Thursday, 20 March 2014

Cryengine Showcase and Visualisation

We do love the CryEngine, with the freeSDK we have access to a remarkable amount of software grunt, armed with some nice hardware we can be immersed in some amazing worlds and experiences. I would live to have the time to learn the craft of building a scene as wonderful as the stuff we can see in the videos below. The first two vids here are brand new, showcasing the work of licensees and freeSDK users of the engine. The third vid is showing off the technology instead and it is wonderful, look at that rain, gorgeous.

But since we are here drooling over the talents of engine makers and digital artists alike, lets highlight a few other projects. It would be great if CryTek marketed their engine better at visulisation, just look at the realism and the beauty that Hristo Petrov brought to this Architectural project (polycount thread):

PLUS - Crytek have just announced their new Engine as a Service model/program (EaaS).

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Unity5 Coming

Yes, Unity 5 has been officially announced today and it is looking like another good upgrade in terms of the toolset, the visuals and the audials (doubtful that is a real word, but it made sense to put it in that sentence). I have been considering exploring Unity again as viable engine for some of the upcoming projects (personal and work) as Unity 4 is tempting in many ways while being a little uninspiring in others. The interoperability and platform support is superb, how nice would it be if normal users could ramp up the graphics to higher levels if a project called for it.

Anyhow, this post is meant to be about all the snazzy new features in the upcoming (not sure when yet) Unity 5. I really like the fidelity of the character in these images from the Unity5 promo page. The pics show off the lighting, but check the video for all the other goodies.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Fictional Google Maps

When I found this map casually embedded in an Obsidian Portal campaign it was a bit of a revelation. On the one hand it seemed so obvious, but then how simple have Google made things for us to do this? Having maps in this form seems like a no-brainer really for things like the evolving world in a roleplaying game setting. Here is another example using the World of Warcraft lands. So lets take a peek at what might be involved in getting a map through the Google APIs and permissions...

Firstly there is a different logic for creating custom maps on top of the normal Google map data, that is cool, but not the same thing.

Searches for how to bring a map (or any image for that matter) into the Google map 'viewer' is something that seems to throw up references to scripting and APIs and the kind of complexity I was hoping would not be involved. Yes, I was hoping it might be as simple as scrunching an image file into some format that could be called along with the viewer embed - and hey presto.

The actual method looks a little simpler that outlined in this thread if I can trust the super work of Mike Gleason Jr. Well maybe it is that he has packaged the tricky bits for us, but look at the nice examples on his site. I promise I will find time to test this very soon, but I wanted to get some links up on the site for reference right now before I lose them...


As far as making a cool map goes, I just watched Jessica Khoury's map making tutes and they were easy to follow and used some clever tricks (brushes, layer styles etc) to get a great result. As far as drawing my own map elements, getting tips like those from Herwin on Fantasy Cartography are very helpful. I have popped in and looked at other tutes and ideas (like fantasticmaps), but this is a good starting point...

I like the elegant hand-drawn look, but maybe the ultimate map would be to get something as gorgeous as the Middle Earth Map built for Chrome.

Monday, 17 March 2014

the Stonewood

I am looking forward to kicking off our 13th Age campaign soon, tricky getting started because of ... reasons. I have started fashioning a site to hold all the world and game info for us, still plenty to do in there but it is alive: Stonewood Towers.  I actually looked at a range of options for where to host our little site. Maybe I could have done a Google search on that name first, but in context it is fine...
EDIT - No it isnt! So I recreated the site as the Stonewood Tomes which is still on Google Sites unless something better presents itself.

This one is sitting on Google Sites which was easy to dive into and there was a Pathfinder template that I could stomp all over to get things going. I quite liked the idea of it being rather wiki-like though that wasnt a requirement, so long as all of us could edit. I also wanted things to be graphical, that would not only look more appealing but will help us all get more involved with the place without having to read to much. I looked at WIX but none of their templates really inspired me as a starting point somehow. It may have been sane to give them a try, so I could relate the experience, maybe next time. I popped into Wordpress as well and got a fair way into a test build using Obsidian Portal. Using a toolset designed for just this purpose (Obsidian Portal, Scabard, Epic Words etc) was very tempting, but in the end felt nice but not necessary (and awkward in other ways like accounts, payment versatility).

The other thing I ordered was the 13th Age Bestairy (pre-ordered) which means I have the draft PDF and have had a chance to at least skim the entries and get a feel for how they are crafting monsters for the game. I like how they link them to the Icons and talk about story hooks and thematic links rather than these creatures just being tactical piles of XP. I should be able to learn plenty from the book, help flesh out encounters and keep the game light and smooth.

Plus when I saw this wonderful forest photo by Maxime Courty on Deviant Art I was inspired to write this whole post. Could this be part of the Stonewood in our RPG? It looks so peaceful, who would expect a pack of wild shadow boar to come rampaging through...

[Maxime Courty forest photo via DeviantArt]

I liked writing this little summary of where our world and campaign are at from the site. It has snippets of the world, the heroes, Icons, threats and setting:
In the remains of the Tower Stands built to watch over the Stonewood, a small band of adventurers will be at the swirling centre of a storm of forces that will shake old Theria to its core. The tomes and information held right here are bound to rival those in the Great Oculus Hall in Flagsmarch or the personal library of the Elven Princess herself once we get going. Recently the Forest’s growth surges have become erratic and far more potent, so the Elves at the top of Tearhold Tower are now more vigilant as they look for meaning in the stars. Right now, the party has enthusiastically volunteered to take on a mission for the Tearhold Warden, the smoke rising in the woods to the North has an ominous feel to it…