How to make a brain : 3DSMax quick tutorial

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Braiiin

 

  • create any random mesh
  • select-all its edges
  • convert the edge selection to a spline
  • turn the spline into a mesh
  • push, subdiv, relax

Amiga Memories – Episode 0

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YouTube Preview Image

This is the pilot of Amiga Memories.

I wanted to test the system on a story-driven presentation, with lip-synch on a speech synthesizer.

Sounds like it works :)

Amiga Memories

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This blog remained silent for too long. As I’ve been rather busy lately, I’ll adopt the shortest Input/Output style for this post :)

Amiga

 

The recent project (purely hobbyist project, that said) that occupied me during the past weeks is centered on the old computer Commodore Amiga.

The input of the video sequence below are (basically) :

- The GameStart3D game engine.
- The MaryTTS text to speech engine.
- A few 3D models borrowed to friends or made by myself.
- The following squirrel script :

The output is the video sequence below :

 

What I did is more or less an automated talking box, some sort of “Max Headroom” inside an Amiga. This sequence is automatically generated, frame by frame.

More to come … stay tuned :)

Astlan on Steam/Greenlight!

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Please help me to push ‘Astlan’ into the selection process of Steam/Greenlight. It needs every upvote, favorite or comment from you. The more votes there are, the more a game is likely to be considered for the Steam games catalog!

Click here to visit my page on Steam and to support AstroLander.

Astlan on Greenlight.


I bet it’ll take a million of votes in order to go thru the selection process, but hey … let’s try!

Astro Lander, a development summary

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This project started as a simple remake of Lunar Lander.

Lunar Lander relies on a 2D gameplay with a simple use of physics and it exactly what I was looking for. I’m going to explore in this post how it finally evolved into something bigger, iteration after iteration.

A long list of improvements.

The initial change I wanted to implement on my remake was a multi directional scrolling, to offer a larger game area.
I built rapidly a minimalist level made of cubic blocks and started to write the physics and the controls of the Lunar Lander.
I found out that the game play could be accelerated, and then I made the ship to move faster. Rapidly, the challenge evolved from “land softly” to “navigate softly and avoid the walls”.
The goal of the game would be not only to reach a specific point, but also to collect a series of items scattered across each level.

The controls.

I started to focus on the controls of the ship. A Lunar Lander is basically about controlling the ship’s reactors versus the gravity and the inertia.
But I wanted to avoid the usual problems related to the rotation of the ship. If the player is in charge of both the thrust and the roll angle, a situation might occur where the ship is upside down and the thrust direction will sum up with the gravity, thus sending the ship even faster against the nearest wall.
To suppress the frustration inducted by such a control scheme, I wrote a simple routine that always controls the rotation of the ship. The player is free to move in any direction, the physics engine handles all the collision and physical responses, the ship can translation, rotate, bump into walls, but in the end it always remain properly oriented.
In my opinion, this is a good compromise for a physics-driver action game, where the physics engine makes the game looks real but doesn’t spoil the gameplay.

The code of this routine takes only a few lines of code :


//-------------------------
function AutoAlign(item)
//-------------------------
{
local _align, _speed

// Get the current orientation
local _rot_z = ItemGetRotation(item).z
// Get the angular speed (if the ship is rotating)
local _ang_v_z = ItemGetAngularVelocity(item).z

// Magic factors applied using an empirical approach …
_align = Clamp(Abs(RadianToDegree(_rot_z)) / 180.0,0.0,1.0)
_align *= 250.0

// … that defines the strength of the torque (angular force),
// applied on the ship to stabilize it
_speed = ItemGetLinearVelocity(item).Len()
_speed = RangeAdjust(_speed, 0.25, 0.5, 0.0, 1.0)
_speed = Clamp(_speed, 0.0, 1.0)
_align *= _speed

// Applies the torque
ItemApplyTorque(item, Vector(0,0,-_rot_z – _ang_v_z).Scale(_align * ItemGetMass(item)))
}

One of my friends who works in the game industry always told me that I needed to refine the controls before doing anything else on the game. During my past attempts at making a game, I disregarded this advice, and started with the level design. I eventually understood that Romain was right.

To bring the ship in motion, the player will only need to trigger the 2 side thrusters by touching the 2 halves of the screen. Such a basic control is perfectly suitable for smartphones and tablets, allowing you to concentrate on the game without having to constantly check that your fingers are properly positioned on the screen.
With the help of Emmanuel, I was finally able to tweak the core routine that drives the ship and defines the way lateral forces are applied to it. It ended up with the exact kind of behavior I was looking for, so the level design could start, at last!

