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Old 08-01-2008, 06:54 PM   #1
Kodiak
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Default A New Way of Looking at Damage

This is a long one, so please bear with me!

Does anyone remember the old game Renegade Legion Interceptor?

I remember how fascinated I was by the representation of armour protection and weapon effects on armour. It lead to all kinds of strategies for manoeuvering your craft to provide the most survivability, arranging your armour to withstand the most possible damage and designing cunning weapon arrangements to make optimal use of their penetration templates against an opponent's armour to inflict critical internal damage as rapidly as possible.

This was made possible with a simple 2D diagram for each armour location with a grid of armour boxes against which a weapon effect template was applied. For example, a laser would eliminate a single row perpendicular to the line of impact to a certain depth determined by the laser's power. A mass driver would carve out a crater-like divot in the armour. Cunning arrangement and sequencing of attacks could rapidly penetrate even the heaviest of armour by carving deep through it in a very narrow location and then unleashing a larger templated weapon whose projectile would hopefully sail through the newly created breach in the armour to inflict internal damage against the enemy.

This was very elegant and certainly felt more realistic than simply hammering away at an object or a location's hit points until they reached 0.

I don't think many other systems have ever used something akin to this again.

With the advent of 3D graphics, such a detailed tracking of locational damage has become even more difficult to manage, particularly without overloading the computer processor (or so I think...I'm no programmer!)

As part of a discussion elsewhere, I brought up a few concepts that could help bring a rise to true 'location based damage'.

My first idea involves creating 'damagable volumetric pixels' aka dvoxels (you heard it here first - I think!) These would basically be voxels, but to which an additional set of data would be attached to represent physical attributes such as damage resistance, mass, ignition points, etc. Weapon effects would be indicated in terms of a 'dvoxel template', much as explained for the Renegade Legion Interceptor example above.

It then occured to me that this would probably hog up huge amounts of processor time. After bouncing a few more ideas back and forth, the following solution came to mind:

"I was actually thinking of a 'damage map' to represent an item's condition for the game. This would give each point on the object up to 256 hit points/hardness (or a separate 'hardness map' could be made). As damage is inflicted to the object, this is represented by the 'brush effect' on the damage map, gradually reducing the value of 'hit points' to an area. A fully white pixel on the map represents 256 hit points while a black area represents 0 hit points (i.e. that pixel has been penetrated).

The hardness map could be a separate layer that represents how resistant to damage various points along an object are. This probably won't be modifiable, but technically could be due to wear and tear, rust, special weapons, spells, etc.

So...

Think of the damage system as:

1. The object mesh and texture (only for cosmetic reasons), upon which
2. The damage map is added. Each pixel represents the condition of the object at a given point along the mesh (as the map is UV-mapped to the object). A 50% grey map indicates that all points along the mesh currently have 128 'hit points'
3. The hardness map is added. This map will modify the effects of point 4 below on the damage map based on the hardness map's value (i.e. a 50% grey will reduce the attack by 128 points)
4. The attack map (or weapon effect 'brush'???) strikes an object and its effects are translated to the appropriate 2D location on 2. and 3. above. Each weapon has a specific template which affects the maps at 2 and 3 differently. Think of these as variations between a 9 pixel hard brush, a 25 pixel soft brush and a 50 pixel splatter brush with varying pressure information in photoshop. The object damage that these weapons have is directly coded into the 'brush' information. This works just like an eraser, erasing data on the fly from the object's various maps. Once penetration is achieved (the damage map reaches 0 - turns black), an algorithm can then translate the damage caused to the player as a result of the amount of 'pixel pressure' (grey and white pixels) 'punching through' the damage map

For example, a sword causes a 2 pixel hard brush stroke at 100 points against anything it is dragged against. The almost undamaged chest plate it strikes was able to withstand 128 points (50% grey damage map) of damage across its surface, except for a single point, a 10-pixel weak spot, which had been reduced to 99 points. This means that 1 point of weapon effect penetrated at 10 pixel locations. This could then have an effect of, say, 1 weapon effect point X .1 HP/pixel = 1 HP damage to the character."

Would either system be feasible? Would such an undertaking take up more power then what is currently available? Has something like this been done before? If so, why don't we see it more often? Or is it simply that gamers today suffer from short attention spans, so such detailed damage modelling simply is not worth the effort of creating?

Here is another interesting thought: If processor power is the limitation, would today's markets be willing to bear a reduction in the quality of graphics to implement this sort of feature?

Any thoughts?
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:27 PM   #2
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Not likely. I doubt that most games (or even any game that relates to games that have similar features to this one) will be too deep into this particular feature mostly because the targeted consumers of the market are mostly between the ages of 13-25 (not really, just a random estimate) and would probably care more about the quality of the game, rather than its math or strategies (of course, this depends on the game). I assume (I know I shouldn't, but..) that your talking about a sort of FPS/Sci-Fi space shooter or something similar. Frankly, I myself, am not really into strategical planning (I don't really consider it "fun" so much as "work") so call me bias if you will.

