A place to stop and chat about any of the hobbies you may have!
By Krishty

I’m a guy from Germany, and I love to solve puzzles. Furthermore, I’m a programmer, so I especially love computer-related puzzles! This got me into reverse engineering computer games. A few years ago, Driver caught my interest. That’s how I found Driver Madness.

In our modding section, I helped SOAP and Someone972 extract Driver levels and models. Here’s a short video from one of my tools:
You can grab the program here. Of course I improved it over the last years, it’ll display Driver 2’s levels as well!

Although I’ve been an active member of quite some time, I’ve only ever posted in the modding forum. I was now invited to write about my projects, hence the new thread. I hope you enjoy it!

I’m highly interested in demos and leaks. They’re like a peek behind the scenes! For example, I’ve got my private S.T.A.L.K.E.R. build. You can read technical details about it here – sorry it’s in German, but Google Translate is probably better than me at translating it :)

Another big project of mine is Ace Combat 3. While Driver was well-explored before I got my hands on it, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. had a huge community around its leaks even long before its release, Ace Combat was hardly explored and my work on it is no re-invention of the wheel. There is an awesome translation of the game’s Japanese version to English (in case you missed it: the English version was cut extremely), but no one ever extracted polygons or even entire levels!
If you want to check out the levels and planes, you can do so at USEA Today – the blog of the aforementioned translation project.

I also write my own flight simulator (though no one has ever seen it ;) ), work on various projects regarding data compression, and help friends with Amiga projects. Oh, and I need to feed my family by working as … you guess it: software developer.

On one hand, that’s so many awesome puzzles to solve! On the other hand, I’m always rushing from project to project, pausing some for as long as years.

I’ll use this thread mainly to talk about my Ace Combat discoveries (because that’s the biggest series of articles I’m currently writing). You’re invited to ask me anything, to discuss retro technology and video game nostalgia, and – of course – ask me to eventually reverse Destruction Derby ;) But due to the reasons I just mentioned, please don’t expect quick answers. I’ll do my best, but sometimes it takes me months to get anything done in the first place!
Vortex, max.thunder liked this
By Krishty
No huge progress in the meantime, just a small update:

DeviantArt user RauuruKun used my extracted Ace Combat 3 models for very cool wallpapers!

RythusOmega reconstructed an airplane from the beta version and posted the results on twitter. This is some amazing work, and he has written a long post about it on ZFX.

We’re discussing Ace Combat leaks and betas, but nothing groundbreaking there (we’re all pretty sure that there are no leaks or betas in the wild).

I’m pretty busy right now but I hope to continue the series soon!
By Krishty
One thing that made me wonder during my take on Ace Combat 2 is, some of its levels are so full of detail that they even exceed the successor Ace Combat 3. Take, for example, the level Rising High, with and without textures:


AC3’s terrain looks boring in comparison. It is even more confusing when you realize that the mission takes place above the clouds and you hardly see the terrain for longer than a few seconds …

… here’s another comparison of AC2’s Cuckoo’s Nest (with and without textures) with a similar level in AC3 (Joint Maneuvers):

Again, AC2’s terrain is full of variety while AC3’s is just boring.
By Krishty
A bunch of updates:

1. Ultra HD overview maps

I was updating the screenshot function in my model viewer and I wondered how high I could turn up the resolution. I want to keep the original rendering’s transparency – not the gray background of the window – so screenshotting is realized with D3D 11 render-to-texture, not with GDI. This allows to specifiy arbitrary resolutions. Copying the data to the Windows clipboard was a major hassle, and maybe I’ll dedicate a future thread to it.

I was eventually limited by the five-second GPU driver timeout at 10k pixels sidelength. Overview maps turned out pretty impressive at that resolution.

Here are some Ace Combat 3 maps in 10,240 × 5,760 pixels with 8× multisampling. Be warned – the JPG files have sizes of 16–25 MiB each and they can slow down your browser considerably!
2. fixes to plane models

When I first released the extracted Ace Combat 3 plane models in 2016, my code contained a bug in the normal processing. The PlayStation can natively render triangles as well as quads (a leftover from the sprite era), but my code did not correctly copy all normals. This affected only quads. I released an updated package with fixed normals:
Furthermore, I decided to correct the annoying nose tip artifacts. Namco didn’t get those right, and indeed it’s pretty complicated. Here’s a StackOverflow thread on the problem. I solved it by assigning the foremost vertex on the Z axis a collapsed (zero) normal. Not all planes were affected (some don’t have sharp nose tips), so I had to special-case my code. Duh, whatever.
You can grab the new package here. It comes with a new version of the viewer, which allows you copy a snapshot to the clipboard via CTRL+C. I only tested it with Gimp, though. (There’s a few dozen bug fixes as well.)
Vortex liked this
By Krishty
argonbolt asked me for screenshots from Ace Combat 2’s Saint Ark and Port Edwards without the viewing range restrictions of the original game.

I had to hack in the atmospheric effects, so unfortunately no download of this yet. But enjoy the renderings:









Pretty good for 1997!

By the way, his Ace Combat reviews are really really cool and if you’re a fan, you should definitely watch them:
By Krishty
Guess what? The planes you fly in Ace Combat 2 don’t have noses or undersides!

I was looking at AC2’s playable aircraft, just extracting some meshes here and there and minding my own business. But something didn’t add up – there were polygons missing from all the planes!


It had to be an error in my code, I was sure. Until I realized: The planes look absolutely flawless from behind and slightly above.


It’s not a bug, it’s an optimization! During normal gameplay, you only ever see your plane from behind and slightly above. (The free cam was not invented until AC3). So why waste CPU power on polygons that are never visible? The developers just cut away the noses and undersides from the planes.

There are a few occasions where you *do* see your plane from outside. The engine loads a special model for that occasion, one you don’t normally see during gameplay. But that’s for a different episode …
User avatar
By Skylabh
... So why waste CPU power on polygons that are never visible? ...
Indeed some polygons don't need to be rendered.
A good old optimization technique.
Funny to see these planes "incomplete".

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