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nice article! i love seeing the breakdowns.
Simplygon is one of the best solutions for 3d optimisation in games. We’ve talked with the Donya Labs AB team about the features of this solution, the way it can help to improve your game and how you can use it in big and small teams.
Simplygon is developed by Donya Labs AB, a privately held company based in Sweden. Donya was founded in 2006 with the aim to be the premier developer of automatic 3D-optimization solutions. Today, Simplygon is the leading tool for automating the usually very time-consuming task of 3D optimization in the video-game industry. With Simplygon, game developers get all the benefits of optimization techniques without the usual drawbacks of increased cost and development time. Simplygon has helped game developers worldwide and been used in more than 300 AAA games.
The Simplygon platform contains a large number of features that you can use to optimize 3D assets of all kinds. You can reduce the polygons of a mesh, to automatically generate a LOD chain that is ready to use in the game. Simplygon can also be instructed to reduce the skin influences, thus making animations cheaper to calculate when the asset is far away, or when porting to a weaker platform. It is also possible to bake all the materials into one, so that the drawcall cost and memory consumption is reduced.
With the remeshing functionality, you can take a large number of objects and construct a new mesh for them all, which will be a fraction in poly count and at the same time will combine all materials into one. This way you can construct large vistas and use Simplygon to create representation meshes for objects that are far away from the player.
On top of these features you can also use Simplygon to generate shadow meshes, physics meshes, occlusion meshes and other types of representation meshes you might need to construct and keep the game running at a good frame rate.
What makes Simplygon stand out is that the quality is very good and predictable and all additional data such as animation skin weights, uv sets, material bindings etc. are preserved on the generated meshes. This allows you to change how you approach optimization from an artist task to an automated build step so you can have optimized content during the entire production. Simplygon offers a wide range of ways to be integrated as a build step such as a full c++ API, a standalone batch processor and through various engine and dcc tool integrations.
Optimisation of Characters and Models
Simplygon can be used on any type of 3D asset. It can be used to just reduce polygons, but for characters you typically want to reduce the number of bones used in animation calculations when the asset is in the distance. Simplygon can do that as well.
You can also combine materials using Simplygon to reduce the shading cost of one or more assets. In that process you can bake in, for example, the light map into the diffuse to save on texture memory when making representation meshes.
Simplygon original asset and optimized version using a 50% reduction component. The reduction component will reduce polygons for an asset without changing the textures/material and keep the skinning.
Same 50% reduction as above visualised with wireframe mode.
Saving the Details
Simplygon looks at the characteristics of the asset when performing the optimization and selects the best optimizations to preserve things such as, deformation zones, silhouette, material boundaries and others. We also provide the user with a bunch of tools that allow them to instruct Simplygon where to put more emphasis, perhaps you want to make sure that the silhouette is kept as intact as possible, then you can tell Simplygon that. You can also do quick weight painting to tell Simplygon where to keep more, and where to take more if you want to fine tune the results.
When you’re baking new materials you can tell Simplygon where to put more resolution and you can also of course choose the size of the output material.
However, Simplygon default settings work exceptionally well to preserve the main characteristics of the asset without spending a lot of configuring time.
Benefits of Simplygon
Telltale has shared their optimization pipeline with us in a couple of speeches. Their pipeline does fully automatic optimization of all assets in the game. They build just one version of the asset and then Simplygon generates the optimized versions of this asset for a wide range of target platforms.
With the weight painting and other protective tools in Simplygon you can with some quick tunings generate the LOD0 in many types of games.
With our new release, Simplygon 8, we are releasing additional tools that will make multi-platform optimization even easier. We are adding a scripting language called Simplygon Processing Language (SPL), which is a 1-1 mapping to our API. This will allow technical artists to create flexible settings that can be used to batch a large number of assets. We’re also releasing a new interface, which can be used to experiment with the settings to find the optimal ones. When you’re satisfied with the results you can export an SPL-file that can be incorporated into the build pipeline.
Original city block asset and optimized version using the remeshing component.
The remeshing component and material bake component will combine several objects to one object while reducing the number of draw call. It will recalculate the textures and create one big UV chart for the new single object. The second view shows the rendering of group IDs.
Finally, we’re also releasing Simplygon Grid, which allows a studio to distribute optimization processes across the studio. Much like Incredibuild does for programming This can significantly speed up the process of batching a large number of assets. For example, in the last months of development, the game might be running at a poor frame rate. With Simplygon you can test things like, what would happen if we bake the materials of all our last LODs. What would that do to performance?
We have ready-made integrations with UE4 and Unity. The UE4 integration integrates automatic LOD creation for both skeletal and static meshes, lightmap creation, replacement mesh generation, skin weight reduction, material baking and automatic HLOD generation. The HLOD system, which was drastically improved in UE4.11, uses Simplygon to combine several assets into one, to reduce both drawcalls and poly count. Integrating our code into your UE4 code base is a simple process. We provide a 3-way merge tool, which allows you to rapidly integrate any Simplygon code.
The Unity integration works with our cloud service, which allows you to send up assets for optimization to the Simplygon cloud. This means that you can automatically generate LODs and representation meshes through the Unity editor.
We are continuously adding features to the API, which also means that the integrations are refined for every release.
Simplygon is licensed per game, with the license being valid until the game is released. Thereafter there is an optional annual fee for continued use, e.g. for expansions and DLC. Pricing is tiered and depends on the kind and size (i.e. the production budget) of the game. We have traditionally worked mostly with bigger studios but any developer is welcome to contact us for an estimate. We have free 30-days evaluation licenses which you can request on our website.
Sylvia Parmentelas, Marketing Coordinator at Simlygon