Friday, 21 December 2007
Today marks the start of holidays proper and with that limited online time and thus limited updates for this here blog.
I had a good chat with Russ about the multitude of issues with modding in the HL2 world. We did plenty of surmising about the relative merits of both the Unreal3 and Crysis engines and the opportunities they could both bring.
I hope to update the blog on as frequent a basis as I can over the next 2 weeks, but this may mean I dont hit the magical 365 until mid Jan. That said this is Day350 which seems like a big number.
Triple SLI systems
After noting that we can now drive 3 of NVIDIA's mighty cards in one system - I threw a quick search in google and it revealed this SLIzone page listing an array of triple SLI gaming rigs to please anyone. The Dell XPS720 is in the list, though the Aussie Dell site doesnt let me configure one with 3 directly off the site. There are the usual fun machines from the likes of Alienware and other grunty manufacturers. I like the Dell XPS 720 H2C config they have near the bottom of the page - uber as it seems there could be a chance of getting such a thing with support here in Oz - that would be awesome...
Thursday, 20 December 2007
The Lord of the Rings Online has a neat promo going until the end of Jan for just $10/month to play. This makes having a serious look at it all the more tempting. The screenshots of this baby running in DX10 are pretty inspirational for an MMO and the game looks to have some interesting gameplay and roleplay elements. I like the Traits & Deeds idea and the Fellowship Maneuvers should add some fun to grouping up - perhaps better than the ring in EQ2.
The Gametrailers review covers much of LOTRO's logic and styling. The Gametrailer folk have plenty of other interesting LOTRO vids that are well worth a look, covering in more detail the features of the game. One of the unique and special features looks like the music system which allows players to not only play but also compose with the various instruments in the world. Check the vid below for a look at this lovely creative feature, it is this creative input that might set it well above what say WoW can deliver for me as a player.
I did a bunch more sketches in between reading of various bug-like western folk and other fun things - I really need practice :-) My drawing have a certain cartoony style to them, but lack any real sense of 3D or anatomy. I wish there was a life drawing course on in the summer I could contribute to my MDM.
Poser & Vue
I noted that e-frontier have their special for Poser 7 and Vue 6 bundle for $300US. If all manner of other expenses werent draining the finances at this time of year I would be sorely tempted. If anyone needs a reminder of what their software can do, check the e-frontier galleries - here are 3 examples:
[images from Poser, Vue and Manga Studio from the e frontier site]
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Every now and again my iPod gets confused and has the wonderful "Do not disconnet" message permanently plastered on the screen. Even if I havent done anything untoward, it kinda gets stuck like this. No great problem though, assuming the standard things like ejecting, restarting etc dont do the trick then hold down the CENTRE button and the MENU button at the same time for 6 or 7 seconds and it will turn off. Start it up again and all should be well.
Perhaps my last hurrah at EVE today, got through all the first set of training missions. Losing your ship is very nasty, you have to buy another one and refit it all out again. I wish you could get an insurance policy that would replace it as new exactly as it was or give you the money - the choice would be nice.
I might have to check out Tabula Rasa as an alternative SciFi MMO, though it seemed much more aimed at being a person rather than the ship-centricity of EVE. Indeed there didnt seem to be any shipbased stuff at all which makes it hardly comparable.
LOTRO looks very interesting though and has a promo for only $10 a month - ekelent.
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
Monday, 17 December 2007
This video gives us 4 minutes of insanity from Sampling666 using the Crysis engine and its physics to have alot of fun with 3000 red barrels. Apart from the entertainment, this vid hints at the potential of engines like this to explore all manner of more real-world-ish ideas or problems. I am certainly looking forward to having a serious play with CryEngine2 and Sandbox2.
Crysis Exploding Vehicles
Yes, why stop at barrels, ExpandableAsset84 brings us huge piles of exploding vehicles in his video: Crysis Mass Explosions. They are quite artistic actually in a destructive, fireworks kinda way - very nice patterns and the rendering is simply awesome!!!
Oh and this one has a few nice bits in it as well :-)
NVIDIA SLI goes to 3
The SLI technology that has been around for a little while now allowing us to fire up two of NVIDIA's GPUs to great effect has just been expanded to give us 3. We have just got SLIx2 on laptops now, this sets the bar up et another notch, in the last year or so the bar has been flying up. The article on Digital Media World covering the advance gives us some terrifying stats on how much grunt will be coursing through our machines in this config. Whenever you see things like 110+ gigatexel per second fill rates you either fall off a chair or swear loudly.
NVIDIA's site covers this new advance with much fanfare of course, particularly since it is such a beast gaming rig advance.
