Tuesday 9 December 2008

Sweeney Todd

"Go on, run 'em over!"
"I can't just do that..."
"Why not, you're a Policeman, aren't you?"

Environment coming along nicely, and fairly satisfied with the trade off of clutter-versus-space. Too open and it'll look empty and sterile, too cluttered and there's no point in having large view distances and weapons that can reach 400 metres.

Sweeney Todd = Flying Squad (rhyming slang)

Having all of these streets with avenue style trees, street lights, telegraph/telecom poles, signs, roadworks and other ... well street objects, parked vehicles were somewhat noticeable by there absence. And they make good, large obstacles to use as cover.

So I modelled a basic, low-poly car (just 600 tris and then gets sharply LODed at 205 and 46) which comes in a police and civilian flavour - neither of which are textured as of yet beyond a basic UVmap. The car is basically the same for both versions, the civilian type just missing the lights off the top and the intercooler/radiator/bump-in-the-bonnet/I'm-not-a-car-nut/whatever-it's-called. Based rather loosely (as in unsueably loosely) on late 70s, early 80s Fords like the Consul-and-Cortina/with-a-heavy-dose-of-Capri.

British Armed Police. Not a musical about a serial killing barber

Policecar will have the old British "jam sandwich" colour scheme. I can't stand all the modern British police paintjobs - quite a surprise when I came back to the UK after living abroad. You wouldn't automatically think that they're police ... maybe some sort of bizarre doctor-on-call or just some boyracer (hotrodder) with a fancy paint scheme and strange bodykit. They're slate grey with day-glo yellow/green strips. Whatever happened to white/red/white layers? (hence "jam sandwich")

Though talking of music

Civilian version will be biege. Strange to think that biege is no longer considered a cool colour for a car. Oh the whims of fashion! Biege - the sort of awesome colour that should have it's own theme tune! Link. (There's a fleeting glimpse of a biege facsimile in the background of this clip at 0:0.27 - and check out the size of computers!)

Sweeney - dinner = a kicking

I'll also get round to a truck of some sort (a bigger thing to hide behind) which will come in civilian and military motifs. I've had a quick um-and-ah (that's thinking to most people) about whether to make these vehicles static obstacles or have them dynamically blow-up when damaged. I'm not sure the latter would really bring anything special to gameplay. Also wondered about making them driveable vehicles but aren't planning on it (though there is no boundary to feature-creep unless you set one).

After that it's a case of some road signs to set my fictional town in a factual location, two shop fronts (one a post office) and finalize a few textures for the big DIF (the town model). And after that it's a case of postmortem on how to build a level and lessons to be learnt. To be honest they're all pretty obvious and involve planning, listings, anti-faffing measures (as in going down the lists and not jumping back and forth fiddling with things) and less um-and-ah-ing.

And that's enough indulging '70s/80s British TV. .... I'm a child of my time .....

Wednesday 19 November 2008

We Built This City on Rock and Roll

My new hard drive appears to be working fine, no problems since reinstalling my entire life.....

Been down in London (Where? Lon-don? Could you spell that please? L....?) and paid 12 quid (18USD) for a Mojito, which appeared to be a long glass full of ice. Consumed a good Magnum PI worth of free champers at a wedding so I guess it all evened itself out. Lon-don quite nice, but wouldn't want to live there.

Slowly but surely environment takes shape. Got street lights in, avenue style trees, and .... stuff. Still more .... stuff ... to do, mainly signs, benches and a few interior props before I'm happy. Had a further fiddle with the facade textures of buildings, and have finally decided on an art style.

Also been playing around with DRL and HDR lighting, and how the whole thing works with 200+ models (not batched) and visible range. And the answer appears to be ... fine. There really isn't much performance saving to be gained from cutting the visibility right down, or much to be lost from moving it right up.

So I've decided on just over a mile view at 1800 metres. Originally I was planning on half of that, but the performance change is fairly negligible. I'll see how the whole thing works when I have an extra 3-400 trees in the background (using batching to speed it all up).

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Nigou Backup!

Apologies for the truly awful Japlish - at least that's what it sounded like phonetically if not literally ....

And how come the japanese don't have their own word for Backup?

By default it seems cavalier to apropos words from other languages like some sort of doppleganger.

So, death of my hard drive --- again..... sends an accusing glance in the direction of Dell and mutters "reconditioned" under his breath. At least the replacement arrived promptly.

