A mini moan/rant/sigh of exasperation!


Socialist Serenade
There's not really any point to this thread, other than for me to have a little moan about something that should have been sorted many years ago.
I say no point, because I asked for this way back in 2004 while beta testing, and periodically ever since, and it hasn't happened.

I'm talking about a visible poly-count for the selected asset in Surveyor.
There are workarounds, like the one I use, which is to have the development info displayed in surveyor, steady the camera, take a note of triangle count of the whole scene, and without moving the camera, place the object in front of you.
Then you can take away the original triangle count from the new one to get the triangle count for that object.

I'm not sure it's 100% accurate, but it's all we've got.

There are a lot of people who create for Trainz who are not poly-conscious (that doesn't mean "aware of parrots!" :) ), and that's ok because just like Trainz itself, creating scenery for their routes is a hobby they enjoy.
It's a shame they don't take the time to see what sort of counts they should be trying to hit, and learn to use more "craft" in their modelling, but if they enjoy what they do, and are happy the way they do it, that's fine. Everyone deserves to be happy.

But we need to be able to make a decision when building our layouts whether or not to include something that's high poly.
Routes load faster and Trainz runs better when the assets used are optimized, and with the performance-hogging T:ANE needing all the power it can get, it's a shame to waste it on over-poly assets.

I won't mention what items brought this up today, as I was building my route, but I will say it was needed for an area of road that was being repaired next to the rail line.
The dead giveaway upon looking at the asset was that the curves on the model weren't 6, 8 or 10 segments, to give a nice clean, smooth-looking curve, but an unknown amount because zoomed right into the asset, it was still as smooth as could be.
I do a lot of rendered work in Max, and that's the sort of curve I would use then, not in a game (no need to skimp on curve segments when you're going to take an hour to render the scene anyway).

It amazes me, after all this time, that they still haven't added such a simple feature as this.
And it really is that simple.
The function is already there, used by the dev display, and only has to be called and displayed when an object is selected in Surveyor.

In the early days, when I was first asking for it (for the very same reason I'm mentioning it now), it was in the Beta forums, and although it wasn't explicitly said, I got the feeling that they didn't want to upset model creators by allowing people to see the poly-counts of their objects.
The same reason they didn't want the public to be allowed to see wire-frame versions of people's objects, although I can understand that one a bit more (1000 ways to make a model, and everyone has a different, perfect way. Can you imagine?!?)

But no excuse not to have a poly-count when we select an object in Surveyor.
Not after 10+ years.

So, while we hear N3V talk about the importance of LOD levels (and they're right), and adhering to their rules on getting the best out of Trainz, and more importantly T:ANE, how about they do their bit first and allow us to see what behemoth assets we're placing on our routes.
I wouldn't mind if it was something like holding CTRL while you click on an asset in the Surveyor list brought up a window showing the asset name with poly-count, and all dependent assets with poly-count, recursive right down the tree.

Maybe T:ANE already has it!
Maybe it'll be a selling point for me!

Maybe it'll be another 10 years. :)

Anyway, mini-rant over.
That feels better!

As far as I know, the latest installed checks to uploads include checking if the lowest LOD of an uploaded asset is 500 or below.
This does not help you for older asset, but it will put a stop to some of the madness for the newer assets.
Yes, very true, and it will help somewhat for future uploads (but are they refused approval, or just issue a warning once downloaded?).

But still, in my opinion, a poly-counter is an important tool that's been missing for far too long.
If N3V are serious about optimisation and performance, it's something they'll add.

But I won't hold my breath. :eek:
I remember when you had mentioned this after the release of TRS2004 when we were moving into SP1 or SP2. The forum post we quite lively with discussion on it and went on for a few pages at least. What we wanted, if I recall, an indicator to show us if assets were too heavily built. If the asset turned red, or an area turned red in Surveyor, it meant that these were not game friendly.

As time went on, management changed a bit and the old forums had disappeared along with a lot of other great posts like this. The problem now is we have Sketch-up created assets, which many of us, myself included, uploaded to the DLS until we found out the specs and construction of the assets. Most of these look great in game, but are overly detailed for mere boxes due to how the n-gons and polygons are exported from Sketch-Up and into Trainz format. Texturing too is an issue because of how the textures are placed on the model as individual images instead of mapped using UVW mapping and a single texture file.

So if something like this was available, and built into Trainz, we would have seen a glowing red building, which wouldn't have been uploaded to the DLS, maybe! :)

John. Much of the items created for Trainz that is made for the Thomas in Trainz fanbase is made in sketchup. The Sodor Steamworks building (not the old SI3D model) was one of these, and is somewhat user friendly. Quite a few models that I've seen, and to name a few, Mighty Mac, Fearless Freddie, Luke, just to name a few. I can also be one to say that I once was one to use sketchup, as many here still recall with my first 2 locos, Faceless Lady and the original Odd Engine.
John. Much of the items created for Trainz that is made for the Thomas in Trainz fanbase is made in sketchup. The Sodor Steamworks building (not the old SI3D model) was one of these, and is somewhat user friendly. Quite a few models that I've seen, and to name a few, Mighty Mac, Fearless Freddie, Luke, just to name a few. I can also be one to say that I once was one to use sketchup, as many here still recall with my first 2 locos, Faceless Lady and the original Odd Engine.

