3D Grass- The Pros, Cons and Thoughts

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MarcG, Mar 18, 2017.

  1. MarcG

    MarcG Member

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    This has been a subject of late and being a Sports Turf Groundsman it interests me somewhat, in this post I'll try and explain why it could be a good thing and a bad thing, feel free to add your thoughts and maybe (if you play nicely!) Marcel or another Dev will chime in with their thoughts :)

    Lets start off with the Pros:
    • Aesthetics - It improves the look of a track
    ...yeah that's all I've got for Pros! Essentially though that is a Big Pro, anything no matter how small that makes a track look better is always a good thing from a visual perspective.

    Cons:
    • Performance hit from having a 3D Grassed area
    • Performance hit from having large 3D Grassed areas
    • Performance hit from Lighting all the individual 3D "blades" of Grass from a light source
    • Performance hit from Lighting all the individual 3D "blades" of grass from a Dynamic Light source (such as the Sun or Car Headlights)
    • Performance hit from Lighting all the individual 3D "blades" of grass from a light source and/or Dynamic Light source (such as the Sun or Car Headlights) and then casting a Shadow onto the 3D "blades" or Tire Wall behind
    • Imagine how hard the Engine will have to cope with 30+ Cars Headlights trying to cast shadows from 3D Grass :eek: It's hard enough as it is!
    • If it's not done well enough how "bad" will it look? Imagine the outcry!

    Other Pros/Cons:
    • Do we want Tire Tracks left in the grass when a car goes off track? That would look immensely cool but at what cost to performance? Especially if 3/4 cars go off at Turn 1 skidding through the grass, that's a lot of CPU work to keep up with and then do you want the tire tracks there for the rest of the race? What about the Shadows on the flattened area? It all adds up to an increase in CPU necessity.
    Now my main point I'm personally leading too and that is 3D grass is not needed right now, maybe in the future if it works to an acceptable performance level that would be great but for me it's not important. Why? Because there are very few instances I've seen from being at real race tracks where the grass is long enough to warrant it in game, most tracks - and I've detailed with pictures below - have short grass, which would would not make anything in game that much better. Judge for yourself below, from pretty much every race track I've been too around the world the grass around the track is always pretty short, certainly not something that would warrant a possible performance hit just for aesthetics sake. Especially when in RF2 we strive for Simulation value ahead of "Arcade", why have long 3D Grass at a track that doesn't have it in real life?

    Sure some tracks do have long grass and that's fine, but then think of the implications it poses on the games engine itself. It seems that people dream of having 3D Grass and that it will make a track look amazingly better, but they fail to understand the potential cost to the rest of the game. It's certainly not a simple thing to do other wise it would've been done ages ago and all Sims would have 3D Grass with proper dynamic tire tracks and the rest, but they don't.
    Remember, Studio397 are not writing a new Graphics engine nor using the Unreal Engine (which can probably handle this), they are just carrying on with with they've got and doing the best with it, just like Reiza are with the rF1 code.

    So in conclusion Yes it would look great, but for me right now in RF2 it's a massively low priority item, there's plenty of other things more important to the actual racing aspect I'd like to see before time is spent on 3D Grass.


    I've added captions for each picture, of which all were taken by me.

    456557_10151783161415243_1931495910_o.jpg
    Brands Hatch at the bottom of Paddock Hill, reasonably low grass, notice the tire tracks if you want them.
    456782_10151843687765243_662241313_o.jpg
    Spa Francorchamps - Short grass, would be barely noticeable as 3D in game
    P1030172.JPG
    Hidden Valley (Australia), again short grass, would that be worth the performance hit at that height? I think not.
    471043_10151496632235243_1119871654_o.jpg
    Castle Coombe (poor Cortina :(), short grass
    476783_10151357401035243_258526777_o.jpg
    A wet Daytona 500, short grass again.
    1175017_10153252023730243_382317799_n.jpg
    Goodwood, probably the longest grass I can remember from a race track and that was more the infield than the grass alongside the track.
    IMAG0966.jpg
    Bathurst start line, short grass
    IMAG0979.jpg
    Bathurst, Mountain Straight, here we can see the longer grass around the sign post (I'm stood on the track). Whilst this would look "cool" in game would it be really worth it as you're blasting past at 100mph?
    P1000992.JPG
    Barbagallo (Australia), short grass
    P1010032.JPG
    Barbagallo (Australia), short grass
     