In helping Russ with some work in GMod I had a play with some of the console commands. Though npc_destroy seemed to not work at first, after reloading the map and testing all manner of things in both GMod and HL2 it started to work fine for slaughtering antlions with the commands below:
~ ....................... to get into the console as normal
sv_cheats 1 ............. this seems to be necessary
developer 1 ............. this may not help, but I was using it anyhow
npc_destroy npc_antlion . this is the command that should work - and now does
npc_destroy_unselected .. this is very violent
npc_kill npc_antlion .... this leaves the corpses instead
impulse 106 ............. this reveals the names
Sunday, 16 December 2007
The CG juggernaut that is Beowulf brought with it more hype in this sphere than is good for any film. The amount of press and CG articles surrounding the build-up and release means there is nowhere for any flaws to hide and at the same time a huge podium to stand the highlights.
The tale itself I am not familiar with, though some of the names are famous. I like the epic tale that Robert Zemeckis weaves for us, bringing depth, history, scale, scope and grandeur. The film brig to life a place and time for us on the edge of the old world of myths, legends, heroes and demons and the new age of the one god where all these things will be lost for all time. The creatures we get are big, dangerous and flawed and while the heroes will need to go into battle of various sorts it is their own imperfections that bring the demons to them. We need to give credit here to Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery whose script brings all these ideas to life for us.
[Beowulf images from the Rotten Tomatoes site]
The CG work is quite simply top shelf in every way. Sony Imageworks pulled out all the stops to create a film whih is fully CG in every frame. Previous attempts at this sort of thing like Final Fantasy and The Polar Express have delivered advances in this genre but for most have fallen well short of the mark. Enter the Uncanny Valley! Sony have spent over $160 million trying to claw their way out of this Valley - attempting to get us past that awkward feeling we get when things are almost right in terms of human reproductions. This applies in this CG world, but spawned in others like robotics and prosthetics.
The stills are simply gorgeous and Beowulf pulls off some very convincing shots here and there particularly where the movement is subtle and we are in nice and close on the amazingly detailed human models. Where we have full-body animation or interaction things fall deeper into the valley and are far from 'real'. As with all these things it can be quite hard to say what exactly isnt quite right, but for sure it isnt. My favourite character for this was probably Wiglaf, whos CG version of Brendan Gleeson is really neat and brings his subtle expressions out for us. Angelina's CG double was stunning and her face will be a poster-child for CG for many years to come.
[Beowulf images from the Rotten Tomatoes site]
3D - yowzers it is fun to see things in gigantic 3D at the IMAX theatre. This takes movie-going to a whole new level each time. Sometimes the film fell back into the problem where things seem to be in 'levels of 3D' just like plates in Snow White or Bambi. But the rest of the time it was just a natural boost to everything that we were in 3D the whole time. There are the times when the 3D is highlighted, from the opening credits, arrows arcing past us, fireballs hurtling our way to just the picturesque beauty of the scenic shots. Everyone as to get along to see something in 3D on the big IMAX screen and it is another achievement for SPI to bring us a full version of the film to this format - SUPER.
Other standouts for the CG were things like hair - simply beautiful in all its forms from beards, female locks, bear hides to all those little hairs on the older character's noses. The water, gold, snow, rocks and the cloth were all expertly delivered along with effects like fire, mmm fire.
I last covered Beowulf on Day313 when Theo Bialak gave a presentation at the AEAF for us. Mark Ramshaw's article in 3DWorld 99 goes into plenty of depth for us on the creation of the film and its CG wonders. The Beowulf official site has some beautiful versions of the stills from the film. The animations felt a bit like those in Shrek and thus fell below the visual quality of the film. It is really hard to fault the quality of the renders at this level, is it only in the animation that future giants in this genre (Avatar, TinTin and co) will excel?
In the end this film is an instant classic, full of passion, depth and character. Like any mighty film it has its imperfections, but perhaps it is a better film for them. When you add the 3D experience to this, we get a beast that I think gobbles up the hype with room for more.
The awesome musical score by Alan Silvestri is something I neglected to mention thus far. I feel that the score in films of this type is vital to bring out the feeling and mood of the film as it does in others, but here in the fantasy genre is helps to lift us out and into this new world being created for us. Alan Silvestri is without doubt a master at this with a credit list as long as your arm and he does it again for us with Beowulf!
Saturday, 15 December 2007
Collectible Card Games or Trading Card Games have always been interesting to me. Not only do they allow for some fascinating mechanics involving construction and emotive gameplay - but combine that with awesome imagery. I have had a soft spot for Magic the Gathering since before the dawn of time and many great artists have contributed to the artwork over the years. Some of the neato art can be seen on the Wallpaper pages on Wizards of the Coast's MTG ste.
The genre then crosses over into Computers as WoTC brought Magic online as well. Then we have the idea existing entirely online in newcomers like Pox Nora.
