>>> It's that time again... >>>
May 9, 2012
Going back, moving forward
So it (again) turned out to be a longer break than planned. Really, a lot happened last year... a lot. No time to work on this project with many other projects demanding my attention in real life. But I said it before and will say it again; I won't quit. Whenever I have the time and feel like doing it, I come back to this little gem. And here I am.
I'm simply picking it up where I left off last year: mapping. I know, some of you still watching might be disappointed that no progress has been made. But today, in only one day after a week of careful planning and set-up, I came almost farther than in all my mapping time last year. The map I tried to make in UDK never came together. It was a mess of BSP brushes, way too large with too much empty space. It grew over my head. I experimented with recreating elements from a classic SiN multiplayer map and ended up getting a mess. Eventually I stopped and left it there.
Old school: GTK Radiant.
I had originally planned a small map, basically one room, like the typical Unreal Tournament 1-on-1 arena level. I wanted to make it more interesting, though, and also incorporate elements from the SiN map this is based on. SiN fans should feel right at home when they enter the map because of its theme and design, even though it's a new map. But I myself never felt at home with my old attempt; it got out of hand. This time I'll change two things: one, I go back to the arena concept and make the map essentially one big room, but it will have multiple levels. And there will be a cool idea in the middle which I had in my old map as well. And two, I'm not doing the geometry (the bulk of the architecture) with UDK anymore. Instead I'm going old school and use the most efficient and wonderful mapping tool ever devised, Radiant, the original Quake mapping editor.
By using a script written by Unreal programmer/designer Leszek Godlewski, I can effortlessly convert the BSP geometry from Radiant to a format that UDK can read. This is how I get the architecture into the Unreal engine where I then texture, decorate and light everything later.
Some might wonder why I do this. There are two reasons. For one, I'm experienced with Quake engine mapping, with tools such as Valve's Hammer and id's Radiant. Heck, the original SiN maps were made with Radiant and I made a few of those myself! Radiant has always been my favorite editor for mapping since its barebones structure and extremely fast manipulation of geometry is unmatched by other tools. Compared to that, the Unreal tools always had an approach to geometry creation that I detest. Unfortunately, while improvements have been made, UDK doesn't make it much better.
Reason two is directly tied to this: UDK doesn't focus on geometry anymore. It's all about static meshes and materials today. Game worlds are made of geometry only on a very basic level and then populated with custom-built mesh models that look better, but are of course harder to make. Making a full map with custom meshes would take me ages and UDK's base content doesn't offer many meshes of use for a SiN design.
I'm also not a modeller. I will learn as I go and some things like furniture and small details should be reserved for meshes. But with Radiant I can again do what I always did best, I can create detailed geometry that can take the place of a few huge meshes I can't make, and while that might be an old approach, it works for me. I'm sure the map will still look good enough to be enjoyable with all the other Unreal eyecandy.
So, I'm back in. This time I have a very clear concept of what I will make and I plan on finishing it this time.
May 3, 2011
Just a quick heads-up: unfortunately I'm slower with this again than I expected. I've been busy working out the plans for my recording studio to finally start working as an audio engineer on a professional basis, which has kept me from making this game in the past. But don't get me wrong, it's terrific as I have been offered a great opportunity to work with a band I like and I'm putting my heart into it to make things right for them.
As you can imagine, professional work always goes over other stuff and also takes up a lot of time, and when I'm free of it for a day, I usually spend it doing something to relax from working with a computer, not working with it even more on this project. The map I started building in March is basically blocked out, but it still needs all the decoration to be done (and believe me, it's a killer concept for a map and deserves to be decorated well). Also, the preview of SiN: Retribution cannot be released without a proper menu and HUD packaged into the game, so that requires some additional time to make.
I just need a breather from this, then we'll go on and release! Thanks to everyone for sticking around!
March 16, 2011
SiN >>> UDK: Blade Match
Whew! After rigging the Blade character model three times now, it finally looks right. It's difficult to get the mesh weighted to the Unreal skeleton, since the sizes are different. For example, Blade can't move his fingers because the skeleton has much bigger hands that can't be bound to the mesh's hands. But you will hardly notice in combat ;-)
All bots use the same model for now, so it's an all-out Blade Match. In theory, adding other characters like J.C. is possible, but I will keep it as it is for time's sake. We're just going to color them differently later on, heh! ;-)
So what's left to do before the first release? Building a map and making the HUD. Yep, that's right - a release is coming and if I can keep it up like this, it won't be that much later. Of course, mapping will go a long way. I haven't decided what to do yet; make an original map or remake a SiN classic? That would probably be easier I guess... and I bet some of you would love it too!
Well, first things first. Team skins for Blade are next, and I'm going to do something about his yellow goggles since those have bothered me for a long time. I never felt Blade looked right in SiN Episodes, so I'll try and rectify that.
So what kind of release will it be? Well, since UDK has multiplayer built-in from Unreal Tournament 3, the fastest way to get something playable out is to make it multiplayer. It will finally, after *years* of bothering, get the game off the ground. Consider it a prototype, with more characters and maps possibly being added later. But of course, once this is done and everyone is busy playing SiN MP again ;-) I will get to work on the real game, which is single-player.
