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Author Topic: HL2 Demo and Source impressions  (Read 2754 times)
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JCC
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« on: December 22, 2004, 04:48:10 PM »

I  got to finally check out the HL2 demo. Keep in mind, I wasn't evaluating the game. I already know that the game has very little interest for me, and that I really wouldn't have much fun playing it. I was purely interested in evaluating it as a tech demo and seeing how well (or poorly) it ran on my aged (and fading) machine. So, anyway, first off: Steam. While it was easy to create my account and I was grateful to not have to give them all sorts of info (only an emal addy) I must say that I don't like the fact that I have to have *3* Steam Windows open (and they stay open) just to launch one game. Irritating. Is there no way for me to have a HL2 icon on my desktop to click on? Weird.

The game (or engine). Honestly, I was not very impressed. Yes, the first image I see (the zoomed in face) was awesome. The faces are, without question, far beyond anything I have ever seen before. The overall frame rate is much much better than Doom3. But, I was suffering from the well known sound stuttering problem. Downgrading sound quality to Low helped, but did not eliminate the problem. It did seem limited to situations where voiceovers are happening, but I was stuttering a lot and it was irritating.

I was very very underwhelmed by the textures on walls both inside and out. Even when I jacked the quality to high and boosted antialiasing (which by the way required a *5* minute load and then slowed my performance to a crawl as the HD was constantly chugging) the walls were flat out ugly and blurry (though better than on Medium). (I hit my only load zone at this point, and the wait was excruciating. I stopped counting at 40 seconds. I didn't encounter one with everything set at default, so I am sure this was a worst case scenario.) No question in this regard Doom 3 looks MUCH better. I was impressed when I stepped outside since there was all sorts of stuff going on and my framerate, while not smooth was pretty good. Certainly if the Doom 3 engine tried this, it would have chugged to a halt. (Note, I had reset AA to off and Textures to Medium at this point). Still, there are some crappy lo-res textures in this game and they look ugly. I think I care much more about texture quality than I do polygon count as far as what pleases me graphically. So, I would conclude that I actually prefer the way Doom 3 looks to Half-Life 2. The faces were (as mentioned) incredible though.

The Physics. They're ok. Certainly better than any other game I've played (Yes, in the demo you get to play with the gravity gun.) Setting things on fire was fun and hurling objects around was nice. However, one thing that really bothered me, was I killed one of those crab head dudes, and he fell and his head vanished into a crate. Even Thief 3, which had a pathetically bad "realistic" physics engine, managed to get this right. Not that most games do it right. But most games don't get the hype that the Source engine does, so I was disappointed to see it.

So anyway, I was a little disappointed with it overall. It looks good and runs well (minus the stuttering), but I think I actually prefer Doom 3's gfx to it. Oh well... There's my thoughts. Feel free to be apalled by them.
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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2004, 05:28:41 PM »

What 3 windows did you have open to play the demo?  Granted I have the actual game but when I want to play I couble click on Steam to start it up, it presents me with the Games window, I double-click on HL2 and I'm good to go.

It also give me the option to create a desktop shortcut to HL2.  It launches Steam then automatically starts the game.

Unless they're doing something different with the demo, it sounds like something is not set up correctly.
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« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2004, 05:32:24 PM »

Heretic! Half-Life 2 is finest creation of mankind and has no faults! Tongue

Though Half-Life 2 is the best game I've ever played, I do have to agree that while the character models and animations are without peer, the environmental graphics are not completely cutting-edge. The game does look a bit "flat" at times, some wall/ground textures are noticeably blurry even on high detail, and polygon counts are fairly low in places. It almost feels like they deliberately avoided some of the more obvious flashy uses of lighting, reflections, and bump-mapping to give the world a more subtle, gritty appearance. And the sound stuttering is a very annoying glitch which takes away from the experience - luckily upgrading my PC a few days ago solved that problem, but it's an issue which should have been resolved before release.

The upside is that the game plays like a dream on my Radeon 9700 Pro/Athlon 2800+ system at 1280x960 with all settings on high, 2xFSAA, 4xAF, and the overall effect is very impressive. The game world feels epic - there's such a huge variety of great indoor and outdoor locations, packed with detail and all stitched together seamlessly that the small graphical shortcomings are quickly forgotten, at least for me.