[Eye of Judgement images from the TCGplayer site]
This blending goes to a wonderful extreme in WoTCs brand spanking new TCG tie in with the Playstation3, Eye of Judgement. The clever part here is that the PS3 armed with its camera tracks the cards and your hands as you play and brings the creatures to life on the screen. So it can be played with just the cards, or with the visual splendour of the console, thus also allowing both online play and indeed play vs the AI which is a nice advancement. The tracking of the cards looks pretty nifty actually (though somewhat laggy in some of the demos).
The vid embedded here is via TCGplayer who cover all manner of this type of gaming very thoroughly. They gave Eye of Judgement a rating of 9 which is very high and shows they love seeing their cards living and breathing (breathing fire that is).
Then there are the TCGs that have models as well, from the likes of Wizkids' games through to other tabletop entertainment. Check out the Star Wars Pocketmodel TCG - designing these would be fun. I first saw these through their pirates version, seeing this after watching waaaay too much Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy is neato as well.
[images of the Pirates and Star Wars pocketmodel TCGs from Wizkids]
Music Video - Avril perhaps
I have been thinking of making a music video in the vain of the Machinima offerings that are just sooo good. This will give me some serious depth with the video editing tools and some much needed practice with the engines (Games) or software (Maya) to build the look. Then there is the scripting, design, storyboarding, editing and such to go on with.
Maybe a pop song like Avril's HOT could work for me (I like her stuff :-) it must appeal to the teenage girl in me - but so be it. Check the cool beta of Sony BMG's MusicBox player, the quality of the video and audio are great and it sits well in the browser as well. I could perhaps wheel out my TVhead designs to use for this project using images of Avril, maybe even stills would work...
Avril's MySpace page is an explosion of audio, visuals and web technologies in pink'n'black!
Not quite in the style I was thinking, there is Avril's Make 5 Wishes. This half-animated comic styled story to the beat of instrumental versions of Avril's songs. It is a cute manga-like story of a young girl who has an imaginary Avril friend and plenty of problems. Then she gets a little wish giving creature and the story evolves from there...
As for Machinima examples already out there, JD's Sk8ter Boi using the Sims2 is a good example of using Avril's music. lilly2lola has one using the same song as does SilviaChan902 and the list goes on when you start hunting around in youtube. There are STACKS of people making SIMS2 vids of her songs - very impressive.
Friday, 14 December 2007
In looking around at some tutorials for Crysis modding I found Seith's Little Island which is very impressive for a new modder - this gives hope to us all and shows the beauty of the engine and the Sandbox2 editor. The two images below are just a few of how he is going, not sure what settings these are on, but they do look sweet. The lighting and wonderful randomness of the images shows how nicely the CryEngine2 handles this sort of terrain. It will be fun to see how it handles others like deserts, formal gardens and such through to the urban jungle of cities in all their forms.
[Seith's CryEngine2 images from the Crymod site]
This thread is on the Cymod site which looks like being a mighty resource for all of us keen to play in the CryEngine world. The Cryengine2.org site will be another, in fact this is where I first saw the link to Seith's island.
I am startig to get the hang of a few bits now, missiles are great and with the autopilot, getting around is easy enough. Hmmm actually the autopilot means I dont need to know my way around at all and infact I dont see much of each location as I warp through them...
I admit I havent had a look at what the Lord of the Rings Online has to offer much at all. Through Massively.com I did come across their DX10 screenshot competition though which produced these twp nice shots. Since I have been looking at real-time graphical rendering these are pretty darn fine.
[screenshot competition images from the LOTRO official site]
Just to continue the theme, here are two more shots from the official site this time just promo versions.
[promo screenshot images from the LOTRO official site]
Thursday, 13 December 2007
I went looking at the progress that Tim Danaher has been making on his Vizarch blog regarding his model of Coop Himmelblau's Falkestrasse work. I was impressed when I saw his Cheetah3D renderings of the Sketchup model (with imported 3DsMax furniture). His blog has youtube vids showing the comparison between the Cheetah3D and vanilla Sketchup animations/renderings. Both are actually very cool, the images below should inspire anyone interested in this stuff to check out what he has done.
[Tim Danaher images from his blog rendered in Cheetah3D from Sketchup models]
Sketchup and Maxwell
Another renderer with Sketchup plugin-ness is Maxwell which is also worthy of note for its long term Maciness as well. The Sketchup plugin pages on the Maxwell site have a few images to show what can be done - though all have a graininess that detracts from their clarity.
Here is another video of Architectural type rendering using the CryEngine2. I am really looking forward to finding some time to get into the Editor properly and see what I can get it to do for me. This video plays to the engines strengths of course with the trees and lighting etc.