Out with the Samsung of Korea and in with a Seagate of Thailand ...... but the first corruption of NFTS and I'm ditching the lot and buying my own decent quality drives (as opposed to constantly getting malfunctioning replacements from Dell).

But this is why we backup (that's the Royal "we" ..... or possibly the Gollum "we" --- depending on how often I'm eating raw fish heads).

A privately bought Seagate Freeagent is the main backup - main cos it's the biggest, and I've got a couple of drive pens after that, and then it's burning info to CDs. It's all part of a system designed to fight obliteration of blood, sweat, tears, nervous breakdown, etc of time and effort put in to development.

They might have sent men to the moon on something a little more powerful than a calculator, but they never had to reinstall 600 megs of Vista patches. No wonder no-one fancies chancing a Mars mission with Microsoft as the software flagship.....

And then there was all my programs, and then all the codecs, and other stuff that I don't really keep too much of an eye on. And then the development SDKs, at least TGEA (game engine - up for vote alongside the hugely expensive Cryengine2 on the Game Developer Magazine Awards)just slides across as is. Then what drivers did I have?

My usual forest of yellow, sticky, post-it notes had become overgrown into a thicket of the damn things. But anyway, we're back, after 12 hours of updates, reinstalls and reconfiguring settings to what I like. No WMA, you don't open anything, get off! It's Winamp and MPClassic, and what the hell codec did I have Mpeg4 playing with? And why can't I read anything at this resolution?

Anyhoo, drama over.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Bored by Far Cry 2

After four days, I've come to the conclusion that like many big budget releases, it wasn't quite what it was billed as .....

Nice game world, very pretty graphics, plenty of space to explore. And it definately said huge draw distance on the box ...... well, not really, apart from some parts of open savannah it's still pretty claustrophobic, battles still take place at what in reality is very short range, and dense foliage and meandering cliffs keep the visual range down.

But it is pretty, and graphics are something which have always been spurred on by the FPS genre. And the world is big and open, but with what Ubisoft give with one hand, Ubisoft take away with the other....

The plot is utterly linear, not quite the freedom of choice to work for which ever group I wanted to. The AI cheats (acceptable only when you can't tell it's doing it - a horrifying blow to game world immersion when it's so blatant). There's the slightest of excuses when you accept a mission for a faction and are then told it's secret so everyone you are working for will shoot at you.

That's just a poor excuse for not having to bother with thinking, teams, or real tactics. And then there are sequences were you are set up to be trapped and fail because the devs couldn't think of a more imaginative way to get you from section of the game to another. Again the open ended nature of the gaming environment circumnavigated to linear progression.

So, it's accept mission, blast way across country to objective area, blast objective area, blast way back through respawned enemies and checkpoints exactly as they were the first time to get to debriefing. Repeat.

And if Rambo wasn't bad enough, random encounters. I mean random encounters?! The bane of RPGs since inception. Nothing happening? Enjoying the view? Doing an impression of Attenborough and spotting the cute zebras? Random spawning truck appears and crashes into you all guns blazing.

I don't take Ritalin, I don't have a deficit in my attention, I don't fiddle with my gun if I don't move in 10 seconds. But the game does. Keep still for 10 seconds, feel free to look around with the mouse, but don't use the walk/movement keys. When lying in wait to ambush an enemy or simply enjoying the scenery your view is suddenly obscured by your character fidgeting with their firearm for no good reason. It takes literally seconds, not of inactivity, but not walking for this to happen. Back in the day when trolling meant something, games used to play animations or dialogue after several minutes of complete inactivity (i.e. Tomb Raider - "Are you still there?"), but really..... seconds?

And that is a good illustration of the mentalitly of the game. It's not the Thinking Man's FPS, it's a shallow Rambo game with pretty trees and linear, repetitive game play.

At least the dialogue was superior to most games.

"Wait for my signal, then you come in all Vin Diesel like and top the See You Next Thursday" - that made me laugh, though I've noticed that British characters get a lot more vitriolic swearing in games than other nationalities. Can't remember hearing an American accent in a game say See You Next Thursday.

At least the swearing in this doesn't seem off, unlike in say my pet hate Crysis. The hackneyed dialogue was the real crisis there, not North Koreans or an alien invasion. It seemed to have been written by a petulant teenager who had read the Big Red Book of Cliches.

