OT: about half life 2 engine

did you guys have the chance to try hl2?
i must say i’m disappointed with the overall engine visual technology
reflections seem to be based on static precalc-ed lo-res cubemaps that dont shift according to your movements, you usually end up getting reflections in all the wrong places, even behind walls that occlude light sources
shadows are somehow ridiculous, just try to pick up any object and carry it in front of you from one place to another: you get only 1 shadow even if you got more light sources, and as a consequence of that it wont cast in the right way, should you even choose a ‘primary’ light source for the scene
seems like they’re averaging source positions to get only one (wrong) shadow
i must admit i’ve been playing for no more than 10 mins, but all i could see is gloss-mapped wrong reflections, not a single bump mapped thing!
and most of all, where is hdr?
this is at max details on both ati 9800 pro and nv 5900 ultra
i’m obviously talking about visuals, the game is great on other sides, i especially liked physics (based on havok tho) and lip-synching
but at this stage doom3 engine is ages beyond
anyway, just to say i would love to hear your impressions!
i can provide some shots if you like

for those that dont know i noticed valve have got a hardware survey going.

more than a million different rigs! a excellant representation of what the 3d gamer has,
couple of observations
*im surprised with low percentage of decent graphics cards.
*nearly as many amd’s as intels
*only ~4% have dialup

and most of all, where is hdr?
After 10 minutes you won’t have reached a part of the game that has HDR.

but at this stage doom3 engine is ages beyond
Except this game has a story, characters, light, vehicles, true outdoor scenes and a physics engine.

Well, i like the graphics. Although, you have to take into account, that D3 was made for high-end machines, whereas Hl2 was made for DX7 cards and up.

There are bumpy reflections, even a lot. I didn´t look that closely, therefore i didn´t recognize, that reflections are wrong, but since they use cubemaps, i was expecting that.

The water simply looks great. It´s the best looking thing i ever saw in a game!

I noticed the wrong shadows too. It is a bit disappointing, but it looks much better, than no shadows at all. And this is really because they want to run it at decent framerates on all PCs. I can live with that.

About HDR: I have played the biggest part of the game and i didn´t see any real HDR at all. There are scenes, where you do have a glowing window or door, but that is definitely no HDR. They simply place a portal at all windows, doors and at the end of tunnels and depending on how far away you are from that portal, they but a glowing polygon there. In tunnels this is used to be able to put a loading point there, in rooms and in the city it is used to blend out the outside world (or inside), which is simply an optimization.

Maybe the skybox is an HDR image, but i doubt that very much, i haven´t seen anything like what they showed off in one of their videos a year ago.

I use a Radeon 9600XT and i am quite sure HDR should work on it. Though i don´t have a checkbox to en- or disable it. I am pretty sure it is not used in the engine, at all. Maybe it was to slow, so they discarded it.

Counterstrike Source seems not to use HDR either.

However, if you ask me about my opinion of the GAME (not the graphics alone), i have to say, that it is the goddamned best game i ever played!


Except this game has a story, characters, light, vehicles, true outdoor scenes and a physics engine.
you probably have not read the whole post, i do agree with you, i was talking about the visuals only

to jan: i love it too, this was surely to make the game playable on all machines, but i guess they could have thought of different paths for different cards, at least i was expecting that after years of development

in one word, i would never say this game is representative for what my video board can do, that’s all

thanks for your thoughts!

I saw HDR quite a lot. It’s from the HDR skyboxes. That part in the HDR video from last year or whenever it was is still in the game. It’s when you get on the roof when the combine soldiers are chasing you in the beginning. I stopped for a few seconds to look around like they did in the video and everything behaved just like in the video. Many times later in the game I noticed HDR from the sky and it made the scene look really nice. I took a few screenshots of places I thought had exceptional graphics. There are a few times where I thought some of the surfaces could have used some bumpmapping but overall it looked quite good.

Oh btw, doom 3 DID have a physics engine, it just wasnt used a whole lot. Definately not in the same way HL2 does.