Gaming and Massively
A bit more EVE to finish up - I am still at a loss with the game, whether it is worth the trials and tribulations. During the patch I found myself enjoying the news (and lots of it) on Massively.com. The site has info and news on all the MMOs and vast amounts of it. The article covering the MMO data and statistics over on VOIG is an eye opener. Though you can see WoW's dominance, it is reducing over time in percentage terms and there are other games with huge followings, SL has 11million accounts now - times have changed for good.
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
With the nightly patch scheduled right at prime gaming time - this perhaps more than any other factor might kill this game as a viable source of fun. It is all hard going actually and looks to have enough depth to keep one learning for a long time. I feel alot like I did all those years ago when I was playing the original Everquest and the whole notion of an online persistent world was new, wild and unknown. It is also interesting that you get the 3 character slots but only one can be 'training' at a time...
Team Fortress 2
There is a great little article on Team Fortress 2 by Paul Hellard on CGSociety. The article covers some of the design (and re-design) that was done to deliver the look that we now love so much. The little short clips of the characters are gems, I last covered TF2 and the vids back on Day291.
Web Sliding News
In looking for some web pages which use cycling news items in limited space I have found these (amongst many) that could be used as examples:
Monday, 10 December 2007
After installing and trying to get started on the Mac I find that the new graphics update in Trinity isnt available for the Mac (or linux). After a speedy install and a nice intro movie explaining the origins of the EVE systems there is a relatively complex character creation system considering one spends the game-time as a spaceship. In fact after choosing things like race, origins and professions you are dropped into the game without actually getting to choose a ship which feels kinda funny. I have spent tooo much time in the character generation screens already actually, I quite like them.
From there the complexity grows still further, there is a tutorial to kick you off in game and a newbie (rookie) channel which has a constant hum of chatter where people are asking many questions, most of them seemingly quite basic. I gotta say the learning curve is mighty steeeep. I feel like such a newbie, just trying to do the most basic things
The Minmari ship I have been landed with is armed with an autocannon and doesnt quite have the sci-fel that a good energy/laser weapon might :-) Should I go combat, or mining, or something else - it is all very tricky without knowing anything...
Sunday, 9 December 2007
I have been enjoying the Crysis game itself, there is plenty of gameplay variety much like HL2. We get to charge around in zero-G, fly a v-tol jet, man the gun in a hummer, fight humans and aliens alike. The game does a decent job of oscillating between more open free-form objectives, to more linear sections which merge nicely into cut scenes. HL2 and Crysis do a great job of using the firepower of their engine to create cut-scenes integrated into the gameplay.
Following my sortie into deviantART yesterday I came across another artist of merit (of many many) Stanley Lau. Check out his gallery, there are way too many to represent his work fairly here, but he has a certain style that appeals to my eye.
He has the cover of Imagine Prime from Imaginary Friends Studios and well deserves it.
[a few images from Stanley Lau from his deviantART gallery]
I couldnt resist the 14 free days trial of EVE and signed up and started that juicy download. I decided I would fire it up on the Mac (yep Mac OS version) just to get some gaming under OSX going. Oh and this keeps me well clear of that nasty windows patch :-)
The trailers are really inspiring, I just love what they did here. I really have to try my hand at trailers and more video, it is great to see it done well (love the music - really love it). Below are an older one and then the Trinity expansion trailer, plus there are plenty more clips out there on Youtube for us all and the EVE site has higher quality versions as well - esp good for the audio.
Some other vids worth checking: Descriptive Movie, A Goonfleet one, Revelations I and Revelations II.
I will cover this baby in days to come.
Saturday, 8 December 2007
My book is filling up with all manner of wild west related sketches of various types. My old friend Bugeye has returned as well and looks the part with his western hat on. One thing is for sure, I really need some life drawing classes to get a better sense of mass, proportion, musculature and bones. So indeed it is my sketches that deviate further from natural anatomy that seem to work best. I did do a sketch based off a tracing from my Manga Mania Fanstasy Worlds book, she looks good converted to a cowgirl.
I have been playing with western flavoured elves and I even did a wild west frog, thinking some kid of oinkfrog could work. It is the Bugyeye sketches that are invoking a little more interest though and it is like having an old friend back.
Here are 2 of the sketches scanned in and then quickly coloured using photoshop and my trusty old wacom tablet.
[Western Bugeye sketch and quick colour treatment, mkI, plus another sketch]
In looking around at western related sketches on the net I stumbled across the work of Harvey Tolibao. He has done a good range of covers for comics and pages for titles like Star Wars. His Glass House Graphics site has plenty of sketchwork to admire and his presence on deviantART has even more to inspire.
Here are a few of those super sketches - I may even colour one in the next few days...
