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I am creating a model pack for a game and I am having a hard time deciding how many sides I should start with for the low poly props made from cylinders and spheres.

Take an apple for example. I want to maintain the apparent roundness of the shape at a glance but keep the polygon count low. The model pack is household clutter so there could easily be 50 such objects to render at any time.

What is a decent polygon count for minimal spherical objects?

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2 Answers

A decent polygon count is one that combined with other objects in the scene will not reduce your frame-rate beyond acceptable levels. The information you provided is not enough to make a good guess. In fact, you (and your team) is probably the only one who can decide that. It is not just the polygon count of the apples, but the count of all the objects in the particular scene.

If it is a small room let's say, which has very few portals (windows/doors) then the outside world can easily be culled, leaving you with the option to fill that particular room with more detailed objects.

Start with 4 sides for an object that is simply not going to be viewed up close, to 6 sides for an object that is going to be viewed up close and take your scene into account as well. Is having 8 sides going to kill the framerate? Yes? Then go lower.

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Trial and error? It has been working for me so far I guess. Was hoping for a more systematic approach (no team, just a student project). Using this at the moment: 6 sides + 2 sides per 0.5m of radius –  Christopher Oct 16 '11 at 4:52
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@Christopher: No equation can be accurate without taking into account camera distance / on-screen size. An apple in SimCity needs fewer polygons than an apple in Katamari Damacy. –  user744 Oct 16 '11 at 10:13
    
Right. In addition to what Joe said, usually the polygon count per scene is planned ahead of time. Does it always work out? Nope! But at least you know the limits and can work accordingly. Do you know the limits of the engine you are using and the (minimum) system you are aiming at? Remember that even AAA games have problems with this (people complaining about frame-rate drops even on high end systems). There is no set rule as far as I know. –  Samaursa Oct 16 '11 at 21:20
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I would consider a "decent polygon count" the smallest number of polygons for which the viewer can't distinguish between your object and a real spherical object. I can't give you a rough number as it varies among viewers, it depends of the type of poly (triangle, quad, etc), it depends on lightning and shading, on numbers of objects on the screen, etc.

Try to vary the number of polygons and find a "sweet spot" were you like most the balance between visual appeal and performance.

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