Thursday, January 28, 2010

Whats Been Going On Lately:

Me personally:

The past week I have been working on my Houses and Furniture Collection for Blue Mars.  My goal is to sell those items to people who need them when Blue Mars starts to fill up with regular users, and I am using one corner of Tharsis Estates to set up those items  as a kind of "showroom".  There is still plenty of room for other people to build on there though. I may end up using perhaps 5% of the city for that at *most* (right now its more like 0.5%).When there are enough changes to Tharsis that it makes sense, I'll post an updated set of files for people to download and visit.

Blue Mars in general:

There was a bit of a flap the last few days when it appeared they had lowered the data package (3D model and textures) to 512kB per sellable item, which is *very* restrictive.  It turns out that is only an initial limit for wearable items, and for furniture it is 2MB.  That still means I have to pay attention to model complexity and texture size, but most of the items I have made so far, and which can be seen in the gallery, will fit.

The developer forums have been pretty active lately, with the Blue Mars staff trying to answer questions as they come up, and they are starting to make progress on the Wiki to document things.  There's still a long way to go on instructions and tutorials, but at least they are working on it.

They have updated the developer "MyPage", which is where you upload items, post blocks to rent, etc, so the business end of Blue Mars is getting closer to being ready. Last we heard, the next user software update is expected mid-Feb, which is only a couple of weeks away.  Hopefully we will see some new features for the user side of things.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tharsis Version 3 Available for Download

Download link is to the right.  Changes in this update:

- I added a third house (the one with the paved driveway) and a "bus station"
- Added two kinds of fence to two of the houses, and additional furniture.
- I have added a couple of car models, the blue one is sittable, though I know there are graphics glitches with it, and I have not figured out how to make them drive.

One of the things I have been doing is trying different size doorways, ceiling heights, and room sizes to see how they "feel".  Normally with virtual worlds you need to oversize things a bit since the screen viewpoint is not at the same place as the avatar's eyes, and real people can maneuver better than avatars.  Until Blue Mars settles on the updated movement and camera controls, I will leave the different sizes around for testing.

This package is a lot smaller than the last version, since I removed textures which are not being used.  I had just included my whole texture set the first time around.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Walk Through Tharsis - A Video Tour

A Walk Through Tharsis  - I made this video tour for people to see what it looks like in motion. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Our First Live Visitor to Tharsis

I had my first guest log in to Tharsis Estates tonight live while I was also there.  I talked him through downloading and installing the city files, then we both logged in and had a look around and sat down for a chat. This shows that the city files are fully functional and developer mode works.  Thank you to everyone who helped get to this point.

Currently I am working on more furniture for the house, and trying to make a car you can drive around (the one in the photo you can sit in, but it doesn't go anywhere yet)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tharsis City Download Version 2 Available

Thanks to the people who tested the city download.  We found out the file references were not exporting correctly.  I have gone in and tried to fix all the references, and also added a few more items over the last few days (finished the modern house, added a fireplace and some furniture, and finished the river).

Version 2 is available to download on the right.  I think the process is more or less figured out on how to share the files. In the future I will update it as often as needed when people send me block files or I make my own changes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tharsis Full City Test Download

I have put my current city files for Tharsis Estates on a file hosting site. I am hoping some people can download it and run it in developer mode to see if it works, basically to find out if I got the right files included, and correct instructions. You will need a Blue Mars developer account and the developer kit installed to log into the city.

The city itself is far from done, but feel free to run around in it :-). I did test this on my own PC, but I wanted to make sure it works for other people before writing it up as a tutorial for how to work with other developers on a single city.

Download link is to the right....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Blue Mars Builder's Kit Available

The purpose of this pack is to be a "starter set" to help new Blue Mars developers. Learning both the Blue Mars editing tools and 3D and graphics software all at the same time is a lot to start with, and not everyone has the textures or the software to convert them.

So this package contains pre-made basic shapes and textures that you can use directly in the Blue Mars editors. For more advanced or custom items, you will need to learn those other programs, but you can do a lot with just this set. For those coming from Second Life, this is essentially a prim and textures kit. If any part of the instructions are unclear, or if you would like to see some changes or additions, please let me know so I can improve them.

The download link is to the right.  For those who had the textures pack, that is almost the same, I have added the shapes collection and updated instructions.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Clouds and Landscaping

Been adding new things to the Tharsis Estates build. First up is landscaping for the house. The grass is a Blue Mars "common" item (provided to all developers). For now I applied it to the "Grass_clover" terrain layer as a "vegetation" item. That means it is low cost in data, and automatically bends in the wind. Since it's applied to the whole terrain, its popping up some places I don't want it, like the brick path. That can be worked on later.

The rocks and plants in the picture are actually copies of *one* rock model and *one* plant model, with various sizes, rotations, and color tints applied. This shows how to be efficient with your data allowance for a city. Copies cost a lot less than unique items.

The second photo shows the cloud effects. There are two layers of clouds here. One is a flat texture placed at high altitude. The other is a 3D cloud that moves according to whatever speed and direction you set. Both are special types of items you place in the sky, so that the CryEngine 2 software knows how to adjust their appearance for different times of day.

Some other items that are not as visible are adjusting the water waves, adding more variety to the trees, and smoothing rough spots in the terrain.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Building a House in Blue Mars

This was mainly practice in building and setting up a house, not a commentary on my favorite architecture style. The house is made in 4 sections (walls, front windows, door, and roof), which allows making mix-and-match variations. I actually made it as a whole house in 3ds Max, then saved it in sections (by deleting everything but the section I wanted). That way I could be sure all the parts would line up.

Also, I wanted the door to be walk-through, so it had to be imported as a separate item with the Item Editor and unchecking the "create auto proxy" box. That way it ends up "no collision", ie the avatar can walk through it. All the rest of the house pieces are ungrouped individual parts, so their collision boxes are around each piece. If your pieces are not box shaped you will have to mess around with collision "proxies". That is a separate invisible model which has collision turned on, while the main model does not. For example, with a tree, the default collision is a box that the whole tree fits in, out to the leaves. Instead I use a copy of the trunk as my invisible collider, so the avatar can walk under the branches. Besides telling the software *where* you bump into or walk on things, a simple collision shape like a box or cylinder is much faster for the software to deal with than a model with thousands of triangles in it.