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Long time no see, Mister (15. Dec 2012) [ Comment ]

Forum Administrator
A very long time passed since the last news. One reason had been me moving to a new place which took longer than expect. Then there had been lots of work too correlated to show by its own. And finaly but not least there had been some nasty incidents at ModDB where somebody with site moderator power (as it seems) vandalizing the profile of my project which I restored. Due to this incidents though I put a news ban on ModDB which had been in effect since somewhere the beginning of this year. In the mean time though a couple of people asked me to lift the ban. When I found a way to protect my work by reworking the Wiki to host the articles I decided to lift the ban as on my wiki my work is safe. I don't want to warm up this story more than I just did. Important now is only that ban is lifted. For me this incident is now a matter of the past and shall stay there. Let's move on to what is really important.

Drag[en]gine Wiki Overhaul
The Drag[en]gine Wiki has been completely overhauled. To help prepare for a future release of the game engine this wiki is turned into the SDK and first source of information. Hence it is made for the developers wishing to work with the game engine. Especially in light of the incidents that happened the wiki has been modified to hold also all the articles from now on. I'll now only make short bullet lists of what has happened linking to the wiki pages. No articles will be posted anymore on ModDB (on my wiki they can't be vandelized). The articles contain in depth details. It's really worth reading them if you want to know all over the Drag[en]gine.

The Big What Has Happened In All The Month List!
Here the list of what happened during all these month. Click on the links for detailed articles about the topic:

And here a video showing the Old Industrial Zone map. Cut together various video clips to give a little overview of the map, the game controls, the movie camera and other stuff. Please excuse the frame rate but GLC gets into problems once the GPU memory is crammed full. I'm working on improving that. Also the video codec killed the night scenes so I cut out most of it as it is too dark to see. See the Map Screenshots for more images including night scene how it really looks like.

Video on ModDB

Two example screenshots I uploaded also here. The rest you find in the Map Screenshots Gallery.

image image

It's time now for an overdue all important addition to the shader system to allow for even more power and versatility that I need to get that performance punch to crank up frame rates. My Radeon 4870 HD is not the youngest and most powerful graphic card anymore but I have the will to get the most punch out of it with my engine. Besides this I want to get the first mission into a playable state with first investigation work going on. A lot of the required engine work is done already. And that is the most time consuming part so far. Furthermore more articles will be moved one by one to the safety of the Wiki.

Interaction News Post (12. Jun 2011) [ Comment ]

Forum Administrator
Quite some time since the last news post. This has been mainly due to story writing work. More than 3 weeks went down the drain to building up a document to hold the important corner stones of the story. If this would be a boring FPS or an MP game then story would be a no-brainer. Since this is though a game where investigation is part of the job the requirements on the story in terms of logic and coherence are quite high. This is especially time consuming if you write such a story for the first time. Another problem is to allow the player a certain degree of freedom in how he pulls off his investigation. All this together ate up a lot of time leaving less for working on the game. Nevertheless I'd like to take the opportunity to talk about the new stuff concerning the actual game itself.

Most of the work went into improving the conversation system. For this Target and Look-At have been added. Targets simplify the process of defining targets for cameras or other kinds of actions in a conversation. In addition to the existing parameters for actor speaking 3 new Look-Ats have been added: Body, Head and Eyes. Targets can be anything from actors in the conversation to world objects nearby. The system is thus quite variable. The major improvement though is adding the conversation system to the game (as it worked so far only in the editor). Besides that new interactions have been added. But it's easier to see it in action. Read the text below the video to learn what each sequence shows.
Video ModDB

First part shows the memo pad handling to work with the new player character (especially it's now right-handed as it should be). Shown is picking one pad up. I know it's strange as he grabs it with the right hand but holds it with the left but I had only the right hand animation already from the previous model. Will be changed later on. Pads are now used using animations (your finger there). Also dropping shown. Next is picking up a story memo pad. You have to pick this up to get a conversation going later on.

Next shown is the entire conversation system. Added support for conversation introduction thus saying hello and stuff like that to make it more natural. Then selecting the appropriate topic to talk about. That topic only exists if the memo pad has been picked up beforehand. Then comes lots of new stuff. Added more camera shots for variety. Added face and eye look-at targets. Also included eye-blinking now. More things I added is one actor giving stuff to the other. This is a matched animation so if you look at it from the outside they properly hand over an item no matter the distance between them (IK stuff). This works using player actions which means it can be used for anything including the player and NPCs. Added a command interface for that. A rather simple system sending a text command to the an actor.

