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    Nathaniel3W
  Wed Aug 23, 2017 5:46 pm
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So a long time ago I came in here with some really crappy mountains on my world map and I was wondering what I should do about it. I tried using a mountain pack from the Unity Asset store, but it didn't give me quite what I wanted. For one thing, I didn't have the original textures for those mountains so I couldn't blend them into my existing landscapes. And I didn't have splat maps for them, so I was dependent on the single texture that each mountain was covered in, and as I scaled up the mountains they got blurrier. And they were just kind of an inconvenient shape and scale for what I needed.

Eventually I tried out World Machine and started making entire levels there. But that takes a long time. And when I import the World Machine level into UE3, I have to do a lot of touch-up to make it playable anyway.

What I needed was the speed and convenience of placing features in the game editor, but with all the detail and control of what I can get from World Machine. I want to be able to scale features to any size without worrying about mismatched texture density. And I want to have all of the original textures so that I can put them into the landscape editor and have everything match. And so today I put together everything that I've learned about World Machine and made these:

Image

Those are four meshes ranging from about 1500-1800 triangles, with 1024x1024 normal maps that give sufficient detail. (And you'll never know how low-poly they are in my game, which will have kind of a faraway tactical camera.) The shader blends three textures together according to a splat map for each mesh. And with a little bit of shader magic, I made the scale of the textures independent of the scale of the mountains, so I can scale them up or down and the textures stay the same size. (The big green valley is actually just the foot of a mountain offscreen that I blew up really big.) Any time I want a new landscape palette or textures, I keep the same splat maps and just change the textures they use. And I can load those textures into the UE3 landscape tool and hand-draw any details I want, and it all looks perfectly blended. If I want a new mountain shape, I already have a template saved in World Machine, and I can crank out more with very little effort.

It feels good to get something done that I know will help me to do stuff better and faster.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Tue Aug 29, 2017 7:37 am
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Splat maps blending some cartoonier textures on the mountains, plus some hills that I covered up with trees, so you can't see those, but I promise they look great. :sad: Triplanar projection and constant-scale texturing on everything made of grass, dirt, rock, or water, so you can scale it up or down, and everything stays consistent.

Image

And that is the most complicated water shader I've ever done.

Image

That's over 300 instructions to make the water flow in 8 different directions or just sit there, to get the normal vector and blend the flow based on which way is downhill, to switch to a waterfall when the surface is steep, to reflect the sun and the sky (simulated, because as you can see in the top gif, there is no sun or sky), to fade the opacity near the edges, to distort the shallows, to displace the pixels with a combined normal map and bump map (bump saved in the alpha channel of the normal to reduce total texture count) and animate the displacement to simulate waves.

In my earlier builds, a lot of people complained about inconsistent art direction and 3D backgrounds that clash with the 2D characters. Hopefully now I have the right look to make a bunch of cartoony 2D sprites feel at home. And hopefully now that I have the right building blocks for the world, I can crank out better-looking levels faster. The pixel-density difference between the characters and the world will still be an issue, but I'm just going to have to press on.

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    ZenVirZan
  Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:09 am
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Nathaniel3W wrote:
The pixel-density difference between the characters and the world will still be an issue, but I'm just going to have to press on.
Try rendering the background at a similar resolution to what the sprites use.
Pokemon D/P/P pulled it off, and they didn't even use the same res either.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:15 am
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ZenVirZan wrote:
Nathaniel3W wrote:
The pixel-density difference between the characters and the world will still be an issue, but I'm just going to have to press on.
Try rendering the background at a similar resolution to what the sprites use.
Pokemon D/P/P pulled it off, and they didn't even use the same res either.


Thanks for the advice! I wonder how I can do that... I tried earlier with reducing the texture resolution and then forcing the game to use the nearest color instead of interpolating. I haven't tried that in a while though. Maybe there's something I haven't thought of. Maybe there's a post-process effect I could use...

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    Xilef
  Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:03 pm
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Nathaniel3W wrote:
Thanks for the advice! I wonder how I can do that... I tried earlier with reducing the texture resolution and then forcing the game to use the nearest color instead of interpolating. I haven't tried that in a while though. Maybe there's something I haven't thought of. Maybe there's a post-process effect I could use...

Post-process down-scaling does not work; I wrote a shader for RPG Maker VX Ace a while ago to do this (and later MV).

The problem is that if you're down-sampling 2x then you've got yourself 4 pixels (2x2 grid) fighting over 1 pixel, so that 1 pixel blinks constantly if the camera moves even slightly - adjusting the pixel boundary. If you decide to smoothly interpolate the pixels instead of having them fight, then you'll end up with a blurry mess. Don't even think about using post-processing to down-sample anything more than a static-image, its more trouble than you imagine.

