Continuum Graphics August 2019 Progress Update

Here we are, back for another monthly progress update. Got a good bit done this month, despite working on some behind the scenes stuff. Lets get into it shall we?


Continuum 2.1

Aside from tons of fixes, tweaks and optimizations, a few notable things were added to 2.1 Alpha this month, including our first pass on Screen Space Reflections (SSR), a much improved autocam, partial LabPBR support & my personal favorite, even more polish on the Volumetric Clouds. Here’s a gallery of some of my favorite screenshots of the clouds:

The Clouds in particular have gotten very, very good. They’re without a doubt the best real time Volumetric Clouds I’ve ever seen. Kudos to Robobo, which put in most if not all of the work to get them to this point. And the other new features and tweaks have helped the overall look of the shader quite a bit as well. The new autocam reduces the instances of area’s appearing too dark or too bright when they shouldn’t, & SSR gives realistic reflections as well as helping to ground objects in the world, as demonstrated in the comparison shots below: (click to enlarge)

SSR Off

SSR On, notice the subtle reflection of the tree and grass in the background on the ground.

Work on 2.1 Alpha is moving at a steady pace. Hopefully we will be moving on to Beta soon™, though we will not be announcing a timeframe on that until we are a bit more confident.


Continuum 2.0

It’s been a while since we’ve had a 2.0 section, so some of you may be asking; why update 2.0?We don’t blame you, as 2.0 is fully released and work on 2.1 is well underway.

The answer is simple: LabPBR.

Since 2.1 isn’t ready for release, and we want to fully transition to LabPBR for Stratum, we needed a publically available shader that supported the format. So we took this opportunity to update 2.0.2 to 2.0.3. So it’s default specular format is now LabPBR, for ease of use with Stratum Updates going forward. The old Continuum format as well as the previous OLD option are still available in the settings for those that wish to use them as well.

In addition, we threw in a new and improved AMD fix that should allow 2.0.3 to function just as well on AMD GPUs as it does on Nvidia GPUs. No more separate ‘test’ workaround with missing graphical effects for AMD users! We also fixed a few minor bugs here and there. You can grab 2.0.3 from our downloads page now!


Legacy and RT

Legacy is still on the backburner while 2.1 Alpha and RT are worked on, but as we’ve said before, it will benefit greatly from 2.1 development. Once dev time opens up and work on Legacy resumes, it should move fairly quickly.

As for RT, we have been doing some backend work to prepare for its Alpha release. We will share a bit more about that when we are ready.


Stratum

As usual, Stratum has had a fair few updates this month, one we’ve already talked about earlier in this blog; the move to LabPBR.

As of the time of writing this, all the Master branches of Stratum (MC 1.13+), have been converted to Lab, with the 1.12.2 branches coming soon. Going forward, all branches and updates to those branches will be done in LabPBR. So users will need to be using a shader compatible with Lab, such as 2.0.3, 2.1, or any other shader from the official LabPBR wiki’s list, which you can find here.

With that aside, here’s usual monthly texture updates:

Added/Replaced:

  • Coal Ore V1

  • Terracotta

  • Farmland

  • Replaced Clay

  • Replaced Spawner

Tweaked/Fixed:

  • Farmland texture improvements

  • Tweaks to Sand

  • Tweaks to Wool

And here’s selection of screenshots of some of these updates (click to enlarge):


Site Updates

Work on the site, both forward facing, and backend, continues. The FAQ page is still being updated, and the System Requirements page should go live soon. Also, as some of you may have noticed, Continuum Tier 1 and Tier 2 are no longer on the store. Users who have already purchased these Tiers will still be getting 2.1 Beta/RC as promised, and they can still utilize the upgrade options in the shop as well, but from now onwards, Tier 1 & Tier 2 will not be sold, & will likely be phased out completely once 2.1 is fully released.

We have a few reasons for this, but chief of which is simplification. It makes some of our backend updates much easier. As for what those backend updates will entail, well, we will be sharing more info about that when the time is right, but they should make purchases and whatnot much easier on new and existing users.


Community

This month was a active one for the community as well, with our Discord server reaching, and exceeding 5,000 members! As promised, we hosted another screenshot contest to celebrate, and we had a lot of good submissions, all using Continuum Shaders of course.

Here are the top 3, as voted by our Discord Community (click to enlarge):

1st place winner from Discord Community member JoubaMety

2nd place winner from Discord Community member Storm

And our 3rd place winner from Discord Community member Arisha

Here are our runner ups, from Hydrology, Nira Seyariu, & Sir Mervin Hurr (click to enlarge):

A big thank you to everyone that participated in our contest, either by submitting an image or even just voting! We can’t wait to do it again.


That about wraps it up for August. We hope to see you back here again for our September progress update.

Thank you for your continued support!


Continuum Graphics July 2019 Progress Update

We’ve had another fairly busy month, and that means lots to share!

Let’s get into it…


Continuum 2.1

2.1 has made a lot of good progress this month, with the first implementations of Volumetric Clouds, some improvements to POM, first implementation of Specular, as well as a lot more polish on the sky in general. Those of you that follow us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Discord may have already seen most of these updates, but for those that haven’t here’s some screens:

Most of these features will continue to be polished as development goes on, and things that are still missing, like torch lighting, weather, night, etc., will be added in the coming weeks.

Before we move on, me and the team thought it would be interesting to compare Alpha 2.1 in this stage of development to Alpha 2.0, just to see how much we have evolved…

2.1 Alpha right now, after ~5 months of continuous development (click to enlarge, FPS in top left)

2.0 Alpha, also after ~5 months of development (click to enlarge, FPS in top left)

As you can tell, 2.1 is much farther along, both in quality & features. It has Volumetric Clouds, POM, better shadows, etc., all things 2.0 lacked at this stage & it runs a good bit faster.

As far as settings go, both shots are taken on the same PC, with 16 chunk render at 1440p, with Stratum 256x. 2.0 Alpha is using default settings, but 2.1 Alphas settings aren’t quite default. 2.1 actually has Volumetric Clouds enabled, as well as POM, which is a FPS hit for it vs 2.0. They would be on in 2.0 but as mentioned above, 2.0 did not have those features at all at this stage of development. If the settings were the same, 2.1 would be even faster.

Despite that, 2.1 Alpha is running nearly 2x faster in this scenario than 2.0 Alpha (164fps vs 86fps), and again, that is with more effects and less bugs.

2.1 still has a ways to go before it’s ready for release, but it is moving along much quicker than 2.0 did. There is still some more room for optimization too, especially after some recent effect additions, like the Volumetric Clouds mentioned above. So it will likely gain some more speed going forward.

The main reason we have been able to move so much faster with 2.1 is our community. Your continued support over the years has allowed us to do what we love, and to do it faster/better than ever before…so from all of us here at Continuum Graphics, thank you :)


Continuum RT and Legacy

Work on RT is progressing nicely. Some Discord Community members may have seen the first teaser images we released about halfway through the month:

Keep in mind, it’s still quite early, but it works! Though it already had some updates since this screenshot was taken and is already a bit faster still. It’s also capable of ray tracing all the way out to a 32 chunk render distance (if you want, though full 32 chunk requires a 16K shadowmap resolution, so unfortunately 32 is quite slow). It’s just shadow and color for now though. More info to come soon™ :)

As for Legacy, sadly, not much has been going on with it this month. Again, the main focus for the whole shader dev team has been 2.1 and RT. Once more is done on those fronts work on Legacy will no doubt speed up considerably.


Stratum

Stratum had its fair share of updates this month as well. Also, LabPBR is still being evaluated internally and I personally hope to see us start making the switch within the month. Anyway, onto the updates:

Tweaked/Fixed

  • Diorite green channel issue

  • Grass path rotation issue

Added:

  • Diorite

  • Andesite

  • Melon

  • Polished Granite

  • Grasspath Side

  • Smooth Stone Slab

    Screenshots of these additions/fixes below, taken with 2.0.2, as usual (click to enlarge)


Site

Some of you might have noticed, we have added a FAQ section to the site (along the top banner, in a dropdown under INFO), and internally, system requirements and updated tutorial pages are being worked on. These will all be rolled out in the coming weeks and updated as necessary. They should be useful resources to those that need them.


