Author Topic: How many polygons is too many polygons?  (Read 346 times)

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How many polygons is too many polygons?

I've been making new ships/models for quite a while now, but one thing I'm always a bit unsure about is whether the amount of detail I put in is too much or not enough. So I'd like to know how many polygons a ship is allowed to have. As it stands now, I try keeping the polycount for fighters at around 1000, cruisers at around 5000 and the big ships at 10000.

Also, side question: as a newbie modeler, is it important to make a really detailed ship?
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Re: How many polygons is too many polygons?
When in doubt, look at the other models. The Hatty has 75k, monsters like the colossus and hades have just over 100k, the cain has about 10k, and most strikecraft seem to have somewhere from 3 to 10k. So your numbers are definitely below par compared to recent-ish HTL assets, but segueing into your second point that doesn't mean those numbers are bad.

The number of polies you "need" depends 70% on the design itself, and 30% on how big it is. In general, make things as detailed as the design would suggest, possibly more so if it's big since the player could be very close to it. But again, don't put greebles in just for the sake of it, think about whether the design suggests that sort of thing. Plenty of detail can come in the textures and normal maps, so it's not at all about polies. Don't think about "I need this many many polygons", one last time, think of the design in your head, how much of the detail there would the player be close enough to see? Your priority should be in accurately representing the design.


Offline Black Wolf

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Re: How many polygons is too many polygons?
I'm going to give you the simple answer first, then completely invalidate that simple answer in the following paragraphs. But as a rule of thumb, if you're exceeding these numbers, maybe reconsider your modelling techniques.
Fighters and Bombers: 5,000 to 10,000
Small Capships: 25,000 to 35,000
Large Capships: 80,000 to 100,000

So, short and simple answer: Your numbers are 100% fine and well within the range of acceptable (on the low side even).

Now, the actual, more complicated answer: It's not as simple the total number of polies. Several things are going to affect performance, not least the number of polies per Subobject, where I believe FSO still has some hard coded limit around 64k, though someone can correct me there. Number of textures also matters, you ideally want no more than one per subobject.

What really matters is the efficiency of your modelling. You can make a very high poly model with very little actual effective detail by modelling inefficiently, splitting up your faces where you don't need to, and putting too much detail in places it won't be seen. Look at my GTFr Atlantis for an example of very inefficient modelling: If I were making that today, I could cut the number of polies by half and not lose any noticeable detail whatsoever.

Essentially, what I'm saying is that target polycounts or maximum polycounts have to be thought of in the context of what you're trying to make. If you're building a Terran fighter, for example, with lots of flat planes and straight lines, maybe you only need 5,000 polies. But the same fighter for the Vasudans, with lots of curves and strange angles that demands a different modelling technique might be perfectly justifiable at two or three times that figure.

There are, obviously, limits to that. If you're making a 20m long fighter and you've hit 30 or 40 thousand polies, you've gone too far. You're going to be putting too much unnecessary strain on the rendering engine if you want to show multiples of these on screen. But there's a lot of flexibility there.

As for your second question, is it important to make a really detailed ship as a newbie: Absolutely not! In my opinion, here're the primary thing you should focus on as a newbie modder: Getting your ship in game.

I would estimate that roughly one in five models people show off on the forum or IRC or p3d or whatever actually make it in game, and that's probably generous. What tends to happen is that ships get modelled, and then people lose interest when it comes to the boring parts: UV mapping, making LoDs, debris, converting etc. All of those steps are made substantially simpler if you're working on a thousand poly model as compared to a 10,000 poly model, and no matter how pretty the 10,000 poly model is, the 1,000 poly model that is actually working in game is the better model if the alternative is just sitting on a hard drive somewhere waiting for a UV.

It's good to have a general concept figure in mind: there is such a thing as too few polies. If you've built a 2km long destroyer and only used 500 polies, then you are absolutely going to see huge improvements by increasing that to 2,500 polies, or 5,500 polies. But eventually - and fairly rapidly - you'll start to see diminishing returns. In short, when you're starting out making ships, model until you're reasonably happy, then stop. It won't be perfect. But it will probably be much more manageable in the remaining stages than if you keep going until it's perfect and has the "right" amount of polies.
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Offline Luis Dias

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Re: How many polygons is too many polygons?
I've seen wildly bigger numbers around here for years now... Although personally I'm not against your numbers, I think you can easily multiply all of them by 10 and you'll still be in the clear. Regarding detail.... well that depends on your own aesthetic preferences ;). I've designed ****ing cubes as ships once, and I loved them.

Re: How many polygons is too many polygons?
Thanks for all your responses. I was a bit worried that 1000 polys was a bit excessive and wasn't quite sure if I should sacrifice game performance for prettyness.

Also, in response to Black Wolf's response, I never really understood why people find UV Mapping boring. I always find it exciting to see more and more color coming to my ship (both figuratively and literally) (also, even though I find it fun, I'm the worst texturer/UV Mapper in history). And the reward of seeing and flying your ship in all of its glory is more than enough motivation for me to keep on going.

The only thing I can never really quite seem to get right is glowmaps and shinemaps, but they're not super essential... right?
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