BTW, I’m playing it with a 6800 GT.


hi sirknight, since i dont see any light bloom/glare/gloom in the skyboxes then i guess a 6800 is required
can you post those shots you were talking about?

tellaman posted
you probably have not read the whole post, i do agree with you, i was talking about the visuals only
Yes I did, you said the Doom3 Engine was better. There’s more to an engine than just visuals (otherwise we’d all be playing “Lightwave”).

Re: HDR I think this is the only example I have captured in screenshots so far. But I have seen other examples in the skybox on my 5900 Ultra.

Reflections have 3 levels, simple, world only and all. On my card I honestly can’t see any difference. They all perform exactly the same (same frame rate) so I expect I’d need the next generation for it to work. Likewise I haven’t seen any difference with the difference Anisotropic levels (And I’m not sure but I think the AA settings don’t work either - it looks quite different when I set a level in the driver to when I set it in the game - but I haven’t confirmed that yet).

That’s not HDR, that’s a billboard displayed on top of the screen at the sun’s position.

I haven’t seen any hint of HDR myself, everything is hacks. For instance, look at the windows. The blend the window texture and a “white” texture depending on the camera distance. The areas of the game with high contrasts (like the end of the tunnels) are also billboard-like textures blended over the scene.


I haven´t tested the different reflection-modes, but with “everything” the water looks awesome.

Anisotropy definitely works. When using trilinear filtering the rails are very blurred and very ugly. With 8X anisotropic filtering it looks really nice.
Though it doesn´t impact the rest of the textures very much.

As i already said, everything which glows is hacked as it was already done in the past. There is nothing which seems to be hdr. At least not on my card.


You guys haven’t posted about the flashlight, yet.

Take a look again at how perfectly the Doom 3 flashlight behaves, and then take a look at how horrible the HL2 flashlight is. It’s a total hack. It looks ‘good enough’ most of the time, but it’s just WRONG. Specifically, if you shine it on a wall at an angle, you can see that the light doesn’t project out of the flashlight.

I disagree about the water. It looks pretty good most of the time, not great. There’s just something wrong with the clear water. But the MUDDY water is amazing. I think it’s right after you get the machine gun mounted on the boat (or maybe right before that?) that you come to some really muddy water, and it just blew me away. I know this sounds stupid, but the clear water is bad - the muddy water is great! :slight_smile:

Oh, plus, it’s one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. Some people don’t like the fact that you’re really limited in what you can do at any given moment, but I compare it to a rollercoaster ride. You don’t need to have choice about what happens next to have a blast. You don’t need to inspect every screw on every air duct to look for secret passages to enjoy a game.

Have you seen water reflections on DX8.1? On DX9 it looks great, but on DX8.1 it look terrible…
This is what I hate most - they don’t want to push older cards to the limits.
Realistic water is possible on GF4 so DX8.1 - look at Beyond Good and Evil game - there is realistic water that reflects all and it works very fast on GF4.
But this is how it must be… you wanna play HL2? Buy new video card, even if it would work on your card.

This is what I hate most - they don’t want to push older cards to the limits.

I would do the same thing. There’s finite amount of programmer and artist time. Focus on two goals:

  1. Make it look great on the highest-end platforms, which means you get vendor support and buy-in, and great screen shots and reviews.

  2. Make it play great on as much hardware as possible. People remember good gameplay more than good graphics. People who really care about what a game looks like, will have updated to a graphics card that’s newer than two years old on release (Radeon 9700 came out in August 2002).

For OpenGL, this could translate into “full GLSL pipeline, or fixed function with 2 texture units”. Spending time on the intermediate targets just doesn’t make much sense.

Originally posted by Bobo.Bobo:
But this is how it must be… you wanna play HL2? Buy new video card, even if it would work on your card.
You want to play it or look at the scenery? If it’s playable on older cards (plays and looks good on my fx 5900 Ultra) then you can play it.

If you want eye candy, play Far cry.

As Jon said, people remember how it plays more than how it looks. I’ve recently seen people that still play the original Quake - and it looks appaulling - but they do so because it’s fun.

