Friday, 21 December 2007

Day350 Hols and triple SLI

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

Day349 LOTRO promo, sketches and such

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

Day348 last EVE

iPod : Do not disconnect
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

Day347 cards

After a long day of consumerism sat down to start work on lots of greeting cards. I am drawing a tv person on each card and then cutting images out of magazines and junk mail appropriate to each person which I stick into the screen section. It is working out pretty well thus far, but it is slow going.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Day346 Crysis Barrels and other fun

Crysis 3000 Barrels video
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.


GMod Console
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

Day345 Beowulf 3D

Beowulf in 3D at IMAX

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!