Remember kids, swearing isn't big or clever, regardless of whether the desperate execs of big games publishers happen to think it's how to corner the "mature" market.
"We need to make our games seem more exciting, darker (I hate that term...), throw in the F-bomb and plenty of claret so we get the nc-17/rated18. That way the kids'll think it's really mature to play it."
Maybe they just listen in on XBL too much.....

Anyhow, four days off, so back to my own devepment.

Friday 24 October 2008

Town Planning

Up to my eyeballs in antibiotics and codine for the last two weeks courtesy of the sinus infection from beyond Hell, I've actually made a fair decent bit of progress.

Texturing, using the facades, a technique swiped from all of those old Westerns were the buildings were only wooden fronts to hide the skyline of LA as seen from the backlot of the movie studio. It's a good way to get detail without using excessive amounts of polygons, faking the little extras of reality, which is what virtual reality is anyhow.

Not real windows, normal mapped facades

So my idea of one huge BSP model with >9000 surfaces seems to have paid off. It fogs nicely, it culls well, there's no need for LODing every building because the whole thing is 1600 metres wide.

Big levels, we like biiiiiig levels

It was also a good learning exercise, it might not win any prizes for best thought out BSP geometry, but it all works, and it gives good performance. And my interior zoning works nicely.

The untexured church is actually the only seperate model here

A few (5 to be pedantic) brickwork textures with built in doors and windows add a sense of depth (thank the Great Magnet for normal and specular mapping), and the whole thing plays across 4 levels of height. So there can be plenty of running in Z aswell as the usual XY. I like hills, hills break up the monotony of being on the XY plane.

Throw in a few models and it'll look more like an environment

Still lots to sort out, think I've come up with a way to get road textures to go around corners without looking too bad (curse the straightness of BSP), roof tiles, exterior walls - and of course it's a bit barren without urban models like lamposts, mail boxes, dust bins, etc.

Trees models and wood facades help breakup the skyline

I've thrown in a few trees in the distance, just to break things up in the landscape. The furthest groups are facades, nearer ones individual models, all LODed and thrown in as a batch for performance.

I've had a quick play through as an urban shooter, and it's sure difficult to pick out snipers at 400m when all you can hear is the bullet going past. Watch for the flashes is the key. Though when I turn it into a working level (level 1! The actually beginning!) there won't be any scrapping, just story/plot events. It's called build-up. However I might use it as a basis for another play through demo of my AI.

Vista, of a type that doesn't need constant patching....

I also seems to have turned halfway to being 70, which I guess is officially middle age. I don't remember all of that time going by and demand a recount!

Monday 13 October 2008

If it's not one thing ...

.... then it's err.... more than one thing.

So exporting a road system or town enmass (or either in fairly large sections) came to a juddering halt, or more, the model format was the juddering halt.

Meshes don't fog correctly (I knew that anyhow), they fog along total model size rather than individual plane, but I wasn't too concerned about that or the lack of lightmaps (in hindsight I was probably looking to create too much work for myself). But when the far side of the bounding box hits the max visibility - *piff*paff*poof* the whole model vanishes. It's called pop-up, bane of games since 3D appeared - or in this case pop-off.

How much trouble can a square mile of town cause? Errr ... loads.

Pop-up occurs when things suddenly come into view, out in the distance. Unless you want a fairly low visible draw distance. Like fog or night, anything other than a clear day. It's all the more noticeable then, especially if your models are fairly large.

So, back to Binary Space Partition. It fogs correctly (or at least by per plane), it has lightmaps (yay, correct shadowing), per plane collision, and to be honest it's not that much of a processor load. But it is Old School (no, I'm not spelling it with a K) BSP, and it likes it's straight polygons (tweaking vertexes annoys it) and there's no bezzier meshes - which essentailly was what I was using the model mesh for (nice curves).


It's a bit temperamental --- or more the exporter is a bit temperatmental (*crash*bang*wallop* emphasis on crash). Like all things the exporter is a WIP (apart from human evolution allegedly, which I read somewhere might have stopped - that means this is as good as it gets, folks! I want a refund! And the prehensile tail back!)

But the good news is that Blender can export as an old Quake3 dotmap, so all the work done in modelling roads is not lost. A bit of tinkering to make my meshes a little more BSP friendly and then pass it on to Constructor for exporting (fingers crossed whilst it takes it time to work out lightmaps for 8000 surfaces without crashing) to a BSP format (with a reduction in scale to 34% for some reason). And it all seems to work fairly nicely.

