Texture compression unpacked

The folks at Game Basement have been putting on a show with an excellent series of articles on texture compression. Their first article examines the problems with texture compression on GeForce cards in Quake III, framing the issue nicely and raising some questions about image quality problems. Their second article is the real gem, though, because it answers those questions in convincing form. The author shows us several reasons why texture compression looks so ugly in Q3, including the revelation that lightmaps, not just surface textures, are being compressed. In other words, texture compression in Q3 isn't really implemented well. Hence the ugliness, especially with GeForce cards, I pointed out in my Voodoo 5 review.

A very timely revelation in light of the fact that the recent Q3 v1.25 point release comes with texture compression disabled by default. From the readme:

/r_ext_compress_textures was renamed to r_ext_compressed_textures and defaulted to 0. If you are using an S3 video card, you will want this to be set to 1. All other users should set it to the default of 0.
Quite the change, eh?

To drive home the point that texture compression, done right, is a Good Thing, the Game Basement folks then put together another interesting article explaining how to use Loki's unofficial OpenGL renderer in Unreal Tourney—complete with texture compression—and how to use that mysterious second UT CD to supply higher-res, pre-compressed textures for the game. The comparative screenshots show a very dramatic improvement with the larger textures, of course, with very little performance penalty.

All in all, a nice series of articles that makes a convincing case for texture compression.

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