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Game engine limitations/requirements


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Hi there!
Glad to see forum is active :)

I just saw in Gameranx video info about darkmod and as thief series fan I start to think that I might do something even by my own.
Im 3D artist with photogrammetry specialization (I work for Indie studio almost a year now ) so I thought it might be refreshing and interesting portfolio piece. Problem is, I watching right now second video of tutorial and there is information about lagy levels if you not use portals. My background is photogrammetry and HP modeling in zbrush so Ideally I would sculpt and decimate models with nice textures (2k or 4k), buuut; that might be not an option as far as I see. Game engines are topic that I not explore at all, because use of decimated photogrammetry assets is not a problem in UE.

So, in summary, what polycount and texture size limitations we have per model. Let say custom item like candle. 2k poly and 512 texture or it must be under 200 poly or something ?


Cheers and huge thanks to everybody who started and keep that project alive :) Cant wait to find some free time and play something new so close to Thief 3 game.

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IMO this engine problem, is really not so much the polycount but the number of lights that cast unto the model surface triangles, the full model gets draw again, each frame, for each light that cast into it.

So if you make the light count, striking models low, use LOD's (level of detail) models, don't go crazy on shadow casting lights as well, do optimized low poly shadow mesh's for your models, don't go crazy on the model material "stages", everything inside a starting { and a ending } in a single material, is a stage and every stage, requires a new render call/pass and of course, use portals to optimize visibility, portals are required for the way TDM maps are constructed.


Is possible to construct maps with no portals but each room/area most be closed to each other, they need to be small to control view distance, plus polycount. When the player, is in a area (called a leaf in this engine), no culling is done, apart from LODing (btw on Doom 3 LOD doesn't exist).

Using this system the only way for the player to travel between zones, is to literally transport the player around, similar to how older Resident Evil games did or how Skyrim does with indoors to outdoors, with this the player can't just walk into other rooms, like normally would using portals.

Even thou is not the recommended or main way, to create levels in this engine, imo has a nice advantage thou, you can go very high detail on each room, because when the player get transported into another area the past one, will be automatically culled/closed off, so there's never the danger of a bad portal opening, when it shouldn't and cause performance problems. 


I'm sure i'm forgetting something but If you do all the above plus use normal mapped models and not use crazy polycounts per model, then is perfectly possible to use high quality photogrammetry models in this engine. I have at lest 2 models that I converted from PBR and photogrammetry and they look awesome on the engine. BUT I need to warn you, there's no support for PBR materials/shaders in the Dark Mod engine (at lest that I know), this is a "old school" engine, similar to Unreal Dev Kit (UE3) or Source (minus the lightmaps...).

This unless you write your own PBR glsl shaders, but is not easy, requires deep knowhow of the engine backend and frontend render and perhaps even some new c++ code, plus with PBR, you can't use ANY of the current TDM assets, as is, including even the light materials, particle materials, everything based on old non PBR system.

Btw personally, I don't recommend working outside of TDM tool set, engine capabilities and way of doing things, or you will have to learn way more about the engine and have way more barriers.  You will also have to get the modern PBR ideas from your head and if necessary, relearn the older way to do materials for games. Can't just take a Quixel mixer material or something and throw it directly into TDM but don't take my word for it.

Btw peter_spy, another user here, does high quality modeling for TDM so he may give you better advice. 

But in the mean time, I don't think it does any harm to see this two links of wikis for more info, they are from two different versions of the same engine but share plenty between the two, of course you should focus more on the TDM one:



And last but not least, IMO would be better if you just created the models and gave them to the community and others more knowledgeable of the engine, used them on their missions, instead of you having to learn modeling and level design/mapping at the same time, for TDM, all the credit for the models, will still be yours, you would still be able to use them has portfolio peace's, plus all models used in TDM, have a non comercial license, so others can't just take your TDM models and create a comercial game with them, just my two cents, you do what you think is best. 

Edited by HMart
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I think there are no hard limitations in the engine, just things become slower as you push more data.

Most importantly, the engine uses stencil shadows, which requires processing meshes on CPU. Shadow maps mode is also available, but it is up to player to choose between them, and some lights will use stencil shadows anyway.

As far as I know, there are general guidelines for texture sizes and polycount in TDM, I hope someone will post them.

Note that TheDarkMod does not have physically-based rendering, hence it might be hard to make scanned objects look exactly as they do in real life, especially under various lighting conditions.

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Here is our limits wiki:


2.10 is going to allow an extremely large number of entities so the entity limit listed there is not applicable for future TDM versions.

Dev build thread where you may test it out:


  • Like 1

Please visit TDM's IndieDB site and help promote the mod:




(Yeah, shameless promotion... but traffic is traffic folks...)

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