"How much polygons is too many for a MMORPG character?"

I did some research and found a few discussions about the matter. But the answers I found was mostly "Polygons has nothing to do with networking" and they just start to argue and flame each other.

I think the question wasn't received well because it wasn't clear. So, I'll try to make it a bit clearer.

Consider the main character of an offline game, it has so much details, but it is the only character on the scene for most of the time.

Now, on a MMORPG everyone is a main character. Let us say 100 players are in sight of each other at a given time. If we had the same character from the offline game we'd have too many polygons and frame-rate/performance would suffer.

If I target a minimum system requirement of 4GB memory, Intel i3 (3rd gen) CPU, and at-least a laptop GPU (cheap nvidia mobile?).

  • How much polygon should my characters be limited to?
  • or, How much polygons should be on the scene/sight at a time? (including terrain, other objects...)
  • or, Is there a rule of thumb for polycount that applies to any genre of games?
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Define "Intel i3". We are now in the 6th generation of the core-i series, and each generation is more powerful than the last one. A Skylake i3 smokes a Nehalem i7 for breakfast. But anyway, the CPU is not that important for polycount. It's the GPU that matters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Sep 23 '16 at 12:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp, lets just say hardware that is at-most 3 years old. So, maybe 3rd generation? I see, GPU would matter most. I was thinking of supporting onboard GPU (no real GPU). Maybe i'll make the minimum at-least a laptop GPU... Does that make sense? \$\endgroup\$
    – majidarif
    Sep 23 '16 at 12:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @majidarif that would make more sense. Please define which onboard GPU you target specifically as a minimum. There were also great progressions in this regard in the past generations (far greater than CPU performance). \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Sep 23 '16 at 12:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp I'm not too familiar with the specifics of onboard gpus. But products released within the last 3 years is my target. Specially as hardware from the past year is now quite cheap. (So 3 year old hardware should have a large audience by now) \$\endgroup\$
    – majidarif
    Sep 23 '16 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you'd use N polygons in a single-player game, and you want to have 100 players on screen at once, then you can obviously have N/100 polygons per player, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – user253751
    Oct 3 '16 at 2:02

A first gen laptop intel i7 is several times slower than a 6th gen desktop i3. A 6th gen laptop intel i7 is still significantly slower than a 6th gen desktop i3.

A cheap laptop GPU from 2010 is several times slower than some built-in intel graphics from 2016.

And your choice of shader and different texture resolutions will affect performance far more than polycount.

You will learn all this while programming your game. For the game itself, you will need to test the actual performance on test hardware to know how fast it is. But you need a starting point, so here you go:

  • Use a LoD algorithm. If load is too high you use low poly models, if load allows it and the models are close to the camera, use high poly models.
  • At the beginning, your models should be around 500-5000 polys. 500 for low level of detail, 5000 for high level of detail.

This is a starting point. As you build the game you may want to adjust these values.


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