Automation

Our new automation system for orders has undergone quite a few updates and fixes as well. It is now even more reliable, can handle normal orders as well as valid upgrade orders, and can even handle assigning roles in the Discord server with the only input needed being your order number. It’s been fully deployed and will continued to be closely monitored for potential issues, but we are fairly confident in its ability to handle orders accurately now. It should improve the order and role process quite a bit :)


Community

We are growing ever closer to 5K Discord members. Last I checked we were around 4750. Once we reach 5K we will be hosting another Screenshot Contest on the server. Prizes will be a bit bigger than usual too I think, since 5K is a pretty big numer and this will be our third contest. Be sure to join us in the server for contests like these, ask questions, get help, keep up with updates, or hangout with the community and developers. You can join or invite friends that haven’t joined with this link.


That’s about it for this month. I hope to see you all back again for next months progress update!


Continuum Graphics June 2019 Progress Update

Hey guys, little late with this one, but between some recent projects behind the scenes, the 4th of July and some personal stuff, this update had to be pushed back a bit. Better late than never though right?


Continuum 2.1

We’ve been working on the sky this month, and have made some good, albeit slow progress with that. You see, the current sky is the slowest part of Continuum 2.1, as slow as all the rest of the shader components put together. So we are switching to a prebaked sky LUT. This is a common modern standard that engines like Frostbite implement, and have good documentation on, and ours takes some new info from some recent papers into account as well. Currently we have the sky code ready to go, but we need to generate the LUT itself. We are in the process of creating an electron based application that will do this for us, as well as act as a Continuum setting manager, which will allow you to configure settings, create profiles, and maybe more down the road.

This application is currently in development, but isn’t a terribly easy task, as we have to create the application, create the generation code, loading code, and game code. We need this application now because the generation code needs to simulate a near perfect atmosphere. This is nearly impossible to do in real time. Generating it outside of the game using multisample spectral tracing enables us to create lifelike skies, at every time of day, every altitude, and every angle. We can generate all this info and pack it down into data that can be quickly extracted for later use in game. This should bring our sky down from the current ~2.5ms it takes to render at 1080p now (which is around half of the current render time for a frame in 2.1), to a mere .05ms on modern hardware. That is a very significant performance difference.

We are making good progress on all of this, but we have another small roadblock at the moment with it. We will need 3D textures to make this work, as the 2D ones we planned to use don’t have enough bit depth and that makes the current implementation impossible. Sadly, Optifine currently does not support them. We have written the code needed to add support and sent it along, but we don’t know if Optilad will use it, implement his own, or how long any of that will take. Hopefully it will be soon though.


Legacy and RT

The main focus this month has been the sky and Continuum settings manager for that, mostly because 2.1 is still the main focus, but also because Legacy and RT will likely be using aspects of the sky code we are working on for 2.1. One of our shader devs was also on a much deserved vacation for the latter half of this month. More updates on these shaders will be coming soon.


Stratum

Stratum has been progressing steadily as usual. Before we get into the usual updates, I want to take a moment to talk about the labPBR Specular Format that we hope to transition Stratum to soon, as I don’t think we have touched upon it in a blog yet and we think it is a fairly important step the shader community needs to take.

You see, the Minecraft shader and resourcepack community has a bit of a problem: no one can agree on a standard specular format. We use our own in Continuum, and support a alternative older method for support for some older resource packs, but shaders like SEUS use another, and this kinda thing can, and does lead to major or minor incompatibilities between shaders and resource packs.

Many of you have seen this with Pulchra and Continuum 2.0 if used without the Continuum Addon. That Addon contains Specular textures in Continuum’s format to fix the incompatibility. We have recently released a Addon for Stratum that does the same thing, but for SEUS PTGI and Renewed, due to their recent popularity. You can find it on the GitLab, in the same dropdown box as the 1.12.2 branch. It is currently only compatible with MC 1.13 and up, and needs to be loaded above the base resourcepack to function.

Anyway, back on topic…the reason we need these addons is simple. We lack a single, standardized Specular format for shaders and resourcepacks to use. Many in the community have the desire to rectify this, and make both users and creators lives easier. Thus, labPBR was born. You can find more info about it in it’s channel on the ShaderLabs server, here, or on the GitHub here. We encourage shader and resourcepack creators to go check it out, maybe give them some feedback if you see something you don’t like, and consider switching to it. Normal users might also want to let their favorite creators know about the new format if they don’t already know of it, but don’t spam them please :)

We plan to switch Stratum and Continuum to labPBR as soon as we feel it is ready, and we hope many others will do the same.

Anyway, onto the Stratum Updates for the month:

Tweaked/Fixed

  • Grass Normal fixes

  • Leaf Model Lighting fix for SEUS

  • Diorite Normal fix

Added

  • Birch Log Tops

  • Endstone

  • Oak Leaf Specular maps

  • Endstone Bricks

  • Dark Oak Log

  • Granite

  • Double Ferns

  • Diorite

  • Higher Performance/slightly lower quality Leaf model branch

  • SEUS Specular Addon for MC 1.13+ Branch

Screenshots of these additions/fixes below, taken with 2.0.2, as usual (click to enlarge):


Automation & Site Updates

We also finally got around to building out a new order bot. There have already been a few minor growing pains associated with this, but most have been resolved quickly. The bot has already been a huge help and is very quick…usually processing orders within seconds of them arriving. We will continue testing in the coming weeks and expanding its functionality, as it still doesn’t handle things like upgrade orders or Discord roles.

The extra time this will afford me personally will be partly going into some site updates. I plan to finally implement a FAQ to the site, update the tutorials and maybe clean up a few things here and there. Look out for those updates in the coming month.


Community

Our community has been quite active this month as well. The Discord has grown to over 4300 members, and we were featured in a video from Hodilton, which I’m sure quite a few of you have seen. For those that haven’t though, I’ll embed it below. We will probably have another little screenshot contest on the Discord server at 5K members, so watch out for that as well.


That about wraps it up for last months update. Some exciting things ahead. Thanks for sticking with us and supporting us. It allows us to continue doing what we love!

See you again next month :)




Continuum Graphics May 2019 Progress Update

We’ve certainly been busy this month, as those of you that follow us on social media may know…but for those that don’t, let’s get into it.


Continuum 2.1

2.1 has been a long time coming, and a lot happened this month in regards to it, so I’ve decided that it’s going to get it’s own full section, as we have lots to talk about…

As many of you likely already know, we finally got all the big technical hurdles with 2.1 figured out, and we were able to push our first Alpha release. It’s long overdue, but we are very happy it’s finally here. With that said, it is far from done. This is an Alpha release after all. It is quite far from the polished, optimized, and complete shader we aim to provide you all with upon 2.1’s full release. But the journey to release has begun.

For those of you not familiar with 2.1, it is the next evolution of our namesake shader. It’s been completely rewritten from the ground up with a heavy focus on keeping it as performant as possible, while not sacrificing the features the community has come to love, and even adding a few more. Here’s a list of some of the features you can expect to see in 2.1:

  • Enhanced performance over previous 1.X and 2.X releases

  • PBR Material Support (POM, PBR Specular, PBR Diffuse)

  • PBR Photometric Lighting System (PBR HDR Lighting)

  • PBR Camera System (Exposure, Grain, Motion Blur, DoF)

  • ACES Color Grading with configurable LMT

  • PBR Volumetrics (VL, Clouds, Water Fog)

  • Stochastic Screen Space Reflections

  • Global Illumination (RSM)

  • GTAO (Screen Space Ground Truth AO)

  • HRT Shadows (Hybrid Ray Traced Shadows)

  • Dynamic Weather and Wind Systems

  • And more!

    Here are a few screenshots of 2.1 vs 2.0 (click to enlarge)

Performance is up significantly over 2.0, and although quite a few effects are still missing from the current Alpha, a few optimizations are as well. We expect to be able to get 2.1 to effect parity with 2.0 in scenes like this, but without significantly affecting it’s current framerate. This will take time, but we are quite excited about 2.1’s possible performance.