If you're going to lower the texture resolution and use nearest-neighbour sampling, then you should probably attempt to go after the PS1-style aesthetic and use affine texture mapping and a lower-resolution buffer.

I think what I'd try is up-scaling the sprites to match the background. I've already mentioned a few times the billboarding problem, that would solve the disconnected-style.
Try Waifu2x on your sprites and see how they look in-game: http://waifu2x.udp.jp/


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    BizarreMonkey
  Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:38 pm
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So I spent most of today and a lot of an earlier day on it but I made a large performance update for PFC, which was sorely needed.


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    Hybrida
  Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:46 pm
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I added a character selection screen for Omega Force Hybrida. I added a new battle mode, and boss battle mode. Although the artwork is inadequate, my animations and SFX are epic.

Currently I'm trying to balance a character named Alice Veen. She's an Angel/Demon. Alice can transform into a demon or an Angel mid battle. Her entire move set, attribute, and appearance changes. I believe she's overpowered in demon form. I may apply slip damaged to her in demon form. 5% HP every turn sounds about right. Oddly enough Alice is the narrator of the story and only playable in battle mode.

(Unfortunately I can't screenshot. Photobucket is lame...)

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    BizarreMonkey
  Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:41 am
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Been having fun working on Fantasia and it's rather minimal as it stands, but intriguing mechanics.


Having fun developing the story and characters, too.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Mon Sep 11, 2017 7:49 pm
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New starting town. Trying to get the lighting right.

Image
Image
Image

I'm also trying to bake the lighting, but it's crashing my editor. The error message is completely meaningless to me, but if I had to guess I would take a look at my lightmap UVs. Maybe some of those are messed up and the toggleable lights don't like that.

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    BizarreMonkey
  Sat Sep 16, 2017 6:33 pm
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D'awww, i like that. Make me think of Warcraft II. Everything is so cozy looking!

I've been doing some minor (so far) updates to PFC, Soulcatchers are getting better AI in the next build, and will be a fair bit more dangerous, their appearance is also receiving an update.
Image
After a couple concepts and such, this is how it's gone.


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    Sated
  Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:28 pm
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That looks great Nathaniel.

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    Xilef
  Thu Sep 21, 2017 1:13 am
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I'm back with another video of pixel-movement.


In this version you can define your own convex hull for the collision; in the video I show off some regular polygons (triangle, pentagon, octagon) as well as the circle collision that's been there for a while.

In the future I'll add the ability to have multiple hulls; this would allow a detailed collision mesh to be used with maps, that would really show off how good this kind of Plugin can be.

I'm actually going to solve the issues related to event collision and map looping before I move onto the map collision. Got some new ideas.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Thu Sep 21, 2017 5:43 am
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That's interesting Xilef. I've never had to work on anything that low-level in a game engine before. What's the default collision shape for MV? What technique do you use for not testing collision of everything against everything? Do you test only when an actor moves, and only against things in its own quadtree node?

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    Xilef
  Thu Sep 21, 2017 11:55 am
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Nathaniel3W wrote:
That's interesting Xilef. I've never had to work on anything that low-level in a game engine before. What's the default collision shape for MV? What technique do you use for not testing collision of everything against everything? Do you test only when an actor moves, and only against things in its own quadtree node?

Collision detection considered low level? Jesus Christ...

MV is tile-based collision with a 1x1 tile size. The MV logic is basically [point in a direction] -> [move straight] and that move straight will check if the next tile is passable or not. If it is, then the target X&Y for the character is moved 1 step over and the separate animation system takes over for smoothly transitioning the character. This is why when events walk towards each other, one will stop and leave the tile in-front free so the other one can step into it and avoid a collision during the animation.

What I've done here is made that 1-tile step into a 1-animation-frame-distance step. So when you move forward, it will move you 1 frame of that smooth animation I mentioned before.

After that, I changed the logic so rather than "check if next tile is passable or not" it checks the collision engine using the movement direction as a physics vector, that vector is corrected if a collision has occurred (so moving into the side of a shape will push your shape away from it so it is neatly touching) - it also slides along the shape if possible because it uses the normal direction as the "correction" direction, this lets shapes smoothly pass each other and in some cases slot neatly into a gap that they can fit inside (handy for a player trying to enter a tight doorway).