And the first couple of chapters are not the strongest - the game only gets better as I play further (I'm in Nova Prospekt now). I'm playing in small chunks, sipping it like a fine wine, so that it lasts as long as possible because it's just that damn good!
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JCC
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« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2004, 05:32:29 PM »

There is a main Steam window, where I select "Play Games". Then there is a lit of games including the HL2 demo. Then when I click on HL2, it brings up a 3rd window telling me it is starting the demo. When I exit the game, all 3 windows are still there. There may be a way to clean it all up, but I am not sure how to do it.
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« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2004, 05:37:42 PM »

I had the sound stutter even after the patch no matter what settings I tried.

I recently upgraded my HD and copied everything from the old one to the new one and now I dont get the stutter. Both drives were supposed to be 7200rpm drives but the old one seems slower. The new one is also less fragmented than the old drive (defragging the old drive never cleared up the problem and some files were still fragmented).

Not that this is viable for everyone but it worked for me. Now CS:S is much better since I dont die due to stutter during the first 5 minutes of each map.

I've been playing way more CS:S than HL2 so haven't finished it yet, but am enjoying it. Its not the greatest game ever but its still a fun game to me.
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« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2004, 05:38:45 PM »

Oh yeah - that 3-window thing is definitely not part of the full game. I just click on the desktop HL2 icon and it launches - but Steam is always running as a background process and lives in the taskbar.
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« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2004, 06:33:35 PM »

You can choose in Steam which window is your default.  Mine only opens up the games list and it's the only one left when I close HL2.  I also have icons in my quick launch bar for HL and HL2.

Just to clarify, the problem with the guys head in the crate isn't a physics issue but a clipping one.

I agree that the graphics aren't as good as Doom3.  But then the frame rate is much better and the outdoor areas are amazing and I'll take that everytime.  The sound stutter issue, while improved in the full version, is still not completely resolved and is definitely frustrating.

Oh, and please alert your nurse immediately as it's clear your medication is wearing off. smile
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ChrisGwinn
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« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2004, 08:51:18 PM »

I have a HL2 icon on my desktop.

What video card do you have?  I remember being really impressed by the texture work in HL2, and I'm wondering if it's because of all the magic bells and whistles on my 6800.
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« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2004, 09:08:44 PM »

I don't know about the HL2 demo but I know demos sometimes are released with lower resolution textures to save download space.
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2004, 09:10:55 PM »

Quote from: "Programmer"
It almost feels like they deliberately avoided some of the more obvious flashy uses of lighting, reflections, and bump-mapping to give the world a more subtle, gritty appearance.


While I couldn't disagree more with Programmer's comments on lack of texture detail I think the quoted is exactly what Valve did right.  If you check out some of the DirectX 7-9 comparisons on HL2 on the web you will notice how much effort Valve put into subtle shader effects that aren't necessarily readily apparent to the eye but are stacked to provide a graphical experience much more "realistic" than anything out there.  There are tons of subtle cues that are almost subliminal in their effectiveness.  For an example of what could have gone wrong, download the specular highlighting demo that Valve produced back in September 2003.  Comparing that demo to the same location in the final game and you will find that Valve dialed the specular highlighting way back and for the better.  

For comparison, Doom 3, Far Cry, and Riddick are also recent stellar visual experiences but those three titles had so much overuse of shadows, specular highlighting, bump-mapping, etc that while undeniably impressive on a technical level looked completely artificial IMO compared to HL2.
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« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2004, 09:22:05 PM »

Quote from: "ChrisGwinn"
I have a HL2 icon on my desktop.

What video card do you have?  I remember being really impressed by the texture work in HL2, and I'm wondering if it's because of all the magic bells and whistles on my 6800.


That could be it.  Doesn't the game use Pixel Shader 3.0 and that wonderful 3D like texture mapping?  Pesonally I'm using a Radeon 9600XT w/256 Video Ram and the textures look very very nice.
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« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2004, 09:58:04 PM »

Quote from: "ChrisGwinn"
I have a HL2 icon on my desktop.