As mentioned lot of features are still being added, but the basic framework is in and updates are rolling out quite frequently. Some notable ones have already rolled out since the initial launch, including:

  • The first implementation of POM (Parallax Occlusion Mapping)

  • A more performant and plain easier to deal with fix for POM bugs on foliage textures

  • And my personal favorite, Robo’s implementation of Contact Shadows

    Here are a few screenshots showing off some of these updates (click for a closer look)

    2.1 is on the left, 2.0 on the right

Notice how much closer to the object casting shadows 2.1 gets vs 2.0. This may be improved even more in the future, but it is already quite the improvement over 2.0.

These screenshots also show off the fix for the POM glitches on foliage, which you can see around the top and the sides of the grass in 2.0, but not in 2.1.

Continuum Tier 3
30.00

Continuum Shader 2.1 Release Candidates (RC’s), Beta & Alpha

Add To Cart

Updates will continue coming to the Alpha branch as soon as they are ready. If testing the newest builds of our latest shader as soon as they are available sounds like something you might want to do and/or you just want to support the continued development of Continuum 2.1, grab yourself Tier 3 Continuum Early Access:

If you already have a Continuum Early Access package, but only Tier 1 or Tier 2, and thus not access to Alpha versions, and you wish to upgrade to get immediate access to the Continuum 2.1 Alpha, you can grab one of our upgrade packages; just make sure you grab the right one for your current package:

 
 

If you would prefer to wait for Beta, RC, or even the final release, that’s fine as well. Just choose the appropriate package for you.


Legacy and RT

We have some good news for fans of 1.3’s look and feel, but not of its performance and general outdated-ness…Robo and Jake have begun work on Legacy! It’s still early, but we will hopefully have some teasers and info to share with you all in the coming weeks.

As for Continuum RT…well, we are one step closer to having something new to show you, but as we have said before, 2.1 is going to take precedence over RT for the time being. Once 2.1 is in a more feature complete state and the devs have the free time to allocate to it, work on RT should speed up considerably. Just be patient with us here. We know a lot of you are excited for RT, and we are too. But we don’t want to rush into this, and we have a lot on our plate at the moment as well.

Soon™.


Stratum

The Stratum developers have not been sitting idly by while the Continuum developers have all the fun though…they have pushed quite a few updates to Stratum this month. I’ll be going over most of the additions, tweaks and fixes here.

Added

  • Birch, Acacia, Jungle, Dark Oak, & Spruce Planks

  • These textures also apply to the remaining wooden fences, stairs, and slabs, buttons, etc.

  • Birch Leaves

  • Double Tall Grass

  • Grass Paths

Tweaked/Fixed

  • Fixed issues with Bedrock blockstates

  • Fixed issues with Birch Leaf specular

As usual, you can view the more detailed commit history here.

Some screenshots of this months additions (click to enlarge)


Community

The community, especially on YouTube, has been busy this month as well. Here are just a few of the videos made by our wonderful community members this month:

FernFox created the two videos you see above this month, they’re definitely worth a watch :)

YouTuber Willzy created this nice little showcase using Stratum and Continuum

If you have created your own videos of Continuum/Stratum and would like to share them with us, we would love to see them! You can do so via any of our social media accounts or our Discord server.


That about wraps up this month’s Progress Report. We will be back next month with more 2.1, Legacy, RT, and Stratum news. If you want to keep up with us in the meantime, consider following us on Facebook or Twitter, or even joining our Discord community!

Thank you all for your continued support.


Continuum Graphics April 2019 Progress Update

Here we are, another month has passed…what have we been up to?

Those of you that follow us closely likely already know, but for those of you that don’t, or might have missed something…well, we will catch you up here.


Stratum

I’ll start with Stratum, since it’s been the focus of most of our attention lately.

It has had a fair few additions this month, as well as a lot of miscellaneous tweaks and fixes. You might have seen many of the additions on our Social Media already, but I’ll go over them here again for those that haven’t, or for those that would like to see them all in one place.

Tweaked/fixed

  • Iron block improvements

  • Fixed Grass Normals

  • Improved Grass Texture

  • Fixed Leaf Block model issues, in hand, in UI and when dropped

  • Improved Stone tiling

  • Tweaked Grass Side

Added

  • Bedrock

  • Gravel

  • Oak Planks; this texture also applies to:

  • Oak Stairs

  • Oak Slabs

  • Oak Fence

You can view the more detailed commit history here.

Here’s some screenshots of these additions and tweaks, taken in game with Continuum 2.0.2 (click to enlarge)


Continuum 2.1, Legacy, and yes, RT

Between tax season, and some personal troubles, DotModded hasn’t had a whole lot of time to work on the current blockers for the Continuum Base. That said, taxes are almost done, and he is in much better spirits! He should be getting back into the swing of things soon. This means that with any luck, the last 12.5% of performance we want to squeeze out of the Base will be found, and we can begin to build out Continuum 2.1 on top of it. Once we do, we will push the first Alpha release, something I know a lot of you have been looking forward to.

Once the Base is done, work on Legacy, the fully updated and cleaned up version of 1.3, will commence. Robo and Jake are particularly excited to get started on it, and we will share more news about it when we have it, but rest assured, we have not forgotten about it.

And last but not least, RT…Continuum RT will also be built upon the same Base as 2.1 and Legacy, and work on it is scheduled to resume shortly after. Dot is very excited to get to work on this, and we know a lot of you guy are very excited to see it, so we will share more info as soon as we can.


Discord Community

Some interesting things happened in our Discord Community Server this month. We hosted our second Continuum Screenshot Contest to celebrate reaching 2000 members. We got a lot of great submissions, but Karrasko managed to get the most votes and take the 1st place spot, with Jman and ET-Gamer taking 2nd and 3rd respectively. We would like to thank everyone for their participation and we look forward to doing it again!

Here’s a little gallery of the winning submissions, in order from 1st to 3rd:

We also had a Discord exclusive discount code for a few days this month, just to give back to our community there a bit. If you don’t want to miss future contests or potential discount codes, or just want to join our Discord community, you’re more than welcome to join us. Here’s the invite link.


Before we go…

We wanted to mention, and thank Ultimate Immersion for his terrific video showcasing both Continuum and Stratum! You can check it out below and maybe give him a sub :)


With that said, this monthly update is over. we will see you guys again next month.

Thank you for your continued support, we couldn’t do it without you!


What we've been up to...

It’s been quite busy behind the scenes here at Continuum Graphics these past few months. Between the holidays, Server upgrades, PC upgrades, PC troubles, new staff, slowdowns from staff leaving, and work on 2.1 and Stratum, we have been quite busy. But rest assured, we are still here, and still working.

Lets run down what we have been up to these last few months, in a bit more detail.

The Holidays

The holidays were obviously a busy time for many of us, between family, other obligations and just people enjoying some time off, not a lot got done through December and early January. We did however have a fairly long holiday sale that a few of you might have taken advantage of.

PC upgrades (and issues)

Me, and our main texture artist upgraded our PC’s around the holidays. Him, so he could get more RAM and a faster CPU to make his texture work much easier, and me just because my CPU was getting a bit slow for my personal needs. Sadly, we both had some fairly annoying issues for months. Mine were more minor than his and my system was still usable during this time, but his was out of commission for about a month. So very little texture work was done between the Holidays and the first month or so of the year, mostly due to this issues. He eventually got a replacement CPU and his problems were fully sorted.

The GitLab…

As some of you no doubt know, our GitLab had started having some serious issues sending invites and allowing people to download files towards the end of last year, and behind the scenes we were running out of RAM, disk space and overall server resources for our GitLab instance. So to kill two birds with one stone, we went ahead and wiped the GitLab, upgraded our server, and rebuilt the GitLab, this time with better organization as well. This solved our invitation issues for the most part, and gave us breathing room for many, many more members (that’s you guys!), to be added to the GitLab, as well as some cool new projects in the future. This took us a few weeks though, as we had to learn how to do a lot of it ourselves. These are the kinds of things Dethraid used to handle for us, but we managed it in the end.

