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By Grabthar's Hammer, What a Savings: Making the Most of Texture Memory with Sprite Dicing


Jon Manning (50% of Secret Lab, Secret Lab)

Location: Room 2005, West Hall

Date: Wednesday, March 21

Time: 11:00am - 11:30am

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Conference - Get your pass now!

Topic: Programming, Visual Arts

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: Intermediate

Are your sprites making you run out of memory? A common problem facing games that use sprite animations is the amount of texture memory each frame uses, and this is a particularly serious constraint on mobile devices. To solve this, sprite packing and atlasing can be used to more efficiently make use of memory, but these solutions can lead to wasted space in atlases that can't be completely filled.

Grabthar's Hammer is a tool the Secret Lab team wrote for the mobile port of ‘Night in the Woods’ that solves this problem in a more efficient way, by using sprite dicing to maximize atlas usage with minimal wastage. This session will present the technique, discuss how ‘Night in the Woods’ was adapted to use it, and how sprite dicing techniques can be taken further by using techniques from the world of video compression to get the largest number of sprites out of your memory budget.


Attendees will learn how to apply sprite dicing techniques to minimize sprite atlas wastage and reduce the graphics memory usage in sprite-heavy games. This lecture will also take a broader look at how the algorithm was designed, and attendees will learn how to design offline tools for optimal algorithmic complexity.

Intended Audience

This talk is intended for programmers working in memory-constrained environments, with a particular focus on mobile devices. Some basic knowledge of the construction of 3D models is assumed.