Wednesday, 17 August 2016

UT4 Editor - Using Blueprint Skewmesh

Among the more useful new features in the UT4 Editor are skewmesh blueprints. There are 3 types of skewmesh blueprints, BP_SkewMeshX, BP_SkewMeshY and BP_SkewMeshZ.

What these blueprints do is take a mesh and allow you to move one end of it in any direction (up or down and to either side) around one of the 3 axis (X, Y or Z). Skews are extremely handy for aligning trim, wall meshes and other modular meshes along angles they weren't designed to fit. They don't solve every mesh alignment problem but they help a lot.

Anyhow like they say a picture is worth a thousand words so here are several thousand words worth.

This first is a BP_SkewMeshY with the default mesh (a Liandri assets pillar/column) assigned to it.

You can change the mesh your skewmesh is operating on in the details panel. Here I changed it to use one of the Liandri assets floor trim meshes.

And here's another an example of that mesh zoomed in close so you can see the seam where the beveled edges of two meshes (one skewed,  one not) meet. The top part looks a little funny but that's a problem with material alignment on that particular mesh, not with mesh alignments which are perfectly lined up with each other.

Here are two instances of a floor panel mesh. The one on the left is by itself (not skewed). The one on the right is another instance of the same mesh inside a BP_SkewMeshY. Notice the transform handle named "End" to the right of the skewmesh. That's the transform gidget we use to move that end of the mesh around. This is quite similar to selecting and moving surfaces with the BSP tool.

Next, I've pulled the mesh upwards to make a ramp and added another instance of the mesh to the right. Notice how the edges of the skewed mesh align perfectly with the other meshes... Unlike when trying to get the same look by rotating and/or scaling the same mesh. They also light better and have fewer problems with z-fighting too.

Finally, here's the same skewmesh skewed to 45 degrees to one side rather than up. If I'd wanted an angled ramp, I could have skewed it both up and to the side at the same time.

There are some problems with various materials on skew meshes (they look fine in editor but break in game) but you can work around that by merging meshes including skewed meshes. Merging probably helps with performance too.

In case anyone wants to take a closer look at similar mesh alignment seams in-game, the map in the screenshots is DM-Nitro.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

My Favourite UT4 Maps

Unreal Tournament 4 already has a large number of custom maps, remakes and ports out there. These are my top 3 personal favourite maps to play in UT4.

DM-Broken - by ConradJustin

"This is my shield, I dare you to try taking it from me!"

This one really stands out from the crowd. It looks good, plays great and seems to be made up entirely of custom content made specifically for the map.

Broken is a fairly large map with plenty of vertical action. Lots of ramps, stairs, elevated platforms and walkways, a few lifts and several well placed jumpads. It has good connectivity and sightlines without being over connected or having overpowered sniper camping spots. There are plenty of chokepoints and strong defensive positions for more strategic play. Most of the combat happens at short to medium range, there aren't a whole lot of really long sight lines.

Overall weapon and item placement is very good too though one thing I don't care for is the stream with a keg and a bunch of health vials all lined up. IMO that's just too much over health to have all in the same area.

I really like the shield area. The upper platforms around the shield are a great camping spot but not so great nobody can knock you out of there (especially not if they gang up on you). It works out to a sort of king of the hill style game. Sure it's a strong spot to hold, but if you're up there you aren't getting much overhealth, armor and probably not the jumpboots or anything else either, all of which make a successful counterattack more likely.

I really like playing this map King of the Hill style, controlling the shield, the area around / below it and daring anyone to try taking it away from me.

Not wishing to give anything away, but let's just say it's well worth your time to search every nook and cranny looking for hidden secrets.

DM-Nitro - by me

You might think I'm biased with this choice since I remade Nitro for UT4. It's not that I like Nitro so much because I remade it, just the opposite, I remade Nitro because I like it so much.

The map is appropriately scaled up (2.5 times larger), with proper UT4 lighting, materials and reflection environment. It's mostly meshed now, though a lot of the large floor, wall and ceiling surfaces are still BSP.

Layout is the same as in the original, item placement is mostly the same with a few changes and additions to address the problem with one side of the map being so much stronger than the other.

Whether the game is DM, TDM or Duel, it plays great in UT4.

DM-CurseII - by MetalFist

An old favourite from UT99 this one's more of a port than a remake, appropriately scaled up by the same 2.5x factor but still using the old UT99 textures.

Other than not having a Ripper, layout and item placement are identical to the original. Gameplay is about as good as it gets, it plays great!

Curse was never one of my favourites in UT99 but it certainly is now in UT4. I love playing it now, maybe that's because I'm more of a shock ho now than I used to be and the top of Curse is a great place for shock ho'ing.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Lightmass Swarm Farm Growing

I picked up a used Dell Optiplex 790 SFF for $140 CDN to add to my UT4 Lightmass farm today.

The machine came with an i5 2400, 4G of RAM (2x2G) and a 360G HDD. I added a another set of 2x2G RAM I had lying around to give it 8G total RAM. That's probably overkill, 1G per core or 4G in total should be plenty but since I already had the RAM anyhow, better safe than sorry.

That gives me a 3rd machine with a little over 6100  passmark performance test cpu benchmark score to add to 6300 from my i5 4690 main computer (the main machine actually scores 8400 on all 4 cores but only uses 3 cores to build lighting, so 8400 x 0.75 = 6300) and 4600 from a 3rd machine with a Phenom II B93.