Stratum Development

Development did not halt completely throughout these last few months, though most of you already know that…that said it was slowed significantly. We did still manage to add a fair few textures, fix a few oopsies, and managed to add a 1.12.2 version of each resolution of Stratum, not just the 2K one. Something many of you have been asking for since we made the switch to 1.13. It can be accessed by clicking the drop-down menu on the download pages that says ‘master’, and selecting 1.12.2, then proceeding with the download as usual. These 1.12.2 branches are not currently automated, like the 1.13 ‘master’ branch is. So it will sometimes be a bit behind the master branch in terms of how up to date it is, at least until we get automation figured out for it. If, and when we do, we will update you all in a future blog.

With Hox’s PC now back up and running, and with more RAM and a faster CPU, updates should come more regularly. Also, once we get Myth, the new texture developer we brought onto the team last November, fully integrated and up to speed, things should really start to pick up.

As for new textures added/tweaked recently, here is a full list and some screenshots;

  • Added New Cobblestone

  • Added New Mossy Cobblestone

  • Added Birch Wood

  • Added New Brick

  • Added Oak & Spruce Leaf Model Variants

  • Added Netherrack

  • Added Ice

  • Added a temporary Snowy Grass Block

  • Tweaked the tinting of Oak Leaves

  • Tweaked Spruce Leaf vibrance and specular brightness

  • Fixed some name issues with concrete textures

  • Various fixes for Wheat textures

  • Various fixes for specular textures

  • Various naming and misc fixes

These additions and changes can all be viewed on the GitLab as well.

Here are some beauty shots of many of these new and improved textures at the full 2048x resolution. They are taken with Continuum 2.0.2, as usual. Click them to see them in fullscreen.

Continuum 2.1

Continuum 2.1 development has continued, albeit slowly, for the reasons we went over earlier. That said, we did manage to squeeze a bit more performance out of the base, getting within 12.5% of our performance target. We are almost where we want to be performance wise. Hopefully we can squeeze that last little bit out of it soon.

Continuum Legacy

Great news for those that love 1.3, but want a more updated, polished experience…work on Legacy has started! It’s still very early, and has only been in development for a little over a week, but it is coming. Hopefully we will have some more to share about it in the coming weeks.

Continuum RT

We have not given up on Continuum RT, but getting 2.1 to Alpha testers is the current priority of our shader developers at this time. And with work on Legacy also starting, there just isn’t time for RT right now. Work on RT will likely have to wait till after 2.1 hits Alpha, at the very least.

Going forward…

Development is mostly back to normal now and you can expect regular blogs and social media updates from us going forward, barring anymore unforeseen circumstances.

Thank you all for your continued support, we couldn’t do this without you!

Continuum Graphics November 2018 Progress Update

November is now over. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are all behind us. We all hope you guys had a wonderful Holiday, but now that it’s over, I figured I would sit down and give you guys a update on what we’ve been up to this last month or so. Let’s get into it!


Continuum 2.1, RT, and Legacy

As some of you may already know, Sp614x recently implemented the buffer flip feature we needed to further optimize the new base for 2.1, RT, and Legacy. We got our hands on it a few weeks ago and have already began to implement it. Early results are very promising. Dotmodded is very optimistic about how much more optimized 2.1 will be in the end, versus 2.0. This enthusiasm is being funneled into working on 2.1 at the moment, and it is where most of his time is going. A alpha build of 2.1 should be ready soon™. For now though, here is a very early sneak peak of 2.1 we shared on are social media earlier last month…

Work on RT and Legacy should be ramping up in the coming weeks/months as well, due to the base being ready to be built upon, but getting 2.1 to alpha is the current priority. We will share more about RT and Legacy’s progress in future blogs.


Continuum 2.0.2

We recently released another small update to 2.0. This update, version 2.0.2, includes full support for Minecraft 1.13. With a compatible pack like Stratum, POM, Normals, Specular and PBR should all work in Minecraft 1.13. This version also still supports Minecraft 1.12.2 and older, provided the older versions of Minecraft have a fairly recent build of Optifine available for them.

You can download 2.0.2 for free below.


Stratum

At the beginning of the month we added another texture developer to our team! Discord community members may already know him as MythicalPigeon, and he has been working on Stratum alongside Hox for a few weeks now. Having two developers should greatly increase the speed at which we can develop the pack.

Speaking of developing the pack, we added a fair amount of textures this month. If you follow us on social media you might have seen some of them already. They include; podzol, podzol side, oak leaf, spruce leaf, spruce log, a new grass side, and sand. Here’s a gallery of some of the new textures for your viewing pleasure…all taken with Continuum 2.0.2, in Minecraft 1.13.


Server Upgrade

Not super interesting, but I figured I’d share anyway. We were running low on ram on our main server, and had it upgraded earlier this month. We have double the ram now, and are fully prepared for many more future users and a few other exciting possibilities…

Gitlab has been giving us some fits since though, as some of you may know. We are still working on finding and fixing the last of those issues. Bear with us please.


Last, but not least, Nova

If you don’t already know, Dethraid, and by extension, Nova, are leaving Continuum Graphics. He wrote his last Nova blog with us last week, it detailed this months progress, as well as why he is leaving, you can read it here. If you don’t have the time to read it, or just want to know why he and Nova are leaving, the gist of it is this; between his new job, doing his job here at Continuum Graphics, which was managing our Server, Automation, and Gitlab, and working on Nova, he just wasn’t able to put as much time into Nova as he wanted. So something had to give.

What does this mean for Nova? Well, as Dethraid explained in his blog, not much. Nova’s main goals and features are NOT changing, and he will still be working on it, more than before in fact (that is the whole point of the split). Continuum Graphics customers will still be able to use Nova when it becomes available and Dethraid will still be hanging around in our Discord server, as well as his own Nova server.

We are all still good friends and we wish Dethraid the best of luck in continuing to develop Nova.


So there it is…we had a busy month, mostly behind the scenes, but busy nonetheless. We will be back next month with another progress update. Until then, thank you for your continued support, and goodbye!



Nova Update - November 2018

Hello everyone, please join me for the November 2018 update for Nova!

As mentioned in the last blog, I started a new job in late October. Much of my time in November has been taken up by that job, which is just how things go sometimes.

The first work I did in November was getting the DirectX 12 render backend’s shader loading working nicely. Nova converts all shaders to SPIR-V before sending them to any render backends, so I needed to convert from SPIR-V to DirectX 12 HLSL. Doable, but incredibly non-trivial - I spent most of a week on the conversion code, even though I was able to use SPIRV-Cross to handle most of the translation.

I then started working on loading and rendering meshes - the core part of Nova. Nova will use indirect rendering to draw meshes, which means that I needed to put meshes into as few buffers as I could. I spent a couple weeks making a mesh allocator. I actually tried a few different ideas before settling on a block allocator that can compact its allocations if needed - if there’s enough total free space in the buffer for a new allocation, but no blocks are large enough, the allocator will move data towards the front of the buffer until all free space has been filled.

Once mesh memory was allocated, it was time to render meshes. This is the crux of Nova, and I expect it to take a long time to get right. One of the major challenges is how to make rendering things multithreaded. I definitely want Nova to be able to take full advantage of all cores, but how to do that while staying sane is…difficult. At the time of writing this blog post I’m making a command buffer for each VkPipeline and synchronizing them…somehow. There’s a couple of unknowns in there.

Additionally, near the middle of November I decided to leave Continuum Graphics. For a while now I have been responsible for maintaining the server infrastructure, and unfortunately that took far too much time away from Nova, especially with working a full-time job. Nova needs all my free time, and now it can have it. There are no hard feelings between me and the Continuum team, and we are all still friends. This is just a time management thing.

My plans for Nova have not changed in the slightest. I’ll still be working tirelessly to bring everyone the best possible general-purpose renderer, and to integrate it into Minecraft and eventually other games. Leaving Continuum Graphics has given me the time to make that happen.

I won’t be making blog posts about Nova any more. The best way to keep up with development of Nova is to join the Nova Discord server, where I hang out pretty regularly. There’s also a Twitter account, but I mostly use that for big announcements. I’ll still be hanging out in the Continuum Discord as well.

That brings us to the end of the final Nova progress update on the Continuum Graphics blog. Everyone’s support for my project has been incredible, and I only hope that I can deliver something that meets your expectations - Dethraid



Nova Progress Update - June to September 2018

In June I stopped writing about Nova so I could write Nova… but now I’m writing about Nova again. Sorry for the delay, and for the very…dense nature of this blog. If you’re more into pretty pictures and less into a lot of technical talk, you might want to skip this one.

