Surface Tension Uncut and Cascade Shadow Maps!

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    • Surface Tension Uncut and Cascade Shadow Maps!

      Coming Soon!

      Here’s a quick glimpse of what we are polishing for our next update. You’ve hopefully already seen our preview of Surface Tension: Uncut over at Lambda Generation. We are very excited to see how the community likes the uncut levels. We’ve done a ton of work since we’ve shown those screen shots, and even improved our AI for the Alien Grunts and Vortigaunts to help make this chapter be as fun and engaging as possible.



      Our BIG announcement though, is that we have implemented Cascaded Shadow Mapping, or CSM into the Black Mesa Engine. CSM brings the visual quality of the game to a whole new level. It’s hard to describe in words what CSM does to the game, so we’ve added a few screenshots below to give you a better idea. Notice the crisp shadows on the world and weapons, that originally weren’t there.

      Cascade Shadow Maps!






      New Shadows work on viewmodels too!


      Dynamic, Crisp shadows


      They work in real-time, they are not prebaked!

      Why work on this?

      First, there were a lot of community members asking for this addition. One of our developers, Chon Kemp, added these levels into the mod version of the game, and people wanted to see it in the official version. To show we hear what the community is asking for, and as a small thanks for the people who have already bought the game we completely rebuilt the last three maps of Surface Tension based off of Half-Life (side note you can play Chon’s On A Rail: Uncut on the workshop).

      Second, Surface Tension did not feel complete without its later levels. The end of ST is the part where the H.E.C.U start to lose, and it sets up the events for Half-Life 2. It’s a very important part of the Half-Life story.

      Third, CSM was an absolute must for us to reach our vision for bringing Xen to life. We've brought CSM to you in this update as a little tiny taste of what is to come. We hope this excites you as much as it excites our team! Surface Tension: UNCUT was the perfect opportunity for us to test CSM and get it functioning on our already completed earthbound levels, as well as a number of other techniques to be used in completing Xen.

      When with this be released?

      You can expect the Surface Tension Update to launch later this month.

      Developer TextFAMGUY1 (Chon Kemp) is also writing a dev blog about the development and the story behind Surface Tension: Uncut. Expect to see that quite soon, keep checking back for more!
      Chon Kemp - Level Designer and Community Manager
      Creator of the Black Mesa "Uncut" Mods - Surface Tension Uncut and
      On a Rail Uncut
      My dev blog on the development of dm_gasworks
    • Crypt wrote:

      Holy Christ. So this pretty much completes my "reasonable feature" request list. Looks kickass. The CSM is casted only by light_environments, right?
      For now, yes, same as the godrays. We have some expansions planned for both these graphical features but they are extremely complicated so we'll never know where they'll end up.

      This is also our own implementation of CSM, not identical to CS:GO. Ours can work with lightstyles, with a little bit of trickery! CS:GO's CSM broke lightstyles.
      Chon Kemp - Level Designer and Community Manager
      Creator of the Black Mesa "Uncut" Mods - Surface Tension Uncut and
      On a Rail Uncut
      My dev blog on the development of dm_gasworks
    • Wristwatch4 wrote:

      Wristwatch4 wrote:

      @TextFAMGUY1

      Once the update to Surface Tension comes out on [later this month], do you plan to make a Video Walkthrough with Developer Commentary, like you have done previously?
      Asked this question in the Ask The Dev's Thread, gonna ask it here again.
      I answered this question already in about 10 other places, sorry if I missed yours. They kind of blend together after a while!

      I might, I might not. I don't really have the setup I used to now that I've moved to Thailand, but I probably could if I wanted. I might do a stream with Joe or something if we're able, or I might put together a video like the old one, or I might not! Though STU isn't really "my thing" anymore, even though I probably did the most work on it - it was very much a team effort and is extremely awesome for it!

      Cryoshell wrote:

      valve looks like a complete slacker compared to you
      We appreciate the sentiment, but that isn't true. Valve's recent support for Dota 2 and CS:GO has been unbelievable. They're not putting out many new games, but that doesn't make them dead or slackers. They get a lot done and are an awesome company.


      Johnwalter wrote:

      My word this is amazing!
      Top job guys, really good work!

