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ZRP - A joint effort in fixing S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

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Question Do YOU want an unofficial patch?
Answers
Yes, I'm desperate!
Yeh, why not...
I don't care either way.
Could easily do without it...
Decane, stop spamming the forums with your dumb ideas! NO!
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  12:05:42  22 September 2007
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ras2
(Novice)
 
On forum: 06/11/2007
Messages: 11
Wondering if other people have noticed some odd and seemingly unprovoked slow downs in certain areas and if so, whether there's some way to fix them (and if so, whether such fixes might be appropriate for this project...).

For example, in the stalker's camp at Garbage, I sometimes get really serious lag as soon as I pass through the gate to the hall itself (i.e. when I pass the two stalkers who're uselessly guarding the wrong door). FPS drop to around 3-4 until I pass through the other opening, making it rather impossible to fight off the bandits.
It doesn't always happen and I haven't been able to spot any patterns; it doesn't seem to matter how many stalkers are around, what they're doing or whether there is a bandit attack in progress or whether I use nightvision or what time of day it is.
I may notice it more than others because of my underpowered system, but this is definitely not merely graphics lag, though, as it doesn't always happen (sometimes the factory can be full of stalkers and a full bandit attack can be in progress while a bunch of stalkers coming from the direction of the junkyard are attacking the bandits from the flank and no particular slow down is noticeable).

It also happens in a few other areas, but I forget which right now.
I get the impression that it might perhaps be caused by the engine trying to determine an action for a stalker or such and not being able to sort of reach a conclusion. Or something.

...

Does this sound familiar to anybody or is it just happening for me?
  20:20:42  22 September 2007
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NatVac
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4189
Decane's sticky topic "A Guide To Help Eliminate Stutter!" in the "Single player bugs" forum section is quite useful for reducing the lag, as a start.

I keep seeing incremental improvements in this as we discover what is going on. I may have a bit of an improvement in that specific area.

Lag causes and treatments:

1) Coming within switch_distance of a stash with stuff in it. This is related to item 4. You should not stash ammo in normal stashes; each bullet is an object just like a gun. You could also try increasing switch_distance in alife.ltx, although that will switch on some events earlier than you might expect.

2) Unsightly body buildup. Make bodies disappear faster.

3) Tossed weapons that never go away. Put the weapon back in the dead NPC's backpack.

4) Entities going on-line (object creation, memory allocation) or off-line (object destruction, garbage collection), primarily as a function of switch_distance. Increase switch_distance (see item 1), reduce entities (ugh), stagger entity creation, or lighten entity burden. Pausing the game a bit from time to time has been suggested to improve background garbage collection.

5) Thrashing due to the above, where the RAM is fragmented or occupied enough to force disk swapping. Especially bad with low VRAM, but high VRAM tends to have mirrored caches (MS has a recent Vista "fix" to eliminate one of these caches, making it like XP.) Get more RAM, tweak cache usage, reduce memory requirements by lower texture quality and lower resource utilization like special effects, background sounds, weather, etc.

6) Low-efficiency shader processing (e.g., fires, flickering lights, portals). Bug the devs to fix this or give you the option to bypass shaders. Maybe jjwalker of Float32 fame will fix this.

7) Dynamic resource loading. Ironically, the "-noprefetch" switch makes this worse, although it helps in other ways. You'll see lag while the game loads a sound effect from a database file, just before it plays it: wind rushing, thunder, growls, etc. It's probably unpacking the sounds each time, too. Maybe extracting/unpacking the sounds from the database files might help. Removing some of the sounds does help.

This is not an exhaustive list. You might be experiencing the first four, ras2. Some of these, like item 1, you can fix or improve yourself.

The major lag in that section is likely due to the bandits coming back on-line about 150-200 meters west of your position. Some are created with harmonicas, medkits, and bandages that they never use, and that are destroyed when they die. The game creates a new set of resources for you, except for the gun(s) and special items like flash keys.

I've made some strides with improving the effects of items 2, 3, 4, and 7 (which implies item 5 as a consequence).

