Thursday, July 26, 2007

Don't Change lights.txt

Some very advanced users have asked: can we change lights.txt. The answer is: please don't.

Lights.txt is not a part of the "scenery SDK", that is, it's not a file whose format we will keep the same and allow you to modify. (The fact that it isn't accessible via the library system is an indication of our intention NOT to make it part of the scenery system.)

The problem is basically this: lights.txt translates named lights into the inputs to our pixel shaders for the hardware-accelerated lights. That pixel shader is really new and likely to change a few times. If the shader changes, we might need new parameters not in lights.txt, requiring a fundamental format change.

For example: those who have poked in the named lights file have noticed that the hardware lights can either have directional or flashing properties. This is because they run on two different shaders, each taking only four input values. This was done a while ago, when we were using low level assembly language shaders. In the future we might merge the two shaders and have 8 params per light. This would give us more flexibility (directional flashing lights), more bus usage (pushing 8 params per light instead of 4) and fewer state changes (we have to change shaders right now).

My point is: we can't predict what will happen, so we can't safely expose these parameters. The best thing to do is: email me and request named light types. We can easily have hundreds of named-light types (see how many there already are just for airports!).

Named lights make our lives easier because it tells us WHAT to draw but not HOW to draw it. So when we put in the next evolution of the lights code, we can remap the named lights to look the best they can for the new technology, instead of worrying about how to map the old params to the new ones.

(I appreciate the input from the users who emailed me about this -- it gives me more insight into what extensions to the scenery system would be useful.)

1 comment:

Holger Alfer said...

How can I display a red light for a Building/tower, which is only shown at night and which is not blinking. I want do construct his with AC3D?