The collision algorithm is separating axis theorem, which works by projecting the 2D shapes onto a number of 1D planes and checking if their projection has a gap between them; if yes, no collision, if no, then the distance between the two projections is how far along the plane the shape needs to move to correct the collision. The 1D planes used for the projections are the normal-vectors to each of the lines on the polygon (in the circle's case, which is 100% normals, it's specifically the shortest distance from the circle to one of the polygon vertices). It's the ideal way to do polygon collisions and is fast enough for 2D shapes.


The easy part is getting this working for player characters. For events, there's a lot that can go wrong and there's also the question of "how should move-routes behave?". I think everything should be as compatible with default MV as much as possible, but if a move-route fails with the player sitting half-way across a tile, should the event be corrected against the player or should they wait until the tile is free?


This time round, I haven't optimised much at all. I'll be optimising last. There's no quadtree and every single event is looped. The collision is quickly discarded by an axis-aligned bounding box check, that's the only optimisation used.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Thu Sep 21, 2017 1:55 pm
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Xilef wrote:
Collision detection considered low level? Jesus Christ...


We don't all spend our free time writing ray tracers for 20-year-old hardware. To me, anything that isn't gameplay is low-level. That includes physics, which includes collision.

So the lines that you project the collision polygons onto, are they just parallel to the X and Y axes, or do you figure out what's occupied on a line perpendicular to the movement? Is calculating occupied space along an arbitrary line more computationally expensive than checking along the line X=1? Either way, do you have to see what's occupied along the entire line, or do you just look at what's ahead of the movement? I guess you haven't optimized yet, so what are you planning on doing?

I have zero experience in RPGM. I don't suppose you could just let the events move as physics dictate, and then try to return to the path?

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    Nathaniel3W
  Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:04 pm
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Aaaaand I just wrote a hacky fix that I'm a little ashamed of, but I still need to tell people who would understand.

When loading a saved game (using interpreted UnrealScript that builds in just seconds), the army and inventory would get loaded twice. Instead of finding out why, I just put in a variable to see if an object has already been loaded, and if so, move on. I suppose I could have put in a breakpoint, checked the call stack, and found out what calls what that loads the army. But this was faster, and it works, and besides, my last build was a release build for Steam testers, which means my breakpoints don't work anyway, and I don't feel like wasting the half hour to compile a test build, spend who-knows-how-long fixing this correctly, and then spend another hour or so compiling another release build.

I wonder how much of the software we use is the result of similar cheats.

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    Amy
  Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:15 pm
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Probably a good amount of the original rpgm code and user scripts are based on that kind of workaround.


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    Xilef
  Thu Sep 21, 2017 5:05 pm
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Nathaniel3W wrote:
We don't all spend our free time writing ray tracers for 20-year-old hardware. To me, anything that isn't gameplay is low-level. That includes physics, which includes collision.

So the lines that you project the collision polygons onto, are they just parallel to the X and Y axes, or do you figure out what's occupied on a line perpendicular to the movement? Is calculating occupied space along an arbitrary line more computationally expensive than checking along the line X=1? Either way, do you have to see what's occupied along the entire line, or do you just look at what's ahead of the movement? I guess you haven't optimized yet, so what are you planning on doing?

I have zero experience in RPGM. I don't suppose you could just let the events move as physics dictate, and then try to return to the path?

The need to write the basics out is still there in the right circumstances. The alternative I could have taken is use Box2D, however that would involve abstracting away a lot of what's happening and adding a thick layer of translation between Box2D and MV. Performance isn't the worry, the worry is that other people will be reading this code and making improvements or extending to suit their game's need, and needing them to know how the magical Box2D works underneath is more to ask than to simply let them read the basic mathematics behind 2D collision detection.

Not to mention, Box2D is a little over-kill. There's other collision libraries that are less physics oriented but then you're at the point of "why involve a 3rd party library when it takes just as long to write it myself?" and with MV I believe it's important to have the entire Plugin in one file, rather than split across library dependencies.


If I was making a game, rather than a Plugin, then I'd just use a third-party library to do this. My game projects I have planned will certainly use libraries.


The lines I project onto are perpendicular to the polygon lines, essentially the surface normal, but for the case of circles there a fast-path check for the line between the circle's centre and the nearest vertex of the testing polygon. Basically project polygon B onto the normals of polygon A, then do the same of A onto B's normals, if there's any gaps then there's no collision.

I don't check along the entire line, that would be more computationally expensive. The solution for checking along the line would be to see if the movement vector crosses the polygon edges at any point, which involves a line-intersection test. As long as one of the two polygons being tested is thicker than the step-size they won't be able to move through each other. The map lines, however, have a thickness of zero; so if the polygon moving towards it is smaller than the step-size it will pass over easy. MV doesn't have movement interpolation (locked to frame-rate) so this behaviour is consistent and isn't surprising.


