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I am always running into the decision whether or not to make a mesh one connected mesh or to add small details as just separate parts to the model. Is there a best practices for this? Does it matter for games either way?

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Fewer meshes equate to fewer draw calls, so generally you should try to go for as few as possible.

Split them when:

  • one mesh would be so large that you'd need 32-bit index buffers to address (as this is generally too large)
  • the sub-mesh uses different textures/shaders/materials
  • the sub-mesh is somehow optional and might be detached or attached from the main mesh often (or similar reasons; basically you want to avoid having to update the main mesh's vertex buffer)
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  • \$\begingroup\$ And what about the gains of a multi-part mesh in terms of allowing partial occlusion culling? I mean, in case all sub-parts are highpoly, couldn't it be peformant to cull mesh sub-parts that are occluded? \$\endgroup\$ – Louis15 Mar 18 '16 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, but LOD systems will also factor in there as well. It's a balancing act. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 18 '16 at 2:38

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