What video card do you have?  I remember being really impressed by the texture work in HL2, and I'm wondering if it's because of all the magic bells and whistles on my 6800.


Mine is a GeForce 5600. Not cutting edge, but completely DirectX 9 compliant. Please don't misconstrue my comments as saying I thought HL2 was ugly. It was FAR from that. It's just after hearing the massive hyperbole for the engine (which in regards to animations, physics, and faces [EDIT: and FPS] was quite deserved) I was very disappointed to look at extremely blurry looking walls. (Even with textures set to High)

I'm glad to see Steam is configurable to be less obtrusive if the effort is put forth. I very definitely didn't look into configuring it at all, aside from making sure it doesn't run everytime Windows starts.
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« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2004, 10:07:21 PM »

Quote from: "Kevin Grey"
Quote from: "Programmer"
It almost feels like they deliberately avoided some of the more obvious flashy uses of lighting, reflections, and bump-mapping to give the world a more subtle, gritty appearance.


While I couldn't disagree more with Programmer's comments on lack of texture detail [SNIP] ...


Don't get me wrong, most of the time the textures look great, both artistically and technically. But some of the ground and wall textures look distinctly blurry only up close, and it's disconcerting because it doesn't happen in that many places. It's a minor nitpick only noticeable because the rest of the game looks so good. I've got textures on high, as well. In fact, with my new 9700 Pro running full high detail levels, the textures are sometimes so impressive and clear that I find I'm distracted by them - I'm so accustomed to blurry walls and floors receding in to the distance.

But yeah, I'm gonna agree with myself and the rest of your post smile

Games like Doom 3 and Riddick, while they look impressive, remind me a bit of the early days of desktop publishing when everybody suddenly had access to hundreds of font styles and sizes, and alot of people decided to use all of them (sometimes on one page!) just because they could, and the result was technically impressive but a bit of an artistic mess. Modern video cards can crank out all sorts of fancy special effects, but they don't all need to be used to the max in every scene just because it's possible. That's what benchmarks and demos are for!
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« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2004, 10:35:58 PM »

Regarding the body slumping physics, did Thief 3 get it right for the moveable objects as well?  I don't remember.

For a 3D scene the static objects like walls can be stored in very efficient data structures to cull out extra polygons that don't have a change of affecting a collision (such a body falls in the kitchen so don't check for a collision with the floor in the bathroom).  Objects that move around however can not be stored so efficiently because whenever it moves it changes its position in relation to other objects so it would have to be reinserted in the structure for every movement which can be time comsuming.  

Instead dynamic objects are usually stored separately in a linear list of bounding volumes and a 1 to 1 check is required to see if moving things hit each other.  This can be improved by using a coarse grid but it still amounts to checking for a collision against everything in the same cell.  

Long story short...heads falling through crates is probably a way of eliminating a collision check to get a little more speed.  Thief 3 may take care of the problem but it may be part of why it is a bit of a resource hog comparitively.
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« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2004, 10:39:35 PM »

Quote from: "JCC"
Quote from: "ChrisGwinn"
I have a HL2 icon on my desktop.

What video card do you have?  I remember being really impressed by the texture work in HL2, and I'm wondering if it's because of all the magic bells and whistles on my 6800.


Mine is a GeForce 5600. Not cutting edge, but completely DirectX 9 compliant. Please don't misconstrue my comments as saying I thought HL2 was ugly. It was FAR from that. It's just after hearing the massive hyperbole for the engine (which in regards to animations, physics, and faces [EDIT: and FPS] was quite deserved) I was very disappointed to look at extremely blurry looking walls. (Even with textures set to High)


That might be it.  The whole GF FX series had pretty bad DX9 shader performance, so it gets run on the 8.1 codepath in HL2.

I saw all this analysis on image quality degradation between the various versions of shaders.  But it bored me to tears and I stopped reading.
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« Reply #15 on: December 23, 2004, 01:39:19 AM »

I just wanted to pipe in and say that I didn't get any blurry textures when I played the game either. It was visually amazing, and in many ways more impressive than Doom 3's graphics. And I don't say that because "It was black all the time" because I disagree with that arguement completely.