_____________
P.S. Those stalkers are "uselessly guarding the front door" because you are good at keeping the bandits on the west side. Let a couple get around you, and the stalkers prove to be of some value. They do seem to be deaf to what's going on behind them, however!

Keywords for future searches: CausesOfLag, LagCauses, ThatRunDownFeeling
  21:08:16  22 September 2007
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silverpower
short-haired anarchist hippy scum
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 08/26/2007
Messages: 790

---QUOTATION---

5) Thrashing due to the above, where the RAM is fragmented or occupied enough to force disk swapping. Especially bad with low VRAM, but high VRAM tends to have mirrored caches (MS has a recent Vista "fix" to eliminate one of these caches, making it like XP.) Get more RAM, tweak cache usage, reduce memory requirements by lower texture quality and lower resource utilization like special effects, background sounds, weather, etc.

---END QUOTATION---



I've been running the game on a 512MB/128MB system for quite a while (I now have 256MB VRAM, apparently, but I'm not 100% sure - ATi Tray Tools could be futzing with my head). The most important thing you can do is watch your memory statistics via ATi Tray Tools (the OSD may work on nVidia, not sure). It can show you VRAM free, texture memory free and system memory used. On a system like this, Stalker is *extremely* I/O-intensive. To combat this, I run an LOD hack via a modified external.ltx that lets me run *some* textures at 100% and the rest at a lower level. This is important, because you only have room for so many lightmaps, terrains and other suchlike, so it's best to prioritize. Don't run AI dynamic lighting / NPC flashlights - those need lightmaps, CPU and GPU time, and most importantly, VRAM, which you may not have.

I haven't tried using prefetch, but I've noticed that 1.0004's new garbage collection sometimes dumps all the prefetched data out of memory as soon as it starts pulling in the level (Loading CFORM).


---QUOTATION---

6) Low-efficiency shader processing (e.g., fires, flickering lights, portals). Bug the devs to fix this or give you the option to bypass shaders. Maybe jjwalker of Float32 fame will fix this.

---END QUOTATION---



Doubtful. His shaders are tuned for appearance, not performance. The shaders you're referring to can be killed via using -nodistort. Using Redux-style anomalies may help with this, too.


---QUOTATION---

7) Dynamic resource loading. Ironically, the "-noprefetch" switch makes this worse, although it helps in other ways. You'll see lag while the game loads a sound effect from a database file, just before it plays it: wind rushing, thunder, growls, etc. It's probably unpacking the sounds each time, too. Maybe extracting/unpacking the sounds from the database files might help. Removing some of the sounds does help.

---END QUOTATION---



I've noticed slightly less stutter when firing/drawing a new weapon when I'm running a sound pack. I'd concur with this assessment.

Oh, and since the switch_distance is around 150, there's little point to having view distance set higher than you need for 200m or so - *unless* you have the system for it.
  23:42:26  22 September 2007
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NatVac
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4189
Thanks for the feedback, silverpower. Some useful stuff there.

I found that "-nodistort" helps to reduce the stutter, but it turns Burner anomalies into real surprises. There are still some post-process shader problems -- I fixed a crash I was experiencing in Army Warehouses by disabling one of the stacked post processing effects when the Controller is nearby (where the screen flashes red).

I thought dynamic lighting effects didn't use lightmaps (which are needed for static lighting). But they definitely use more CPU, GPU, VRAM, etc. I'll put up with the slowdown just to be able to know where the baddies are at night.

I was already using "-noprefetch" because I didn't like the longer load times, but your research leads me to conclude that prefetching is wasted. Typical "peephole optimization" consequence...

While jjwalker's efforts are primarily on appearance, he has worked on FPS improvements, and has mentioned addressing the FPS drop due to shader processing. But I agree that it is doubtful he'll fix the shader lag. I just expect more from folks outside the developers for fixing these problems.

I am under the impression that some Russian folks like to use 1500 for switch_distance. The game takes longer to get out of "Synchronizing", NPCs are hyper-sensitive to stuff happening across the map, and some fights start up long before you get there -- but the spawn lag is gone.
  10:02:47  23 September 2007
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ras2
(Novice)
 
On forum: 06/11/2007
Messages: 11

---QUOTATION---
Decane's sticky topic "A Guide To Help Eliminate Stutter!" in the "Single player bugs" forum section is quite useful for reducing the lag, as a start.