  2. DaVeX

    DaVeX Registered

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    grass.jpg
    Grass in AMS, talking about this on latest update thread, I think we can have it now, no reason to leave it out...
    About performance loss I disagree a lot of games have it and no peformance loss, also no need of 3D grass and no need to have grass casting shadows, if you really need to turn it off you can add an option to switch it off...
    Racing sims aren't only a physics box, you need to feel to be in the race, in a real track...
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
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  3. stonec

    stonec Member

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    The AMS grass though looks nothing like the real-life pics that @MarcG posted above. Realistic looking 3D grass, sure, I have no problems with that. Though it might be some months work to update all existing content with that.
     
  4. MarcG

    MarcG Member

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    Yep that AMS grass is nothing like real life (that i've seen!) let alone what might be at a track, whilst it may look OK (nothing more than that IMO) what would it look like under dynamic lighting? What's it like at Sunset? at Sunrise? How do car headlights shine on it? Are there shadows? If not how potentially ugly would that be? All grass at a length will cast shadows and not having that in game would be just weird & wrong.
    My point in the first post and this one is if you want it done properly it needs to look life like and essentially be done properly for all scenarios in RF2 (not talking about AMS). Having it look good at Midday is pointless if it looks poor at 5pm and people will pick up on that, personally (again) I'd rather not have it in at all if it doesn't fit the whole environment correctly.
     
  5. DaVeX

    DaVeX Registered

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    Snetterton_PjC.jpg

    Sorry mate, but...no...I still disagree, lol
    Even the best "eyecandy" racing game released use 2D grass, with no self-shadow casting (even the shadow doesn't effect it, seems darker but shadow is under it) or similar stuff and it looks good!
    So, the real problem is how you use it, we don't need a super realistic grass, we can still use the "traditional" way to have it, why we should pass from none to hyper realistic one when we can have it as usual with less or no fps loss and still have good looking tracks? I don't think a dx11 engine can't handle 2D grass like this...also remember, we can have at least the option to switch it off (like in PC)...

    @Marcel Offermans , if you see people talking about grass it means you guys are on the right direction, really, we love what you guys are doing for rF2!
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
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  6. TJones

    TJones Registered

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    I like how it's been done at iRacing, they seems to raise the gras texture a bit, which give some nice 3D-effect, this might be a solution for shallow grass. Problem here, the tyre have to sunk in those 2-4 inches and lay a trail which might disappear after a minute or so.

    @DaVeX - That's the best appearance of grass, i've seen so far.
     
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  7. MarcG

    MarcG Member

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    It's fine to disagree, that's the point of this thread to get different perspectives.
    Anyway yes a different approach to grass other than 3D would be nice, but whatever it is it still needs to blend into the whole RF2 environment, that's the tricky part. Sure a 2D style would be less performance hogging and look alright, I'm not against that, I'm simply saying a 3D grass would need to be done correctly and not half heartedly. And the latter would impact performance as i said earlier this is not a new graphics engine or the Unreal one, compromises have to be made and right now i don't see fancy looking grass as a highly needed item, especially when there's more pressing graphical issues to deal with (we'll see with DX11 and the next build of course!).
     
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  8. Alex72

    Alex72 Registered

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  9. DaVeX

    DaVeX Registered

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    Yes, this could be an option too...proper grass shaders...even if still flat, but maybe can be used as base for the 2D one...

    Btw, raceroom nailed the best color palette for a racing sim in my opinion...
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
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  10. MarcG

    MarcG Member

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    Looks good yes I agree, dynamic sunlight though? No, Raceroom has 4 (I think) presets of the time of day that don't change no matter how long the race. So therefore they can get away with more as it's a static environment which is the complete opposite of RF2 :)
    Remember, what works well in one sim doesn't necessarily mean it'll work well in another.
     