With that said, let’s get into it!

June

In June, I continued fixing any bugs I could find and continued building out more of the renderer. This included setting up the data for UBOs and handling the Minecraft lightmap properly. I also started on a CPU profiler to get a general idea of how well Nova runs.

Janrupf joined at the beginning of June and started working on moving Nova from raw MCP to Forge. Most of this effort was converting Nova's changes to Minecraft from a source code patch to Forge Mixins.

July

Barteks2x joined at the beginning of July and jumped into helping Janrupf convert Nova to Forge. He also updated Nova to run in Minecraft 1.12.2 instead of 1.10. That brought us into a better position to update to 1.13 when it became available.

Barteks2x also got chunk rendering working. I hadn't quite gotten that feature working, but Barteks2x was able to solve the issues and get the chunks drawing. Unfortunately, this introduced a bug where, on my computer, the GPU would freeze up after a second of rendering a world. Solving that would take me many weeks.

4D Klein Manifold (hereafter referred to as Klein) came in around the middle of July. He began working on getting the main menu panorama working.

We merged the Forge version of Nova into the Vulkan branch - essentially declaring that Nova was completely moved to Forge. During that merge we had to resolve a number of compatibility issues. Barteks2x and Janrupf develop on Linux, while I'm on Windows and Klein switches between the two. Unfortunately they had done a few Linux-specific things that needed to be resolved.

Janrupf then started setting Nova up for Continuous Integration (CI). CI lets us automatically compile Nova whenever the code changes. This ensures that the code changes we make won't horribly break Nova, and removes the need to manually compile Nova. I had wanted to set this up for a while, but it would have been much more difficult before we converted Nova to Forge.

Then came the task of merging the Vulkan branch into the Master branch. This was more tricky than one might expect because back in February, Klein had made some changes that made chunk loading much faster and more like vanilla - but made them when I was having doubts about Vulkan, so we ended up with two branches with different commit histories. Barteks2x took on the task of resolving all those changes, and did so very well.

With CI conquered, Janrupf began working on a standalone shader editor for Nova. Nova is much more complex and more involved than Optifine shaders or Bedrock shaders. Developers coming from those platforms will likely need a lot of help to become proficient with Nova, and a standalone shader editor can go a long way to providing that help. You can see and follow his work at here.

Another developer, Strum, also joined in July. He began working on the shader marketplace. The vision here is that shaderpack developers can upload their shaderpacks to a central location, then the shaderpacks can be browsed and downloaded through Nova, without leaving Minecraft or moving things to different folders. This will provide a lot of discoverability for shaderpacks, especially smaller packs that needs a popularity boost. You can see and follow his work here.

August

To help solve some of the issues that arose when merging Vulkan into Master, Barteks2x created a tool to capture the parameters to native Nova functions, then replay them in a JVM-free environment. The JVM is cool and all, but it does a lot of things that interfere with debugging C++ code. In the first week of its existence, his tool proved to be well worth it, time and time again.

But that prosperity was not to last. While Barteks and Janrupf were making wonderful progress, I did not have any such luck. A crash began rearing its ugly head. On Windows, after Nova was rendering 50+ chunks, it just…died.

I first noticed the problem as a segfault when updating the lightmap. I removed the offending code, and got a crash when updating a different resource. Removed that code, and now the crash happened when reading the GPU time queries for each frame.

The behavior was dumb. Were there multiple crashes? One bad one? I added a new thread that would poll the GPU to find out when each VkFence got signaled. It polled, and… things got weirder. I could see each command buffer be submitted, could see the fence get signaled… then a segfault somewhere inside vkWaitForFences.

This was dumb.

I dug into this for a week. I tried this and that, poked here and there…nothing. The GPU was just like “nah bro I’m out” in the middle of rendering a frame.

Vulkan isn’t the first-party graphics API on Windows 10, DirectX 12 is. On August 14 I made the decision to add in a DirectX 12 rendering backend for Windows 10. This was the first-party API on Windows 10, surely it would work better?

The work began. I would write the DirectX 12 backend for Windows 10, Janrupf would make the Vulkan backend. By this point Barteks was back to focusing on CubicChunks and unfortunately couldn’t give more time to Nova

Janrupf did a lot for the architecture of Nova in the last half of August. He realized that Nova shouldn’t have its own logger or load its own config file, that all should be provided by whatever application Nova was embedded into. Additionally, he pushed for “add a DirectX 12 backend” to become “add a DirectX 12 backend and also rewrite the Nova backend”, which I agreed to. The Vulkan code would have to be mostly replaced anyways; I was trying to get things done quickly and made far too many compromises


 
 

September

During September, I continued working on the DirectX 12 code, and Janrupf continued working on the Vulkan code. At one point I had the bright idea to make a command buffer-based abstraction over both DX12 and Vulkan. That was a horrible idea, because while DX12 and Vulkan are similar, they aren’t similar enough to have a single interface. Bleh.

In mid-September I decided to convert Nova to a job-based threading model built on top of fibers. This meant that Nova could take advantage of all the cores in your CPU, and they it could do so very efficiently. There were a number of growing pains as we adapted to this new style of programming, but ultimately we learned.

We started working on loading shaderpacks in both Vulkan in DirectX 12. We made a good bit of progress, but Janrupf had to go back to school and my girlfriend came to visit for three weeks (one week in October) so not much happened in the second half of September.

October

I added all kinds of validation and debugging information to the shaderpack loading code in October. Shaderpack developers are going to have to re-learn a lot of things to take full advantage of Nova, and the better the error messages I can give them are, the easier the transition will be. I also spent a lot of time fleshing out the shaderpack loading code for both Vulkan and DirectX 12. Janrupf was busy with school, which meant that the Vulkan code fell on me. The work to load shaderpacks and create the API-specific resources that each one needed was straightforward, if a little tedious.

What was not straightforward was transpiling shaders. Nova accepts shaders in GLSL (which is compiled to SPIR-V) or in SPIR-V. DirectX 12 accepts shaders in HLSL (which is compiled to HLSL bytecode), or HLSL bytecode. Additionally, a few concepts that are crucial to Vulkan shaders have no equivalent in DirectX 12 shaders. This meant a pretty significant amount of work on my part to perform the translation.

Additionally, on October 22 I started a new job. This was pretty cool, but meant that I’d have less time for Nova.

Looking Ahead

Rewriting the Vulkan code and adding in DirectX 12 code will take plenty of time, but it’ll be time well spent. Nova will end up with a well-organized code base that can be easily extended as more and more features get added to the code.

Nova won't be updating to 1.13 until Forge does, and Forge won't work with 1.13 for a while - they want to take some time to improve their code quality. This gives us a lot of time to make Nova amazing before we have to handle all the changes that Minecraft made for 1.13. We're excited to be starting to realize the vision of Nova, and we hope that you're excited, too!


 
 

Continuum Graphics October 2018 Progress Update

Well, it’s October, and that means it’s time for a update blog. So let’s have a chat about what we’ve been up too, shall we?


Continuum 2.1, RT, and Legacy

We have good news, and we have not as good news. I’ll start with the good.

One of our main goals with 2.1 is optimization. When rewriting the base shader code, we managed to get back around 20% more performance, and while that is good, we are aiming for about 100%. Problem is, we couldn’t figure out what was bogging the shader down. Even with all effects removed, it was still running slower than shaders like Ebin.

This is what was holding up any release of even Alpha Builds of 2.1. We didn’t want to push out a update that we weren’t happy with, and we didn’t want to have to go back and redo half the shader again either, especially when the issue was right in front of us, just teasing us. So we continued working. About a week ago we finally figured it out, which while being a great relief, brings me right from the good news, into the not as good news.

Basically, the problem is this: we need the ability to fit more data into a single buffer, but Optifine does not currently allow us to change settings related to that. We have opened the appropriate issues on the Optifine Github and contacted him about this, and are currently just waiting for a response. Hopefully that will happen soon, as the shader base for 2.1 is also the base for Continuum RT and Legacy, and without it, in its fully optimized state, we cannot continue work on those projects. We will share updates on this issue in our Official Discord server and future blogs as the situation progresses.


