Let's have fun together. I'll create things and you observe me.

This is a blog detailing all the projects I work on. It's a record of where things are at and a pin board of small random bits and pieces of creation.

I share anything useful I've come across during development, so if you're trying to solve a similar problem checking the labels on the right may be of assistance.

Feel free to leave a comment. Also, please take note that 90% of these blogs are compiled at 3 in the morning. The true hour of the day.

Enjoy your stay.


Friday, 25 July 2008

Lightmaps cont.

Well, it's been a little while since there has been any progress of note on any of my primary projects, but today I finally felt motivated enough to jump back in to work on Synergy.

What have I been up to in the mean time? After having a game of a WarCraft III map called `Warchasers' at Ben's place, I felt compelled to make a much improved clone of its gameplay. I worked obsessively on this clone, titled Netherworld Odysseys. It has become quite sophisticated, with a generalised random loot system, random monster spawning, character saving, charged item stacking, multiple difficulty levels including difficulty scaling with number of players, door/key system and Diablo 2-style mercenaries. Here's a couple of screenshots just for fun:

Assaulting the Spider Warren

The derelict wastelands of the Prison Realm

Unfortunately the map was foremost designed as a multiplayer experience, but due to a number of technical shortcomings saving and load of characters became a necessary process to keep the map running, and saving/loading of data only works for single player. This in effect rendered the map a single-player only experience, killing my enthusiasm for it.

However, it's not a complete loss. The triggers I developed for it are highly modular in nature and much of the cool features of the map can be reused in other warcraft maps of mine. If I find time and enthusiasm I might return to it and see if I can improve some of the technical issues crippling it currently and bring it back to a playable state for multiple players, get it to a satisfying play length and release it. Until then it festers on my hard drive...

So! What did today bring? I admit that I had become horrificly bogged down with the lightmap functionality of Synergy and thus suffering a fetid case of Coder's Block. The lightmaps needed to be divided into correct patches over the level geometry to give an unstretched, unwarped surface for the lighting to exist over.

Such functionality is non-existent in Synergy in its current state, and my coder's block prevented me from proceeding further with the matter. Thus, today was spent researching methods for patching, and other methods of lighting a scene.

I ended up reading up on radiosity methods, and the literature revealed a great deal of insight to me. Such was the extent of my new-found understanding that I went back to the problem of patching with much clarity and began to sketch out a patching algorithm for Synergy (based largely upon this example).

I'm still going through it, and will continue work on it tomorrow, but as it stands currently it seems most satisfactory. Upon implementation I expect Synergy's light mapping to be devoid of artifacts, uniform and correctly aligned. From there it's a very simple extension to add in some brute radiosity.

Here's hoping there's no hitches.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Let There Be Lightmaps

Lightmaps are officially a nightmare to implement. They seem easy, but I have found otherwise. The last four days have been a battle, but I have made significant progress in implementing this feature in Synergy.

I began with the code outlined in this tutorial. A number of modifications needed to be made, including accounting for multiple light sources and using triangular surfaces instead of quads. I also factored lambertian calculation into the formula. Adhering to the tutorial strictly, plus the minor modifications I made to the formula, I ended up with this strange result:

Puzzle #1

The streaks were caused by a value overflow with my premature byte casting. Working in dwords and then casting to byte after the clamp got me to this (after adding a couple more lights):

Puzzle #2

So it's obvious to see here the mapping coordinates are wrong. After systematically trying every single combination of texture coordinates for each vertex I discovered the closest result was this:

I smell victory close at hand...

This implied the texture needed to be flipped on one axis, so I changed the order the data was input into the bitmap, and lo and behold I had this:

Victory is mine!

Although its close to a correct solution, it's easy to see there are a number of artefacts present in the lightmap, such as the lit borders and holes in corners. All of the problems become much more visible viewing the lightmap in isolation:

Oh god damnit

Higher resolution lightmaps such as 64x64 mitigate the problem, but cut deeply into the framerate. I'm still considering how I can overcome this problem, but I discovered a number of documents and papers on the subject of lightmaps, so I'll be taking a read of those and hopefully gain a bearing.

I needed to implement a basic light management system in order to support all of this process, and it has lead to some rather nice results for the lighting overall in the demo. The main improvement is the addition of attenuation constants for each lightsource which coincide with those used to calculate the lightmap, leading to nice consistent lighting:

Yes, the trees are still around

And now for something that isn't to do with Synergy engine! I was talking to Nick online and he suggested we have a go at doing some sketching together using opencanvas. I've had my head so deeply in coding territory the last few days that it was a little difficult jumping back into drawing mode, but after roughly 15-20 minutes I had this horrible looking sketch of a person that resembles a damn night elf:

Mr Cumbersome

It's ok in some respects, very mediocre in others. Working with the construction was extremely cumbersome, and has highlighted the fact that I need to engage in more studies and revision of facial construction and anatomy theory. Still it was a good process to work through, and having Nick on hand to point out issues as they manifested was a new and interesting experience. We've agreed to spot each other's work (presumably studies) from now on, which I'm looking forward to.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Bits and Pieces 2

More relatively unremarkable tasks undertaken for Synergy today. Most of it is restructuring of code, generalising demo code into specific classes. This results in a fleshing out of the mesh/model class family, including the 2 new classes SynStaticModel and SynDynamicModel.

I've also added some code in SynMesh in preparation for implementing dynamic light map functionality in meshes' rendering and an animation skeleton data member for loading in animation information from 3DS files.

I also created the almighty SynEntity class, of which many other classes are derived. It's just a position and orientation in space with some wrapper functions for doing rotations easily, but that's something that's used over and over and it has tidied up the code considerably.

I also generalised texture loading functionality into 2 functions in the GfxCore class. This has made setting up textures a breeze.

That's about it, I suppose. I'm eager to begin implementing light maps as soon as possible. Hopefully tomorrow night.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Bits and Pieces

I've been sucked into Diablo 2 and other distractions lately (damn you, Blizzard), so progress has been meagre. However, I was determined today to continue progress on Synergy. I have been deliberating over integrating a physics engine into the code, and the task is daunting.

I've decided to make the task as easy as possible by setting up everything the physics tests will eventually need and fleshing out the 3DS loading more. This entailed implementing some functionality that supports environments. There's alot of different features that fall under this umbrella, including lightmaps, materials, entity spawning, and many others.

I decided decent ground work for a number of these things was beginning work on extracting material information from the 3DS files. This task proved to be another work in cryptography, as only relatively vague information is at my disposal regarding the file format.

However, after a number of hours stumbling around in the dark, I was successful: the engine loaded in a model of a simple room that had separate materials for the walls and floor. I decided to manipulate the number in the demo code somewhat to make sure all the objects sit within this new room, in preparation for implementing the physics/collision detection. Here's how it all shaped up:

Almost starting to look like a game?!

There's a lot more material information in the 3DS file I can potentially tap into, but it is not relevant at this stage in the engine. Next I will be focusing on loading in lights from 3DS files, and maybe, just maybe take a look at calculating light maps...

I've also devised an algorithm for welding points within a certain distance threshold of each other. Big deal, right? Well as far as my searching on google went, the approach appears to be brute-force O(n^2) algorithms, from what I could find (excerpt from game programming book). My approach was very simple; apply a 3-dimensional closest-pair algorithm to the vertices, with one modification: when the algorithm reaches an input of only 2 vertices, test if their distance is below the given threshold, if it is, weld them and return infinity for the distance.

This should in effect weld all vertices within the threshold in O(n log n) time, but I have yet to implement it and test its correctness.