I keep seeing incremental improvements in this as we discover what is going on. I may have a bit of an improvement in that specific area.

Lag causes and treatments:

1) Coming within switch_distance of a stash with stuff in it. This is related to item 4. You should not stash ammo in normal stashes; each bullet is an object just like a gun. You could also try increasing switch_distance in alife.ltx, although that will switch on some events earlier than you might expect.

2) Unsightly body buildup. Make bodies disappear faster.
---END QUOTATION---


yeah, I need to find a suitable setting for this; sometimes it's nice to be able to come back and pick up the stuff you couldn't carry the first time.

It seems pretty random anyway. I made a short trek into Yantar to buy a proper suit after saving Kruglov and when I came back to Wild Territory, all the bodies from the last bout had already gone, even if I hadn't even been away for half a day.
But things were a bit odd in other ways, so perhaps that had something to do with it; there were the usual Mercs on top of the unfinished concrete building and a few bandits, but no mutants. When I got to the exit, a mixed crowd of rodents and pseudodogs suddenly spawned, followed by four snorks, then a horde of normal dogs and then two bandits and a neutral stalker and finished off by another bunch of rodents. Never seen that many spawns in one place before.


---QUOTATION---
3) Tossed weapons that never go away. Put the weapon back in the dead NPC's backpack.
---END QUOTATION---


yes, I spend a lot of time doing that.

Even if permanent bodies are better for stashing things in than normal stash objects, it must be a good idea to 'empty' them for things you don't want to keep (i.e. move Makarovs and other stuff to bodies that will disappear), right?

<...>


---QUOTATION---
This is not an exhaustive list. You might be experiencing the first four, ras2. Some of these, like item 1, you can fix or improve yourself.

The major lag in that section is likely due to the bandits coming back on-line about 150-200 meters west of your position. Some are created with harmonicas, medkits, and bandages that they never use, and that are destroyed when they die. The game creates a new set of resources for you, except for the gun(s) and special items like flash keys.
---END QUOTATION---


That would explain why the cutoff of the area where the slowdown starts is so sharp, at least.
In a new game last night I came from Agroprom into Garbage, killed the bandits attacking the factory from behind and then, after I'd gotten the quest solved message, went into the factory. When I reached the
defensive line where the stalkers usually stay, I suddenly got the same slowdown again. There were only two stalkers left (aside from the two guards outside) and this was too close for it to be caused by the activation switch, so it seemed rather odd. It went away when I got just outside the factory hall again (just two steps out seemed to fix it).

I should also mention that when I get this kind of lag, the 'loading' icon doesn't show, but then, I don't know how reliable that is either.


---QUOTATION---
P.S. Those stalkers are "uselessly guarding the front door" because you are good at keeping the bandits on the west side. Let a couple get around you, and the stalkers prove to be of some value. They do seem to be deaf to what's going on behind them, however!
---END QUOTATION---


yes, extremely. Also a bit unfair because the current couple is more experienced and have better weapons than those inside the factory
(I have problems getting those rookie stalkers who're crouching at the defensive line to pick up new weapons).
  21:52:27  24 September 2007
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NatVac
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4189
Okay, I have a new feature working that I think may prove useful: There's a menu button for "Save level game" above "Save game" now.* It creates a named save of the form "levelname_gametime" when you click it. Example: l07_military_20120515_072545.sav/.dds

You are then immediately returned to the game, so it's only slightly more work than a quicksave, and very convenient for making those pre- and post-level-transition saves.

The "get auto-quests from trader dialog" works, but it's a bit annoying. As an alternative, how about the auto-quests being offered, but you can't fail them? In other words: you are notified of the task in the usual way, but if you don't do them, you get "Task rescinded" instead of "Task failed" and nothing is added to your Failed Tasks list.

Also, I'm thinking of an auto-quest variable multiplier to go along with my quest_days quest time limit variable. If the quest_days variable is set to 2, and the autoquest_factor is 3, then the number of days to complete the automatic task is 6. You would be able to set these variables at the top of the task_manager.script file.