But hey! If it is possible to do and easy to do (I’ve done such watem myself on GF4 so it couldn’y be so hard) so why they don’t do it?
It COULD look better and it could take just a few moments to implement it, but they didn’t do it! So why not make it look better if it is possible?? I don’t mean to do something that is impossible, but to do what is possible and easy to do!

Btw. Look at BG&E - there is fine blur and DOF - it looks great. And look at Doom 3… when you take something there is a blur effect, but it looks horrible. I don’t know why they don’t use post processing in games. Now they start to use it but only on GF 6800 (great blur, DoF, radial blurs and so on are avaible on GF4, and on GF FX just everything is possible). Such effects as blurs and glows (as I said: avaible on GF4) makes game look better and even makes it to be breathtaking - like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.

Water looks bad with a geforce3, but looks ok on a radeon8500. This is probably down to gf3 limited to ps1.3, while 8500 can do ps1.4. But I can do better water using register combiners + texture shaders on the gf3…but of course, that level of control is only available in opengl, while half life 2 uses direct3d. I’m surprised they don’t have an opengl renderer as an option - because combined with Steam, they could be updating the graphics as and when new hardware appears rather than waiting for the next dx release.
As for the shadows from objects you pick up being incorrect - I’m pretty sure that’s deliberate, the shadow is directly under the object being moved so that you can tell where the object would be when dropped…that’s gameplay over realism, which is A-OK with me. So glad I don’t have to try to do the vector maths in my head with multiple light sources so I can tell where the hell the object is in 3d space. Of course, if we all had stereo hardware this wouldn’t be a gameplay issue, but it is at the moment.
I’m really enjoying half life 2…savouring it like a belgian chocolate. Just got past the brilliant crane sequence…incredible fun. Buy it.

Sorry guys, I know it will start flamewar, but there are some linkies, that graphic programmers should check out.

  1. http://www.nvnews.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=41625
  2. http://www.doom3world.org/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?p=64270

I think it is not realy a good business plan to develop engine for last gen cards, 6800GT getting over 150 fps with AA and AF is radiculous. And hacks, no matter how good are a bit old-school.
Doom3 looks a lot better, though darkness and gameplay kills it all.
HDR - you’ve seen it in action via FarCry patch 1.3, hungry effect…

But gameplay is really fun in HL2 :smiley:

I think it is not realy a good business plan to develop engine for last gen cards

I’m not so sure about that, but I agree.
It’s a shame to see new games coming out not taking advantage of the newest technologies so that they can cater to older cards.

I appreciate that a lot of time and effort must go into developing a game and you want to target the largest possible audience, but for f**k’s sake, give those of us with top notch video cards something pretty to look at and have a dumbed down branch for cracker-jacks cards.

I must say that I was disappointed by HL2 graphics.

After playing Doom 3, HL2 looks like some old Quake3 engine, with low res outdoors lightmaps ABSOLUTELY not aligned with the sun’s lens flare, very dull flashlight, and simple cubic corridors and rooms.

Everything is a hack, and the switch to a different reflection cubemaps is quite annoying.

Only characters are well detailed (contrary to D3 “pointy heads”) and the water is quite nice on my 6800, but the bad lighting spoils all that.

OT: I don’t find the gameplay that good, long distance gunfights are boring, and even if the havoc engine lets you pile crates so that you may exit a canal, well you can’t, thanks to some invisible barrier… For that Deus Ex was MUCH better.

Want something funny about Source engine? Here:

Viewport CullMode CreateTexture DeleteTexture IsTexture IsTextureResident TexSetPriority TexImage2D TexSubImage2D BindTexture DepthRange ClearBuffers ClearColor ReadPixels SelectionMode SelectionBuffer BlendFunc AlphaFunc FogMode FogColor3f FogColor3fv FogColor3ub FogColor3ubv MatrixMode PushMatrix PopMatrix LoadMatrix MultMatrix Ortho Rotate Translate Color3f Color3fv Color4f Color4fv Color3ub Color3ubv Color4ub Color4ubv

This is subset of names of virtual methods found in certain class in Source engine. The class is abstract (like interface in java or COM), and the class’ name has “API” suffix :smiley: