Wednesday, November 10, 2010

City Updates and Home Kit 2.0

Both Tharsis and Sandbox have been updated in the last couple of days.  The main changes are to replace all but one of the model homes in Tharsis with ones built from my modular parts kit, and put some of the individual parts on display in Sandbox.  The one shown here is two stories with a basement made by cutting a hole in the terrain.  That is not just pushing it down, it's actually removing part of the ground.

The 2.0 version of the kit has grown to over 90 parts (3D models), and over 160 material files.  Many of the models have alternate textures applied, like brick/wood siding/stone/stucco for the outside walls. Each alternate needs a different material file to call out the right textures, so there will be more of them than the model files.

The demo homes are mostly unfurnished right now.  I plan to start adding new furniture, as well as making more parts for more variety, and more "active" components.  So far I have working doors and fireplaces, and working lights are next.

Besides the kit and model homes, I set up a new block with placeholder house, and more details on the pond in Sandbox city.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

City Updates and Blue Mars News

It's been a busy month, and lots to report this time.  Both Sandbox City and Tharsis Estates were updated yesterday.  I needed to do both at once because the Common data package (Blue Mars\Game\Levels\SAND\SAND_Common.pak) used by both cities was changed. I have been adding to my modular Home kits, and realized that hundreds of house parts in one folder would not be practical.  I moved the parts into separate folders by type (walls, doors, windows, etc), which will scale a lot better.  Since both cities have houses using those parts already, I had to update both to point to the new folders.

The home kit has grown to about 75 parts in this version.  The first version only had the parts for the red brick house pictured last month here. This one (let's call it version 1.5) has added alternate wood and stone exteriors. More options are coming as I get them done, such as the wallpaper pictured above.  Tenants in either city are welcome to use these parts, as well as anything else in the Common data, for their block or shop.

Coming Changes to Blue Mars

Approximately tomorrow (Thursday), a new website and version of the software will be released, if they don't find any errors.  Changes include:

* Better display of city info.  I submitted larger (1280x720) photos for both cities for this update.
* New movement and camera system.  Added to movement will be mouse steering, and the camera
  will be able to detach from being centered on the avatar.
* Ability to use "residences" and "apartments" and upload animations.

There will likely be other improvements, but we will have to wait to see the final release notes to know exactly what made it into this update.  After the new year, Blue Mars intends to go "public" in a major way when they add games from a major online game provider, and activate the cloud render servers.  Those servers move the graphics rendering from the PC to their servers, and sends finished video instead.  That will make it possible for most any PC or handheld device to use Blue Mars.  Right now you need a PC with a pretty good graphics card.  I am not sure if they will call beta over at that time, but they will be trying to get a lot more players than the small number of early users and developers we have now.

Other Changes in Sandbox City from version 5 to version 6 (25 Oct 2010):

* A pond was added to the leased block at x=1685 y=793

* The red brick house near the spawn point was moved closer to the water, and a start made at displaying the home  kit parts at x=2080 y=1651.  That area is intended to be a "showroom" or visual catalog of what's available.

Changes in Tharsis from version 17 to version 18 (25 Oct 2010):

* The cottage with wood siding at x=198 y=153 is being replaced with an updated version using home kit parts.  It is missing some roof parts which did not make it into this update.  I plan to update all the demo houses using home kit parts over the next month or so.  I am also continuing to make clothes, which has grown to about 100 items in my Tirion Designs shop. Once the demo houses are updated, I also plan to start working on new furniture. (Yes, I am keeping myself very busy).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tharsis Estates Updated to Version 17 - 30 Sep 2010

The latest version of Tharsis Estates just went online.  Here's what's new:

* Tiki torches on the waterfront bar are now working.  I will gradually add more decor to the bar.

* I removed the  "prim yard" and texture demo items, since Sandbox City will be the building tutorial area in the future.

* I imported the red brick model home via Block_1.  It had been set up as a prefab in Sandbox city, so I wanted to learn how to move things from one city to another.  Block 1 I use for myself to test things.  Importing as an AR_Prefab does not allow the doors to function, but extracting the parts allowed them to work.

In general I plan to upgrade all the model homes, since I know a lot more about building than when I first did them, and the modular design (kits) works better for custom homes.

* Added clickable signs at Tirion Designs main store and model home linking to new website.  The website will hold building tutorials and info about my clothing and house items.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sandbox City updated to Version 4 - 27 Sept 2010

The next version of Sandbox City went online last night.  Here are the detailed changes:

* Added modular house kit components to common data, and built a demo house from the components.  The demo house has been converted to an AR_Prefab, and features working doors using flowgraph.  See the previous post for more details.

