Mac Texture Compression Explained
8:21 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story
Glenda Adams of Westlake Interactive was nice enough to step into a conversation on Usenet and explain the current situation with how texture compression works in games and the Mac. You may recall the issue first arising in a post from Mark Rein, talking about the need for OpenGL to support texture compression on Mac OS X in order for the port of Unreal Tournament 2003 to proceed. IMG confirmed at that time with ATI's Chris Bentley that the feature was on the way and would be available in an upcoming patch to Mac OS X.
Adams helps clear up any lingering confusion about the two different kinds of texture compression; on-the-fly compression and pre-compression. According to Adams, the Mac has had the former for a while (Return to Castle Wolfenstein already makes use of it), but both accomplish the same goal of radically compressing textures which are then pumped to the video hardware. Upcoming games like Unreal Tournament 2003 and Adam's own project Everquest will make use of this latter mode of pre-compression once it's available:
The method that UT2003 and many other games like EverQuest use that hasn't been in GL on the Mac is pre-compressed textures. In this mode, all of the textures are stored in a standard compressed format on disk (kind of like a jpg). They are loaded and sent straight to the video card through GL without having to be uncompressed or recompressed. This helps with load times, and doesn't use as much system memory as loading raw textures and then compressing them on the fly.For the full post, check out the link below.
Glenda Adams Post on Texture Compression
Texture compression is a great advantage to games that have LOTS of textures. For instance, many zones in Everquest upload 160MB or more of textures to OpenGL. If you compress those with texture compression, you can fit the same amount of textures in 20MB. Obviously with a 32MB video card, your performance will be a lot better with 20-40MB of textures instead of 160MB :)
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