The Level design

As I knew I couldn’t spend too much time on the graphics, I headed for the simplest method I could think of to build the levels : “lego bricks”. This technique, based on blocks, presented two benefits to me :

  • it is cheap in terms of time investment, because you only need to prepare a few blocks and you’re free to work with the GameStart editor. I didn’t have to constantly exchange back-and-forth between 3dsMax and GameStart.
  • it let’s the door open to a future extension that brings a lot of value to a game : a level editor that the players can work with to assemble new levels from scratch.

It has drawbacks too, of course. It’s a bit heavier for the engine to handle a large list of split blocks, and the overall visual aspect tends to be less realistic.

What’s next ?

Now that the game is almost done, with a series of 24 different levels, all we need is to polish the final builds both for iOS and Android platforms. As soon as the game is released, I’ll be able to focus on the next big implementation : the level editor.

In the meantime, you may enjoy the gameplay video below :

Preparing a trailer for Astlan

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Today, as we have planned a walk to the Aerotrain’s test site, I decided to bring my iPhone and a tripod.
The Aerotrain railway makes a perfect landscape to create a fun & intriguing trailer for my (almost finished) game ‘Astlan’.

For the record, the Aerotrain prototype was designed during the 70′s as an high-speed alternative to the regular railways. A test site running on 25km, made of a concrete rail was built in order to test this prototype (max speed recorded was around 400km/h).

Nowadays, only the concrete rail remains, making a perfect place for urban exploration.

Here are a few mockups I made of the kind of framing I want to shoot once on the site. We’ll see if the final result is close enough. Or not :)

Turrican 3 (title screen), a bit of (VG) archeology.

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Yesterday night, a friend sent me the ASM source code of the title screen of the game Turrican 3, released by Factor5 on Amiga computers around the year 1993.

Not only the 68000 ASM source code of the title screen makes more than 5000 lines, but it contains a few evidences of where the Factor5 team got their inspiration from.

The line 31 mentions a ‘Stryfe‘ character.

I started to look into Google Image, and I quickly found the following character, featured as a Super Vilain of the Marvel universe (look at his Real Name) :

Isn’t that ‘Stryfe’ character the twin brother of the Turrican 3′s Super Vilain (and Final Boss), featured below in the title screen of the Amiga version ?

Amazing, isn’t it ? :)

For the record, there is a longplay of Turrican 3 Amiga :

Astlan, sunday late update.

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Both Saturday and Sunday were profitable days. I managed to stick on AstroLander and work a dozen of details, such as :

  • Normalize the audio tracks
  • Improve the touch/click reactivity of the main GUI
  • Write a few common function to create UI buttons and ultimately refactor the existing UI code
  • Implement a “Pause Menu” when in-game. Works perfectly and stops the game completely (display, stopwatch, physics, particles and whatnot)
  • Fix an inconsistent design in the score calculations
  • Renamed a dozen of scene files and their respective classes

Not bad, for a Sunday :)

Ideas for my next project

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While it is too early to expose here the idea I have regarding my next game project, I can say it will involve robots…animated robots.

The challenge here will be to animate the robots using a procedural technique as I want them to be able to place their hands randomly.

For this purpose I will probably use two things :

1. This robot I modeled years ago (here in a shameless photoshopping)

20120106-231343.jpg

2. The physic engine of GameStart, and especially joints, to assemble a sort of ragdoll, so that I shall only need to animate the hands if I want to move the arms :)

Stay tuned.
I need to finish and release Astlan first, anyway!

Update on CosmicLander

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Here I a quick summary of the most recents update I made to my latest game project:

  • The name was finally changed to Astlan, as in Astro Lander. I hope it will avoid any possible copyright issue.
  • 20 levels out of 24 are now completed, with different kinds of traps, such as doors, rotating barriers or lasers.
  • The game UI is slowly taking shape, thanks to the help of an amazing local artist who made the intro screen, displayed somewhere in this page. So far, the main title, settings screen and level selection menu are functional.
  • I recently manage to throttle my physics routines when the game happens to slow down too much. This was a matter of concern to me, especially regarding the Android version.
  • Yup, you read it right. There’s an Android version around :)

I will post a playable version including the updates listed here before January 2012 so that people will be able to test, and hopefully make feedbacks :)

20111229-073516.jpg

20111229-074758.jpg

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