That gives me very nearly 2.7 times as much multi-threaded processing power to build lighting with as with just the main machine alone (again only 6300 since it only uses 3 cores).

6300 + 6100 + +4600 = 17000
17000 / 6300 = 2.698...

IOW, my longest build time (DM-Eliminator with production lighting quality) is about 2.5 hours with just the main computer (6300 cpu benchmark score) working on it and 1.5 hours with both the main computer and the Phenom II working on it (6300 + 4600 = 10900 cpu benchmark score). With the new machine added to the farm bumping the total available processing power to 17000 cpu marks it'll take just under 1 hour (55.6 minutes according to the math) on production lighting quality.

Edit: Rebuilding Eliminator with all 3 machines came out to 57.5 minutes, within 2 minutes of what the math above predicted.

Now just imagine what oh say four OC'd 5960X machines with ~80k cpu benchmarks would do to build times. =)

Saturday, 11 June 2016

DM-Nitro Progress

I've been working on DM-Nitro lately.

I did quite a bit of meshing, another lighting pass and some optimization too (cut the filesize nearly in half).

I'm mostly using stock assets in Nitro to keep things simple, clean and readable for visual clarity and performance. I'm making heavy use of skewmesh splines and merged meshes too.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix it!

Why is it practically every new build Epic has to make changes to materials and meshes that mess up all maps using them?

Here's a recent example where for some reason they just had to screw with M_Chill_StoneWall_05 in the May 24 build.

In Editor...

Though the reddish wood looks different (brighter, more saturated color) than before, the wall material looks pretty much the same as it always has. It looks good.

But load the map in game and it's a different story altogether...

It looks like complete crap... A material I've been using for months, that's looked fine, and still looks fine in the editor, looks terrible in game. Making matters worse, I tried fixing this by using another material, but it has the same problem!

Of course it's possible it's an obscure new bug rather than an actual change to the materials but still, why do they constantly keep changing and breaking things like this?

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!


I found several materials (mostly variations on 3 wall materials in the Chill assets) doing this. Affected maps include Codex, Malevolence and Gothic.

I might start using more custom (non-stock that is) materials and meshes like the ones from various UT4 tech demos simply because there aren't any problems with them changing and breaking maps every 2nd build! Yes, the pak files will be larger but at least they won't break every time someone at Epic arbitrarily decides to change things that weren't broken.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

UT4 Quote of the Week

Maybe I was a little quick declaring a UT4 forum quote of the year recently... Found another good one today!
Im gonna be alittle harsh, what good is a crosshair if you cant hit whats directly under it anyway *mic drop* 
- MonsOlympus

Monday, 16 May 2016

UT4 Performance Fix

There's a lot of complaining about performance in the latest Unreal Tournament 4 build. Much of it from players who didn't have (or didn't notice) any performance issues before. Some have big freezes lasting several seconds, others have some less severe combination of stuttering, input lag and large FPS drops.

For still others (I was one of these) the game feels like they're playing a couple seconds behind everyone else. Typically it's far more noticeable online than offline and gets progressively worse with time.

I think I know what's behind most of these performance problems. Its your sound card, or rather your lack of a sound card.

I'm guessing most of those with performance issues are, like I was until recently, using onboard audio. In other words, you don't have a soundcard. And it's probably a Realtek chip too (by far the most commonly used mb audio chips).

Myself, I have MSI H81M-E33 motherboard with Realtek ALC887 audio. I've been having UT4 performance issues all along (going on 1.5 years with this mb) until a couple weeks ago (before the latest game build). I got a Kingston HyperX Cloud II headset a few months ago, which has it's own built in 7.1 sound, but I didn't turn off the onboard audio until recently.

The game never played very well for me online. In fact it was pretty much unplayable with anything much over 40 ms ping. Even with 40 or less ping, it wasn't great, but it wasn't too bad either... At least for a little while, but the longer my play session lasted, the worse it got. And it kept getting worse with each new build too. The last couple builds it was rarely playable for an entire 10 minute match.

Then, a couple weeks ago I turned off the onboard audio in the bios, started a local (offline) match and immediately noticed a big difference. The game felt much smoother and more responsive. I added a few bots, the bots were way slower to react than ever before, much easier to kill them and much easier to avoid their fire.

After a couple minutes I realized I could see rockets coming... I could react after they were fired and consistently dodge them... Even at quite close range...  Unbelievable!

So I went online with similar results. That was a couple weeks ago, since then playing online has been far more enjoyable. It's not perfect, but there's a whole lot less warping, hit registration is more reliable and though rockets are still difficult to dodge online (I blame the netcode, prediction and time rewind on that), I can play ok with higher ping too. 70 ping isn't bad now and even 90-100 is mostly playable as long as the other guys aren't all pretty good.

So for all of you having performance issues, especially those with Realtek audio chips, try turning off onboard audio in your motherboard bios and see if that helps. I bet in most cases it either solves the performance problems or at least makes a very noticeable improvement.

Whether it's the sound chips and/or drivers from a specific vendor (Realtek) or from multiple vendors and whether it's a problem with the actual chips/drivers or just a problem with how Epic uses them, I can't say for sure. But it sure seems like onboard audio has an awful lot to do with performance issues in UT4.

I would post this on the official UT4 forums... Except I can't.