* Added prim kit display to sandbox area, and changed ground texture to sand (obviously :-) )

* Added signs to house and sandbox linking to information web pages.  I now have a website for Tirion Designs, so I am starting to put information/tutorials on there.

* Added 3 terrain transition textures and applied them to a few roads to cover the seams where terrain textures meet.  The main terrain textures are defined per grid point, which has a two meter spacing in Sandbox City.  At the seam where two textures meet, it leaves an aliased (jagged) transition.  Roads lay flat to the terrain, and by blending the two textures on either side in Photoshop, I can apply the blended transition to the road, and use that to cover the unsightly seams.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prefab House Kit v1.0

For the past few weeks I have been working on a "Prefab House Kit" for Blue Mars. It is a set of parts which can be used like fancy prims to build your own custom houses, without having to dive into a 3D program. Once you have a layout done, you can convert the parts into a "prefab", which then acts as a single object.

The City and Block Editors have a "snap to grid" setting which can be anywhere from 1/8 to 64 meters. I designed these parts to fit with 0.5 and 1.0 meter snap settings to make it easier to line things up.  The doors open and close with a click thanks to a flowgraph supplied by Simpsoid.

For this first version, I made enough parts to build one fairly ordinary brick house. I plan to add lots more parts and add alternate textures/materials to the kit, and people using the kit can replace the textures or adjust the colors and other material settings beyond what I supply.

Some statistics on the pictured house:

14x17m main dimensions (248 sq m / 2670 sq ft)
3.2m ceiling height + 30cm floor thickness = 3.5m/floor height

44 different parts (3d models) with 50 material files. Some parts have alternate textures or tiling settings which are defined by which .mtl file is assigned to the model. The models + material files use up 35kb of my 1 GB total data allowance. Blue Mars uses total size of the city files instead of prim count as a limit on what you can build. Textures are in addition to this, but my textures can be used on different objects, so it's not clear cut what data use to charge to the house kit. The ten new textures I added for this house build take 1158 kb ie a lot more than the models. So roughly to total cost of the kit is 1.2 MB.

419 pieces as built, which use up 50kb of data in the object list which tracks what is rezzed within the city. Therefore each additional house with a different floor plan but the same total parts count would add another 50kb. The City Editor can track a maximum of 64K total objects, so if you make a lot of houses, then its best to convert them to prefabs, which only count as one object to track. The "parts list" for a prefab is saved as a separate xml file.

The reasons I am taking this kit approach rather than doing complete house models is that inevitably people will want to customize them. This lets them do it easily. It also saves total data to the extent parts are re-used in multiple builds vs having complete house models.

More photos are here: Blue Mars Houses And Buildings Album

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sandbox City Updated to Version 3 - 01 Sep 2010

I uploaded the latest version of  Sandbox City yesterday.  The big new thing was my first attempts at using scripts and flowgraphs.  In more detail I made the following additions:

* Clickable welcome and sandbox signs that open a web page when you click on them.  These use the ARItem entity with a link to a web page via flowgraph.  The welcome sign comes here to this blog, and the sandbox sign goes to a tutorial list on the Blue Mars wiki.  Flowgraphs are a graphical way to program actions within Blue Mars:

* A teleport network and sky platform with map.  Since Sandbox City is 4096m x 4096m with a bunch of islands, visitors need a way to get around faster than jogging or swimming.  Clicking any sign takes you up to the sky platform, then clicking any pin on the map takes you to that location.  The map is simply a screenshot of the city from above, so hopefully it will be clear what to do without instructions.

* Tiki huts to the right of the spawn point.  I am working on a series of modular Tiki style hut parts as a kit.  There are several sizes so far (8x8, 8x12, and 12x12m), and three wall styles.  The wall/door/window sections can be used in any combination to make different layouts, and then the finished hut can be turned into a "prefab" and placed as a unit or copied as needed.

* A scripted boat near the spawn point as a test item.  This uses a script made by Davy and Corey, and adapted for my city and the boat model.  It works, but it is a little unstable.  This is a first step to having vehicles, and I hope we get much better working ones in the future. Controls are: click to get on,  WASD to steer, and space bar to get off.  If you fall off, then use spacebar and click the boat again to get back on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blue Mars New Member Promotion: 1000 Blu$ & Software Update

Blue Mars is offering 1000 BLU$ to new members! From August 23 to August 30, if you are not already a member of Blue Mars, create a new Blue Mars account and log in to win 1000 BLU$.  Full details are on the 20 August: Blue Mars Blog

In addition to the promotion, the software and website will be updated about Thursday.  New features include an Animation Editor (to upload custom animations), a new Welcome Area, and other changes which I don't know about until we get the release notes and the actual update.