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Designing a Portable Shader Library for Current and Future APIís
Price $5.95
Stock Unlimited
Weight 8 lb, 4 oz
SKU GDC-03-133
Designing a Portable Shader Library for Current and Future APIís,

Programming, Lecture

Alex Vlachos
Senior Software Engineer, ATI
Generalizing a shader library for real-time graphics has become a necessity. The days of hard-coding render state and shaders has long passed. A robust shader library that gracefully falls back to older hardware while still supporting the bleeding edge in shader technology is useful to PC and console developers alike. The internal shader library that ATIís demo team uses will be the case study on how to generalize a shader library for games. This session will discuss artist usability, preprocessing, and runtime issues that they have encountered in implementing their flexible shader library. An important part of creating a generalized shader library is providing a simple, usable interface to the artists. The custom Maya material plug-in used by the team's artists will be discussed in detail. After the art has been created and preprocessed, there are many runtime decisions that must be made. In the case of PC development, selectively creating vertex buffers that match the current installed graphics card is crucial. Developing for 2-year-old hardware will severely limit the creativity of the visuals. Enough thought must be put into purposely preprocessing redundant geometry so the runtime engine has enough data to selectively load exactly what is needed, no more, no less. In the case of console development, falling back to older hardware usually isnít an issue, but cross-platform development is. To make the best use of graphics memory, each shaderís associated vertex buffers must contain the minimal data necessary. Many games have one or two vertex formats they use globally, which severely hinders their ability to add new shaders. All of these issues will be addressed in the presentation. Demos from the previous two generations of hardware will be shown with detailed explanations of how the shader library allowed the visuals to be created with minimal programming overhead.

Attendees will gain insight into a method of managing shaders and associated state in a very generalized way. The entire pipeline from artist interaction to runtime managing of stated will be brought together and centered around a robust shader description file.

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