'Ave it!

And the framerate is good. For one huge BSP it runs at well over 200+ frame per second --- with a whopping visible distance of 1000 metres. And of course it self culls when visibility is reduced, thus eliminating unseen surfaces.

With a road network sorted out, I started to add a few basic buildings to my source file in Blender. And the fps was still fine, so I worked out it'd be better to model all my static buildings (one's you can't go inside) enmass (that word again) with my road network.

Buildings that can be entered will have to sperate BSPs, slotted carefully into place in-game. This is because of portalling (culling via line-of-sight view) and the need to prevent portals from one side of the dotmap being able to see into others - thus nullifying the portals and the extra fps gain.

Whilst I'm still sorting out the town and it's buildings, I do have a 1600 metre square area accessible to the player as a single BSP. The textures are all still placeholders and are just a little difference for testing purposes. For a further quick test, I threw in 4 varities of 350 trees (with basic LODs) and found the fps was still a good 170-250 with 800 metres visibility.

Bad guy at 200m: the realistic size of the target is an explanation of why I'm such a cack shot in real life

To be honest it's the urban environments that have been causing all the problems recently. For rural environments I've already come up with a working design solution.

So, yet another problem (hopefully) solved. Finish off my town basics, then sort out a few interactive buildings, throw in some models, knock up some working textures (still umming-and-ahhing about the art style a bit), and I should have a proper environment. The just to script it into a playable level.

All this whilst suffering from the dreaded lurgy. (that's flu to most people --- and that's a common cold to women)

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Pink Eye!

There's a Cartman quote somewhere in that title...

I figured that the whites of my eyes turned bloodshot like a Christopher Lee movie from the swinging sixties was a clear hint I was spending far too much time working ... or at least what passes for working. Staring at a plasma screen anyhow. I did read something ages ago that plasma screens lower the rate your eyes blink compared to old tv/monitors.

So, eyedrops, lowering the contrast on my monitor, and a general break have been in order. The weather in Yorkshire has been kack so venturing outside was somewhat off putting. So that meant milling about the house feeling slightly under-occupied which leads to Ravenswood Zinfandel or some Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. Or pale ale. But it was also a good time to get some planning done.

Also had a walking tour of Berlin for a weekend (mate's stag party), which was nice. Will have to return at a later date with a list of things to see instead of a list of bars to hit. Still saw plenty of the city though, and have the blisters to prove it.

When my eyes turned white again I started testing on finalizing a game level. Planned my road and rail network and built it from my previously made prefabs in Blender. Exported it as a single (HUGE) model for a test.

That all seemed to work okay, though I'll obviously have to section it down into areas so the whole thing doesn't get drawn at once in-game, which would be a tad wasteful in resources.

Then it was a case of planning out building types and game events. I'd like to prevent things from being utterly linear giving the player a little more freedom to explore, giving myself more work to do. Currently I've got 1.5km square of available gameplay area.

Next up us to add a bit of height (hills) to the transportation network, as it's currently all a bit flat and in desperate need of some undulation. Then conform the terrain to the height of the roads.

After that it's time to work out my facade buildings, followed by enterable buildings, then landscape props. After that it's triggers and gameplay. And eventually I might get round to my idea of baked shadow decals (fake lightmaps for none supported models).

It's all just the same as buying flatpack furniture: You've got all the bits, and now it's a titanic struggle to assemble it into something that you can put a cup of tea on.

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.

Monday 28 July 2008

Gears of Yorkshire

Been playing around with Third Person Camera for a Gears of Yorkshire feel - not much of a feel obviously, cos it ain't all brown.

Only two shades of brown, I promise

Environments are made of stuff ... lots of stuff. Unfortunately stuff costs tris so there's been a fair bit of playing around to see what works best. Currently I've hit a few problems with the Z-Buffer on overlapping transparencies - which is why everything that has anything to do with foliage has a bit of a jaggy edge at the moment. Textures are placeholders but tonal range is the general idea.

Fix that jaggy Z-Buffer later for nice soft edges

Rural modelling is pretty much done (minus grass which is getting left for the time being because of the overlapping Z issue), and it'll be on to a bit of the urban environment; roads, pavements, signs warning of fines for letting your dog foul a public area and er .... stuff.

There's LODs and Billboards in them there hills

And once there's some semblance of a full environment built, it'll be back to those character models for some tweaking, extra animations and substitute all of those blank textures. And more messing with the player code. And eventually there's a little something called plot involving a tablet, Gimp (or PainterX if I buy it), and more of my X years as an alcoholic bum ... er, I mean classically trained artist ... to make cut-sequences in the style of a Graphic Novel --- which is a pretentious name for a comic --- which is a lowbrow name for an illustration.

Saturday 12 July 2008

8 million shades of brown

My first developed game was a text adventure on the Spectrum 48k, way back in the early-to-mid-1980s (history's greatest decade!). The humble Specky, brainchild of boffin Sir Clive Sinclair (when inventors wore white coats and still looked like mad scientists), had a range of 10 colours. My text adventure was black and white.

There's Colour in Them There Rolling Hills

Then came the Amstrad 64k, initially with a green screen, but then a colour one. Little more than a glorified Specky, but those extra 18k gave a whole new world of colour.

The appearance of the Amiga was a big boost to colour (1-2meg memory!). I remember a graphics/art package with 4096 colours!

UV mapped characters are on the to-do list - which is piggin' huge

And finally the PC (with good old DOS), and future -- or rather the present -- was here. My first PC had a 25mhz processor and whopping 4megs of RAM - my current has a dual 2.3ghz chips with 2gigs of RAM. And the games are more visually realistic than ever. Call of Duty 4 has 2 million shades of grey whilst Gears of War 2 promises to break new boundaries in the shade of brown. HDR lighting means every glance to a virtual sky burns out the player's retina as the screen fills with the burning brilliance of a supernova - which is odd, 'cos I look up at the sky all the time and it doesn't seem to damage my sight. Nor do I see lense flare from every angle.

So what is the Indie Dev to do with this march of monotone progress?

Base Painted Texture

Well, the Indie Dev could play along with hyper-real world of grey and brown psuedo-photorealism. I've got a pretty decent digital camera, I know how to edit images and understand colour (I should do, I got a degree and post-grad and then spent X years bumming around the arse-end of the Mediteranean as a Bohemian artist type).

And then get lost in the haze? I expect the brownness of GOW2 is costing the outstanding national debt of a small impoverished country - Hallo3 certainly did. Then there's the team numbers - which is pretty much the same thing as cost. One bloke in his bedroom, furiously hammering away at a graphics tablet and keyboard, is not a 100-300 strong development team spread across multiple studios (a la GTA4).

And with Normal Mapping

So, back to that tablet and digital painting for textures, and tile and reduce detail in photos to make normal maps for brickwork and surfaces. My first attempts at striking a balance between artistic paint style (textures) and realism (normals) is pretty okay ..... ish. Though I might like them to be a tad rougher.

After further practise/messing I worked out a technique to make a painted skybox by hand.

Colour - and only 2 shades of brown!

Roads and foliage next me thinks, and the creation of an actual environment.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Shader Play

Worked out how to get better looking and less over-the-top normal maps. Started having a quick mess with shaders like emissive and glow, giving some tracer which really traces.

Also think I've worked out a level/environment building solution that should look good without sacrificing performance.

Now to try and port over all my AI scripts.

Friday 13 June 2008

Dx9 overkill

Upgraded my game engine to Dx9, allowing fancy effects, normal map overkill (need to tone them down) and huge megaterrains.

Right now I'm trying to work out the best way of building environments with the inevitable trade off between loads of lovely stuff and performance.

Ooooh, shiny.....

Friday 16 May 2008

More Fun With Clone Stamp Than Is Decent

After sorting out my workflow and best practise for building ...er, buildings - taking into account the nuances/pain-in-arses of multi portaled old-gen Binary Space Partitions (modding the CoD series was more forgiving) - I've been work on textures and the problems associated with getting them to tile correctly (hence clone stamp).

There are some good, free, lgpl base-textures (base as in non-tiling) available on the interweb, and I've also got my own trusty, fake-SLR Fuji for getting more custom stuff. The finished results are basic seamless-textures - no normal mapping or anything fancy, though I did a bit of freehand editing for light and shadow.

No windows or doors as such yet - just the appropriately sized holes, I'm gonna model them (Blender - it's free) rather than opt for more BSP (it's actually easier for me to differentiate collision detection that way). Buildings still need LODing.

And I got some decent feedback after releasing my "Dubious Demo v.02".