I'm not saying that it isn't useful. The problem is the way the models are exported. Sketch-up isn't really meant for models that are going to be in a dynamic environment, meaning one that changes view points quickly. Instead they are meant for still settings such as images in Google. The reason is this is a b-spline modeler. B-splines work differently than Ngons and polygons. Think of using a sheet stretched between a frame instead of a triangles (ngons) used to create an underlying framework.

Trainz uses polygons to make up its meshes. The flat sheets aren't made into a few simple polygons to fill out the surface. Instead you have lots of them as the converter tessellates the surface (breaks it up into lots and lots of polygons) as it tries to duplicate the smoothness of the surface.

To add insult to injury, the textures are not a single map, as is required now going forward for Trainz models. Instead each polygon surface is textured with individual images. It's how the model was exported basically. A classic example is a factory building. These may look great, but there are too many polygons for the cube, that this really is, and the textures, that should be a single UVW-mapped sheet, are individual decals so there is a huge number of tiny images, which add to the load time of the model because there are lots of reads from the disk instead of a single read of a single image. Combine this with no LOD targets and you have awful performance and pop-up models that don't load over the distance and suddenly appear.

That said, some people have gone through the trouble of optimizing these models by bringing them into Blender or 3ds Max to create UVW maps, LOD targets, and to decimate the meshes if they can. By this it means remove some of the polygons so there aren't as many triangles, which make the mesh more complex than it should be.

If what Smileyman, (Brian) had Trainz, we could tell if a model is going to cause terrible performance, or if it's going to be smooth sailing, I mean driving when that time comes.

You do bring up a great point John. The process of lowering the poly count in Blender or 3DS max, and Single mapping an object. This is what makes Blender and 3DS max/Gmax much more of a approachable situation for content creation for large area's in routes.
As John says, Sketchup is good for beginners to get to grips with, but it's not meant for gaming objects.
There are techniques that help when modelling with it, and buildings can be very reasonable poly-wise, if you put the effort in.
But for people who just throw together a model, no matter how good it looks, it going to be very heavy poly-wise compared to the equivalent out of Max or Blender.

Btw, I have Sketchup, whichever version was out about 3 or 4 years ago when I bought it.
Very good for quick mock-ups or presentations.

On the subject of putting the effort in, or crafting as I like to think of it, even in Max or Blender, it's easy for the uninitiated to create over-sized models.
The following are perfect examples of the pitfalls beginners fall foul to:

When creating new planes, cylinders or other objects, the sides are set to multiple divisions by default for that session or save.
For instance, a plane is made of 16 polys, due to the amount of segments both ways, and the cylinder has 5 height segments and the curve is made up of 18 segments:


And as expected, look very good when viewed without the wireframe:

But if you clear the plane's segments to 1, and change the cylinder's height segments to 1 and the curve segments to 10...

...they look just as good when viewed:

The same method can be used for poles or pipes.
This image demonstrates a pipe using 18 curve segments on the left, and only 3 on the right:


Apart from the obvious ends of the one on the right, you would never know that it was a "toblerone" shape.
When viewed without the ends visible, it's a good looking pipe.
And smoothing groups used carefully can enhance that effect:


The last thing I'd want to do would be to discourage new creators.
Educating content creators is half the battle, which N3V say they are going to make an effort to do (we'll see), but with so much content already available, both on the DS and built-in, there's way too much already "through the gate", and the simplest mechanism of ensuring routes are efficiently built is to include a poly-counter as you're selecting the items in Surveyor.
The longer it goes on without them adding one, the more convinced I become that they're not as committed to optimizing the creation process as they say they are, and that it's just PR.

Incidentally, using code that I wrote many years ago, and have adapted each version, I am able to get an accurate poly-count on objects, and the assets that I was talking about in my initial post are interesting reading.
One of them is almost 4000 polys, and the other tips the scale at just over 6000 polys.
For a static scenery item.
I've had a look at the mesh, and I'm convinced that both could be at least a quarter of that, without any loss of quality.

Btw, both these items are built-in, and fail N3V's own guidelines of 500 polys for LODless scenery items.

Again, I want to reiterate that people love creating assets in Max or Blender, and I can totally understand that.
And if they share those assets, then that's great.
And 4000 polys or 6000 polys is affordable if you have a scene that isn't too busy, and you think your system can handle that one high-poly item.

But it's knowing that poly-count that allows us to decide whether it's acceptable or not in that specific place on our route.
Without knowing the poly-count, you could place 4 or 5 down in an already crowded area, and when the game starts spluttering, we end up blaming the game.

And I shouldn't have to use my own code, outside of Trainz, to determine the poly-count of an item.

My most recent releases, the Wall Billboards, have 136 polys (I think), and for such a simple item, you might wonder why they have so many.
Well, they have bevelled edges around the outside and inside of the billboard frame, and when the light catches it right, you can see there's a smooth curved edge, and it looks great.
When uploading these, I mentioned the poly-count and the texture amount and weight, so that people knew what they were getting.
This doesn't help in Surveyor though, but it was the best I could do.

Once again, knowledge is power. :)

To be honest, if N3V hasn't seen the obvious benefit to adding a poly-count to the Surveyor lists by now, then they never will.
Which is why, when I hear them talk about their commitment to content creators, I take it with a pinch of salt.

After all, route creators are content creators too. ;)

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