There is a middle-ground; if the polygon is thinner than step-size in the direction of motion, then do a line-intersection test. I think this isn't necessary for RPG Maker and would end up adding bloat to the Plugin's code, which needs to be readable and simple.

If I was making a Doom-style FPS, then I'd use 2D line-intersection because of the variable frame-rate issue.


The most optimisation I'll probably do for now is a bounding volume hierarchy for the map's collision mesh. My original plan was to dynamically generate the mesh around the player as they move, however the maps in MV are static, so I can actually spend some load-time computing a collision mesh for the map (which I will likely cache to disk as further optimisation).


There is an intensive search and filter for finding all the characters that are potentially colliding (get all characters near bounding-box of motion); this is an area I'll optimise at a later date. It's fine as is, but won't scale when there's lots of events. I've looked at several techniques for updating bounding-box trees for when a single-node moves, just need to find one that fits MV's situation of having either a handful of events or a hundred events.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Sat Sep 23, 2017 6:19 am
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Hey Xilef, I thought it might be better to discuss your Sonic Mania CRT shader here and let the others continue discussing how much they missed or did not miss Hybrida and Mega Flare.

Is that Chrono Trigger? I played it years ago, but I don't think I ever finished it. I think I played Chrono Cross first and then went and looked for Chrono Trigger.

So back to the shader. It looks very retro, but I'm not sure I'm catching everything, and not sure what's from the game and what's from your shader. I see pixellated images, with strong horizontal banding, and maybe the screen-door effect between pixels? Are you inserting a darkened or fully black row of pixels every several rows?

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    BizarreMonkey
  Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:15 am
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Meanwhile in Bizland Fantasia progress is slowly but surely coming along.

Here's two awesome themes by my composer for the game.



I'll also be posting screenshots in the apropos thread.


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    LaDestitute
  Sat Sep 23, 2017 1:00 pm
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I've been working on cleaning up and optimizing the codebase of my A-RPG Gamekit just a bit since the middle of August or something, after months of avoiding that task.

I've cleaned up a majority of the eventsheets used for the kit, so the following changes:
Removed/optimized a lot of either unnecessary or rough stuff, made the savedata management less of a hell to manage from an end-user standpoint (if developing a game), implemented a new A* pathfinding based patrol/wandering AI and moved all global variables into a hashtable.


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    Xilef
  Sat Sep 23, 2017 1:53 pm
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Nathaniel3W wrote:
Hey Xilef, I thought it might be better to discuss your Sonic Mania CRT shader here and let the others continue discussing how much they missed or did not miss Hybrida and Mega Flare.

Is that Chrono Trigger? I played it years ago, but I don't think I ever finished it. I think I played Chrono Cross first and then went and looked for Chrono Trigger.

So back to the shader. It looks very retro, but I'm not sure I'm catching everything, and not sure what's from the game and what's from your shader. I see pixellated images, with strong horizontal banding, and maybe the screen-door effect between pixels? Are you inserting a darkened or fully black row of pixels every several rows?

Yes it is Chrono Trigger.

The pixelated base image is from the output of the snes9x emulator; that is the game as normal (although stretched from the SNES's frame-buffer 8:9 aspect ratio to a 90s TV's 4:3 aspect ratio).

A good CRT shader should simulate the RGB phosphors on a CRT display, which includes the horizontal scan-lines (horizontal banding) and screen-door effect.

The idiot's approach would be to slap a 2x picture atop the image that darkens or blackens every 2nd pixel. The basic approach in a shader is to darken the pixels between each horizontal colour change (so going downwards, 4 red pixels followed by 4 white pixels would be turned into 1 black pixel, 3 red pixels, 1 black pixel, 3 white pixels). What the Sonic Mania shader does here is actually simulate the gap-itself between the pixels, rather than the colour of the gap. That might stretch the brain a bit, but it basically says "If this image was X size, the gap would be Y sized". This is combined with the phosphor simulation, which comes next:

The Sonic Mania RGB phosphors are arranged in a PC CRT formation, rather than a TV CRT. This formation is basically groups of 3 components, RGB, but arranged in a triangle (red, green at the top, blue at the bottom). A 2x2 arrangement of these makes up a single pixel. The shader accounts for the base image and the luminosity of the components, so the red component will take on shades of green if the underlying SNES pixel is supposed to be green.

This also affects the scan-lines; the phosphors in this arrangement do not have a perfect horizontal line between them, so the scan-line will take a shade of red, green or blue depending on what phosphor is supposed to be 'hanging' near the line.