[sketches by Harvey Tolibao from his site]
Friday, 7 December 2007
This was the topic of much fun today in discussions, in fact the current Trinity patch and its deletion of peoples boot.ini file would have to be one of the absolute worst patches of all time. Info abounds on plenty of sites incl slashdot.
Feign Death vs Moose
This story on Razorwire/Warcry tells of a boy who used his experience in using his WoW hunter's feign death ability to escape an aggressive moose. Yep, it does start you thinking doesnt it.
Activision & Blizzard Merger
Occasionally we see big companies come together like HP and Compaq rather than the normal big fish gulping up the smaller ones. Here we have a $19bn (US I assume) merger between two giants in gaming - who knows what it will mean for us - but the scale is fun to admire.
While we wait patiently for our XPS1730's to arrive I see (via the Kotaku site) that Dell have teamed up with Blizzard to make a WoW themed version. Apart from a bundle of extra goodies the case is actually Horde or Alliance styled - neato.
[image of the WoW styles Dell XPS1730 from the Kotaku site]
Yes, it has become somewhat the poster-boy for long wait times. But if EA & Will Wright are to be believed then it could well be here in Spring (US) 2008. Apart from the official Spore site, there are plenty of others (like xspore) documenting our wait for this one which is sitting pretty as the most anticipated game for 2008.
The 2007 Trailer (embedded below) is a good little reminder of why we are waiting:
Thursday, 6 December 2007
After checking out Sketchup with the Connexion controller I also found out about the Physics Add-on. This takes Sketchup to another level of capability and could allow a bunch of designers to do things with software that was the domain of either high-end applications or game engines really. SketchyPhysics is still a little new, so there arent too many quality examples yet.
Check out this compilation video to see what people have been doing with it thus far:
But it doesnt stop there - Rocketsblazed2thesky created the video below where we get Star Wars, Sketchup and some SketchyPhysics pulled together into an artier piece. Just look at all those droids...
Plus there are plenty of other videos on Youtube that show what can be done with this unassuming little piece of software. Like the Coop Himmelblau-Falkestrasse Model from vizarch.blogspot.com.
I am sure I have come across the IMAGETP folk a few times now in relation to their usage of the CryEngine 2 for Architectural and Urban Modelling. Their promo video (showreel really) demonstrates their capability with the tool which they have obvously been working with for some time. It is great to see some animated vision of things I had only seen in stills until now.
Jean-Baptiste Reynes from IMAGETP presented their work and process at the VIEW Conference on Nov 7th.
Speaking of Crysis, apart from showing its wonders to a few more people today. I played through the zero-G part of the mountain and along with some marine re-enforcements we are taking on the alien dudes heading down the mountain.
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Jim brought back a shiny new 3DConnexion SpaceNavigator from the Autodesk University 2007 event. I will have to cover AU another time though.
The SpaceNav is very entertaining to use, it plugs into a range of applications including sketchup, Google Earth and 3D modellers like Max and Maya and a suite of others. Though I was expecting to be able to navigate around, what was most interesting was that you can do this while doing actual operations with the mouse. So you can start building something, then pan and rotate your view of the geometry in mid creation or edit.
I only tried it with Sketchup and GoogleEarth so far and both under windows - I think I will try Maya on the Mac next.
The video from 3DConnexion on Youtube shows how easy the device makes navigation. This could be a powerful tool for having non-gamers get around in virtual spaces without having to learn those WASD/mouse movement or indeed a console controller. Armed with a SpaceNavigator users could move around freely and relatively intuitively using a device that doesnt reek of gaminess. This assumes we can get it working inside the engine at all.
That said, navigating isnt as easy as it looks and I feel very clumsy with it...
Here is a Youtube vid from the GoogleEarthBlog folk:
Crysis Physics Fun
Found this new video of the Crysis engine performing some amazing feats - I am not sure what it takes to do this or how much trickery we are seeing yet. Either way it is mighty impressive and has loads of potential for simulations in other industries.
Monday, 3 December 2007
So out comes the sketchbook - that is fun.
I also grabbed a copy of The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King - should be fun after reading the long foreword. I havent actually read any of his books before and it is about time!
Sunday, 2 December 2007
I have finished vid5, which concluded the creation of the initial 2 room level. Things are working very much like UT2004 really - apart from the mesh quality it seems to operate with the same logic all round.
It is excellent that Epic have included these with the game. It will make level building and modding far more approachable and the engine an easier pickup for students and new-comers.
Blogger Image Issues
Over the last 3 days now pages created in Blogger with images have been incorrectly building the code that would open a larger version of an uploaded image from its respective thumbnail. I thought it was some craziness at my end with photoshop or something, but after narrowing the problem down to blogger - they have it on their Known Issues page. Tom's reply on the Blogger Google Group has the same solution, to edit the generated code to reflect how things were prior to Friday.