Continuum 2.0.1

The shader team has not been completely idle while waiting for Optifine’s response, as I am sure some of the Alpha level donators will already know. We have created a incremental update to 2.0 to address some issues that made it past us into 2.0.

Fixes included in Continuum 2.0.1 are as follows:

  • Leaves on trees in distance fading nearly completely out resolved due to TAA applying to them improperly (see screenshots below for a visual comparison of 2.0 and 2.0.1’s leaf TAA)

  • ‘Leave TAA’ toggle removed completely as it is now unnecessary

  • POM issue that was causing lines on the seams of textures fixed

This update is now available to all, and you can download it right now!


Stratum

Work on Stratum has been progressing steadily, with a lot of textures behind the scenes being worked on, and a few making it into the Early Access testers hands already.

Most notably we have a new cobblestone texture, and a new texture for the ends of the oak wood. These are not 100% final however. The cobble may have it’s overall scale tweaked, and the oak wood still needs some polish around the edges of the ends.

Here are a few screenshots of the latest textures, taken in game with Continuum 2.0.1.

Click any image to enlarge and open in gallery view


Nova

Work on Nova has been progressing, albeit at a slower pace than normal. This is because the main developer, Dethraid, has been on Vacation for the last 3 or so weeks. He will be back soon though, and he has a rather large update blog prepared for the last few months of Nova development. We will try to get that out within the next week so we can get you guys up to speed on Nova as well.


That about wraps it up for this monthly update…as usual, thank you for your continued support! We couldn’t do this without you.



PS: there may be a little contest and giveaway on the Discord server soon™…be sure to join if you want to be notified about it. You can join here.


 
 

Stratum Early Access is Live!

Our new resource pack, Stratum, is now available for Early Access purchase. If you would like to be the first to test Stratum, and/or you want to support us and it’s development, you can purchase a Tiered Stratum Package. We have three Tiers available:

  • Tier 1 gives you access to 256x

  • Tier 2 gives you access to 256x and 512x

  • Tier 3 gives you access to 256x, 512x, 1024x and 2048x

They will all be updated regularly as development progresses. Please remember, this is Early Access. Textures may be removed at will, or replaced with other ones as it progresses, for various reasons. There may be occasional bugs as well. But they will be fixed when found as soon as possible. Each Tier also comes with a Donator rank on our Official Discord Server, which you should definitely join to follow Stratums development and even give the developers your ideas and thoughts on it as it develops.

You can purchase a Tier, download the demo, find more in depth info, and look at screenshots of Stratum by clicking the button below.

Thank you for your continued support!


 
 

It's finally here! Continuum 2.0 is released!

We made it!

The day has finally come. After many months, and more than a few delays(sorry!), Continuum 2.0 is officially available to all! It's been a long time coming, and we appreciate all your support along the way... but we aren't done yet. Not by a long shot.

Continuum 2.1

We aren't done with Continuum. Development of 2.1 is already underway, with alpha builds of 2.1 coming to Alpha level donators early next month. 2.1 will be faster, more customizable and even more polished than 2.0. We will likely go over new features, optimizations and general changes coming in 2.1 in a future blog. 

Continuum RT

That's not all that's coming though, we have a few new products in development. The first is something we are currently calling Continuum RT... RT meaning Ray Traced. Yes, you heard that right. It will also be available to Alpha level donators starting next month. It's still in the early stages but we are excited about the possibilities opened up by using Ray Tracing to enhance your Minecraft experience! Here are a few teaser images...

Continuum Legacy

If that wasn't exciting enough, we have more! For those of you that prefer the look and feel of 1.3, but find it to be too buggy, slow or too outdated in general, we hear you. We plan to revisit 1.3 and fix it up a bit; we will be adding a few new effects like TAA and just generally cleaning it up. We will be calling this Continuum Legacy. We will keep you guys updated on it's progress in the coming months!

Stratum

And last, but certainly not least, we are proud to announce our own in house Resource Pack. We call it Stratum. It's being developed to support all of Continuum 2.0's features and will be available in a variety of different resolutions all the way up to 2048x. It is still in a fairly early state, so we don't have a whole lot to share with you right now, but more information will be available soon. In the meantime, here are some in-game screenshots of some of the current 2K textures with Continuum 2.0 for you to enjoy. 

Site updates

We will be making a lot of changes to the site in the upcoming weeks/months. Tutorials will be getting much needed updates, a FAQ will be added, some general system requirements for our different products, and more. We hope these changes will improve your experience using our site. If you have any suggestions for improvements to the site please let us know on one of our social media accounts, our Discord or email us at support@continuum.graphics.


Thank you all for sticking with us. We hope you continue to do so as we go forward with more updates for Continuum and our other projects! - Continuum Graphics Team


 
 

What's been going on...

Hey guys, Seth here... It's been a bit since we have had a proper Continuum update blog, and especially in light of recent events I feel that one is long overdue. 

First thing's first, some answers to a question that is probably on a lot of your minds...

What's going on with Pulchra? 

Long story short, a few months ago, Blockstate, the primary developer of Pulchra, decided to start his own company; Atlas Graphics. The whole team here at Continuum Graphics would like to wish him and his team the best going forward. This does however mean that Pulchra will now be sold exclusively on his site, not ours, and that support will be handled through either his site, or his companies official Discord server. Existing customers will still have access through the Atlas Graphics GitLab. Your Continuum Graphics credentials should work on their GitLab as well, but if they don't, contact Atlas Graphics support via their site or their Discord, and they will help you get logged in. All the links you should need have been included above.


How is Continuum 2.0 doing?

Image credit to karrasko#0548 on Discord

As most of you probably know, we released a Public Preview of Continuum 2.0 back in July; you can read more about that in the accompanying blog hereWe did this because we felt it was close but wanted to knock out as many bugs as you guys could find, and dotModded, the lead developer, wasn't quite happy with the overall polish level. Still, release was only supposed to be a few weeks out at most...but we obviously didn't get there. Between recovering from kidney stones, starting a new job, moving, and some license renewals for the business coming up, dotModded just couldn't get it all done at the quality level he wanted. We could have released it, but he just couldn't okay it's release in its state at the time. We are truly sorry for the delays, but we really do hope they will be worth it in the end. 

Image credit to karrasko#0548 on Discord

With that said, with any luck work on 2.0 will finish in the next week, and then work on 2.1 and some other, yet to be announced projects will begin. You'll want to stay tuned for more info on those in the coming weeks. 

Also, our YouTube channel will be getting some more focus. We currently do livestreams and the occasional tutorial but we will be ramping things up starting in September. So if you want to see the content we plan to post there, please subscribe here, and click the bell to be notified about our latest videos as soon as they drop. Since we are talking about the YouTube channel and new content, if you want to see some eye candy, since this blog is a bit lacking in that, here is a shader cinematic of the Continuum 2.0 Public Preview we uploaded there recently...made by yours truly(shameless plug). Be sure to watch in the highest resolution your internet and computer can handle for the best quality.


Also, Nova is still a thing

Nova is still being developed, and has been making a good deal of progress, which has been in part due to the new team members that have recently joined to help with development. There will be a Nova Blog soon™ that will go into more details about recent developments, new team members, and everything else that has been going on with Nova over the last 3 months, so look out for that. 


Thank you all for your continued support.


 
 

Nova Update: May 2018

Note: I apparently forgot to publish this blog post until now. It was all written up by the end of May, I promise!

May was a busy month for my person life - I took almost two weeks off in the middle of May to visit my girlfriend, so not as much happened in May as has happened in other months. Some interesting stuff did happen, though!

Swapchain

One of the major differences between OpenGL and Vulkan is that in OpenGL you don't have to worry about the swapchain, but in Vulkan you do.

What's the swapchain? It's a list of images that are presented to the screen. When Nova renders a frame, it renders to one swapchain image. While that is being drawn to the screen, Nova uses the next swapchain image. While that's being drawn, Nova renders to the next swapchain image...

