Sunday, 24 August 2008

Yellow Brick Pavements and Red Pillar Boxes

Webster's Dictionary describes content as "Stuff"...

Okay, so it doesn't really, but content is what I've been hammering away at recently. More to the point stuff out on the street.

Yellow Brick Pavement

I started scrawling a list of "stuff". Road surfaces and pavements - all the stuff to walk on - were fairly obvious and I reckoned a "bolt-together-a la-scaletix was the best way to go. Straights, curves, junctions, crossroads and of course the dreaded "traffic calming measures" -responsible for scores of jarred suspensions and vertebrae- which the UK seems to be covered in, often accompanied by the most ludicrous priority-of-way declarations.

(I'm specifically thinking of Walkington village - there's a chicane which changes priority of traffic inside the chicane, leaving you no where to go in the face of oncoming vehicles who have a sign telling them the have priority to enter the chicane, but once in find that they also have no priority ahead and no where to go to avoid oncoming traffic --- sounds confusing? It's not just my explanation, it really is bloody gibberish)

Congestion Causing, Spine Compacting, Suspension Wrecking, DeathMongers

Specifically I set out to make some urban cover, stuff that gets in the way of raycast scans, small stuff to hide behind. Sign posts - another blight visually congesting the UK - and public bins, telephone boxes, pillar/post boxes, bus stops and er... yeah you get the idea.

No amusing or smug tagline with this picture

Sometime I'll get around to reading up on IFL and animate those traffic light textures so they change correctly. I did knock up a telephone kiosk but it seems a bit too modern and ergonomic, so I'll probably replace it with an old style red phone box.

Keep Yorkshire Tidy

I also figured that level crossings could be used as a great device to blocking routes. Train tracks - electrified train tracks - create a natural barrier. I also read a couple of articles on bad barriers in games at Gamasutra and here.

Train Spotters Paradise - Where's My Anorach?

I went for a swing-gate style barrier that's popular with older, rural crossings. Initially the warnings were in the usual red and white but then I changed it to black and yellow. It's more striking. And then I changed that to black and amber, it's Hull City's football strip colours.

YorkshireRifles Mail - regular deliverys when we can be bothered

Found out a bit about customizing mipmaps on a forum, and thus have clearer textures at distance. Also been practising a bit more with normal mapping. Still yet to mess about with a proper specular shader, so spec is auto-worked off the normal.

Bouncing Bomb - 'Ave It!

Also made a grenade launcher with a delayed fuse projectile so you can bounce it off walls for a laugh.

More stuff to do, signs, barriers, etc. And then back to buildings. And then on to a full, working, one kilometre square environment for a test. And then enlarge it to say... 5 km square and see how that plays.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Walk and Chew Gum Conundrun

Actually that should be run an aim-down-sight animation so that when the player looks up and down it aligns correctly with the eye node. It ain't as straight forward as it sounds...

This counts as multi-tasking, as does walking and chewing gum. Multi-tasking seems a big thing in the games development industry - which kinda makes you wonder why there aren't more women working in it.....

As a one-man dev machine, multi-tasking is rather essential, regardless of the average male's inability to perform it. The average male in this case is my player/ai model.

I mean how hard can it be? and ignore the terrible hands model

So what I needed was an aim anim - easy enough, boot-up Blender, align eye, mount0 and where the weapon sight would be. Then it's a simple case (it wasn't) of having my aim anim play over the blended look animation. And this is where it all went wrong.

My aim aligns fine in the root along the horizontal, and it aligns fine at the extremities of the look anim (that's up and down for real people), it's just the bits in between where the aim wandered out of alignment. Unfortunately that makes up 160 degrees of 180. Ah....

There appeared to be a disparency between the angle of looking and the speed at which the animation plays, it's just not a constant speed as the mouse moves. It's quicker at the 45 degree angles than the 90s where it slows down. Time consuming trial-and-error tweaking of my look animation was called for, but it soon became apparent that wasn't going to work - or if it was, it wasn't going to work this decade.....

So locking the view at every 45 degree angle and then tweaking the animation until it lined up at each interval proved to be the way forward.

I did cause myself a few extra problems. Having a single bone to the spine just wasn't going to cut it and I reckon at least 2 are a must. The real human spine isn't a flat board and is rather flexible - it's just that mine keeps trapping nerves and jamming (and I'm not talking about my model here). And of course I wanted a fairly nice third person aim too for my patented ;P Gears of Yorkshire vibe.

Aim goes down - aim goes up - aim keeps pointing at centre of screen

The crosshair only shows up when the player aims and is in Third Person view. In both First and Third person the HUD (in my case currently just the health bar) disappears to give a clearer and less distracting view and the camera zooms in dependant on what weapon is being used.

Obligatory poor quality YouTube vid of it all in action

It all took a bit longer than planned --- though considering everything takes longer than planned it probably took just the right amount of time. There are many techniques available to make life easier in developing (with the TGEA 1.7.1 engine in my case) - it's just a question of finding them.

Now, back to environment content creation like I was supposed to be doing before I got distracted by animation tweaks and gameplay elements.