This is obviously frustrating - but at least we have a workaround until things are fixed.
I have been having fun doing hand-sketches of various things, tv-genre-people, wild west elves and vampires and even an amoeba dude. These are all fun ideas that really should have legs to go further.
Others have gone down this road of merging strange things like elves and the wild west. I really loved the Deadlands roleplaying game and world (Wikipedia Deadlands link). The Bootmaker and the Elves by Susan Lowell and Tom Curry takes an old story with its elves and throws it into the wild west.
[pic of this little books cover]
Saturday, 1 December 2007
The machinima cut-scenes are really special - as I hoped they would be. The gameplay is utterly UT - as one might expect. That W key gets quite a workout :-)
Here are a few captures of various pieces at the start of the campaign both cut-scene and gameplay - well they are both the same things really from a visual perspective. The detail and emotion in the characters looks great for a realtime engine and should be very droolish for the Machinimators out there. The lips sliding over teeth and such is such a big step up from anything but the elite engines - cant wait to play with the editor for this baby.
[screenshots of how things kick off in the campaign]
Architectural Visualisation in 3D Engines
With the coming of the new might of Unreal3 and Crysis there will be renewed energy into using realtime environments to deliver Architectural Visualisation - or perhaps Architectural Experience would be a more apt term. There is little doubt that there is potential to be explored here. I do wonder about the legal requirements and costs for doing business with these engines in such a way.
HKS in the US have already licensed the Unreal 3 engine for their Architectural work. Animation & Images have a reply to the HKS press release on their site. Those Digital Urban folk will doubtless try their hand at all this.
If the only way to use game engines commercially for Architecture and design purposes is to get a full commercial copy of the respective engine itself - this would put it well beyond the reach of the small freelancer. Many small Architectural Visualisation firms of 1-5 people exist quite happily with software like 3DsMax, V-Ray, Sketchup, Vue and such. It would be great if keen early-adopters could live in this same environment with one of the latest engines in their toolset.
I have been talking about engines and graphics alot, here is a quick example of the splendour that we get everyday in WoW with very very very low requirements.
[screenshot inside WoW - shrunk to 800x500]
Friday, 30 November 2007
I have been pottering away with Ogroin again today, it is actually quite enjoyable moving onto a new quest and seeing how Blizzard have modelled up a new set of challenges for me. They really do a grand job of delivering an experience with very few polys. They make great use of animation, movement, audio, effects and some inspired design and texturing to give us just enough to make their world alive. The actual world quality is so far below Crysis for example that it is almost not fair to compare, yet it works so well as a game anyhow.
I havent touched EQ2 for ages, and it may now approximate the blending of these two ideas - then again maybe not.
Western Influence, Star Wars and the Dark Tower
While playing today I watched (if a little distractedly) episodes 1, 2 and 3 of Star Wars. I dont really care that people like to put down these films, they seem to be easy targets for others. I love them and get a kick out of the whole experience every time!!
Plus the CG work is simply wonderful.
The main reason I am blogging about it here though is because I have been thinking more about the much like a really cool 'western' the Star Wars saga is. There are parallels to be drawn in several areas, one I like is the technology. Their galaxy is driven by laser blasters and droid armies, yet things are very low-tech despite this and particularly the further from the civilised systems you go things get very frontier like. Riding on beasts is a glaring example, but even the tech bits are wonky, unreliable and temperamental in a lovely way. Then there are the generic similarities in the plotwork and feel, the role driven characters and the gun-slinging duels of course.
A quick search on the net revealed that Star Wars has been looked at through this lens many times before. This idea is explored briefly but eloquently in the Star Wars Ep 4-6 Study Guide this is worth reading for other reasons as well. The Western Genre page on Wikipedia even takes the time to mention Star Wars derivative nature.
I feel inspired to pick and start reading Stephen King's Dark Tower Series now :-) The idea of a nice merger of genres like this with some good reading time in the holidays coming seems fortuitous. The Official site for the Dark Tower is impressive for a book series.
[Some cover illustration images from the Dark Tower site - various artists]
Thursday, 29 November 2007
The other heavyweight FPS modding dream is here - Unreal Tournament 3. I have my (rather fat) collectors edition tin case with the book and those juicy modding tutorials. First step = find 8GB of space for it all.
A quick check of the video tutes (20 hours worth by Jason Busby and Zack Parish) shows that they come from those gods at 3DBuzz. It certainly looks like it will be a fun ride. One of the first thing the duo shows us is this little chart:
[chart from the start of the Unreal editor video tutes]
There is rather too much reliance on very weird short-cut keys or shift-ctrl-right-click type stuff for my taste, but we shall see. There are already (after only a few short vids) some very nice features like auto-texture alignment.
