Sunday 20 May 2018

Dinosaurs With Frickin Laser Beams

The last month has been entirely dedicated to the long and winding road which is replacing placeholder cubes with actual art assets. This has required me to finally upgrade my 2007 version of the free/open source Blender3D modeling app, to the all new, all singing, all dancing 2018 version. Thankfully, very little has changed in hotkeys, but boy has a lot changed elsewhere - especially animation - all of it for the good.

Last month I discovered - completely by accident - that I could convert FBX models to a more useable DAE/COLLADA format through Visual Studio. The lastest version of Blender (2.78c) also has an FBX importer, though I found it doesn't always import correctly, especially with animations. This seems to be down to the specific type/build/version which the model was exported with in FBX. Some work fine, such as the GarageGames Zombies and Solder content packs at whilst others require saving out as DAE through Visual Studio. Either way, it seems that I have a solution for compatibility.

Original on the left, Blender export on the Right - are you boys related?

Talking of GG's content packs on Github, I got them working with Blender and then exported with animation et al quite nicely. Whilst the basic rigging of the armature/skeleton is similar, there are some differences in the arms between zombies and soldier models, which meant that to get the extra death animations working with the zombie armature required a bit of manual rejigging in Blender's animation system. A quick read through the online manual was enough to bring me up to speed on how modern Blender differs from the 11 year old version I am more accustomed to. Turns out the Animation Action Key Editor was hidden under something called Dope Sheet Editor ... whatever one of those are ...

Anyhow, here's a big long thread on my exciting and occaisonally confusing adventure into successfully exporting FBX through Blender3D into a Torque3D compatible DAE format.

 The (FBX) Thing That Came From Blender ...
I decided on 3 types of zombie models, each with 4 different coloured outfits for variation. I also exported my models with seperate head meshes and scripted a decapitation system, as well as a body exploding system to add some extra gore and variation to destroyed enemies. There are 3 different animations for spawning, all of which are crawling out of the ground with 4 different effects for particles and audio. There are differing animations for root, run, sprints and various attacks, all helping to make things visually more interesting.

Testing zombies spawning from underground

So then came dinosaurs .... with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads.

You got dinosaurs instead

I found a rather nice Velociraptor which had full animations to license. It required a bit tweeking for what I wanted. Rather like the GG zombies on github it was highly detailed in bones and my isometric/top-down Swag 'Em Up does not really require all these fingers and knuckles to be clearly visible in animations. I cut down the tail, real velociraptors might have found a massively long tail great for balancing but I thought it just got the way when they turned around in game - halved the tail bones and merged all toes and fingers into single bone per hand/foot whilst reparenting all of the required vertex groups (or else they would be a hell of a mess when the mesh deformed and found it had no parent bone). This removed nearly half the armature and would thus save on overhead in game - something which you should always thing about if you are likely to have "a lot of stuff on screen" - and player's like "stuff".

Dino a-cute!

Like the zombies, I reworked animations to create new spawning and root animations, randomized attack animations and created various different coloured skins (all of which are a bit brighter than the original) to keep everything looking different. Velociraptors are also exported with a seperate head mesh allowing for decapiations and they can completely explode too. One extra thing which I wanted was for the some raptors to have a rather unexpected range attack - literally frickin laser beams. I modified the roar animation to be used to fire an energy beam with a randomized colour from their mouth.

Fricken Laser Beams!

So ... that was a very productive month with plenty of things that are more interesting to show than just me saying "I did some code". Next up I want to make a couple more death animations from scratch for the raptors, and add more obvious magus/liche type character for the zombies with the magic projectile attack, possibly with a Hadouken style attack animation. After that we are on to more enemies of varied and different types ... anyone got a fear of spiders? [cue evil laughter]