Okay… what!? OSX not only works, the performance is ridiculous so far.

Last time I fired up AI War 2 on my Mac, which is a pretty outdated machine with a really really bad GPU, the results were pretty bad.  I wasn’t really surprised, because I was running it with all the settings turned up, and the music was throwing errors a bunch, and I knew it could get a lot better with some polish.  An old intel 4000 integrated GPU is not exactly at the middle end of the market anymore, even.

Just retested the latest build, which has the music swapped over to a different playback system, and which has a metric ton of performance optimizations from myself and mainly from Keith (the entire game simulation runs on a secondary thread, now).

Results? 300-some odd ships in the very opening battle, with all the settings turned up to maximum still, and it was buttery-smooth.  I have no idea what the framerate was, but I feel confident saying it was north of 60.

I just… whaaat?  That’s… not what I expected.  It’s fantastic, but it’s also a big surprise.

I’m not going to run out immediately and lower the minimum stated system requirements expectations, but that is certainly super duper positive as an indication thus far.

Reminds Me Of Something…

As kind of a fun aside, back when I was coding AI War Classic in the early days I was hoping to get 10k ships in a game, and was pretty sure I could do it.  The maximum any other RTS had at the time was about 1000, and it was super choppy and laggy with that many units in the other titles.  I felt like I could bump that up by a 10x partly thanks to going 2D, and partly just due to coding practices.

By the time the first public builds were around for AI War Classic, the typically number of units in the game was more like 30k, and it would start to chug around 45k units.  Within a year after that, 50k was more typical and it would start to chug at 75k units.

More Generalized Thoughts on Optimization

Sometimes it’s just really surprising how things can go when you throw everything and the kitchen sink at optimization.  It’s kinda-sorta working, it’s getting along okay, and then suddenly you pass this critical mass and whoosh the performance jumps by an order of magnitude.

I’m not remotely ready to say that’s happened here, yet, though.  The simulation is not remotely finished for the game, as there’s still a lot more AI to build out, and lots more ship functions.  The largest battles still have only involved just a few thousand ships at a time for me, whereas in classic sometimes north of 10k ships in one fight would happen.

So I want to see what happens with all those things.  Right now early indications are ridiculously, surprisingly good; but some monkey wrench could still very well appear between now and early access that makes me say “yeah, the minimum system requirements for a truly pleasant experience should still be more than a lousy intel 4000.”  Then again — maybe not. 🙂

Oh, One Last Thing

In AI War Classic, the simulation speed was locked to the framerate on the slowest computer in a multiplayer game, or to your framerate in solo play.  Kinda common for RTS titles, though not all of them.

In AI War 2, your visible framerate is completely unrelated to simulation speed.  We’re actually running the simulation speed at 10 cycles per second no matter what, which gives us a lot of muscle per cycle on a secondary group of threads.  It doesn’t need to be any more fine-grained than that.

Then for input and actual visual display, of course it can run at much higher framerates, basically up to whatever your hardware can handle.  If you’re running at a buttery-smooth 200fps and everything is just peachy, and I’m having more trouble on my machine at a hard-won 30fps or something, the simulation won’t slow down for either of us.

I’m a pretty happy guy about now. 🙂

A fantastic conversation.

Just general forum humor.

BadgerBadger: What does “lerping shots out of ships” mean? I know larping, not lerping.

Keith: Please, please don’t let the shots larp.

Cyborg: The AI will now say, “Lightning bolt!” before each attack.

Chris: “I’m attacking the darkness!”

Keith: 20,000 MkV Gazebo Guardians to Murdoch in 0:32…

Chris:  My favorite version of that skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zng5kRle4FA

Hey, do you remember the Gazebo monster we put into Valley 1 as a bit of an easter egg? Most of the Gazebos were harmless, but a tiny minority were absolutely deadly murder machines.

I completely forgot about that. 🙂

No real way to build asset bundles selectively in one unity project??

That’s pretty frustrating.  It’s not a dealbreaker, because for truly isolated things (music and sound effects, for instance), I can just make yet more unity projects.

But this means that in order to have some platform-agnostic asset bundles for music and sound separately from everything else, I now have to have FOUR unity projects for AI War 2 rather than just the two we had before.

Seems kinda like an oversight of something obvious on the Unity 3D advanced build pipeline process, but at least there’s a trivial workaround.  Spent more time on that today than I meant to, but it was legitimately puzzling.

Writing now while I wait for things to compile to their bundles for the first time, ever so slowly.

Definitely having to prioritize my time.

If you’ve looked at my todo list, you’ll see why.  There are so many things that I want do do, where I just think “oh, but I could get that done in just a couple of hours at most!”

And it’s true in each instance, but there’s a very real additive cost to all that.

I know that I can make the background starfields, which I’m growing tired of already from a visual sense, look a lot better and more stylized.  But is that more important than bugfixes?  No… sigh.