Heroes S2 Finale
Excellent stuff, though this was perhaps not what I expected as far as another 'save the cheerleader, save the world' defining moment. It was non-the-less a great ride.
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
I forgot about those clever folk at Noesis for the training DVD idea. They are all about modding and gaming of course, but could give us another great set of tutes to cover some specific areas that the generic tutorial folk wont and which will be well beyond the in-built help. Oh, it is only for the Valve games though, which dampens the enthusiasm, but if we continue down that road rather than Crysis or Unreal3 then this will be valuable.
Oh and Unreal 3 will be in my hot little hands tomorrow as well - so many great things to try with so little time.
Back into the world of WoW, still in the learning curve - but enjoying Ogroin's return. It is clever the way Blizzard have built the game so that I can pop in and just do a few quests...
The Mr T and William Shatner commercials are a new way to advertise a game like this - fun.
The same page has movies that are Blizzard's machinima trailers for their patches etc. They use in-game footage, cutting, audio and post-effects to deliver a story that sucks us in and advertises the wonders that are coming. You can see why they support the machinima community - they do it all the time. Lament of the Highborne is a clever piece of machinima, giving us some brief lip-syncing and telling a story through moody visuals and audio alone. The God's of Zul'Aman has lots more dialogue but is done as voice-over/narrator instead. The Wrath of the Lich King trailer shows off how this artform can be done - I will have to actually try and do something like this.
So the WoW Movies are great to learn from be they the clever machinima or the simply stunning cinematics.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
I continued to look at some training options for the staff and students. The 3DBuzz samples I went through were interesting in that they had the voices of an instructor and someone learning as they went through. This was overlayed on the screen they were using and introduced a nice dynamic and friendly way to deliver the instruction. Another idea we worked through (brainstormed) was that of using the logics and stylings of the documentary to train. If you think about a doco, it is say an hour's worth of exposition and all while keeping us engaged and wanting to find out more. This is precisely what a lecture is designed to do as well - something for us to learn from here.
I was hoping to find a single supplier of awesome video learning material that we could subscribe to. Alas it seems they all have their strengths and weaknesses (as one might expect) and we would need to go with several to get good application coverage.
Had fun talking about WoW again at lunch with the guys. It is fun being part of a huge game world like the one Blizzard have made (even if it is split into lots and lots and lots of servers). But tonight was patch-night, so no WoWing for me.
But that is certainly no great loss as Crysis continues to be very entertaining. It is interesting how the realism of so much of it almost highlights the not so realistic bits when you spot them. By way of an example, when you head up into the observation towers you can hang up there all day sniping away at the enemy with little fear of getting hurt. One exception was when a tank took a potshot at me and blew up the whole tower - ouch. Actually I cant help but think of F-Troop when I head up there :-)
I had my first play with Facebook today. I know, I know - I should have done this an age ago - but there you go. First impressions are that it would be awesome for those people who love their online socialising. I will reserve judgment for now, but it doesnt look like my cup of tea at all.
Monday, 26 November 2007
I have been looking at the long standing powerhouse of DVD training, the Gnomon Workshop for their bundles that might give us here at work a huge resource for students and staff alike.
[gnomon DVD bundle image from their website]
The Gnomon Digital Bundle has all the babies below. That would keep even the keenest DVD trainee busy. It is all perhaps too character-centric but would be great to dive into.
