I put up a new article, in more detail on how GSB was made and what was involved. You can read it here.
Recently, in between working on patch 1.31 and the mysterious second add-on for Gratuitous Space Battles, I’ve been looking at some technical issues people are suddenly having with Kudos 2, Democracy 2 and Some of my other games. Suddenly, without me patching or changing anything, people started complaining about vertex buffer crashes. At first, it seemed to be Windows 7, or Windows 64 related, at which point one naturally assumed that the geniuses at Microsoft have ballsed up yet another operating system, but then the odd vista or even XP user had similar issues. Then it suddenly clicks that new nvidia drivers were released, and everyone having crash problems had an nvidia card.
I use vertex buffers differently in GSB than I do in my other games. I was using them in a slightly unusual way before. A way that is perfectly legit, that directx says is fine, where the video card returns no error message and says its all fine, and working great. Everything is good in the world.
And then suddenly, a few weeks ago, with their new drivers, some brainiac at nvidia has obviously thought ‘sod it, who cares. If they don’t use a VB in the way WE at nvidia like to use it, who cares it it breaks?’. And thus bug-ridden drivers are released. I have absolutely no doubt that the latest trilinear bump-depth-shadow-pixelling demos in directx11 look just superl33t at GDC with the amazing nvidia code. Just a pity that they couldn’t be assed to check if all the older applications still run isn’t it? Especially given that the entire modular COM design of directx is specifically designed to ensure 100% backwards compatibility.
Nvidia are still in a cold-war mentality arms race where they think all people want are features. It’s the same as Microsoft. “Give them new features!” “Shiny things!”. When Vista came out it was promoetd on the basis of the new flip-view. Have you ever used it? Me neither. Fuck features. I don’t want features. My mobile phone doesn’t even have a camera on it. My home phone doesn’t have an answering machine on it. Features do not get my money. Reliability and Performance gets my money.
If Windows 7 was advertised purely as “Vista, but more reliable, and quicker”, I’d buy it today. When I buy a video card I only care about how compatible it is. The performance difference these days between equal priced cards is so small they even need to blow up screenshots and use arrows pointing at pixels which show the difference. Who cares?
Worst of all, this obsession with tomorrows new feature rather than yesterdays compatibility is putting two pressures on pc game developers like me:
#1 take time away from making new PC games to actually go back and re-code old ones to work around nvidias latest ideas.
#2 Seriously think long term about doing browser games or console games, where this isn’t such a problem.
I’d hate to have to do either :(