I want to get MasterAudio set up so that I can go ahead and have music ducking and so forth in place when I get to that point… but is that more important than just getting uAudio out and thus the game working on OSX properly, and then back to those bugfixes?  Again… no… sigh.

And so it goes.  Things move fast with Arcen, but there’s still just never enough hours in a day.  I’ve had a very unhealthy work/life balance for years, and in the last year or so I’ve been trying to get that more under control.

So… priorities.  Making sure I can load music in a cross-platform way and play it efficiently.  We’ll worry about audio ducking later when we’d even be doing that at all.

Among other things that will just have to wait.  At least with the todo list, you alpha folks can see where my head is at and what I am valuing over what in the short and middle term.

Hopefully everything on that entire list is done within the next month, knock on wood.  I have three in which to do it, but I’d rather be done in one.

Some fun performance notes from Keith today

I don’t think he’ll mind if I share these tidbits from his victories.  All of the below is written by him:

Commit Notes

– moved main sim execution to separate thread- moved most of the “ui reading the current gamestate” stuff to that thread too

– moved the generation of sync data to that thread as well

– moved the update-visual-object stuff outside of process-sim-step; still on the main thread of course but now it’s easier for you to profile it without sim stuff cluttering up the results

– various performance improvements, some of which are fairly significant


So right now there’s some volatility in the visualization code but it’s not causing problems right now since I think it’s mostly dealing in primitive types. Will need to be dealt with later but doesn’t appear pressing.

Performance-wise the sim’s burden on the main thread is almost gone during most frames. There’s still some spikes when a lot of entities die at once, as that’s a lot of list removal work. I can actually optimize that a bit more, but for now with the sim-on-the-main-thread almost always under 2ms (and often way under that) I figured this was ok for now 🙂


Oh, I should also mention that the main thread per-frame heap alloc is also almost gone, and most of that was eliminated rather than just shifted elsewhere.

One Hour Later

I’m currently working on the other-thread heap alloc, via the deep-profiler and setting SimPlanningLoop.IsOnMainThreadForProfilingPurposes to true. It just makes everything execute sequentially, rather than farming it out.

Another Hour Later

Just nuked the heap alloc of the short term planning threads (which do most of the work) from about 800k to about 40k; I can cut about 25k more, too, just needed to go now. The remaining looks like legitimate allocation on the partition list (used for find-everything-within-range checks), and that should in theory stop once the list is big enough that all future checks use less space.

The execution thread is still doing 300k+ per go, and I’ll take a look at that later. Not sure what the long term (AI) thread is doing heap-wise, haven’t seen it in the results yet.

uAudio dies, and we move to more asset bundles.

One of the things that I recently discovered was that asset bundles for meshes seem cross-compatible for at least Windows and OSX, but shaders for sure – and possibly materials – are not.  The shaders bit I knew; DirectX9 shaders aren’t going to work in OpenGL.

So that’s wound up with us having to have separate asset bundles for each of the three platforms, which is a minor inconvenience but no big deal beyond that.

What is a bigger deal is that we’ve been using uAudio in order to stream mp3s off disk, and that doesn’t work on OSX.  It was supposed to, I’m pretty positive, but anyhow it’s busted.

For that, I’m just going to throw my hands up and move elsewhere.  I wanted a more unified audio pipeline anyhow, so that I can do some proper music ducking with sound effects playback integration once that’s in.  uAudio was already going to complicate that for me (note that that’s one of a few reasons there are no sound effects, despite their being music, in the initial alpha of the game).

At any rate, I’m going to create a separate asset bundle for audio in general, and my hope is that this one can be cross-platform, which would be really nice.  It won’t make much difference to you, but it saves me time uploading to Steam, and it gives more common ground between the different builds.  Right now there’s almost a gig of stuff that is OS-specific, which is annoying.

Some folks were complaining to me about not wanting to support mp3 on principle, so I guess that wins out. 😉  With things in asset bundles, they’ll be in a streamable intermediate format that I believe is ogg.  This will mean that in order to get the soundtrack you have to actually get the soundtrack, though; you won’t be able to just find it in your folders in the game install anymore.  That’s an unintended side effect, but it will improve performance during gameplay, so there is that…

My old approach of reading oggs directly off disk was just too low-performance and memory-eating.  The asset bundles approach will help preserve speed, which is a big deal in my opinion.

Hitching? AI War 2? Keith says: “Ha.”

Well… okay then!  Keith already moved the simulation off the main thread in the course of just this morning.  Unbelievable.  On my main machine, a GT72VR GRE Dominator Pro (so GTX 1070 and latest i7), I’m sitting pegged between 180fps and 200fps during the opening battles with all the settings cranked up and 8x MSAA and so on.  Almost no giant lag spikes – amazing!

What is kind of odd is that now there are some GUI.Repaint spikes every so often that take 35ms to execute, but they are only every few seconds at most from what it seems like.  I’m not sure what the deal is there, but it’s something to do with Unity’s GUI internals.  I’m not happy about it, but one long frame every few seconds is not something I was really aware of until I did the profiling and saw it.  I wasn’t noticing it while playing.