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Content Creation

Building Buildings. With garish placeholder textures.
Back to Binary Space Partitions - portal and detail the hell out of it, but remember those Old School 90 degree angles.

After much messing, I sorted the best practise for workflow, finally got those textures to align easily.

Thursday 17 April 2008

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Integrated AI Routines Test

A(nother) test of pathfinding (from previous post) which is now using Astar, my new targeting and combat routines, and a basic "Teflon" script to stop the AI bumping into each other and getting stuck. They do try to check for a clean shot but I've still had to use a friendly-fire suppression script for blue-on-blue projectile collisions, especially with the spread of shotguns.

I had followed a tutorial on how to make decent quality videos for posting on YouTube, but it's still not great quality once uploaded. The audio files are placeholder sounds scrounged from games I own. Sorting my own audio out is currently a low priority. Getting a working-but-dubious-demo is the priority.

Not a commentary on China and Tibet. It's just riot coppers fighting armed civilians (who need their LODs fixing).

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Pre-Compiled Node Graph Pathfinding

After much "jiggery-pokery" I've managed to get a code based pre-compiled node graph working for my AI's pathfinding. Much better than my previously scripted solution. It's hugely faster to implement, mostly automated (so less errors/typos/general-cockups available on my part) and the paths are pre-compiled so the AI don't have to work out their routes on the fly.

It took a bit of integrating into my AI system, but we got their in the end. Thanks go to Gabriel Notman of Bolton Uni for making the original resource on design doc available.

This test video uses the stock TGE CTF map and assets (hence the slightly bizarre fantasy buildings), with my first gen AI model and animations. Blue lines are the Node Graph, green lines are the set path.

Friday 21 March 2008

Pathfinding Maze

More pathfinding testing with a script written Dijkstra. All node adjacencies are inputed manually which is a bit time consuming and open to typos - and typos cause crashes.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Red Team vs Blue Team basics

My first battle test, built to test AI team based code and their targeting and accuracy system. No real pathfinding, just basic avoidance of the lone building.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Video of first attempt at pathfinding in action

Obviously ignore the basic models, textures, animations, etc - it's the AI not walking into walls which is the important thing here.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Do AI Dream of Electric Llamas?

Subtitle: The Joys of not walking into walls.

I've had a basic -but working- pathfinding routine going which my AI have been slavishly wandering around, happily not walking into things. It's a Dijkstra based script with manually predefined node connections (that C grade in Maths I scraped at school has finally come in handy) where the AI builds a path from it's position to it's goal. It all works fair enough but looks terribly wooden as the AI pull many 90 degree turns in the open, so I've added functionality.

AI Pathfinding Routine:
1: Check that we have a goal - if not chill. Goals are set to named AI at spawn and altered via triggers.
2: Get a vector distance to the goal - if it's under 2 metres we're there. Clear the goal. Thread 1.
3: Check LOS to goal - if it's clear run to it directly (No need to waste precious processor power on it.) Thread2, if not we're gonna have to run Dijkstra to find a path around the obstacles.
4: Build the node list and get moving along it.
5: At every node make an LOS check to the goal
If it's clear make the current node the last in the path and just run to the goal. Thread 2.
If LOS is still blocked by something, move to the next node in the list. Repeat until path complete and Thread 2.

This all makes things look much better, cutting down on the slavish adherence to the path when the goal is clear, and gives a more naturalistic route. I still want to enlarge the AI goal radius (currently 10cm/4 inches which is just daft - when I made my SP campaigns for Call of Duty I never went under 32 inches if I needed them right in a certain places - like a window - and quite often felt 64 was fine) and I need to come up with a team-member-avoidance/onstuck function to stop the AI bumping into each other (a larger goal radius should also help to reduce contacts).

And sorting out some demo-reel footage might be good.

Sunday 9 March 2008

The Eagle has Landed - only without Burton and Eastwood

This is the development blog for Yorkshire Rifles, Indie Games Creator.

Ever become so self-deluded that you figure you could make a computer game better than the big gaming companies with their huge development teams and millions of dollars? Yep, I get that all time.

I'm an (ex)modder for the Call of Duty series, willing to drink from the cup of nervous breakdowns and late nights which is developing your own computer games.

An overview of my Call of Duty Series single player campaigns/ levels on FileFront (21,000+ downloads and counting)

My old websites:
EastYorksRifles Linkage
Beyond Rostov Campaign Linkage