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Messages - Psawhn

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Artwork / Re: Alien Wormhole Device
« on: December 20, 2008, 08:51:02 pm »
Yep. Finishing it is one of my plans for this holiday. Last night I actually had an epiphany of sorts regarding it - it should be slightly broken up from the crash. (I didn't quite realize that earlier.)

I've also got the main components separated for organization, but I don't see why the lower halves won't be in the maps. Wouldn't it work to have the model there, then some invisible brushes to handle the pathing?

Artwork / Re: Needed: new starmap texture
« on: December 20, 2008, 08:39:11 pm »
Sitters, are you able to make a version with the stars only a pixel or two wide? I'm curious to see if that looks better.

I'm actually trying to find a way to reliably make a starmap with pixel-sized stars at any resolution. The problem with using an image is that they don't work well if you zoom in (Which especially makes them problematic for BSG/Firefly-style shakeycam).

Design / Re: about interceptors, esspecially the saracen
« on: December 19, 2008, 09:42:37 pm »
On the high-resolution version of the Saracen I've worked on I've put vectored thrust in, mainly to help it fulfill its STOL requirements from the UFOPedia. Of course, the vectored thrust would also greatly enhance its maneuverability. I think Zorlen's right, too, in that the Saracen was picked because it was a high-speed interceptor, not because it was a high-performance dogfighter - that's the Stiletto's job. I actually think the Saracen is the most realistic of the three Terran combat aircraft available to PHALANX. (Stiletto, Saracen, Hyperion.) (Of course it's even better if you take out the STOL abilities.)

My two problems with the Stiletto are:
1) Because of its shape, it shouldn't even break the sound barrier without using up incredible amounts of fuel, and it doesn't have that much space for fuel.
2) It's too small to carry weapons. The SHIVA ammo drum I designed is about the same size as one of its engines. Yet somehow it can carry three weapons and the Saracen, which has much more cargo space, can only carry two.
I've got dreams to take the basic design of the Stiletto and lengthen it into something that approaches the proportions of an attack helicopter, not the scout helo it is now. I think a version with an aggressive profile would look very cool.

I don't think that the forward-swept wings on the Dragon are much of a problem, actually. See the current Russian experimental plane, Su-47 Berkut. At high speeds, forward-swept wings are very unstable and undergo tremendous forces, which is why they were impossible to use until we had both computer control and composite materials. Alien materials would even make the design more feasible than it is today.
Actually, my biggest problem with the Dragon is its name. Every other interceptor in PHALANX' arsenal starts with an 'S' except the Dragon: Saracen, Stiletto, Starchaser, Stingray.
I hereby propose that the name be changed into something similar but with an 's.' (in the English translation, at least) A quick online thesaurus lookup yields a few reasonable alternatives: Savage, Scylla, Serpent, Siren, Spitfire.

I should add that I'm the kind of person who gets way too nitpicky and gets somewhat bothered by these kinds of things. Most of the time it's just better to relax and enjoy the pretties.

There was that bit of a mock-up storyboard that I made in flash, with my almost-nonexistent drawing skills. One of the advantages of the computer age is you can take the previously static storyboards and partially animate them, giving a sense of time and not just visualizing the shot.

Maybe one of the awesomer ways of doing things is to find some online collaborative drawing software and some VOIP software. Then we could set a date and plan things out in more of a realtime environment.

Artwork / Re: Needed: background image for campaign victory message
« on: December 19, 2008, 01:14:07 am »
Just today I did a little bit more work on the Stingray. I did realize that the engines didn't have the distinctive antimatter clues, so I've added a couple. (See attachment) Now I probably have to get the things together and release the new files.

I've got a couple ideas for boo-rah type scenes, too.

[attachment deleted by admin]

Artwork / Re: Hyperion
« on: December 18, 2008, 03:50:30 am »
What about symbol-looking things that just happen to correspond to characters in some language or another? ;)

Joking aside, while I think that a translation exception should be made for some kinds of artwork (such as detailing), you guys are the core team. I'm not. :)

How does that apply to things like numbering? For example, on my fuel tank there's a label that reads "PFL-880B" but it's too small to make out clearly. (On the other side reads "This is a bunch of text that you should not be able to read")

Sounds and Music / Re: (New W.I.P. track) Tell me what you think of this...
« on: December 18, 2008, 03:26:28 am »
This also should loop OK in the game, although when I play it looped in VLC, the VLC player on my Windows system cuts off the start and end a little, stutters, then re-buffers the thing.

I've made a small .wav of the loop of version 3.7x

To get the actual loop, I've got a program called DirectMusic Producer. It's actually a Microsoft program, but it's surprisingly effective and free. (But not open source.:() I just used Audacity to convert .ogg into .wav, and to clean up the ends and stuff.