Strangely, the occlusion culling spikes seem to have disappeared, too.  I don’t really trust that, because if they disappear for random reasons then they can come back for random reasons, too.  But it makes it no longer an imperative thing that I try to fix that in the next week… since right now there’s nothing available to even fix.  But when it comes back… I’ll be ready and waiting. 😉

Anyhow… way to go, Keith!  I’ll have to retest this on my mac later today and see how things feel now.

RIP My Linux Install

Okay, so… “funny” story?

I’ve been mostly running ubuntu in a Parallels VM on my Macbook.  It’s worked well for the last number of years.  However, now… well, it’s a combination of drivers and just other accumulated issues.

Basically, the short of it is that my linux install still works, kinda-sorta, but it’s buggy as all get out and randomly crashes and is constantly reporting errors in itself, steam, and various random programs.

This VM was perfectly capable of running Release Raptor, at least at a low framerate with a lot of quality settings off.  It also ran a much earlier build of AI War 2.

However, now it literally gives a blue screen in the window that unity pops up when I try to start AI War 2.  I think that this is because my VM is so hosed in general, and also because it’s running an older version of ubuntu than unity now supports… and which I can’t upgrade from due to lack of virtual disk space.

All of which is to say, while we DO have “day one alpha” linux support in the game, as promised, I am not presently sure if it works at all.  I’m tired of VMs, and I work pretty much exclusively on laptops these days, so what I’ve decided to do is order a new Oryx Pro from system76, with ubuntu natively installed.

All my other machines are MSI, Asus, or Alienware at present, aside from my mac and a trio of old desktop machines in my attic.  I don’t have room to run a bunch of desktop towers in my office, though, which is why I went the VM route in the first place.

I looked into getting ubuntu on my existing laptops, but it’s just one of those things that is so fraught because of lack of driver support from those vendors in a lot of cases (shakes fist).  Trying to test the game on those would involve hours of actually setting up the ubuntu install, possibly corrupting my master boot records (thanks, Windows 10), and possibly still having a steaming mess of unsupported hardware.

I figured I should Do This Right, instead.  The bad news?  It may be another two weeks before that new linux machine actually reaches me.  So if linux works out of the gate for you during alpha, then I’ll be overjoyed and that’s a relief.  If there are problems, I can try to use your error messages to figure out what is up, but most likely I’ll need to have my own linux box before I can really get into it if it’s something complicated.

Hopefully it just works.  But you know how that sort of thing can go.

I apologize for not being more on top of the linux build from the start, but it WAS working and it hadn’t occurred to me to test it lately and find that it was suddenly not.  The way it dies instantly pretty much guarantees that it’s missing something in my particular install, and not our code doing something that breaks linux.  My worry is more that if you get past the first issue on your machine (having a non-broken install and all that), that you’ll instead run into something that’s broken in my part of the code.

Anyway, teething pains.  Apologies again if it doesn’t work day 1, and fingers crossed that it will.

AI War 2 on my Mac

My Mac at present is an aging MacBook Pro, Retina, 15 inch, Early 2013.  I’m still running 10.10.5, because I like to stay kind of out of date on that for testing purposes.

Worth pointing out for anyone not up on that hardware: the GPU is a measly Intel HD Graphics 4000 1024MB, and it’s running at 2880×1800.  Tall order!

The GTX 1070 on my main windows machine is over 2600% faster than that little intel.  Whew.  Honestly that machine struggles REALLY hard to run Minecraft.

I also have a spare machine, this one running windows 8.1, that has a GTX 650M in it.  I’m going to be benchmarking on that one, too – and it’s only about 145% better than the intel 4000.  Still substantial, and it never had any trouble with Minecraft.

Anyway, overall from a first test on my mac with the various recent vis-layer performance improvements (but before those of the simulation thread today), I was pretty pleased with the results on my Mac.  I had all the settings cranked all the way up, and while it was choppy it wasn’t a complete slideshow.  That was at a high resolution, as much MSAA as it could muster, all the post-processing effects, all the special effects on max blast, full quality textures, etc.

The result wasn’t something I’d really want to play in terms of how it performed, but looking at that from a worst-case scenario I’m happy with how that was starting out.  Cinth isn’t even done setting up quite all the ship LODs yet, so some of the vis layer was needlessly harsh, too.

I think some of the hitching was also due to music playback trying and failing to play, repeatedly.  That may have been the biggest slowdown, I’m not sure.

Possibly if I get this updated to a newer version of OSX and see if it can run Metal, then I might be able to use the BC7 file format for textures, which right now is being transcoded to something else (possibly native uncompressed RGBA, which would really slow things down in the GPU bus).

For anyone already on a newer version of OSX, probably Metal support will “just work,” so long as your hardware supports it.  I need to do a deeper dive into some of that, but I feel quite confident I can get this running in a way that is acceptably playable on my aging MacBook.  It’s going to be one of those things that continually evolves over the next few months leading up to Early Access.