Saturday, 24 November 2007

Day323 XPS and Elections

XPS1730
I had a little play with Kate's new XPS1730 with its SLI graphics and grunt to burn. Boy it is a big beasty though, even compared to my M90. The transformer is GIGANTIC.

I look forward to getting the work versions and putting things like Crysis, Unreal3 and such through their paces on it.

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Election Day
We have our new government now and we may even get Maxine - kinda cool. Nothing really to do with 3D etc, but it does mean some money is coming for broadband services and a boost for university funding - both good things.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Day322 Unreal 3 Approacheth & Crysis Editing

Unreal 3 in November
The other big gun (both figuratively and litterally) coming our way in the 3D engine
wars is of course Unreal 3. Originally it looked like it would hit our machines before Crysis, but it doesnt look like it is far off now. The Unreal 3 site has a nice quality version of their trailer and it is very very impressive - the Youtube versions of it have too much compression going on and it really muddies the beauty that is in there.

[a nice screenshot from the unrealtournament3 site - shrunk to 800]

Gametrailers have nice big vids as well like the Developer Walkthrough part 1 and part 2 (choose the res). The HD trailer for the single-player game is another little showcase of what Epic have put together.

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The box and modding
Just like my edition of Crysis having a few extra goodies, the Collectors edition of UT3 gives us some nice things to look forward to (from the UT3 site:
- Bonus Packaging: Tin Box
- Bonus Content: Collectible Hard Cover UT3 Art Book
- Bonus DVD: 10+ hours of Unreal Engine 3 Toolkit Video Tutorials
- The History of Unreal Tournament
- Behind the Scenes of UT3

It is a good sign for how moddable it might be if it ships with the tutes already. UT2004 was very approachable for creating things for visualisation, this may be even better. Looking at the gameplay vids it still looks like a charge around and shoot kinda game, nit really my cup of tea. That said something like Team Fortress 2 could be fun for a bit. I wonder if you can have bots in UT3 for things like capture the flag??

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Crysis Editor
Firing up the editor again to have a play, I thought it would come easily, but it wasnt nearly so intuitive for me (not sure why). After a little hunting on the modding/tutorial sites for Crysis I came across the CryENGINE 2 Manual - obvious place to start really - and it works!
This little pic shows me creating my first little island - just mucking around really - but still super cool.

[screenshot of me making my first play-island in the CryENGINE2 Sandbox 2 editor]

Note that if CTRL-G doesnt throw you into your nice new map - just reload the editor and if it behaves like mine it will work second time around.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Day321 Big Crysis, Bonus Stuff & Notebookcheck

Crysis : BIG and Beautiful
In the office I connected my Dell M90 to the Mitsubishi 46" LCD and then dived into Crysis where I bravely set the res to 1920x1080 and all the graphics options to HIGH. Well that isnt quite true as it wouldnt let me set all of them to high. Dont forget there is VERY HIGH as well which is all nicely greyed out for me - my guess is it would need DX10, which would be a test for another day.
So with everything as high as I can get it - it really is beautiful. I was impressed before - but like this it is visually superb. The game itself is completely unplayable at these settings on my machine - but who cares - it just looks great. I captured a few shots of how it looks at this res - be warned these are bigger pics than normal (they are still JPGed at high, but are at full res). When looking at these remember that the trees are waving in the wind, the waves are sliding up and down the beach and there are nice ambient sounds to go with the birds and fish.

[big full 1920x1080 res screenshots from Crysis with things on HIGH]

As far as playing goes atm, I find myself in a tank - not so much subtlety on display. I loved the bit where the mountain shook and huge chunks fell from the peak, sliding and tumbling down - neat.

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Crysis : Bonus Material
I started looking through the bonus material CD that came with my Special Edition box of the game. The actual case btw is the nicest I think I have ever seen, very nicely constructed metal and the hinge is clever.

Concept Sketches
This section has a suite of images (which could well have been online already). There are some nice artwork ones and then the development sketches are cool. I like the way these show design investigation, iteration and development rather than being just a neato sketch.

[concept sketches from Crysis via their bonus material cd]

Making of
The Making of Crysis video is short and sweet. The discussion on level design (catering for the suit abilities and the open gameplay) and technology was good to hear in the cute german accents. The neatest bit was perhaps the commentary on the cry-x video that was made using traditional animation which they outsouced and 2 years later they supassed that with their realtime engine - inspired.