As you can hear in that example, there is a slightly jarring break when it transitions. Looking at the waveform in Audacity, there aren't any really apparent discontinuities, but you can definitely hear it. I think the problem is that things like reverb and the fall-off of sound are being cut off, even though technically there's no break in sound.

One way that might help to eliminate the 'seam' when looping is to record a bar or two of the beginning after the song ends. Then use Audacity to carefully cut off the start and end such that exactly one complete song remains, but copy the ending bit over the beginning bit.

A simpler method of reducing the jarring effect is to have a few beats of silence before looping, and composed such that it doesn't sound out of place. Here's something you can try for this song: Take that lead-in on the drums you have right at the very end, and move it later by one measure so that there are three beats of silence between the guitar ending and the drums starting. Now take that same drum fill and put it at the beginning of the song so that the file starts with that pick-up. (I also think starting with a pickup beat would help the song slightly.)

Those three beats don't have to be deafening silence, though. You can some light instruments or drum in there, but the important bit is that the sound isn't still fading out when the file cuts off at the end and loops back to the beginning. The audio has to reach silence naturally before it's cut off mechanically.

Artwork / Re: Hyperion
« on: December 18, 2008, 12:41:53 am »
That was justification for leaving it as it is, but aesthetically I think the cockpits would look a lot better if the canopies followed the design rules of modern aircraft: pilots having a good field of view, and following the area rule.

That's not a good idea. We want all the text in the game to be translateable, so we shouldn't put any text into images.
I don't think it matters which language it's in, if any. If the text is clear enough to be read, then the best bets are either English (because it's a standard for aviation) or the language of the craft's source country, (Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, etc.), purely for backstory reasons. The actual content of the labels don't matter, just the fact that they can be seen.
Symbols and colours can be used, too, and those are universal.

Quote from: Winter
Not when you consider much of the weight will be at the back (like all the fuel in the wings!).
I forgot about the weight of fuel, but fuel shouldn't be required in order to maintain stable flight because it gets used up. The engine is probably the heaviest component in the airframe, and that must be what skews the COG back.
I'm also comparing it to something like a Dassault Mirage, which is just a fighter and doesn't have to lug around a squad of soldiers. (But I admit my eye looks at the Mirage and wonders why that doesn't lawn-dart when it flies.)

I mean the Hyperion - the delta winged transport/fighter. That's not antimatter-powered.

Artwork / Re: Hyperion
« on: December 17, 2008, 10:32:24 pm »
As always, your work is really good, sitters. :)

I just want to add a couple little nitpicks - these are my own opinion, not the team's.

1st: Wings on the Hyperion. To me, it seems like their center of lift is too far back for the kind of load the transport can carry. The delta-wing is similar to fighters like the Mirage, but the main difference is how the weight is distributed in the fuselage. I just get the sense that the center of gravity for the Hyperion is located farther forward than the Mirage, in comparison, and this means that it just wouldn't fly. A fix might be to make the wing blend in to the fuselage, kind of like the F-16.

2nd: Cockpits. On both your craft, the canopies seem to be just 'bumps' on top of the fuselage, almost like an afterthought. (The Saracen has this problem, too.) I can't imagine pilots sitting in the cockpit even being able to see below the horizon in level flight, which makes landing especially difficult.
-The counter to this is that helmet-mounted displays combined with TV or IR cameras would let the pilot see 'through' the cockpit and fuselage no matter where he looks. (I think that's what they're trying to do with the F-35).

These are both modeling nitpicks, too, which makes them come at the worst time because you've already textured the two things.

Speaking of textures: Another visual clue to help make something feel human is to put labels and such in a couple places. Things like "BEWARE ENGINE BLAST" and "NOT A STEP", or markings for the fuel access, registration numbers, etc. We don't have to be able to read any of the words. The cargo access is a great place for these.

I also think that the Hyperion still needs some bump mapping. The lighter grey colour helps distinguish it from the Saracen, but it still needs those details to feel alive. I suggest keeping the lighter paint scheme but bringing back a lot of the panelling. Tone back the panels from the previous one a little bit, though - it felt to me like it had too many squares on the wings and on the nose. Keep the grooves for the flaps and rudders, as well as a a trapezoidal shape or two following the wings. The large panels on the main fuselage are fine.

The occasional greeble helps, too. (There are things like pitot tubes, doors for the fuel tanks, navigation lights (when off), EW sensors, and dozens of things I don't even know of. )

These are all just my own suggestions, though, so take them with as much salt as you want.