This isn't the best representation of a CRT display, but I think it is a good middle-ground. By doing this, you get a cool moiré effect if you resize the window to not be of integer size (see the pink banding):
Image
This kind of thing is exactly what you'd expect to see from a CRT display shown on an LCD.

If the shader is below 2x window size, it turns itself off. At 2x size, it's so accurate with blending that you get the equivalent of every-other-pixel being darkened, which I think is excellent. Same deal with exactly 3x, you get every 3rd pixel darkened, which I think is great. Higher than 3x you'll start to see the phosphor effect. 4k and higher would probably look amazing.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Tue Oct 10, 2017 12:16 pm
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Hey Xilef! I picked up XCOM Enemy Unknown again recently. I noticed the CRT shader they use on all of their holographic displays and could appreciate what they were doing. Have you played that game? If not, you might want to take a look at it if only to see how they did their loading screen.

In other news, I made this shader to let you see your character behind buildings. But more importantly, it makes the camera flying inside of buildings not so annoying any more.

Image

I also improved the timing during combat and added some of the particle effects I've been working on.

Image

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    Xilef
  Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:52 pm
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That's starting to look complete! You've done a really good job.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:32 am
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Thanks Xilef! I'm getting there.

So for my outline shader, I started off with a plain thick line. That looked a bit amateurish. I moved to a thinner line that used the scene's shadow color, which meant purple during the day, red at sunrise and sunset, and dark blue at night. I was never totally satisfied with how that looked. Now I think I have something I like a little more.

Image

I take the pixel color, normalize it (so if you think of the RGB channels as a 3D vector, make that vector length 1, so you have the same color, but total brightness is 1), multiply the original pixel color by the normalized color, and you end up with a saturated version of the original color. Now multiply by the shadow color, and you don't just have a purple line over everything, but you have a darker, more saturated color of the pixel, that's pushed toward the color of the scene's shadows the same way everything else is: by multiplying the color.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:52 am
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First look at the new desert-themed assets:

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These models and most of the textures started life at the Unity Asset Store. I put them into Blender, redid a bunch of bad UVs, made custom collision meshes, vertex painted them, then made custom materials in the engine. In addition to my usual shader that changes color with time of day, I added wind direction, and the fabric and branches move in waves with the wind, going up and down and stretching slightly in the XY plane in the direction of wind. The red vertex color, multiplied by wind strength, tells the mesh how far to move. The blue vertex color tells the mesh if it has to stop moving downward at a certain point, so the fabric meshes don't drop below the wooden frames. It looks really good in close-up, like it's a physics simulation and not just the shader.

I also made some desert mesas that you can see the foot of in the background. I think I also need to make the scene more colorful overall. I should take a look at other games that have good desert scenes and see what they did to make everything not the same color.

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    aphadeon
  Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:42 am
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today's work: event rendering comparison

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    Nathaniel3W
  Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:16 am
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Do they look different when you actually play the game?

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    aphadeon
  Tue Oct 31, 2017 9:56 am
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Nathaniel3W wrote:
Do they look different when you actually play the game?

Not at all. Just working on the editor atm.

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    Jason
  Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:07 am
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Nathaniel3W wrote:
First look at the new desert-themed assets:

Image

These models and most of the textures started life at the Unity Asset Store. I put them into Blender, redid a bunch of bad UVs, made custom collision meshes, vertex painted them, then made custom materials in the engine. In addition to my usual shader that changes color with time of day, I added wind direction, and the fabric and branches move in waves with the wind, going up and down and stretching slightly in the XY plane in the direction of wind. The red vertex color, multiplied by wind strength, tells the mesh how far to move. The blue vertex color tells the mesh if it has to stop moving downward at a certain point, so the fabric meshes don't drop below the wooden frames. It looks really good in close-up, like it's a physics simulation and not just the shader.

I also made some desert mesas that you can see the foot of in the background. I think I also need to make the scene more colorful overall. I should take a look at other games that have good desert scenes and see what they did to make everything not the same color.


It's always great seeing new stuff from your game man, I'll admit it's one of the reasons I still lurk around here. When I saw this .gif I straight up thought of Runescape, in fact that's what I think whenever I see just general screenshots of your game, or walking around in towns, and I mean that in a very high regard, since Runescape is still one of my favourite MMO's to play, lol.

Speaking of Runescape, with the latest graphical overhaul, I'm always very impressed with the graphics, and I spend a lot of time walking around and exploring just because in my opinion it looks so good for what it is... maybe you could take a few ideas from it? They do their desert areas very well in terms of colourful scenes.

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