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Enhance Lighting Effects with Float32
Cameron Sneed has always been someone who likes to take things apart and see how they work, so taking apart STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl to see what was inside, was just a normal progression for this inventive and ambitious amateur gamer designer. After playing STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl for only a few hours, he decided he wanted to make a few changes to the game code, to make the game more appealing to his personal tastes.
Cameron's addition to the gaming world, Float32, is a STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl mod that alters the environments and atmospheres of GSC GameWorld's immersive shooter. Ramping up the lighting effects to provide additional detail and increased frame rates in STALKER's immersive environments.
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The newest edition of Float32 improves the look of all the surfaces with gritty detail that enhances the realism of the environments. Float32 includes the Cook-Torrance lighting algorithm, which is usually used to simulate reflected light off of plastic and metal. The shading in GSC's X-RAY engine loses its smoothness and uniformity when this algorithm is added, which adds detail to the debris found in a nuclear wasteland.
You're probably thinking about now that you'll need to rob a bank or the resources of a trust-fund to buy a computer capable of running Cameron's Float32 mod. The mod ran perfectly on my Gamer Paladin and was faster than the original game, without any loss in production values. According to Cameron, the lighting only requires 32 instructions from the initial 73, which results in a faster running and better looking STALKER and I agree.
Verifying Cameron's statements about his use of the Cook-Torrance algorithm will require the expertise of a technical expert but the improvement to STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl is real enough. Installing the Float32 mod and getting it to run with STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl was easy, and the visual enhancements make the time invested worth the effort. Running the Float32 mod on my less powerful computer, which isn't really designed for gaming, resulted in the frame rate increases being less visible, but the visual enhancements were about the same.
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Cameron says his work on optimizing STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl continues as I type, that he wants to improve his Float32 mod even more. In the future he plans to add depth of field using super-sampling and maybe even irradiance, if the addition doesn't slow down the performance of the game too much and make it un-playable. Apparently, this bulldog isn't going to be satisfied until he's totally re-worked the engine in STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl.
Cameron's Float32 mod is impressive for an amateur and this inventive and energetic gamer might have found a new occupation. Developmental houses have been looking at his work to see if they can use it with their work on major 3D engines like Source and Doom 3. Float32 certainly has improved an already great looking game and I can think of many developers who could put his skills to work.
Check out Cameron's Float32 mod at www.thefloatingpont.org.