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Notebookcheck
The notebookcheck site's graphic card list is great for seeing what is out there (thanks Michael for the tip on this one). I have been very keen on the laptop profile for computing in general and keeping up with how things are going on the graphics grunt side is a critical part of that (esp since graphics grunt is really surging ahead these days).

Now we can get the likes of an 8800M GTX beasty pumping out almost 9500 on 3DMark06 into a laptop - yowzers. The Dell 3D beasty laptops we will be getting the set of here at work will sport the dual GeForce 8700M GT SLI config found in the Dell XPS 1730. I cant wait to put these babies (with the physX added as well) through their paces. One such pace will be running Crysis at high res with things set to VERY HIGH *chuckle* :-)
[pic of the XPS1730 from the Dell website]

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Bloggy Bits : Slideshow
I noted that Blogger have added a pic slideshow element for Blogger now. This trend for giving us little page/location bits we can add to things is pretty neat. OsX, Vista, Googlepages and Blogger amongst many others have taken this on which is pretty cool.

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Fav Westerns and Ideas
I have a few ideas half brewing in my mind for a machinima or animation or game or something that might use the idea of characters (perhaps tv-like robots) that talk by using sound bites from movies - perhaps from a genre that relates to their character. This is a pretty cool idea and though the concept sketches I have thus far need some work - they could be fun.

Anyhow, taking this idea in an almost Westworld direction for a sec had me thinking about a character whos speech was fueled by westerns. This in turn had me wondering about the complete lack of westerns in our DVD collection... So what should I be hunting down (or at least keeping an eye out for a bargain on) as far as this genre goes. I am not sure why I like westerns - I will have to think that through some more I guess... Here are the ones that spring to mind for westerns I liked: The Quick and the Dead, Dances with Wolves, Silverado, Unforgiven, Young Guns even - then there are things like The Mask of Zorro which I loved. (these seem a little superficial now that I have written them down :-) There are plenty of older ones that I have seen bits of, but I cant tell them apart in my brain. 3:10 to Yuma is a new western coming our way and we have The Assassination of Jesse James ... as well - fun times.

A search in Google-land reveals stacks of people's lists of their favourite westerns. Seeing Ennio Morricones score come up as a deciding factor on people's lists is neat as well - love his stuff.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Day320 Crysising

Crysis Play
It was back into combat with the enemy in Crysis - surrounded by environmental beauty as always. I was onto tank combat at the end of today - it makes a change of pace. Here are a couple of pics to show some more of the env.

[more screenshots of my Crysis jouney]

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Day319 SL Windlight & Morning Run Amok

Second Life Windlight
With all the fun things happening about the place I havent been back to Second Life for what seems like ages now. The world still has great appeal as a huge immersive sanbox and does indeed have people doing great things in a common and often colleborative way.

Check out Fleef's Second Life Soujourn to see the graphics upgrade that Windlight brings to the world that really did look dated before. The main change seems to be the atmospherics, multi-layered sky and water etc.

Here is a little news-snippet-look at what they are introducing with Windlight - I like the way they use modes like this to help promote the 'lifeness' of SL


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Morning Run Amok
Continuing my little look at various pieces of Machinima, I checked out Morning Run Amok which is also from Fling Films. I found it via the Machiniplex as well (which is nice because of the higher res) and it turns up from a few other directions as these things tend to. This was built with Moviestorm (which has just escaped from beta) and shows that this stuff can be done with more dedicated tools very well and could sidestep some of the legal woes of using more traditional game engines.

I will have to check out Moviestorm and some of the nice support sites like the blog etc as well.
The sneak peek screenshot below is from the Britannica Dreams blog. (Maybe it is about time I looked at prettying up this blog to that kinda standard.

[screenshot from Moviestorm courtesy of Britannica Dreams]

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Code Bastard Redgrave

By way of linking SL and Machinima again the work on Code Bastard Redgrave for his MachinimaCam in Second Life looks interesting and the vid on youtube is fun as it kinda shows the scripting coming into being. Check his blog for some great breakdown on his coding up of things like the cam.

Getting further/back into development is an area I am still keen on - boy if only there was more time in a day!!

