Another innovative idea that would be useful to lower the rendering load for lower end systems :
"on-the-fly" SkyDome builder (tool) :
Skydomes/Skyboxes are 2D horizonal textures used to simulate distant (background) 'outdoor' scenery without having to constantly render complex details that make up that terrain. Their distance and limited point of view allows a static image to be used, even if the player moves their eyepoint about more than a little. They also can show 'scenery' that the player will never get closed to and can be detailed by a painter without having to create any of the 3D assets a normal rendering would require.
- With additional city detail objects and their changeable nature, the static Skybox/Skydome backgrounds you see out windows cannot reflect a changing state of the cityscape in the MMORPG.
- I noticed that they (BS1/BS2) often replicated the same view 4 times to save on effort (and you got much the same view out of most windows in the level). An improvement would be a 'Skydome' view generated "on-the-fly" for a particular locations (a stretch of windows short enough that the relative parallax would be minimal). When you move to another set of windows or one facing a different direction, a new 'Skydome' for that location would be created.
- Having the view be generated "for the spot" would make it much more accurate (since we have the details of the actual city to make use of now). It would reflect the actual state of the changing game world (an important feature of the MMORPG - that if a player put his new 'company' sign on the outside of a building, that players are able to see that detail.)
- The 'thru the window' (and the murky water) effect means that fine details dont have to be presented clearly and LOD (Level of Detail) methodologies can be employed to simplify more distant objects.
- Similar views from outdoor locations (player in subs, diving suits, trains, bathyspheres) could also be done to cut down the rendering of Rapture's distant cityscape. They might have to be done with better detail (have the Skydome/box set to a further horizon and fill in the foreground with more actual 3D objects) and they wont be as 'hazed over' by looking thru smudged/rippley thick window glass.
- Just like in BS1/BS2 foreground details (those usually of most interest) would still be present (funny all those rocks and clumps of seaweed outside windows when you are actually way up high on a building side - but then maybe I need to add Decorative Sea Gardening to the hobbies in the MMORPG....). Midrange buildings would show as a simplified version or even converted to 'Imposters' (2D images ('billboards') created from a 3D object from a particular perspective) that would give a partial 3D effect (important if the player is moving more than a little as they would in a vehicle).
- Processing probably would be best located on Client to compose the temporary static background textures. Generating on the Server wouldn't be impossibe, just prohibitive because graphic content isnt usually handled there and having to transmit it as a asset would eat bandwidth. New generations of consoles would probably take care of any Client issues if they are already to be powerful enough to handle the MMORPGs higher level of non-static details.
- One of the impressive things in Rapture were the broad scenery Views, and it would be a plus if the MMORPG could far outdo what we saw ing the Solo games.
Similar improvement ideas about 'staticizing' the modular terrain (at least partially building an old style 'level' as an optimization to improve performance) can also be done when game data is designed for it. We will never have as much rendering power as we want for the graphics we'd like displayed (and game companies prefer to target hardware that a majority of players have access to), so 'tricks' like these offer a solution.