Reverse engineering exposes Deus Ex rendering process

A couple months ago, we covered an Nvidia blog post that followed a triangle through the GPU rendering pipeline. The post described the progression from initial draw call to final pixel, providing insight on how GeForce hardware handles the work involved. Now, there's a new, entirely separate article that tackles things from another angle. Software engineer Adrian Courrèges has put together an intriguing blog post that steps through the process of how frames are rendered in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

The post is based on information gleaned from reverse-engineering Human Revolution with graphics debugging tool RenderDoc. It starts with creating the normal map and ends with rendering the HUD, stopping along the way to cover topics like shadows, ambient occlusion, and color correction. Courrèges includes information on the number of draw calls required for the various stages, and a boatload of screenshots provides visual references for each effect.

I'm not a graphics programmer, so some of this stuff is a little over my head. But the images make it easy to follow along, and it's neat to see the various components of a scene come together. Courrèges also details a couple of effects that are absent from the sample scene, like silhouettes and depth of field.

Human Revolution is nearly four years old, so it's not exactly cutting-edge tech. Still, a lot of the concepts should carry over to more modern titles.

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