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SL Char Models
PLUS I found that the model quality in SL now extends to things like Mela's stuff and the sets at Second Life Beauty and Vain SL. Here are three close-up images to show what can be done - lots of cred for these classy creators (not it is not all about half-naked babes - some people can create amazing looking people)

[images of Second Life from Flickr]

Monday, 19 November 2007

Day318 Edge of Remorse, the ARCH & DU's London SL

Edge of Remorse
Following the leads from both my Machinima for Dummies book and the plugs from the Return's site I found myself at Riot Films the makers of Edge of Remorse which won 2 Machinima Film Festival awards. Edge of Remorse is at Machinima.Com or you can get it via xfire.

[EoR poster from the x-fire site]
The film shows another way of working with WoW and still manages to tell a short narrative for us. The soundtrack by Scott Buckley is great and has to do even more work here as there is no dialogue at all. Strangly, given the awards, citations and build-up for this short I was expecting better. Though there is definately some very nice post-production work in play and the music is great - there are other things that bring things down a notch. There is often a reliance on closeups that look like they would be used to convey emotion (going by the score) but just end up with a character looking blandly about the place. This is definately one of the limitations of the WoW engine as a tool for this sort of thing.

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Bloodspell peek.
I hadnt actually watched the work of Hugh one of my authors of the Machinima for Dummies book. So I threw the CD in, but lo there is only Eps 7 and 13 on it - eeeaaaarrggghh :-)
So it was off to Bloodspell.com instead which has the whole 800MB monster that it is. Bloodspell is also at Machinima.com of streaming the whole thing is better. I will have to work out a sane way to grab the whole thing for myself and others - where/when to download it :-)

I watched through the opening sequences and there is certainly plenty of class. The audio is great again (definitive trend here for the classy machinima) and the story looks like it will be interesting based around creating magic from blood. Using the original Neverwinter Nights engine puts it behind in the beauty stakes, but it will be interesting to see if that matters once we get into the characters and the narrative being told.

For a sneak peek, check out the trailer of Bloodspell - it gives the idea without the big download.

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The ARCH
I found The folk at the ARCH via this vid [Hybrid Machinima Experiment: Architectural Science Fiction - see embed below] on Youtube where they blend Second Life and a real location to great effect. Their site (and work) is very SL-centric really, but does delve into some interesting things. I will have to check out this and other advances in SL in the coming months - FBE presence building perhaps, maybe even some kind of BIM link.

[Youtube vid showing integration of SL and real locations by The ARCH]

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Digital Urban's SL London
Following things from 'the ARCH' brought me back to those amazing folk at Digital Urban. Check out the clever work they are doing bringing 3D models of 3million+ buildings from London into the Second Life environment. I like the way the data reads in and then the geometry spins into existance, and hopefully the future will allow a larger chunk to be seen at once. Their project has been captured in a little youtube vid for us all to admire even if we dont dive into SL:

[youtube vid from the Digital Urban site showing their London models inside SL]

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Day317 Crysis & The Return

Crysis Continues
As the combat continues - the reliance on stealth-mode is quite high. It is kinda cool that I can hide by a tree in stealth as more and more of the bad-guys come looking for me and a quick shot to put one down then back into stealth again. Interestingly, when I am having trouble, more often than not I either have to take my time or find a completely different way around some bunch of baddies. Most of the challenge is around troops thus far with a few added suped up lads or a helicopter to make life tricky.
But just look how nice it all is (and all these are on medium settings)

[another image of the pretty island at 800pix]

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The Return
This is perhaps the most famous piece of WoW machinima, created primarily by two brothers in their spare time and for 6 mins it sets up quite a bit of drama and shows off some nice production values and dialogue. The music is great - binding it together and giving us a good dose of mood enhancement (this was largely Warcraft music nicely cut together by the gang). The Return is on GoFish and no doubt plenty of other spots around our glorious internet as well.

The official site for The Return is actually on Rufus Cubed. There is not only info about the next part/s of The Return, but also heaps of info about Machinima in general (with a leaning towards WoW). I should spend plenty more time in their site - they have much to offer.

[This is the title image from The Return's site]

This is from the FAQ on their website - this part talking about the software they used:
What software did you use to edit and mix "Return"?
Video was edited using Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects. Sound was mixed using Adobe Premiere Pro, Steinberg Cubase and Adobe Audition.
This post production skillset is something I am very keen to dive into more fully - compositing, editing and other post tasks are just so vital to multimedia, internet and video projects these days. Perhaps our labs will need CS3 Master Suite now...