I have been pondering on ideas related to immersion and graphical modding. My question is: where would I start looking in source code about things to do with rendering? Would it be even possible to access this part of the game engine rendering mechanics in ModAPI? For example, when flying i notice tree lines change shape as I approach them. They look like cardboard from far away, but when close there are many animations and shading elements at play. This method seems used to accommodate a shading budget for relevant items to a players relative POV. I first noticed this concept in the Total War series, where a mass of soldiers would look like a dark blob from far away, but as the camera nears, individual detail is revealed. Battlecruiser Millenium and Universal combat games had planetary animal herds and bird activity, but only when the player was planetside. The flora/fauna was not physically interactive, which made it cheaper to add. The reason I mention the wildlife example is because I think of these herds somehow effecting local conditions. For example, grass density could be decreased over time if herbivore herd is in certain area grazing, and bird populations have historically followed herbivore grazing patterns in order to extract larvae from fertilizer. This is an example of a natural process that I think about adding to the beautiful planetary simulation (with good physics engine) that VRage has created. A dark, speckled "cloud" in the distance would be cheap to render, but could represent a flock of birds. This sort of activity would be a clue that the keen player could heed in order to achieve a certain objective. Here are some unorganized notes from a recent session, I'll put up some screenshots later: Code: distant dust clouds are primary indicators of land combat. beacon and antennae signals should be reserved for players that are over 4km away from the conflict. this gives players outside of audible range a direction to pursue, but once they are within audible range - distant sound will be another indicator of combat. dust cloud formations will remain suspended for a period of time before fading and this also gives a distant, grounded onlooker a reference point to pursue for some action view distance has to be balanced in order to give player incentive to use foilage, camoflauge, and slower movement to achieve their objectives. the length of grass, its distance render, and player position relative to a hill makes a drastic difference when trying to infer object position and distance without hud markers. a battlegroup traveling with wheels may not have their grids rendered from far away as a reward for their discretion and the presence of trees and a forest which ultimately would hide this sort of activity in the real world. but due to the constraints of the game engine - we cannot render all of this detail and have the player use it. therefore, the penalty of ground travel would be a slight dust cloud render that slowly accumulates, which could be cheap to do computationally, and still grant the wheeled travelling player immunity to the exact location of the grid from a distance, but once a player with an advantage in the form of aerial powered aircraft comes along to respond to the dust cloud, the grid will render within however many kilometers we choose. the description above desires to create the scenario of a player aerial POV traveling relatively fast noticing a slight change in the scenery that may not be as easily visible from ground level. this would prompt a curious player to investigate, and since we are setting rendering rules, we could also make the individual forest trees render within view distance of the flying player. this would mean there would not be an exact source of the dust, but a general pattern that would infer the sound of the traveling wheeled vehicle. audio hearing distance is closely tied to this system. a loud air traveling vehicle could be heard but not seen. a wheeled vehicle could be neither heard nor seen, until within closer proximity relative to the fast aircraft. rumbling engines with sound proofed engine bays could be an engineering tactic that may come with a fuel penalty and allow a player more stealth. note: longer distance hauls can be treated in this same regard, with both sound and visual cues. as a player approaches a new planet from another, this would imply millions of kilometers of travel, so we can agree on an amount of time that would be fair to give a shimmer for planetary players. lets say that this shimmer would be less obvious at first if the viewer is the destination of the jumping player. players at different angles would have a more pronounced view of the travel sequence. if you are on a planet independent of a large scale transmission of freight - it would be obvious as the distant skies would be filled with constant streaking, which may not be as obvious unless we only allow details to be visible with a telescope. the effect this could have is the curious interplanetary player arrange for travel to another "hot" sector. footfall sound will be tweaked, and grass density would have a minimum required render distance, of only a hundred meters or so. this would create a combat distance for ground based players. jump packs will need to be altered. a hover mode introduced? ultimately we want to suppress the ability to launch a player far above the action and see other players utilizing the grass. if this is allowed, we could still rely on our render mechanics to keep players hidden. this may arrange a scenario where a surrounded player can launch themselves above the canopy of the trees where he may be closed in on foot within 100m. his grass cover allowed him to get this far, but once the 'launch' happens his position is obvious. the hunting players could fire on him, but would not likely be accurate, but they can afford to try, because the jetting player would be losing character model render distance because what the effect of rapid acceleration and wind rush would do to a person in real life. we could even drastically limit their view sensitivity, because the G forces required for the escape situation they were found in will limit their physical ability temporarily colliding craft will be handled by replacing both grids instantly with a flat texture arrangement that could reflect the nature of the crash. ultimately we want to slightly distort the player POV and hud in order to simulate the physical severity of violent explosions, lurches, collisions, gunfire, thruster burn. this would mean a local render of a spectacular event would yield in instant death, negating the need to render anyways. or, it would have a delayed render for the purpose of wreckage (that also reflects the nature of the crash), all in the middle of a large cloud of dust and debris and players within a certain proximity could have blurred vision that would hide the required delayed render load of the destructive event large objects on the horizon. this scene could be arranged by introducing a slow moving, towering mobile structure that could be used for a fast mining feature. and simultaneous heavily armored and defending fortress. it could essentially function like an AoE2 siege engine. slow movement speed, visible horizon signature, easy probe detection would be the keys to countering this force. its advantages include rapid player repairs, respawn, mobile construction, fast mining, and a certain type of turret required to get past a certain type of defense. this would create incentive to build these large expensive titan elements that allow a player to run campaigns. these machines would be required for multiple players to be on board in order to operate. this would prevent one player from tirading around alone. eventually we want to be able to use sheer numbers of NPCs to overwhelm players. smart players can kite npc hordes around, but opposing players can interfere with PVE like DayZ. this would create crude but operational NPC interaction environments where rates and values can be tweaked in order to accommodate players eventually seeking challenge, noteriety, progression. we cannot simulate large scale AI driven community growth because of limits imposed by the engine and current hardware. back to the canopy, forest, tree example. as with joint operations typhoon rising, grass can hide the player at a distance without rendering the expensive grass. so, perform this same function with a forest texture that could somehow appear over areas where players may want to conceal from satellite or aerial observation. but we would not them to be able to hide indefinately\. distant explosions and combat would produce slow rising, subtle tufts of clouds, but because explosions produce light, night time combat will be easily traceable. it would be easy to miss new, different colored clouds in the distance because of combat too far to hear. a large warhead explosion could produce a shockwave that maybe could even be slightly visible. trees nearby can shutter a few moments after it visibly occurs. large scale events like this create a signature on a horizon, but once distance is closed, the amount of dust implies low visibility conditions in the area that could hang for several minutes at a time, which means easy to hide within or figure out a rapid escape.