Every actor in the game has a PlayerActions object assigned. This one defines how the actor behaves right now. The action can be changed by assigning a new PlayerActions object (typically a sub-class). The trick is now that for everything these actions are used. The only thing that changes between a player actor, an NPC actor as well as conversation is how commands are given. For player actors commands come from keyboard/mouse. For NPCs the commands come from an AI object. And during conversation commands are send to these actor actions. So I have to implement an interaction only once, as a PlayerActions sub-class and can then use it for everything just by giving the right input. Here a bunch of actions are involved, HAGrabProp, HAGiveProp and HATakeProp. A simple system to use but powerful.

There's also support for player choices not shown in the video. Simply shows a list of options on screen the player can select one from. Each option has a list of conversation actions assigned so you can alter the course of conversation if required.

Last but not least the same as with starting the conversation. Shows some goodbye stuff when the player leaves. Same idea as with saying their hellos. All of these are conversation topics so you create them the same way as any other conversation.

Out of conversation the next thing shown is some interactions. The first one is taking a seat, here on an infirmary bed. Introduced here the actor align action. That's a glue action which aligns an actor before running the next action. Used to position the actor in the right place for the next action to work properly. Showing this in the second time he sits down where the player is standing far away. So sitting down is 3 chained actions (HAAlignActor, HASitDown, HASitting).Simply but versatile. This sitting down might not look useful yet but it will be used for NPCs (talk to them while they sit behind there desk) and using computers (player sits down on the chair in front of it).

Last thing shown is an idea I had to make investigation a bit more interesting. Here an action to look under the bed. The idea is to be able to look for clues in less ordinary locations. For this one I filmed myself and used this as reference making the animation.

Besides this a bunch of under-the-hood stuff has been added to. This includes a bunch of conversation actions and conditions including working with local variables (integer, valid during a conversation session) and working with actor parameters (integers). Actor parameters are interesting as they store information like the mood of the actor and other information. Asking irrelevant stuff or otherwise annoying an NPC with questions drops their “like you” parameter. If this one is too low they won't talk with you anymore. So think first what you ask. Careless pressing makes your life just harder. The mood system is though still work in progress so I'll talk about that later on.

I wanted to get this conversation system out of the way as quickly as possible so I can do more engine work. There are a few things on my list to do including AI, Path-Finding and Global-AO. Stay tuned.

Captain! We've got (loco)motion! (06. Jan 2009) [ Comment ]

Forum Administrator
A long time passed since the last update on this profile as all the updates went into the Drag[en]gine profile where they are situated more logically. Now it's time to show what also happens on this project for a change.

Improved locomotion system
In the last News post of the Drag[en]gine ( which you might have slipped as it drowned in a mass commit ) the improved Animator System has been discussed. Text and images can not give enough clues about the power of this system, especially a power given to animators. In contrary to conventional systems or fully procedural systems no coding knowledge is required to build highly dynamic animations. Great way to keep your artists busy without waiting for the programmers/scripters all the time. As a little illustration of the system you can find here a video of the work in progress locomotion system used in the game. There are a few animation variations missing ( mainly turning and transition animations for extreme cases ) but the rest is working needing only some refinements. Good thing is that a large number of variations on these animation ( holding and using items ) can be generated without requiring your animators to produce animations for all situations. Another advantage is the way this game handles the first person camera. All camera movement is governed by animations ( and therefore the animators you create ). In the video you can see a test session cycling through various combinations of walking, running, crouching, moving sidewards and looking around as seen by the ego-camera and the movie-camera. Especially notice how the head bobbing for running is small if you run straight ahead but gets wonky if you run sidewards ( all animation driven, including looking around ). Also there's a slight lag in the change of walk direction which will be higher when carrying large objects to give the player a better feel for the weight of what he carries. With this you can move around maps without having to use side-step keys all the time as required for most FPS games.

Epsylon Game Locomotion System video - Mod DB

Inventory system reworked
One of the problematic points in developing this game has been the aimed for game mechanic goals. A lot of time in the recent month went into validating the usefulness and especially do-ability of certain ideas in the design document. Some withstand the tests others showed to be problematic and got either dropped or reworked. One of the main points has been the inventory system. The old system allowed for multiple inventories which sounded nice on paper but actual play testing showed various troubles with this system. The inventory system went trough various reshapes to find a balance between the aimed goals and good game flow. After all the main game mechanics involve rich interaction with the environment/world, crafting your own devices ( MacGyverism ) and solving tasks using your own mind. To avoid too much distraction with the inventory the system has been reduced in complexity. Players have now a list with VIPs ( very important possession ) which they can neither loose nor do they add to encumbrance or consume inventory space and a sizable inventory. Each actor ( of which you have multiple in your team ) can equip besides other stuff one baggage type item. This item indicates the size of the inventory and how much the actor is encumbered. The two added images show the current inventory dialog in-game as well as a mock-up with some large inventory ( for example a large backpack ) containing a sample cast of items and a smaller one ( for example a smaller backpack or a shoulder bag ) for comparison. The larger one can carry more but also has a larger impact on the agility of the actor. The rest should be self explanatory. The layout of the screen is not final. As we have some free space left we will most probably add some more infos about the items like the attachment slots they have. Drag and drop interaction is implemented and can be easily used.