  11. Will Mazeo

    Will Mazeo Registered

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    While in real life everyone knows how grass in a track looks when you are in a game the flat ones look horrible and does not make it feel real or look good, especially the transition from guard rail to grass, grass to asphalt. So a grass a little bit taller than IRL is needed anyway. I mean give this track a bit of grass like SRW Mid Ohio and it would look so much better
    https://www.studio-397.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/nola-karts-night.png

    The problem is that the rF2 crowd (a few individuals) is just too damn picky about everything. For them it is either 8 or 80 as we say here in Brazil. I bet some would be against because there are no ants on the grass LOL
     
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  12. stonec

    stonec Member

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    The problem is that 3D grass tech in games is not very far yet and every game looks a bit different and wrong IMO. The AMS picture posted earlier in this thread looks horrible to me and will look even more faked in VR, nothing like real grass at all. If you want grass to look like the real-life pics of MarcG in the first post, no sim currently achieves that very well. I'd rather have no 3D grass at all than 3D grass that looks poor.
     
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  13. Will Mazeo

    Will Mazeo Registered

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    If that logic was followed more we'd have no racing sim :D
     
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  14. stonec

    stonec Member

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    Fair enough, I amend my statement to "I'd rather have no 3D grass unless it adds to the realism of the image". The shot from AMS doesn't fool my eyes even without glasses, these 5 cm wide mutant grass straws exist nowhere on real race tracks.
     
  15. blakboks

    blakboks Registered

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    @MarcG Thanks for starting this thread! I know there was some discussion about 3D Grass some time ago, and Tim made some great points about it back then as well.

    One of the things I'd add as a 'Pro' to the list is the immersion that it adds. Saying it adds to the aesthetics is a bit too simple. It's not just eye candy, but it adds heavily into feeling like you're actually racing on a track. (To me, aesthetics is how 'pretty' a thing is, but doesn't speak specifically about adding to immersion--e.g. Guilty Gear Xrd is very aesthetically pleasing, but you'd be laughed out of the room if you tried to put that look into rF2 at all :p) The lack of 3D grass/foliage is probably what breaks the immersion most with most games (rF2 in particular), for me. It's particularly noticeable when you put on a VR headset.

    Another thing to add to the 'Cons' is the time and work that's needed to create the 3D grass. Good tools would help with this immensely, and make it fairly trivial, though (e.g. just paint the areas you want grass onto your terrain).

    To address some of the points you've already made:
    These are all one item, IMO--performance. If you have 3D grass, it'll have to be lit; rF2 only has dynamic lights. However, the sun is the only light (currently) that actually casts shadows. Car lights do not cast any shadows.

    Thanks again for starting this thread. I think it's a good discussion worth having. I also appreciate you gathering the references as well.

    Cheers!
     
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  16. Gijs van Elderen

    Gijs van Elderen Member

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  17. blakboks

    blakboks Registered

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    Cool! What's your framerate with/without the grass. I know it's not an accurate representation, but I'd be curious to know how much time even just that little bit of grass adds.
     
  18. Gijs van Elderen

    Gijs van Elderen Member

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    That was a big surprise actually. I expected a huge FPS drop, But it didn't.
    I expected it would plummet by half or even worse. FPS with or without the grass was between 140-100fps on a laptop with a gtx970m. Due to FPS fluctuation i couldn't notice a drop.
    But it could be because of the almost empty scene.

    OVR in dev mode without grass was 131 with grass 128.
    OVR: i think this means overall environment rate.

    Adding this kind off 3d grass is quite easy to do with Maya/3dsMax paint effects.

    Biggest downfall from geometry grass is pixel-jaggies if you view it from a distance.
    A texture grass blade, it mipmaps to avoid these jaggies. Geometry it doesn't.

    But on the other hand geometry grass doesn't use alpha masking and texture size is 256x64. It's just a gradient color from darker green at the bottom and lighter at the top.
     
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  19. peterchen

    peterchen Registered

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    My opinion is: 3D-grass should be self-evident nowadays!
     
  20. stonec

    stonec Member

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    Performance isn't really an issue if by 3D grass we mean the 2D billboardish things as in AMS. They are basically no more expensive than 2D spectators. Obviously, if you fill a track like Nordschleife entirely with those things, it's eventually going to show in FPS. But I agree that performance isn't the main issue with it.
     

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