I'm talking more in character detail, environment variety, art direction.. all of that. It all combined to make Half-Life 2 an extremely visually appealing game.
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« Reply #16 on: December 24, 2004, 06:21:46 AM »

I personally thought the textures in Doom 3 were horrendous, especially on certain 3D objects. The lines looked drawn with crayon.
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« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2004, 03:46:36 PM »

I was surprised how well the demo ran (and looked) an my 64MB card.

The game was creepy enough, but really I just wanted to see if I had a chance of running Vampires: Bloodlines.
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« Reply #18 on: December 24, 2004, 05:12:17 PM »

Just wanted to pipe in and say that I think some people aren't getting the full graphical effect.  The textures on my machine (GeForce 6800) look very crisp.  I remember just staring at many of the textures in amazement, thinking that this was the sharpest textures in a game yet. And yes, there are a lot of "subtle" use of effects that add to the realism...not over the top.  However, I was surprised when I put my face right up to the textures and found that it became more blurry (unlike the latest version of FarCry).  I was surprised because the textures were so sharp that I just "assumed" they would retain their clarity even at super close up.
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« Reply #19 on: December 24, 2004, 07:00:43 PM »

Quote from: "JCC"

The Physics. They're ok. Certainly better than any other game I've played


LOL, you just want to trash this game.  You walked into playing it already hating it.
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« Reply #20 on: December 24, 2004, 07:19:51 PM »

Quote from: "Driver"
I was surprised how well the demo ran (and looked) an my 64MB card.

The game was creepy enough, but really I just wanted to see if I had a chance of running Vampires: Bloodlines.


Be forewarned:  Vampire is nowhere near as smooth and efficient codewise as HL2.  There have been far more reports of sluggish framerates with Bloodlines.  Despite looking worse than HL2, Vampire is even more of a system hog.
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« Reply #21 on: December 25, 2004, 01:50:47 AM »

Quote from: "JCC"


Mine is a GeForce 5600. Not cutting edge, but completely DirectX 9 compliant. Please don't misconstrue my comments as saying I thought HL2 was ugly. It was FAR from that. It's just after hearing the massive hyperbole for the engine (which in regards to animations, physics, and faces [EDIT: and FPS] was quite deserved) I was very disappointed to look at extremely blurry looking walls. (Even with textures set to High)[/quote

The 5600 cards don't run Dx9.0 in HL since the whole FX runs DX9.0 code so poorly so you arn't seeing what the engine can really do. No idea how you had blurry textures. Maybe its something with your card or the demo using smaller resolution textures. The full game on my 9500Pro has sharp fine textures. In fact IMO HL2 texturing work is some of the best. Way better than the constant dull look that DOOM 3 had.
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« Reply #22 on: December 26, 2004, 05:07:37 PM »

I think there may be something to the non DX9 theory in regards to the texture quality (and remember i am pretty much only talking about walls, floors, etc.). My buddy whose favorite game of all time is Half Life and who absolutely loved the sequel has an even older card than mine and he agreed with me that Doom 3's wall textures looked much better. Of course since I am only here to trash the game since I already decided ahead of time to hate it (thanks to the enlightened poster who pointed that out. After all I did completely trash the game by daring to say I thought Doom 3 looked a little better), I might as well stop contributing to this thread. Whenever I get a new PC (with the current gen of vid card) I am sure I will look at HL2 again.
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« Reply #23 on: December 26, 2004, 05:37:07 PM »

I was also underwhelmed with the demo. The graphics certainly does look gorgeous, no question. The physics engine is also very nice. But the game feels a bit loose. I really don't know how to explain it, it's all over the game - from the way the object floats in front of you to the way the zombies take shots and die - when I shoot them, they don't flinch or anything, then suddenly when they take enough bullets, they fall down. And every one of them falls down the exactly same way.  When I throw something at a guard, he didn't flinch at all. The object bounced off him, then he runs after me. Looks... strange to say the least. And in the beginning, when you had to trick a guard into moving out of the way of a opening so you can get through. It's so bizarre to lure him away, then go through, then stand right there, and he goes back to his post, looking at you. He didn't even go after you - you've passed with unauthority didn't you?

