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| The War Widens: Supreme Commander Dual Display (14 comments )|
by: DaugWok (85) | Posted in cluster Editors Challenge Sponsored by Intel Round 2
Posted 75 months ago ( edited 75 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
Amidst the technological accomplishments of Gas Powered Games’ latest title, one particular feature is a true rarity - multiple monitor support. Some gamers may have faint memories of Neverwinter Nights or Microsoft Flight Simulator spanned across several displays via Matrox’s TripleHead technology. However, Supreme Commander’s implementation requires no special hardware (aside from two monitors and a video card with two outputs) and goes beyond simple spanning. Let’s look into the effect this feature has on Supreme Commander’s gameplay and performance and review two related community-made mods.
|» MEDIA (9)|
Figure 1 - Set the second adapter resolution and restart the game.
Figure 2 - A new world of dual displays. And robots.
Figure 3 - Both screens zoomed in.
Figure 4 - Both displays zoomed out.
Figure 5 - Battle and build with style.
Figure 6 - Chase cam is a GO.
Figure 7 - Do NOT click out there!
Figure 8 - It would be nice to put some of that UI on the second display...
First, the dry but obligatory test system specifications:
• Athlon64 3000+ running at approximately 2.5 GHz
• ATI Radeon X800XL 256MB PCI Express Video Card
• 2 Gigabytes of DDR System Memory
Additionally, ATI Tray Tools was used to monitor the frame rate. Please note that this is not a cutting-edge system by any means. However, dual display worked properly and the game ran well enough for testing. The resolution of each display can be adjusted independently, but a setting of 1024x768 was used on both screens.
Initializing dual displays in Supreme Commander is simple - Enable the second display in the video options and restart the game (Fig. 1). By default, the primary display is centered on your base, while the second display has a view of the entire map (Fig. 2). However, the second display is not two-dimensional or otherwise simplified. Each screen contains a completely rendered instance of the game engine. This means that each display can be zoomed to any distance with full detail (Fig. 3 & 4). The primary display contains UI elements such as resource totals, building commands, and other standard RTS fare. Also, this screen appears exactly the same as in single display mode.
The second display provides many tactical advantages. For one, it makes viewing the map much easier. Battles can become very large with multiple fronts in Supreme Commander, so the extra screen can reveal important information. Possible uses include:
1) Observing movements across the entire battlefield
2) Focusing each display on different parts of the same battle
3) Managing resources elsewhere on the map
As an example, your primary display could be centered on your army while your second display is focused on your commander (Fig. 5).
In addition, commands can be issued more quickly with the help of the second display. Possible actions on the second display include:
1) Selecting units or buildings.
2) Issuing commands such as move, attack, or patrol.
3) Zooming the map in or out.
4) Enabling a Chase Cam to follow units via ctrl+alt+t (Fig. 6)
Regrettably, it is not possible to use the second display to scroll the primary like a traditional mini-map. At least, it’s not possible in the retail game. More on that later…
Little in life is free, and unfortunately this applies to performance when using dual display in Supreme Commander. In “Winter Duel”, one of the smallest and sparsest maps in the game (5km x 5km as compared to 81km x 81km for the largest maps), ATI Tray Tools reported approximately 30 frames per second in both single and dual display mode. However, that number does not describe the severe “hitching” when using dual displays. Map scrolling was plagued by uneven stuttering, and this choppy stop-and-start effect hurt playability greatly. It is likely that because the game is rendered twice in dual display, the video card’s memory could not hold all the graphical data and a more powerful card with more memory would not suffer as badly.
In most attempts to minimize the game, both displays did so cleanly. However, hitting the windows key or ctrl+esc seemed more successful than using alt+tab. Unfortunately, if you have two displays but want to play Supreme Commander with one, the game can be *too* easily minimized because nothing will stop the cursor from moving onto the second, non-game screen (Fig. 7). If you then click the mouse, the game will minimize. That’s pretty annoying, especially in the heat of battle. The second display can be disabled in the operating system to prevent this, but that solution is not very convenient.
The game’s industrious modding community has developed two mods which could potentially make the second display more versatile. As mentioned earlier, the second display cannot be used to scroll or jump around the primary one like a mini-map. However, thanks to Paul Grove’s “Mega Map Mod v1”, you can do just that. Left-click any location on the second display and the primary display will jump there – hold the button and move the mouse to scroll around. This is an extremely convenient feature, and it is surprising Gas Powered Games didn’t include it. Also available is “Saya and Cleopatre's UI blocks MOD”, which allows UI elements such as building queues and command buttons to be dragged around (Fig. 8). Sadly, this mod does not support moving them to the second display, but in a future version this would be a fantastic addition.
Is dual display crucial to excelling in Supreme Commander? Probably not. The game includes a small, traditional mini-map, which is what veteran RTS players are accustomed to. The second display doesn’t render anything the first display cannot, so content-wise the game is identical in both single and dual display mode. Furthermore, two displays may overwhelm some players and ultimately hinder them. Assuming the player is comfortable with the feature, however, there are certain situations in which it is a definite advantage. Long-range patrols and queued action paths can be created with more precision than with the mini-map, and the destination ETA values can be viewed without taking time to zoom the primary display out. Also, two battles can be waged without wasting precious moments moving a single camera between them.
It is exciting to see multiple monitor support in a new, prominent game. Most video cards have offered dual monitor outputs for years, but game makers have been slow to take advantage of the extra screen space. Clearly the feature entails a performance hit, but so do things like anti-aliasing, bump-mapping, and HDR lighting. In a large-scale strategy game such as Supreme Commander dual displays are particularly useful for keeping track of in-game developments, but it would be nice to see implementations in other game genres as well. If this feature gains popularity with gamers, perhaps game companies will add it to their “must include” lists.
|14 User Comment(s) • 9 root comment(s)|
| BellBoy (19) Mar 17, 2007 - 02:58 am|
|Enjoyed the read, and thanks. Nice to see something interesting and different. Lots of good work, but only a handful of those.|
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