To turn off auto-quests for now, simply comment out this line in bind_stalker.script, function actor_binder:update(delta) with a pair of hyphens:

		task_manager.actor_update()


so that it looks like this:

		-- task_manager.actor_update()


ras2, most weapons are automatically stored in the backpack for you in this patch. The lag at the hangar might be fire-barrel shader lag if you don't see the disk icon flash.

_____________
*I was looking at the code and saw that pressing "q" in the save/load menu will quit the game.
  15:55:02  29 September 2007
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Decane
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 04/04/2007
Messages: 1666
Hey NatVac, are you planning on releasing these fixes in the near future? Also, with regard to the alternative form of obtaining auto-tasks, I'd really appreciate it if you could just go with the "get auto-quests from trader dialog" method. Seriously, even the popping up of one of those darn quests makes me reach for my revolver... Of course, if it's too tedious, maybe you could tell me how it's done so I can help you out, or even do the whole thing myself. Of course, this is assuming the job is doable by someone who doesn't know anything about scripting in advance...
  22:37:15  29 September 2007
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NatVac
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4189
>> Hey NatVac, are you planning on releasing these fixes in the near future?

Heh. I was planning on releasing my fixes in the near past. Then you started this thread. Most of the new work has been on changing and tweaking the task manager. Testing this stuff is incredibly time-consuming in STALKER, the slowest-loading game I've ever played, especially when I have to cross levels.

I'll admit the wind went out of my sails a bit when you released your "Improved English Localization" mod, Decane. That made a lot of my work redundant. But it's okay; the mod will have more of my "interpretation" in it. (I'm considering "If irritation develops, discontinue use" as my mod motto.) Maybe we can merge something later...

Let me tell you what works and how. Please note that all of this is a) subject to change by me based on feedback, and b) generally customizable by the player.

All "eliminate camp" auto-quests and some "defend camp" ones have been converted to standard (trader/leader dialog) quests, but there are some issues, so I'll be converting a couple back.

That's because I'm having a bit of trouble making some auto-quests standard:

1) Timing and distance. You may not want to travel to Sid for the bloodsucker in Dark Valley quest, especially if you don't know there is one after taking on a non-X18 Dark Valley quest from the Barkeep or Voronin.

Proposed workaround: Set the need_return flag to false. See below. Also: if you really can't fail Sid's DV bloodsucker task, why not just give it?

2) To get an "eliminate camp" quest, there have to be targets already there, which might not be true at the moment when you are talking to to the source of the quest, but is true when you are at the location.

Okay, this might just mean that some tasks don't get offered.

3) Adding standard quests puts them in the category rotation.* You might not want "kill the dogs", but you won't get the next "eliminate camp" quest untill you do it.

Current workaround: Double up on some offered tasks by setting the "prior" flag to the same number. For example, Voronin can offer both the "Get rid of the pack of dogs" and "Destroy the bandits", both Garbage tasks. Unfortunately, you can only pick one per rotation.

This is easy in some places. No more auto-quests with Sakharov; he offers both the Yantar snork quest and the Wild Territory mutant dog quest at the same time when you "talk" to him.

The task flag "need_return" when set to false eliminates the need to return to the source. So "Kill the zombies" works like this: you take the quest from Voronin (directly) and complete it in Yantar without having to travel back to him to collect. I haven't confirmed that you get the reward money wired to you (instead of the original ammo), but the task does complete.

I'm going to use this for a couple of the few auto-quests on different levels, like "Eliminate the bandits below the Agroprom". That's something that you are going to do anyway. Yes, this is fixed with bardak's patch; no off-line bandits to keep you from completing it.

So: What auto-quests are okay as auto-quests? Especially if you don't have to return to the quest source.

The game engine controls the task updates; I can't keep a task from being added to the "Tasks failed" list if it fails. The only thing I can do is lower number of the auto-quests. But I now think some auto-quests should be auto-quests, like "Protect the stalkers at the campsite" in Army Warehouses.