Needless to say, I was underwhelmed. Maybe it was because of the hype, I don't know. Maybe I'm crazy, but I thought Max Payne 2 used the physics engine better than HL2 did.
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« Reply #24 on: December 26, 2004, 07:03:44 PM »

Quote from: "JCC"
Of course since I am only here to trash the game since I already decided ahead of time to hate it (thanks to the enlightened poster who pointed that out. After all I did completely trash the game by daring to say I thought Doom 3 looked a little better), I might as well stop contributing to this thread. .
Did you forget what you wrote?

Quote
I got to finally check out the HL2 demo. Keep in mind, I wasn't evaluating the game. I already know that the game has very little interest for me, and that I really wouldn't have much fun playing it
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« Reply #25 on: December 26, 2004, 11:35:11 PM »

Quote from: "Louis Cypher"
Did you forget what you wrote?

Quote
I got to finally check out the HL2 demo. Keep in mind, I wasn't evaluating the game. I already know that the game has very little interest for me, and that I really wouldn't have much fun playing it


Actually, I had forgotten about that. That was not worded very well by me. I was merely pointing out that I was checking out the demo to check out the (much lauded) engine moreso than the game. I haven't been all that crazy about playing HL2 (I didn't love HL) but I was very excited to try out the demo so I could see what everyone was raving about. I don't have any particular neagtive opinions towards the game or Valve, so I was mad that someone said I went in wanting to hate it. Note, I didn't really think Doom 3 was all that great a game either, but I did think that a lot of its environmental (ie. walls, floors, etc.) graphics look better than HL2 (at least on my system). Anyway, I was impressed by the game's performance, but there were a couple aspects of the demo that disappointed me (given the tons of hype the engine has received). I promise I don't have any sinister motives to denigrate the game or the engine.

Speaking of the Source engine, I got Vampire for X-mas and am now ready to fire it up for the first time! smile
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« Reply #26 on: December 27, 2004, 02:26:44 AM »

Quote from: "JCC"
Speaking of the Source engine, I got Vampire for X-mas and am now ready to fire it up for the first time! smile


If you are still looking to check out/form further opinions on the Source engine based on Vampire you are in for a dissapointment.  It simply isn't as polished or optimized as it was for HL2.

That isn't to say Vampire isn't a good game, I just don't think it really utilizes the engine to its full potential.  Searching the many Vampire threads here can explain in greater detail.

I like both engines.  I think the Doom 3 engine might be superior, at least visually, but it is hard to tell with the game itself.  The HL2 engine reportedly does a fantastic job scaling and the game does a lot more to show off the engine (outdoor areas, not shrouded in darkness, more than one enemy at a time).  I look forward to seeing games based on both engines.  From the looks of it, the Unreal 3 engine will trump them all, but I expect the next Carmack engine to do the same. Tongue
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« Reply #27 on: December 28, 2004, 11:10:50 PM »

Quote from: "stiffler"


If you are still looking to check out/form further opinions on the Source engine based on Vampire you are in for a dissapointment.  It simply isn't as polished or optimized as it was for HL2.



That my friend is an understatement! smile

I am having a blast playing Vampire, as the quests and writing are top notch, but oh my does it ever run like pure sludge in the outdoor sections. Really, aside from the faces, you would never know it's the Source engine. I can't even be sure that the sound stuttering in this game is to be blamed on the known Source Engine issue, since this game seems to need to thrash my poor hard drive at all times. It's amazing how much better the HL2 demo performs and looks in comparison to this game running on what is supposed to be the same engine. My system is quite old and showing its age with this game, but it does meet or exceed the min/recommended requirements on the box, so I do find it a bit frustrating. Still, although it is marred with many flaws outside of the poor engine performance, it is one DAMN GREAT game, that I am having an (agonized) unholy amount of fun playing....

If anyone knows any magic .cfg changes I could make to get it to stop thrashing the hard drive at all times, please let me know (or provide a link)! smile
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