image image

Various stuff
The cloth system is now working. A bit a strange name but this simple means that you can equip cloth and other items and they reflect on your actor. Known from RPG games and therefore is no new thing to gamers. If a cloth is equipped the underneath human actor body part is not rendered. So here only the head and hands are rendered. The rest are individual items. Uses the Drag[en]gine collider attachment system for this. No code required, just plug it in and it's working. For adding quickly new cloth you can use XML files now. No code required for this.

Furthermore the first map of the introduction chapter ( which is going to be a sort of live-tutorial as it is done often nowadays ) has been worked on. In the above video some parts of the map can be seen. It stretches though further outside the view ( where the game will start ) and includes a main valley through which the player approaches the building and a smaller side-valley which is required to solve a later puzzle ( but more I will not disclose yet ). There's no texture paint on the terrain yet since we use this as a little playground for testing out ways to generate this texture masks for faster working later on.

Besides all this the skin of Sean has been improved and except some seem fixing and a few small tweaks on the wings ( to make the color better bleed over ) it's done. The back fins are also something to fix up later but that's pure texture work. Sam also got some cloth to wear around as well as a fix up of the Armature for animation and a cast of new animations. Still needs a fix on the hands ( higher polygon count and fixing a mistake in the bones structure ) and some eyes.

Updates on this project will be always a bit slower and less until the Drag[en]gine is released. This is done since people would like to take a stab at the game engine before the game itself is out. Work continues on adding interactions with the world, improving the first map and adding more props and items.

So stay tuned for the next news post on either profile.

Time for some news (28. Apr 2008) [ Comment ]

Forum Administrator
A lot of time went by without news so it's time to give out some informations.

Again quite some time since the last update. Like always this is mostly due to the fact that we push the work on the game engine before giving some hands on the game itself since we have the goal to get this puppy out of the door somewhere this year. The large part of this news post is therefore included in a separate news post for the game engine and won't be restated here.

Shadows of the forests
Nevertheless some work has been done the game itself. This work consisted mainly on working on the main characters in this case the dragons. A set of high resolution textures has been worked on. The aim on this skin is to make a lifelike and realistic dragon skin one you could imagine crossing your path while taking a stroll in the woods. We tested various methods and settled for a nice solution providing not only a good looking skin but also a reusable one ( the system, not the skin ). Dragons in the game have a similar or nearly equal base skin color ( for the same kinds that is ). Each individual though has a unique skin pattern. You will be able to tell them apart from a distance by looking merely at their skin pattern... that is if you manage to spot these guys. They blend perfectly into forestine environments. Use this as an advantage for those pesky little humans roaming around ;) . The skin is not fully finished yet but the general look is done requiring some touch ups on the feet as well as weeding out seem problems ( done in the end when the skin is ready ). So here the obligate images:


You can find more images in the Epsylon Showcase.

This skin contains now a diffuse, normal, specular and transparency map. The normal map consist currently only of the detail normal map. The geometry normal map is going to be made using a sculpted version of the model. It's the first time I used the sculpt tool of Blender3D and it works nice so far :D


HDRR Update
The HDRR received an update to tackle the problem with the tone mapper. More about this in the news post for the engine itself. Here an image showing the results. Shadowing is ticked off so it's better visible.


Surprise Bag
Now that the engine is getting closer to the final shape more time can be spend for the game play related tasks. We are not going to say more currently about the new system the player is going to receive to help him unravel the mysteries. So much we can though say ( and give you something to speculate until the next update ) that the system is named PeCopA. The next time we are going to show you what it up with this new system :D ( happy guessing ).

This is a little unfortunate but as it looks our newest member got missing in action. Since a long time communication dropped to zero ( not a problem from our side ). What happened and why he vanished is completely unknown. The work spot is therefore open again for all interested people. Nevertheless we will push this forward. The war is not over yet so count with us in the future :D

Upgrade to phpBB3 (15. Jan 2008) [ Comment ]

Forum Administrator
Like many places this forum here took also the leap forward to the new phpBB3 version. The transition has worked without a problem so far but there might be small things broken. If you find something that is off just send a PM or make a topic in the suggestions forum. One thing is about the style. Obviously the old style could not be taken over just like this. It takes a bit of time to adapt it. Otherwise the old subsilver2 style is activated by default. This is a much cleaner and less performance hungry style than the new prosilver style phpBB3 comes equipped with. Should you though prefer this one just go to your user control panel and switch it back.