Does polycount make any sense today?

Today most of PC gamers have at least an 1 GB videocard and recently updated to 2 GB cards (wolfenstein is a beast), so i decided to not try to stay behind 512 MB videocards but go up to 1 GB videocard requirment.

Thought, i still decided to use normal maps to bevel some edges, but most of the time its a headache to bake them, sometimes it just doesn’t work at all and the result overall isnt great.
I looked at CoD4 remastered weapon model, including 60k polygons, performing 120 FPS on a GTX 560 that i used to have without any problems. Normal maps were used just for the smallest and unnoticeable parts, meanwhile picatinny’s rails models are damn ~3-5 polygon beveled!

With presence of LoD, does it make any sense to attempt to bevel edges with normal maps for a 1GB unreal engine 4 game? Should i instead use the model?

Generally with modern games, as long as you don’t have a lot of polygons on screen that are smaller than a pixel, they aren’t going to have a big negative impact on performance. You can easily draw 2-10 million triangles and have basically no impact on the frame rate. Long and skinny triangles that are less than a pixel thick are also bad, but sometimes unavoidable, use in moderation.

40,000-100,000 triangle characters are totally normal this generation. Cars and first person weapons are often using similar counts to those.

Triangles don’t use much memory either. Your textures will be using much, much more memory.

Drawcalls have a much bigger impact.

As for normal maps, if you are having issues baking you should start from square one and learn how to properly bake and use normal maps. UE4 uses the Mikk TSpace standard for interpreting tangent space normal maps, so you need to use a baker that supports that standard. You’ll also want to make sure you triangulate your model before baking, and keeping the smoothing groups/hard edges the same from when the model is baked to the model in engine in UE4.

I personally use Substance Painter for baking most of my normal maps, otherwise I’d suggest using xNormal if the current baker you are using doesn’t support the Mikk TSpace standard. There may need to be some settings you need to double check for your particular baker and UE4, a google search should let you know pretty quickly what settings to use.

Once you have a good normal map workflow, you should be able to get a good bake within 15 minutes and be able to test it in UE4.

I’m not an expert in industry, but it looks like normal maps for beveling hard edges are probably not nowadays technology and will dead in few ears completely at least for all hardsurface models, which now will use weighted vertex normal technology (WVN) for smoothing edges. But normal maps are still probably the one possible options for all organic models, cause othervice they will need too much triangles for define smoothness and surface details.

Alien: Isolation - probably the best example of (literally say) “no normal maps involved” game, there normal maps used only for characters, cloth, all organic stuff, and stuff like сorrugated hose, rubber mat floors.
Star Citizen - move even further and use WVN and normal maps too for define surface rougthness (not in terms of PBR rendering, but something like: rough paint surfaces, rought plastic materials and so on).
And both games using normal map decals atlases for small detais like nut’s, small panels seams, etc.)

There’s at least 2 reasons for this:

  1. Nowadays we can handle a lot of triangles on screen, so why not use that more extensively. WVN also can save a lot of time cause we dont need to create high poly for bake normal maps which are also not the easiest process.
  2. People says what normal maps effect are completely ruin in VR. So cause intheresting and playable content for any VR platform are very in demand, because there a lack of them, futer game for VR should be using less and less normal maps for defining surface curvature.

So, probably you should try WVN pipelane at least. Cause it really looks like future of games.

I agree, WVN is probably the future, reduce artifacts, no performance hit.

Weighted normals are awesome, but they aren’t a solution for every asset, or a replacement for baked normal maps. And weighting normals still can be, and sometimes should be, used with baked normal maps.

Tiling normal maps and trim sheets have already been pretty standard for environments, since normal maps were first used. Weighting normals was used back then as well to control the smoothing. The decal workflow is just adding decals on top of that.

Weapons and props will need to be a unique baked normal map for the most part. Not saying it’s impossible to make one with weighted normal maps, trim sheets, and decals, but generally, that workflow is better for environments, vehicles, and spaceships. Things where there’s large surfaces made of simple shapes. A lot of flat surfaces or subtle curves. Things like walls, floors, doors, etc, where tiling normal maps, trim details, and decals are all you need.

Small scale details in normal maps still work great in VR, normal maps just cannot make up for the lack of depth. So for example you’ll still want to use a normal map to add texture to a brick or concrete wall, but if there’s any seams, holes, damage, you may have to model that in VR. Also the further away an asset is, the less of an issue this is.

An artist should know both, and the decal workflow in UE4 still has it’s quirks.