Artwork / Re: GUI - 2.2.3 dev gui revamp
« on: October 24, 2008, 05:18:15 pm »
For stars, one great resource I found:

One problem I've run into on renderings is that a large image for a starfield has to be very large to counteract the effects of a small viewing angle. The images I linked to have 8 px/degree for the larger ones(2880x1440px), which still means that a fov of 64 degrees (like a 35mm lens) only gives a 512x512px image. Going with larger images helps, but you start to run into engine limitations and memory problems

Another method that might work well is to use a starmap and just draw the stars directly using the 3D engine. I don't know what the engine constraints are on drawing hundreds (or thousands) of small pixel-sized dots (maybe 2x2 dots for the very bright stars).

And of course, if accuracy to real-world stars isn't needed, it's a lot easier to use something like a repeating texture for the background stars.

Artwork / Re: Little experiment for cinematic - air combat
« on: October 23, 2008, 06:53:43 am »
Shakey-cam is sort of an unofficial term for 'artificial' camera shake designed to impart a documentary feel into a video. It's basically camera jitter plus a human element - an actual cameraman has to react to sudden movement because he doesn't know what's going to happen.

Most documentaries, and some newer TV shows (Particularly Firefly and the new Battlestar Galactica) are good examples of shakey-cam.

I know how hard it is to get decent 3D clouds in blender, which is why I suggest holding off on any clouds at all (or perhaps the best option is only a dozen or so 3D clouds) and rely on better atmospheric effects.

The landscape creation I am looking for is procedurally-generated. The advantage is I can literally fly forever over the terrain without worrying about flying off the edge, and as long as I don't put the camera at too high an altitude I don't need to worry about the edge becoming visible. If I import a landscape then there is only so far you can go in one direction before you run out of world.

Sounds and Music / Re: Aircraft Jet-Engine Sound (Link)
« on: October 22, 2008, 08:00:27 pm »
It's obviously from a low-bypass jet engine - the kind you get on military fighter jets. Be careful not to use it for things like civilian jets, because those are frequently high-bypass turbofans, which are a lot quieter and different sounds start to emerge.

The sample has a lot of popping, though. That'd be my only real problem with it.

Artwork / Re: Little experiment for cinematic - air combat
« on: October 22, 2008, 07:43:57 pm »
I've actually been studying aerial photos and I want to eventually try my hand at an interception animation. The main problem is I don't quite have the time (I still have to finish the texture on that wormhole generator - and it's been how long?) But I'll try to give some hints to help things out.

Afterburner flames:
I gave a couple hints for engine textures a while ago:

Aircraft do not run on afterburner all the time. It's a huge waste of fuel, of course. If you looked into the nozzle of a non-afterburning engine, it'd look dark because the combustion happens in front of the turbine blades. This means you don't have to create any afterburner flames most of the time.

When a jet engine is in afterburner, what you see depends on the lighting. For some afterburners and bright lighting (daytime), all you'd see is a glow inside the engine. For others (such as in dusk/night) you'd see a nice long, flamey tail. A lot of the time, all you actually see are the shock diamonds -,

Not only that, but the Saracen has vanes covering its engine to vector thrust for STOL. I don't think its afterburner would even create nice, long flames or shock diamonds. Instead, when I made my renders, I used just engine glow and heat distortion.
To make the engine glow, I put several semitransparent orange planes inside the engine. To make the heat distortion, I spilled out really ugly cloud textures with 'color' enabled - it looks like Super Magical Rainbow Plane! ;) But I fed this layer of particles into the compositor to drive a displacement node, which simulates the distortion you get with strong temperature gradients in air.

One thing that will really help the sky is to use the new atmospheric shader in the latest blender. I think adding those effects will increase the quality by an order of magnutude. :)

On the subject of clouds - those are tough to do convincingly in blender. In all my renders I simply used background plates. With the atmosphere shader outlined above, it may be better to not have any clouds at all until blender gets a proper volumetric shader.
The current clouds you have in the last animation look like they are at a very high altitude, so they should be wispy ice clouds, but they have the shape and texture of mid-level altocululus clouds. Unfortunately, I don't know how to make nice wispy cirrus clouds procedurally in blender, so you might want to just paint or download some textures, then use those instead.

The 3D clouds generated by that automatic generator added a lot by their very nature of being 3D. The problem is the way the generator seems to work: it fills in a cube with a procedural cloud. If you have an infinite grid of equally sized cubes as your layer of clouds, you get an infinite grid of equally sized cube-like clouds which, of course, looks very unnatural. Maybe the best way to fix that is to base the cloud layer off of randomly placed pyramids - the pyramids should be all sizes and shapes, and pseudorandomly placed to encourage overlapping and large gaps.
Something I want to try (again when I have the time) is to make a mesh representing the top surface of a cumulus cloud formation and use SSS approximation, and maybe a few sprays of particles and compositor post-processing for the fuzziness.