      Question: How will this impact performance, both in Singleplayer and Multiplayer?
      It impacts performance, if you enable it. Not super heavily, but it does have an impact. But we have 4 different settings for CSM (Low, Medium, High, Very High), and you can also turn it off too. But, if your computer could handle godrays, it can handle CSM too. Nearly all the team can play with it, no problem, and we imagine most people can too. It's not much different to just playing CS:GO, where you can't even turn off their CSM (to my knowledge at least).
      Chon Kemp - Level Designer and Community Manager
      Creator of the Black Mesa "Uncut" Mods - Surface Tension Uncut and
      On a Rail Uncut
      My dev blog on the development of dm_gasworks
    • TextFAMGUY1 wrote:

      Crypt wrote:

      Holy Christ. So this pretty much completes my "reasonable feature" request list. Looks kickass. The CSM is casted only by light_environments, right?
      For now, yes, same as the godrays. We have some expansions planned for both these graphical features but they are extremely complicated so we'll never know where they'll end up.
      This is also our own implementation of CSM, not identical to CS:GO. Ours can work with lightstyles, with a little bit of trickery! CS:GO's CSM broke lightstyles.
      That's cool.

      So, because I'm not familiar with how it works in CS:GO, what happens in a map that has indoor and outdoor areas? Do the indoor areas end up getting marginally darker because they are shaded by the ceiling?
      Recent work: bm_bravado
    • And I thought you guys said CSM wasn't gonna happen :P
      Quick question, though - does CSM in the map proper get applied from skybox objects? I realize that in most cases things in the skybox are too far away to actually cast a shadow on the map anyway, but I'm curious.

      Looking forward to STU!

      The Javid wrote:

      I can't wait til we ditch that pattern too. It only blends in with gravel and shitty couches.
    • Nova Terra wrote:

      I wonder how gorgeous the lobby from Questinable Ethics will be with these shadows combined with godrays.I've recognized all locations from your screenshoots besides the flag one.Also does it affect moonlight?
      The flag one is from C2A5B (the second map of ST). The part of the map it was taken in was totally overhauled from before - C2A5B saw quite a few changes and tweaks, in fact. The chapter as a whole reecived some graphical facelifts and bugfixes here and there, but B is the most changed map. Then of course there's the 3 new maps too.

      Yes, CSM can be cast from moonlight, as it's just dictated by light_environment, which is what's used for moonlight too. The CSM is highly configurable, so you can make nice subtle nighttime shadows with a bit of tweaking.

      Maki wrote:

      That's cool.
      So, because I'm not familiar with how it works in CS:GO, what happens in a map that has indoor and outdoor areas? Do the indoor areas end up getting marginally darker because they are shaded by the ceiling?
      The CSM is only "cast" by the light_environment (to my knowledge, which is limited), so an area which receives no direct lighting from light_environment, it will receive no CSM shadows either. So the scenario you're describing wouldn't be an issue. Combining outdoor and indoor areas never causes a problem, as a result.

      As a sidenote, CSM's presense is dictated by the existence of an env_cascade_light entity per map, which is highly configurable both by the player and the mapper. CSM will also not work properly unless the map is compiled with the -cascadeshadows switch. I'll write a guide on how it all works for modders to reference. The system is highly flexible and good looking though, it's been lovely to work with!


      JeffMOD wrote:

      And I thought you guys said CSM wasn't gonna happen :P
      Quick question, though - does CSM in the map proper get applied from skybox objects? I realize that in most cases things in the skybox are too far away to actually cast a shadow on the map anyway, but I'm curious.

      Looking forward to STU!
      For a very long time, it wasn't. We lost a few programmers in the process and it was a lot of hard, gruelling work for our (insanely talented) graphics programmer, but we got there eventually. We actually didn't think it was possible until they hit a breakthrough. We've been trying to implement CSM on and off for a very, very long time - it had become like the mythical BMS unicorn!

      This is because CS:GO code isn't freely available, and their implementation of CSM literally affects the entire engine because it requires rewrites to the renderer and a crapload of other things. Even if we were able to JUST copy/paste the CS:GO code into our engine, it would have been horrendously time consuming and would break everything. I daresay ours is better, as it is disableable, has several different options, and can work with lightstyles too!

      I'm not entirely sure I understand your question. Skybox objects cast shadows within the skybox, yes, but they won't shadow onto the main map due to the projected nature of the 3D skybox. Unless you meant something else, in which case, could you clarify?

      We're looking forward to getting STU into your hands. I'm so, so buzzed it's unreal. I'm unbelievably proud of what we've managed to achieve with it.
      Chon Kemp - Level Designer and Community Manager
      Creator of the Black Mesa "Uncut" Mods - Surface Tension Uncut and
      On a Rail Uncut
      My dev blog on the development of dm_gasworks