Anyway, I hope you can wait a little longer for this gem! Until then...
March 9, 2011
## HARDCORPS Database
## File: hc_wpds_magnum_3.23.0
## Created by user: whizkid
John Blade's primary one-handed firearm, the Magnum, has been with him ever since he built Hardcorps, sporting the sec-force's "knife and scales" logo on the gun's trademark magazine housing that is located at the front of the barrel. The unusual design enables the Magnum to fire extremely powerful rounds while maintaining an acceptable recoil, due to the counterbalancing weight of the clip.
In primary firing mode, the Magnum shoots a single 10 mm bullet at very high velocity, making it a quasi "instant-hit" weapon. Recoil is manageable and some stabilization will occur automatically because of the gun's weighted front. However, consecutive shots require some balancing to keep the target in focus. Primary fire has an estimated rate of 0.4 seconds, allowing the weapon to cool down and stabilize after every shot. The cooldown phase is electronically controlled; hitting the trigger earlier will register a shot but fire only after cooldown completes. This system allows for maximum usability and stability, but still requires some practice to get the timing right for consecutive shots.
Secondary fire uses the weapon's electronics to full effect, shooting three rounds at a rapid rate for every trigger signal. This makes the weapon behave more like a semi-automatic burst-fire gun. The result can be devastating if up close to a target, since the damage dealt is roughly the same for every bullet as in primary firing mode. However, due to the fast firing rate the spread increases quite a bit, meaning that secondary fire is better suited at middle or point blank range. Apart from the quick consumption of bullets, another drawback is the longer cooldown time after every burst is fired, taking roughly 0.5 seconds. The weapon cannot be refired in either mode as long as it cools down from the burst, which should always be taken into account before utilizing secondary fire.
The Magnum has a clip size of 15 rounds, allowing for five consecutive shots in secondary firing mode. Reloading averages at 1.7 seconds, depending on user proficiency with the weapon. Like every other weapon from Hardcorps' arsenal, the built-in electronics interface with Blade's SIHUD (Spectacle-Integrated Heads-Up Display), sending information on remaining ammunition directly to his field of vision.
The Magnum is fully functional. As a matter of fact, I just nailed a few bots with it on DM-Deck! Up next: getting the Blade character model working for real. After that: mapping - stay tuned for more!
February 26, 2011
SiN >>> UDK: playing with guns!
I didn't lie when I said "gun programming": since the last update, I've been coding UnrealScript like never before. I remember facing it the first time; that was years ago, like 2004. It gave me a lot of headaches back then and useful information, like basic tutorials, was hard to come by. Since UDK and Unreal Engine 3 have been around for a while now, I'm glad this has changed and people have started building a community with lots of helpful examples to get started programming. Like I said before, I feel this path is the only one to go - get the core tech done before building beautiful environments for the Sin universe.
Writing code for the reloading system
I had my doubts that I could pull it off, getting that Magnum into UDK and making it work. I've never done this process before in *any* game; always using what was there. But I can tell you one thing: you learn a *lot* going through it, and it is very exciting and the opposite of boring. It's truly a lot of fun to get something to work in a game that you made. Well, I didn't make the model - or the animations - but I had to write quite a bit of code since there is no pistol weapon in UDK, just the Shock Rifle. And there is no reload system... I had to code that myself completely. While I understand core concepts of programming and logic, I still found a lot of helpful advice on the web when making the system that made it a lot faster. And then I had to go through everything UDK offers short of building maps: get the model and the animations in, work with materials (textures, sort of), make a muzzle flash (a particle system), implement decals for bulletholes and finally get the weapon to fire and reload as it should. Wasn't easy, but it feels great!
Just take a look at the middle shot. The muzzle flash actually lights up the whole gun. I mean, gimme those graphics over Source any day! ;-)
While I can't promise great graphics throughout the game because I'm not an artist and this engine would require one, I now know this: UDK is the tech I've been looking for. No going back now - SiN: Retribution is in the works again!
(By the way... my "shortest way from A to B" plan includes an early concept release of something you might like. Won't be tomorrow, but I guess it will be sooner rather than later. :-)
February 11, 2011
SiN >>> UDK
Playing around a bit, learning as I go. This might turn into a developer's blog after all! ;-)
Blade's model looks odd at certain points because getting the model from Source into UDK requires using Unreal's animation skeleton. Or, I could just animate him myself, yeah right! Won't happen, so I have to figure out a proper way of aligning the model and the skeleton so Blade's body won't distort when he's animated. But other than that, he's walking around kicking ass in UDK's test map.
Oh, for you Sinners who don't know: UDK is the free Unreal Engine 3 development kit (read: Unreal SDK). It requires no commercial game as a base and is freakin' powerful. So if I do make SinRet on this, you won't need *any* game to play it. The drawbacks are, 1) I have to make much of the content myself since there's no game to base mine on (except a slimmed-down version of UT3), and b) Unreal is complex and requires lots of research. Still, the tech is amazing. I've been checking it out for a while now, but never made the plunge to start. Now I did, and it's great!
The magnum is not functional yet as a weapon. Up next: gun programming!
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