If you are going to use textured planes as clouds, also keep in mind the curvature of the earth. Although the landscape will have no visible curvature except at extremely high altitudes, a 'solid layer' of cirrus clouds will eventually touch the horizon - the two exceptions are if the cloud formation does not extend that far, or atmospheric haze obscures the distant clouds.

The landscape in the latest image looks good, but a little 'video-gamey.' Fixing light and shadows should help with that a lot. My ultimate goal is to be able to create procedurally-produced landscapes on moving planes (such that the landscape is always underneath the action, regardless of how far the planes fly), but creating convincing terrain features and colours is something that still eludes me.

I really want to know how the guys that make Dogfights! make their landscapes. :)

Camera movement/Animation:
Winter's already said that he likes shakey-cam, and I also love the effect when it's done properly. Effective animation and realistic camera movement can lend a lot of realistic weight to an otherwise cartoony scene.

Camera rigs:
Instead of just a camera floating through air, it can become somewhat complicated. The simplest camera rig has a free-floating camera with a track-to constraint set on an empty.

One of the better camera rigs would probably be something like this: There is a curve (bezier, nurbs, or path) for the generic movement of the camera. Set to follow this curve is an empty, EmptyCCurve. (Or whatever you want to name it). Another empty, EmptyCAim, is set to copy location on EmptyCCuve, and EmptyCAim is also set to track to EmptyCTarget. Empty CTarget is placed wherever you want to aim your camera, generally - it can be freefloating, parented, or set to follow a curve. Finally, your Camera is parented to EmptyCAim.

What's the point of all the complication? It gives us lots of options. If you're simulating shakey-cam, I'd suggest leaving EmptyCTarget free or parented to your ship. If it's free, only put IPO location keys approximately 1-4 seconds apart, and move EmptyCTarget around your subject.
Either method you use, you can then add camera shake in the IPO editor. Select your camera, and add a new pane (or change a pane) to the IPO editor. On the right, you should see some options dLocX, dLocY, dLocZ, and dRotX, dRotY, dRotZ. Select one of these, and you can use CTRL-LMB (CTRL-RMB if you changed it so LMB selects instead of RMB) to draw IPO curves directly. For camera shake especially, you can record mouse movements directly: select two channels (Such as dRotX and dRotY), press CTRL-R, and select an option. In this mode, if you hold down the CTRL button it will record your mouse movements directly. So hold down CTRL and shake your mouse about and you'll get a nice camera shake effect. :)
Remember to use camera shake sparingly! Only using it when an actual cameraman would have trouble keeping the object in frame - such as if the shockwave from a passing jet passes over him, or the action is so fast he has a hard time moving his camera about.

Attaching your jet to a curve will make animation nice and smooth, as well. Just watch out if your curve goes past vertical - blender doesn't know which way is 'up', and if your plane tries to make a loop it will make some very odd spins when it is heading straight up or straight down. Aside from that little kink (which can be compensated for by using more advanced rigs) you'll have a much more believable animation because your camera has to react to the movement of the plane.

Artwork / Re: Need background image for tactical radar
« on: June 23, 2008, 06:54:41 am »
Something I thought would be neat is to enhance the 'halos' around actors and important objects as you zoom out, so your 3D view essentially becomes the map. Most of the map images are just renders of the 3D view from above anyway. When you zoom out far enough, you can't see the individual soldiers/aliens too well, so just intensify icons like in the tactical map.
This also has the advantage of rotating the map and stuff. I actually always play this level (farm01?) with Phalanx starting at the bottom, so this map confuses me until I get my head around it.

What about experimenting with making that desk/background a backdrop for the 3D view anyway? It might get rid of the lovely black abyss that's off the borders of every map.

Artwork / Alien Wormhole Device
« on: June 07, 2008, 07:44:22 am »
I haven't done much at all to it. I added some thick cables connecting the upper and lower platforms, and also created a flat-plane with a bunch of cabling, using a texture with alpha.

I just noticed that the polygon count is rather high at 1200. Most of those are quads, so I estimate about 2400 triangles. How much should I lower this by? A lot of detail is hidden in those tiny arms which might not even be visible later on, so I should probably get rid of those.

I have some texturing questions, though.
Do textures with alpha need to be either on-off transparency, or can there be multiple shades of alpha. (Means I'd have to fiddle around with the texture in GIMP).
How many different textures should I aim for? I doubt I can fit all the textures I need onto one 256x256 image without looking quite pixellated, and even a single 512x512 might not be enough.
How much of blue alien materials, or green glowy radiators, should I use, or are those limited to the outside hull of vehicles?
Anything else in particular to keep in mind?

[attachment deleted by admin]

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