There's a lot of complexities here that OpenGL hides from you, whereas Vulkan lays the swapchain bare and makes you handle it. Figuring out how to deal with that took up a lot of time in April, and it took up about a week in March - but I've finally got it.

Descriptor Sets

Oh descriptor sets... they're a lot of fun. They're roughly equivalent to uniforms in OpenGL, but they're a lot more involved and I was not prepared at all. It's taken most of the time I've worked on Nova in May to figure them out. Because of how Vulkan works it makes the most sense to have each material manage its descriptor sets, which is something that took me far too long to realize. There's a few bugs left in the descriptor set code, but the actual architecture for how I update and bind descriptor sets is in place

Conclusion

As I said in the intro, I didn't have a ton of time for Nova in May - but I had some time, and I made some good progress. Work on Nova continues...


 
 

Continuum 2.0 Public Preview is Released!

2.0 isn't quite ready for prime time, but we have decided to give you guys a little teaser before we go live. A public preview version of Continuum 2.0 is available for download on our GitLab HERE.

If you find any bugs please let us know, as the whole point of this preview is to find as many bugs as possible to squash before we launch 2.0. Please open an issue on GitLab, let us know in the comments, or on our Discord server.

If your screen is black unzip the shader; the folder structure should be as follows: shaderpacks/continuum-shaders-master/shaders

 


Continuum 2.0 Update: It's June 1st...

Hey guys, Seth here. As the title says...it's June 1st...and I'm sorry to have to be the bearer of bad news, but we have decided to push Continuum 2.0's official launch back a bit...by one month to be exact. Our goal is now July 1st. Some stuff came up that slowed work down a bit, and with the amount of things left to finish polishing up, we feel that taking the extra time to do it right is a good idea, and we think it will be well worth the wait!

With that said, I do have some good news. Those of you with Tier 1 (or above) will now be able to download the first RC (Release Candidate) build! These will be updated throughout the month as we close in on the release of 2.0. Those that don't have a package will now be able to purchase RC access by itself if they want a sneak peak of the full release. 

Continuum Tier 1
7.50
Add To Cart

 

As always, we all appreciate your support. Thank you.


New Purchasing Options and Continuum News

The New Purchasing Options

Continuum Early Access and Pulchra Revisited can now be purchased separately at a discounted price!

You can now choose from Continuum or Pulchra packages for $7.50, $15.00, and $30.00. This is for people that only want one or the other, and would like to save a bit of money while getting only what they want. For those of you that still want both, you can still purchase them together at their original prices; $10.00, $25.00, and $50.00.

We have faith that these added options will provide more value and satisfaction to you guys, but these new options are still a bit of a test. If it goes well, they will stay. If not, we will revert back to the old combined Tiers as the only option, but rest assured, anyone that purchases the new options will still continue to receive support and have access to their purchased files if we do revert back to the old system.


Continuum 2.0 is almost here!

We made it folks! We are entering the Release Candidate stage this week. There will be a few more beta updates and probably many more alpha updates before it's all said and done, but Continuum 2.0 is set to release June 1st, 2018!

We know it's a little late, however we think the project needed a little extra time. Thank you all for putting up with our shenanigans. It has been an absolute treat developing this project for you and we are glad it will finally be released to the masses.


Continuum Settings Documentation

Continuum 2.0 has a lot of settings, some of them quite advanced, but we want to make sure everyone can get Continuum to look how they want on their own. So we have built a docs section to our website going over every feature, with pictures for reference. The more advanced settings like LUT's and some of the custom programming in our UserLib will get video explanations along with the written explanation. These videos are not ready yet however Subscribe to us on YouTube, or follow us on Twitter and/or facebook and we will make posts when they're released.

ContinuumDocs

Continuum 2.1 and the future

With Continuum 2.0 launching soon, we are looking towards the future; Continuum 2.1.

Continuum Spir-V/Vulkan addition will be developed in 2.1 in conjunction with the Optifine version. Continuum 2.1 will focus heavily on immersion, performance, configuration, and playability while still being fully PBR and boasting all of the currently available options and more. Continuum 2.1 should mesh into the background and feel natural for every scene with wind simulation* and heavy emphasis on indoor lighting. Random events will happen constantly from lighting strikes arking through the clouds lighting the volume from within. Our goal isn't just to make it look natural, it's also to make it beautiful. All owners of Continuum 2.0 will receive 2.1 following the official public release of the shader.

We hope you are as excited for 2.0's release, and our future plans as we are!

Nova Update: April 2018

Oops, this one was a little late. We're all going to have to find a way to deal with that.

What happened in April? Fun things! The render graph, which I've been working on for a couple months, is coming together. Get hype!


Materials

As the render graph became more complete, it became obvious that Nova needed a material system of some sort. It needed a way to specify which resources (textures and other data) were bound to each shader.

I ended up going with a simple dictionary-like thing. You use the uniform names from your shader and assign the name of a resource to each uniform. I wrote up a wiki page that gives you an overview of this system.


Putting it all together

With the render graph in place, and the material system in place, Nova should finally run!

Except there were a number of bugs and errors, which is to be expected when one writes a large block of code without running it. A few days of bug-fixing, and we finally have some images, including one very nice image of the GUI!

That tweet was also retweeted by the offical Vulkan Twitter acount, which isn't a huge achievement but it did give us some nice publicity.


Textures

The GUI is pink! Oh no! I hadn't made the code to get textures working yet - so that's what I worked on next. It was kinda painful; since the way that Vulkan handles textures is very different from how OpenGL handles them, but after a couple days I got them sorted. Behold!

That's cool. The render graph is now mostly working!

You'll notice that there's no text on the GUI. Nova is issuing the draw call for the text, but nothing renders because the font is using the GUI texture atlas, not the font texture atlas. This issue will be solved when I get virtual textures in, but for now I have to make a new material for GUI text. I was hoping I wouldn't have to do that, but here we are.


Swapchain Management

In OpenGL, everything relating to the swapchain is handled by the driver. You write to framebuffer 0 from a shader, tell the windowing system to swap the backbuffer with the frontbuffer, and there you go. In Vulkan, however...

If you want to write directly to the swapchain, you have to create a framebuffer for each swapchain image. A framebuffer needs to be created with a reference to the renderpass that uses it, so I would have had to create (and manage) one framebuffer per swapchain image per renderpass that outputs to the swapchain directly.

That doesn't appeal to me. Instead, I'm adding a step after rendering is completed to copy the data from the texture named "Backbuffer (which is created by the render graph) into the current swapchain image. No more need to deal with a ton of framebuffers! Yay!

Unfortunately, I had originally set up the code to assume that there was only one swapchain image...which is in no way correct. Changing to the way I want to do this has proved less than trivial, as a quick glance at Nova's commit log will tell you. Still, it's happening.


The Future

Where does Nova go from here?

The render graph still needs more testing. I've only seen the GUI rendered with it - will it handle chunks? It better! There's definitely more work to be done with the render graph to ensure that it's robust enough for usage by shader devs at large. I know a few Minecraft shader devs - they will take whatever system I give them and push it far past any reasonable limits. It's my job to make sure pushing it that far doesn't break it.

As part of that, I need to get the scripting system set up. The scripting will tie in with the render graph - you'll be able to write Lua scripts that are executed before, during, and after each render pass. This will let shader devs perform work on the CPU, such as calculating custom uniform values or only running certain passes every few ticks. The scripting system will be what really pushes Nova past other Minecraft shader implementations.

I'm not going to stop there, however. After scripting comes virtual textures, which is essentially a way to load a texture in at runtime in a memory-efficient way. This technology was originally developed by id Software for Rage, then improved for Wolfenstein: The New Order and DOOM 2016. It's also shown up in Far Cry 4, Battlefield 3, and associated sequels. This will vastly change how textures work in Minecraft. Rather than loading all textures into a single atlas texture, they'll be loaded as needed. If you only have one type of block on screen, only one block texture will be loaded. This will vastly decrease memory usage, allowing for larger resource packs than are currently feasible. Combined with texture compression, this may make 2k resource packs usable by consumer graphics cards

This is all great, but Nova will still be running on a single core. Sometime around virtual textures, I'll be implementing a task-based threading system. This will allow Nova to scale with the available CPU - buying a processor with more cores will make Nova faster. It should also vastly reduce frame time, further improving what will already be a very solid renderer.