The final bit of good news is that there is an "idle_time" flag that can be set high on auto-quests, so that you don't get them again for a loooong time.

As Jonny 5 said: "Input! Iiiinnnnput!"

Quick question: Has anyone ever got an auto-quest in Red Forest to "Kill the stalker from the Monolith grouping"? I want to take it out.

_______________
*You are offered available tasks from several categories: eliminate camp, defend camp, kill the stalker, find the item (like artifact, mutant part, etc.). Only category tasks with the same "prior" value are offered at the same time.
  08:44:55  30 September 2007
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Decane
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 04/04/2007
Messages: 1666

---QUOTATION---
So: What auto-quests are okay as auto-quests?
---END QUOTATION---


The "defend the camp" -type ones. They are IMO the only quests which make sense as auto-quests since you can actually imagine being notified of a bandit raid when traversing the Garbage. A call for help will either be rewarded or, if not responded to, neglected and subsequently failed.

---QUOTATION---
I now think some auto-quests should be auto-quests, like "Protect the stalkers at the campsite" in Army Warehouses.
---END QUOTATION---


Yep..

---QUOTATION---
The final bit of good news is that there is an "idle_time" flag that can be set high on auto-quests, so that you don't get them again for a loooong time.
---END QUOTATION---


If everything in your "unofficial patch" will indeed be customizable, this is great news for those of us who don't want to receive a "defend the stalkers at the Garbage" mission each and every freaken time we go to the Garbage. Hell, I might just set the timer to about, oh I don't know... 999999....?

---QUOTATION---
Has anyone ever got an auto-quest in Red Forest to "Kill the stalker from the Monolith grouping"? I want to take it out.
---END QUOTATION---


Never even heard of such a quest.
  08:15:56  1 October 2007
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NatVac
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4189
I had to add the no-return reward support, but it works just fine.

Here's the current list of auto-quests. After they are done, they won't happen again for 10 days (default; changeable). NRFR: No return for reward.

Sid, the trader in Cordon:
Eliminate the bandits below the Agroprom Research Institute - NRFR
Kill the bloodsucker in the Dark Valley - NRFR

Barkeep:
Protect the stalkers' camp at the Garbage from bandits' assault
Protect the security post of the Duty (never seen this given yet)
Kill the stalker from the Monolith faction - NRFR

Sakharov (Ecologists):
None

Voronin (Duty):
None

Lukash (Freedom):
Protect the stalkers at the campsite (was "at the Agroprom" )
Protect border

Again, the kill-the-mutants auto-quests are now standard quests, doubled-up with others in the "Eliminate the camp" category, so you can skip them the first time through the rotation.

Any comments on the above?

Here's an example PDA pic showing some of the features of the mod with the changes you requested, Decane, plus some stuff that was already there. Warning: some spoilers here; don't read the text if you haven't played through the Red Forest level.

[link]http://img470.imageshack.us/img470/9867/ss093007234933l10radarho5.jpg[/link]

In the pic, on the lower left is the PDA's Diary links. On the right side, we see examples of updates on an auto-quest to kill the Monolith stalker (given in Red Forest). There is an entry for a secret obtained, with its Yantar map level abbreviation, and there is an example "Stash emptied" notification.

Finally, note the storyline task progress. At the bottom of the message history is "Deactivate the machine" objective of the "Turn off the Brain Scorcher" quest. Above it you'll see the "Task Complete" notice for that quest, with a new quest added.

Getting the "Destroy the Controller" quest from Voronin (note the no-return info):

[link]http://img379.imageshack.us/img379/3866/ss093007043648l05barhx1.jpg[/link]

Getting auto-quest update notices and rewards transmitted to you:
[link]http://img231.imageshack.us/img231/2122/ss093007175017l10radarsg9.jpg[/link]

I'm still performing some surgery to finish separating the conjoined mods, so that the armors don't say what their stats are before you buy, etc. I'll be posting a "first look" version of the ZRP mod in a day or so.

___________________
silverpower: Your sig currently sports one of my all-time favorite quotes from that show (or any other).

Aliens to Sheridan: "We thought you were dead!"
Sheridan: "I was. I'm better now."
 
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