you have available on a computer screen.

Now retry drawing that triangle or circle, but allow yourself to use different shades of gray. It may take some practice, but you will see you can achieve better results.

Anti-aliasing builds on this concept: it does not make a binary decision whether an object is occupying a pixel or not, but allows an object to partly occupy a pixel and blends the colours based on that.

The two most common approaches are FXAA (fast approximation anti-aliasing) and MSAA (multi-sampling anti-aliasing). Their names are pretty descriptive: fast approximation uses some math to approximate how much the object occupies the pixel. Multi-sampling on the other hands divides the pixel in smaller subpixels, for each subpixel the graphics card makes the same binary decision as before, and these results averaged give the final result for a pixel. It is obvious that multi-sampling makes the rasterizer a lot slower due to it doing multiple times the work (my guess is that it is 2x, 4x, 8x, or 16x depending on the AA quality).

We can of course do both the multi-sample thing, and use the fast approximation algorithm for each subpixel. This is possible in NXT, but it works so well, that your game will probably look a bit blurry overall.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 21.08.03 Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 21.09.47 Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 21.10.11

Left: anti-aliasing disabled; middle: FXAA (low); right: FXAA (ultra). Since MSAA is not supported on OSX, no images of that have been included.
Water

Water is a weird thing. It is transparent, yet you can’t see through it. It also reflects things. This means that to get the right result, a combination of techniques is used. This also means that the selector for water quality is a bit different as well. Instead of turning up the quality of the technique, it rather enables and disables different rendering techniques.

At the lowest quality, you will see that water is just a boring blue blob that is somewhat transparent. On medium quality water already looks a lot better, and at a relatively low performance cost. A very smart texture is added to the water that makes it look like actual water. Don’t be mistaken, the water is still completely flat, even though the illusion is created that it isn’t. (Alternatively they could be using a normal map here. This means that we fake the direction of a surface normal for the purposes of light calculation. I think the water is just a smart texture, but a normal map is definitely used in the high and ultra settings. If this all sounds like technical jibber-jabber to you, don’t worry about it.)

High and ultra quality introduce reflections, and this is where the performance really starts counting. If you look in a mirror, you will see things exactly as you would have seen it through a transparent window if your eyes were on the opposite site of the mirror in the same place (except not mirrored). This is also how it works for graphics rendering. If we place the camera directly on the other side of the mirror (in this case the water) and render the scene, we can use that information to fill in the water.
You guessed it, this means we have to do double the work. In this case we will actually see the reflection, so we can’t apply a lot of the tricks that make shadow maps relatively easy to render. This is why you will see a large hit to your performance when switching to high or ultra water quality. It is difficult to see the difference between high and ultra quality, but my personal guess is that the reflection is rendered at a lower quality in the high quality. (The distortions in the water reflection come from a normal map. See the note above.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 22.13.52 Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 22.12.21

Left: medium quality water; right: ultra quality water.
Lighting

The lighting setting has me confused a bit. I find it difficult to distinguish large differences between the graphics settings. The only clear difference I noticed is that the low quality lacks highlights on shiny materials. This is especially visible on water.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 22.36.50 Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 22.36.04

Left: low lighting quality; right: medium lighting quality.
The only thing I can do here is speculate. It is nearly impossible to draw a scene completely photorealistic in real-time. The mathematics behind the physics of real light are too difficult to solve sixty times (or even once) per second. Over the periods of many years, games have become pretty good at approximating the physics using easier functions. The simplest approximations can be calculated on a single pocket machine, but more advanced approximations still require a bit of maths to get right. I can only assume that the higher the lighting quality, the more complicated the approximation and the more realistic the lighting effects.

Personally I have not witnessed any significant differences by setting the lighting quality higher than medium, but don’t hesitate to share if you found something that actually looks different!


Ambient occlusion

As said before, rendering a physically correct image is really difficult, so we have to approximate. While approximating direct lighting is quite doable, in the real world light bounces around several times, creating subtleties in the lighting that are quite recognisable. One of the effects you are probably familiar with is that inset corners are often darker than their surroundings; this effect is called ambient occlusion. The lighting approximations used in shaders for games do not take into account the geometry of the scene, so these effects get lost.

For a long time it was through impossible to get this effect working in games. The first game to successfully apply ambient occlusion in a game was Crysis (2007). Instead of calculating the actual occlusion that would occur, they would do a second pass over the image and calculate for each point an approximation of how occluded it was. While not entirely accurate, it still gave very credible effects.

Because this effect is only done afterwards, it is called a post-processing effect, and happens in screen space, hence the name screen space ambient occlusion (SSAO). On a high level the algorithm works as follows: while rendering the scene, we keep track of the geometry of what we draw. Then during the SSAO pass, we randomly look at a number of points (in 3D space) around the pixel we currently render. If they end up being inside an object, we make the pixel darker.

If you tried enabled ambient occlusion, you will probably have noticed that this has a huge impact on performance. Where does this come from? First of all, we are doing extra work for every pixel on the screen. Not only do we use the information for that pixel, we also have to check the geometry around the pixel, which adds to our effort as well. The results from this effect would look very noisy due to the random factor. That is why we have to blur the results. Blurring is done by averaging the colours of several pixel, so this again means we have to look up multiple things for a single pixel. All in all this comes down to a very performance-heavy effect, but it gives scenes a whole lot more depth.


Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 22.57.26

Ambient occlusion disabled
Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 23.00.34

HBAO enabled. Note how the inset areas of the statue look darker, and how you can see the edges in the wall more clearly.
In addition to SSAO, NXT also has support for hybrid ambient occlusion (HBAO). This technique requires ever more effort, but results in a more rigorous effect. For details on this technique, I can only refer to this scientific paper.


VSync

Vsync is short for vertical synchronisation. It has relatively little to do with the quality of your rendering, and should be left untouched if you are not encountering any problems. VSync is a mechanic that prevents screen tearing: your monitor refreshes its image row by row. This is visible if you point a photo camera to a computer or tv screen, where you will notice vertical lines crossing through the screen. When your graphics card has rendered a new frame, it will tell the monitor to start drawing from that instead of the previous frame. If the monitor at that point is still busy refreshing, there will be an artefact where the image was switched. VSync forbids the graphics card from altering the memory of the monitor while refreshing is going on, so that you will always say a complete image. This artificially shows down your graphics card though, and may have a slight impact on your FPS.


Bloom

In my personal rulebook there is one clear rule regarding bloom: there can never be enough of it. Bloom has an effect that is very simple to explain: it makes bright things glow. It is not only simple to explain the effects, it is also not all that easy to implement!

When rendering an image, we can cut out the brightest parts of the image. We then apply a blur effect over these parts, and paste the result right back on top of the original image. This will make the centers of the objects brighter, but will also smudge out the bright parts of the scene, which has the appearance of a glow.

There is still a bit of performance here. As described before, blurring takes a bit of effort since we have to look at the surrounding pixels as well to determine the colour of a specific pixel. There are some tricks that make it faster, but there is still some effort involved.

Still, NXT’s implementation seems to be quite nice on performance, and I highly recommend enabling it at least on the lowest setting, since it adds a lot of atmosphere to the game, especially in the darker areas.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 23.36.21 Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 23.36.58

Left: bloom disabled; right: bloom enabled.
Small note of the author: the effect becomes more apparent the higher you set the bloom quality (but also more expensive). The bloom effect will also be less visible if you have your brightness turned up high.


Textures

Despite being most definitely a graphics effect, it actually has surprisingly little effect on your framerate. The main reason for disabling textures would be the lack of memory. Textures on objects are in fact just images that are applied to objects. These images have to be accessed every frame, so they are often kept in the application memory or - if possible - in the memory of your graphics card. To keep these images small, they often have a relatively low resolution (blocky textures in RS therefore have nothing to do with the performance of your machine). Every computer that is not ancient should have no need of disabling this, especially considering the relatively low quality of textures in Runescape.

Many games offer their textures at different qualities. They include textures at different qualities, and depending on the amount of memory available you can pick the quality of your textures. Currently Runescape has very bad textures, but I hope that they will start producing high quality textures and include a texture quality setting in the future. Whether this is feasible considering the additional strain on bandwidth is the question though.


Finally

Full disclaimer: I have no idea what I am talking about. That is, all the information from this article comes from playing with the graphics settings and taking my knowledge as game programmer to speculate on the most likely way things work on Jagex’s side. I hope that the technical background will help you with picking the right graphics setting for your game, or at least that you found it educational. In general I recommend taking the auto-setup settings as a base, since they are quite accurate. In the end every device is unique and you may have to fiddle with the settings until you get a compromise between graphics quality and performance you are happy with.


The Next Generation of RuneScape is here. NXT arrived faster than I would have expected. I suppose that getting the game out sooner will really help push the sales for the summer and the projects lined up down the pipe in the future. I am falling in love with RuneScape once more. Never have I left so immersed with this game.

To begin, the new client runs extremely smooth in populated areas which goes a long way to helping framerates when there are many things going on at the same time. This is something that was pushed to the limits with Java, but just could not be improved upon much more.
The lighting is better than I remembered from the beta, I’m not sure if anything was actually done to improve it but I see areas of growth like weather patterns and night and day cycles in the future when the java client is ditched.

This brings me to the main point of this Informer article. When will Jagex drop the Java client? What does that mean for the players?
Like many things I expect the Java client to be a nasty growth on Jagex’s back that they look at every day in the mirror but refuse to do anything about. I understand that they have intentions to remove the Java client as soon as possible, but they have been needing to do that for a lot of updates to the game that take literal years to address. Jagex like any big company is slow to move on making changes and assuming that the Java client will disappear by the end of this year would be getting one's hopes up.

At the end of the day, the player base will be the ones that dictate when Jagex can even consider switching over to the new client and closing up shop with java. If there are still a large majority of players using the java client by the end of the year, then there could be some financial issues again for Jagex. I don’t think that Jagex won't push the new client though. They push membership to non members pretty hard. They have a knack of really overdoing things, but right now I don’t see much of that regardless of which version of the client I am playing on.

If I had to throw my best guess out as to when the Java client will go away, would be in 10 to 12 months. This is the not so busy time at Jagex, it’s not too far out in the future and would give a solid summer and winter for new players to join in only using the new client. Along the way, Jagex would push harder and harder to run on the new client until a message would just sit on the top of the Java client window.

So what benefits would go into the new client being the only supported client? Well I can start by saying the dev time to create new content will decrease. This means more complex things can be done. I would also say slightly more advanced boss mechanics and size would be a thing that might be one of the first major releases at the time of the drop.

I think the biggest noticeable difference will be what Jagex is able to do for both map size and model quality. I am not saying that they will change the style of the game, but that Jagex will continue to do more advanced stuff to the models in the game.

I hope that Jagex does not forget the areas of the game in need of a major update graphics wise as it becomes more and more apparent every day. I also hope that the map does not continue to become an overcrowded mess of content that is half dead. They have the opportunity to really expand the world map and create a sense of adventure and wonder. I am sure that this is the plan with the eastern lands. But that is a topic for another time.

Overall I a really happy with how smooth the release for the NXT actually was. I was surprised that there seemed to be a quality difference to the beta that really pushed the game to the next level. It has recharged by love for the game and I commend everyone that worked on it. I hope that this will mean many more years of Runescape to come. I hope this means the continued increase in quality to the game. In my opinion, Runescape 3 has finally arrived as it was intended.

What do you all think of the NXT now that it’s released and what are you hoping for in the future? I am extremely curious so let me know! And as always Happy Gaming!


NXT is here signalling a new era in RuneScape history, other moments in history, and has Treasure Hunter gone too far once again?

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