I haven't forgotten about Forge either. The plan is still that, once Forge for Minecraft: Java Edition 1.13 becomes available, Nova will move from modifying the Minecraft client directly to injecting through Forge. I fully expect that to be absolute hell, given how many changes Forge makes to Minecraft. There's a possibility it won't be worth the effort - although, considering the immense value the Forge provides to Minecraft modding, that's pretty unlikely.

And that's just what's on my plate! In the last couple of weeks Nova has had a couple people start working on setting Nova up for CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery). There's a number of benefits to CI/CD, including that Nova could be compiled on a server somewhere and not on an end-user's computer like it is now. Licensing with the Minecraft client prevents us from distributing more than the C++ part of Nova in a per-compiled format, but once Nova moves to Forge we should be able to distribute the whole thing as a compiled Forge mod, which Forge will then inject into the Minecraft client. That's where the fun begins.


In closing...

That's where Nova is now, and that's the next few major tasks for Nova. As always everything is subject to how much time I have and how many other developers are working on Nova at any given point in time - you'll notice that I haven't given any estimates for when things might be done - but all those big tasks are probably a few months of work each for a single developer. If you're willing to help, we could deliver features much faster!

Nova Update: March 2018

What happened in March? The better question would be: what didn't happen in March?

Render Graph Initial Revision

In February I announced that Nova would be adopting a data-driven render graph system. This system would give shader developers a lot of flexibility in how they set up their shaders and would make Nova a data-driven renderer with practically nothing hardcoded. Forward, deferred, tiled deferred, hybrid forward+ - all these will be possible by simply changing some data.

On March 9th I got the initial revision of this system working. I could build a rendering pipeline in data and it would Just Work. This was exciting. There were a few bugs, but the basic tech was working. 

However, I realized that the existing material system wouldn't handle all I needed it to handle. Specifically, there's currently no way for objects for one material to have different textures - which has led to text not working very well. Nova currently mixes two concepts - a material and material instance in Unreal Engine 4 terms - that really should be separate. Future work will separate these concepts and lead to something much, much better.

Vacation and GDC

From March 10th - 18th my girlfriend was in town visiting. We had a lot of fun, but naturally, I didn't make any progress on Nova during that time.

GDC was March 19th - 23rd. I attended many sessions, including a number of talks about Vulkan. The result of all those talks was....

I'm Making Nova Vulkan Again

Yes, I'm switching back to Vulkan.

After listening to the talks at GDC, I can't not use Vulkan any longer. It's become overwhelmingly clear that Vulkan is the future and OpenGL will not deliver the performance that Vulkan can. So, it's time to get the Vulkan branch working.

When I last left off, RenderDoc didn't give any useful information - it reported everything as 0. However, there was a new RenderDoc version since I last tried using it, so I ran Nova with the new RenderDoc to see if there was still that problem...and Nova crashed. So I tried running Nova normally, and it didn't crash. It would appear RenderDoc is crashing Nova.

I have filed an issue on the RenderDoc GitHub, but I can't wait for RenderDoc to update. So I have begun digging into the RenderDoc code myself to try and see what is crashing Nova. A few hours of hardcore debugging later and I noticed that I was destroying a buffer, but then trying to use it. This made Vulkan crash, since Vulkan doesn't handle errors so that it can deliver maximum speed. I'm not sure why Nova was crashing in RenderDoc, but not when run normally, but I noticed slightly different behavior when it was running with RenderDoc before.

After that there were a number of smaller bugs. Vulkan requires thinking a little differently than OpenGL, and that takes some time to get used to. Still, I persevered, and got the Vulkan branch to draw things on screen. At that point the rest was details.

Render Graph 2: Hydroelectric Boogaloo

With the render graph code written, and the Vulkan code getting written, it's now time to put the two together. March ended with starting to merge the render graph into the Vulkan code, adapting it where needed and rethinking some of the Vulkan code to better fir the the render graph. Many challenges remain, but Nova is set up to be a very powerful shader development environment.

Nova Update: February 2018

segfault at vkResetFences

That's the error message that's greeted me for the last few weeks. There was a segfault, which is a portmanteau of segmentation fault - a program has tried to access a segment of memory that it shouldn't have. Usually your debugger can take you to the line where the segfault happens and you'll see what you did wrong - Are you accessing an array element that doesn't exist? Did you forget to initialize something? Segfaults are annoying, but usually they can be squashed in development.

Except for now.

The debugger gave me a location where the error was happening - deep within the Vulkan loader. It said that the error happened in the function vkResetFences, but I didn't call that from anywhere within Nova. Something strange was happening.

I tried a lot of things to learn more about this error. I tried compiling the Vulkan loader myself, tried compiling Nova with Visual Studio, tried commenting out large swaths of code until the error went away so isolate the offending line - many hours were spent cursing at my compiler. I learned a few interesting things, such as that the Vulkan loader doesn't support being compiled with MinGW, and that Nova doesn't like being compiled with Visual Studio, and that the error wasn't necessarily happening in the function vkResetFences, but since I had a release build of the Vulkan loader then gdb wasn't reporting the offending stack frame accurately. This was all rather interesting and would probably be useful, but was not useful now.

I cast a wide net online, reaching out for any help I could get. Some people suggested I was smashing my stack, but that didn't seem likely - stack smashing seems to be super rare and difficult to actually do. I looked into debugging a Vulkan application, and realized that I had never gotten a Vulkan debug callback working.

I'm using vulkan.hpp, a C++ wrapper around Vulkan. It's a thin wrapper around the Vulkan API - sometimes too thin. Vulkan debug callbacks, in which you give Vulkan a callback to call when it has something to say about how badly you're misusing the API, is a Vulkan extension, and it isn't loaded very well by vulkan.hpp. Google gave some example code to load the debug callback extension, I gave Vulkan a callback to print errors, and... the callback printed out many errors. Whoops.

In OpenGL, I never had to clean up objects when my program shut down - that was all handled by the API. In Vulkan, however, you do have to clean up after yourself. This information had slipped by me. I went through all my code and added the statements to destroy things I wasn't using, and Nova stopped crashing. When you use the API correctly, your program won't break. Who knew?

...but now it's time for OpenGL

I spent four months working on converting Nova to Vulkan. I got probably 2/3 of the way there, but I kept running into more and more problems. The tale above is just one of them: turns out learning a new graphics API all at once is pretty challenging. I took a step back and decided that I couldn't justify spending another four months getting Vulkan Nova working, not with Bedrock shaders right around the corner and not with all the features Optifine keeps adding. If I had any hope of being competitive, I needed to get a working renderer together as soon as possible... and I already had a working renderer, one that used OpenGL.

The first task was bringing in all the improvements made in the conversion to Vulkan. I made a number of tweaks to the build scripts and wrote a loader for Bedrock materials, and those changes had to be brought in.

Data-Driven Render Passes

During the time I spent working on Vulkan, I came across an article titled Render Graphs and Vulkan: A Deep Dive. The article talked about a data-driven renderer that gives a great deal of flexibility with regards to how a renderer processes a scene, and I realized that it was exactly what I wanted. The author of that article had solved a number of problems I was struggling with, so why not use their solutions?

I decided to upgrade Bedrock's material system to use render passes while bringing in the Bedrock material file loader. The render passes would form the backbone of Nova's data processing algorithms, so I definitely wanted to have that system in place as early as possible.

Bugfixes and Improvements

We haven't only been developing new tech, however. Coler706 has been working on bugfixes and improvements to the existing tech. He discovered that the place I had initially hooked into Minecraft for chunk updates wasn't very good, and found a better place so that Nova was able to handle the removal of block and loaded chunks from the player outward, like in vanilla. He's also been expanding the set of GUI screens that Nova can handle, paying special attention to the in-game GUI. The work he's doing has fixed many issues that I would have taken much longer to get to, so I very much appreciate his help.

Thi brings us to today. We have a strong modern OpenGL base to work off of. We're moving ahead strong with implementing the render pass system, constantly improving the data format to be more expressive and easier to use. We're fixing bugs and making improvements that are highly visible to the end user. Nova development in 2018 is moving along very well!