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Drone Swarm – The Tech Behind 32,000 Simulated Space-Drones


Julian Mautner (stillalive studios GmbH)
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Drone Swarm is a Sci-Fi RTT (real time tactics games) set in space, in which you control a swarm of 32,000 drones at once! Every single drone is simulated and rendered individually in a 3D space and consists of several polygons. In this talk I’ll show how we managed to get this to run in real-time. Drone Swarm is made in Unity, but the general principles involved apply to all game engines. On our way to make this core-tech work we faced several major challenges we had to overcome: 1. How to render that many entities at once? (Hardware-instancing without actual hardware instancing) 2. How to simulate every single one of them? (Compute Shader vs. Pixel Shader) 3. What rules and behaviors make the drones move to look like a swarm, but still be somewhat controllable? (Swarm behaviors, fluid dynamics?) 4. How to write a shader of such complexity that still performs well? (or: "Thou shan’t use IF!") 5. How to actually get gameplay strapped onto them? How can we interact with the drones? How does the CPU even know about them? I’ll talk about all of these challenges and how we tackled them. Summing up the talk, I’ll show a brief video of the resulting swarm dynamics in our current game-prototype.
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Every tech nerd! :-)

How can 32000 drones be simulated in Unity at high FPS.

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