**Intro to Maya: NURBS Modeling, 2 - 3, Organic Modeling, 1-2, Rendering 4, Deformers, 2 - 3
**Mental Ray (all 3 DVDs) : **Spherical Panoramic Photography
**Image Based Modeling 1,2 : **Creature Design with Aaron Sims, 1-2
**Photoshop® for Digital Production
**Texture Painting (2 DVDs), Expressions, 1 and 2, Dynamics, 2 - 13 (except #8, #9)
**Digital Environment Workflow : **Character Animation for Games
**Modeling the Human Head : **Automotive Modeling Techniques
**Creature Head Modeling : **Humanoid Modeling : **UV Mapping 101 : **Character UV Mapping
**Maya Cloth 101 : **Maya Fluid Effects (3 DVDs) : **Paint Effects (2 DVDs) : **MEL Series (3 titles)
**Digital Sets, 1-4 : **Introduction to ZBrush 3 : **ZBrush Production Pipeline : **ZBrush for Illustration
**Introduction to Fluid Dynamics : **The Secrets of Organic Modeling
**The Digital Maquette, Volume 1+2 : **Modeling Essentials in StudioTools
**Creature Building Using ZBrush : **Digital Sculpting: Human Anatomy
**Head Sculpting and Texturing : **Modeling for games (2 DVDs)
**UV Mapping for Games : **Global Illumination:Exteriors
**Global Illumination:Interiors : **Detailing Characters: ZBrush Alpha
**NUKE 1-2 : **Matt Linder's Shake DVDs (4) : **Houdini 101 : **Houdini: Rigid Body Dynamics
**Visual Effects Compositing Fund. : **Matchmoving 101 : **Boujou 1 and 2 : **Product Design Rendering Essentials
**Tim Dobberts 3 Matchmoving DVDs : **Vue: Interface and Workflow
**Environment Creation for Production : **Environment Lighting for Production
**Character Modeling for Production : **Character Texturing for Production
**Creature Modeling for Production : **Creature Detailing for Production
**Creature Texturing and Rendering for Production : **Maya Dynamics: Outer Space Env.
**Maya Dynamics: Underwater Env. : **Matte Painting Production Techniques
**3D Matte Painting and Camera Mapping : **Set Extension and Lighting Effects
**Camera Projection Techniques in Maya : **Pipelines for Video Game Animation : **Fluid Simulation with Glu3D
There are other bundles of course, CG Academy's 3DsMax dvd bundle has another 28 dvds of fun.
Digital Tutors have bundles, but they are very Maya-centric there.
Lynda.com has their big suite of dvd titles that we can get at a volume discount again.
3DTotal have plenty of training dvds as well, but no big bundles get a mention on their site - but that doesnt mean they wouldnt do something for us.
Look, Listen Learn, yep those folk at 3D Buzz have their DVD's as well covering not only commercial apps and processes, but the game engine mod pipelines as well.
The Virtual Training Company I dont know much about, but they have a nice wide range of categories and free demos which could be worth a look.
My nice new 3DWorld Magazine #98 actually has a table of some 'Online and DVD' trainers including the ones above plus a few other folk thrown in.
I hadnt played my warlock for such a long time and though my friends are now 70 and Ogroin is but 61, I feel alot less keep-up-stress now - hmm stress seems overstates the case quite I think. Some of the details of all the spells and abilities I could recall, some my finders just remembered for me and others I still have no idea about :-)
Even slaying simple boars felt somewhat awkward as I tried to remember the correct spell sequences and such. Even though the Warlock can be a bit repeaty when soloing, I still fire off a fair number of abilities each fight, this is good when some classes are far more repetitive than that. I only played for a bit, but it was kinda fun actually.
Sunday, 25 November 2007
I have only just got around to watching the final in the trilogy that is the Pirates of the Caribbean - at Worlds End. I have been enjoying the soundtrack for a few months now and it still inspires me, awesome work by Hans Zimmer (grab it in iTunes!). The plot and scripts feels like a political intrigue drama, there are so many motives and threads all pulling their own way and weaving things together. Indeed the double-crossing deal-breaking characters actually make it all rather confusing actually. Now that I think in more detail about it, blimey there is alot of plotwork going on. Despite the exposition sequences, it is still unwieldy - it still works though with the humourous snippets, bountiful action sequences and just oh so much juicy pirating.
[screenshots from Pirates 3 thanks to the Rotten Tomatoes site]
The first movie is without doubt the masterpiece here and the second two films ride on that success. There is doubtless plenty of class in all three, but it is the original that stands out. It is great to have Barbosa back along with the joy of Capt'n Jack and the rest of the gang. Keira is good to see evolving through the film along with the now vast enseble cast. It is really the characters that make this whole enterprise work, with some healthy pirateness they are fun characters that all work together to make for a fun ride.
[promo images from Pirates 3 thanks to the Rotten Tomatoes site - showing off some of the awesome cast]
Even though the franchise might be character-driven, the special effects work is once again remarkable (great work at ILM as always). Some of the sequences I have no clue how they were done even, except that it would have involves a bunch of talented artists, some proprietry software and a bunch of time in compositing-land.
There are some nice articles on the tech out there. Barabara Robertson's CGSociety Article covers Geoff Campbell's creature modelling starting at the begining of his work from the early days. Below is one of the images from the article showing the version of Jack where he is all ship-like. Starting from a scan the modelling work is still very impressive and would have had to have been all nicely rigged to allow him to move naturally for us.
[cg jack image from the CGSociety article by Barbara Robertson]
Bill Desowitz's article VFXWorld explores a raft of ILM's cg work concentrating particularly on the ocean sequences. It is interesting that ILM chewed up 103 TerraBytes on At Worlds End - disk usage is becoming a significant factor - let along the amound of processing that they have going...
I also finished my Machinima for Dummies book, it was a fun little ride. With the coming of specific tools for doing Machinima like MovieStorm will that change the landscape of the artform so much that it will lose its appeal... Will it just be realtime CG Animation rather than the edgy experimental get-it-to-work inside a game world that it is today.