Modern hardware is good, but it isn’t perfect.
Would people like a higher resolution z-buffer? Sure!
Would we like to use 4-byte floats for color components rather than 8 bit unsigned integers that pretend to be floats? Sure!
Would we like more programming language features in shaders? Sure!
Would we like a blend shader? Sure! (this is what I want)
Many of these things are already possible, with the more recent GPUs. More of these things will become available over time.
The problem many here have with your post is:
You make it sound like the graphics industry went off in the wrong direction for the past decade. Somehow, forgetting to consult you first. (In spite of the fact that you haven’t been a part of the graphics industry for the past decade)
You also imply that there is some large, faceless mob of angry programmers who meet on a regular basis just to bemoan the lack of floating point zbuffers.
On this board, I have seen many people seek help with various problems. I haven’t heard anyone complain about zbuffer precision. That doesn’t mean that no one has had that complaint, but just don’t recall seeing it lately. I have no doubt that it has been an issue for a few individuals. However, it is not some industry-wide holocaust issue that we are all struggling with every day.
Everyone has their own personal “wish list”.
A set of features that would suddenly make their projects much more strait-forward to code.
Life goes on. You either scale back your goals. Or write specific work-arounds for problems. Or reduce your target platform to just the high-end cards that support feature X, which solves your problem.
People on this board, who have many years of experience, have been trying to suggest work-arounds for your problem.
Listen to them.
The most common solution that has been suggested is:
Break your rendering pass into seperate passes based on depth levels. For each group, set the z_near and z_far to envelope that group’s depth extents. These depth-groups should be sorted far-to-near.
How should you do this?
We can’t tell you exactly.
It depends on what your data is like.
If it is a bunch of planets, moons and stars, you could practically render each heavenly body in it’s own seperate z-range pass.
If it has lots of objects that partially occlude eachother and occupy the same space, (like small space craft flying near larger space craft) then you would need to group them into clusters of objects that have similar depth ranges and render them with a z-range that encompasses them.
If it involves rendering mountains and other distant terrain along with details right under your feet, then there are other methods you could use.
Tell us some specifics, without the attitude, and people will make more specific suggestions to solve your problem.
These people love this stuff.
It is often their hobby as well as their job.