Bottom Line: My opinion is that the market probably wouldn't reduce quality (Major feature) of the graphics of games over one simple, yet enhanced feature, otherwise we would all be playing 'Star Commander (Complicatedly [is that a word?]) Armored Forces' for several years to come.
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Old 08-02-2008, 01:31 AM   #3
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Reading your idea, I reminded of an open issue on realism and combat system, and only in this regard I'm a bit disappointed, because you start with "a new way of looking at damage", but then you piggyback onto hit-points.

It's an interesting idea, and you could develop an indipendent mechanism around it too, not only a FPS damage system.
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Old 08-02-2008, 07:10 AM   #4
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I have been thinking of a similar system for quite some time. Your's is much more detailed and fleshed out though.

I think Toyoka has a point though, that players of first-person shooters like those games usually for it's twitch based action (How well can you headshot and similar). However, there may be a niche with those fans of strategy games and or tactical shooters. Or this system may work well in a mass effect style game.

The graphical aspect of something like this is pretty intriguing as well, imagine seeing your armor crumble and break, and when damage is actually done to your character, he bleeds, breaks bones, and loses body parts. Maybe you can even hit an opponent's gun to disable it. There is a lot of room for exploration in this area!

So, I believe this system or a similar one will be coming on the market within the next 5 years, because hit points are definitely getting outdated, and this physics engines leading the way to bigger and better games, one can only hope blowing chunks or armor off your enemies, and maybe even being able to shoot limbs off, is in the next phase in the game industry.
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Old 08-02-2008, 07:14 AM   #5
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I'm pretty sure your concept (too lazy to read it all, soz) is used in many games featuring vehicles. The most recent example I can think of is Crysis. In Crysis, a vehicle can have damaged wheels, back, front, etc., both represented in-game (e.g. wobbly wheels) and in a HUD element.
I have no idea how these systems are usually implemented though, and I highly doubt they use damage-voxels (arbitrarily shaped damage-volumes seem likelier), so at least your implementation is novel.
Got any prototypes running?
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Old 08-02-2008, 11:18 AM   #6
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Actually, this made me think of what could be an interesting casual game where you have to shoot a blob of stuff at the right time in order to bury through and destroy the juicy core.
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Old 08-02-2008, 02:53 PM   #7
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I'm no programmer, and the skills I do have certainly aren't up to pulling this one off yet.

I may have stated my question in a misleading way.

Can today's (or future) processors handle this sort of process? If so, would its implementation add value for gamers? I think we've pretty much put to rest the idea of a reduction in graphics quality to achieve this. I just don't know if this sort of process would hog many more resources then graphics already do...especially considering that this would be working on a 256 bit greyscale map.

I did see an end state where everything in-game would be represented like this. This could lead to an enhancement of the skeletal systems for characters, which would evolve to include arteries, veins, vital organs, etc. The effects of damage would be dynamically determined based upon how bones respond to the loss of structural integrity, failure of organs based on percentage affected, blood loss due to perforated arteries, etc.

As Adrir points out, it could be used in novel ways as well!
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Old 08-02-2008, 04:48 PM   #8
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Well, if I were trying to implement something like this, I'd proberbly just use a simple 3D array to represent the damage volume, and run some type of isDamageTerminal() method each frame in order to trigger, on returning true, the death sequence.
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Old 08-02-2008, 04:52 PM   #9
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Id think that adding organs and such to game play will take away the fun and add too much realism. But i guess that can change with armor
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Old 08-02-2008, 06:21 PM   #10
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It would depend as well on whatever you were shooting/swinging your sword at.

You can easily make the damage resistance for certain creatures (say a silicate-based life form with no discernable internal organs) so high that it takes a rocket launcher to leave even a minor pock mark in the first few centimeters of their 'flesh', whicle other creatures could be so vulnerable to your superhuman strength that you could put your little finger clear through them. That's easy enough to adjust.

It just strikes me that games from a while back (late '80s to mid '90s) had to rely on gameplay substance over a few nifty graphic tricks or gameplay gimmicks (oh, look at me! I can shoot over a wall -- but everything else about me is the same as every other game out there: I have nice graphics!)

This may be a result of hindsight being 20/20 or the fondness that comes with reminiscing about the past, but even for an example as limited as the RPG genre, such titles as the Dragonlance series games, and Pools of Darkness/Pools of Radiance (all from TSR, if I remember right) were engrossing with deep game play as well as cutting edge graphics for their time.

Other games, such as Begin: A Tactical Starship Simulation (early '80s here...I found this when I first started playing on the internet...look it up, it's still fun to play today!), had to rely only on sophisticated gameplay as graphics didn't really exist yet...unless you consider text moving around on screen as graphics -- which was pretty high end stuff back then.

It appears to me that although graphics have advanced in leaps and bounds, game play has not followed suit. If anything, games have become simpler, catering to reduced attention spans and twitchy trigger fingers.

That's fine, but can we not include enhancements to the realism and level of detail behind some of these games to match the progress we've made graphically? If not, why not? I think it's patronizing to the younger players out there to believe that they would be uninterested in such detail.

Of course, I may be really misdjudging the iPod generation...
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