Monday, June 9, 2014

Astromech Update

I've been quiet, because I've been working on some new stuff. Cluster Computing stuff. I'm starting to get the hang of it, too. My capabilities have expanded in the last week, to scary levels.

Alas, this next project is going to take up the majority of my time, which means "Astromech" will lose focus for a bit. But hopefully I've got it to the stage where it can sit there and gather some attention from others. The video should help, as well as the on-line demos, but...

A two-minute video is no substitute for proper documentation, and I know this. For anyone who wants to get involved, here's the 30 second primer on what it takes to create a new Astromech "world":

  1. Download and install "Blender", the 3D modelling package.
  2. Spend a week learning how to model static scenes, Youtube tutorials help.
  3. Export your blender model to a ".dae" collada file, with all the options turned on.
  4. Now follow the video steps... log into Astromech, upload the file, set all the options, and publish.
You're not going to be able to take an existing complex scene, dump it out, and everything will be perfect. There is a severe mis-match between all the material options you can set in "blender" and what you actually get in Astromech. In particular, the "Lighting Model" is still very primitive, and only cares about "Sun" lights. (And don't even consider using "Cycles" yet.)

But the saving grace is that the vertex painter and UV Maps do work, and blender allows you to "pre-bake" texture maps with ambient occlusion and shadows. This is what makes most of the Astromech levels look good, while keeping framerates up at 60fps.

If you want to try the system, I heartily encourage it. Start small with a single cube, and slowly build. Most of the effort will be in learning "Blender", and figuring out what gets lost in translation. (when I get more time, I'll be making that translation better.)

And since I haven't written any docs yet, you're encouraged to hit me with questions and queries. And definitely to tell me about stuff you've done.

If there get to be enough users, I might finally sort out the "Teleporters", (or the "Farcaster Network" as one friend thinks of it) which are supposed to allow you to step from world to world without all that tedious mucking around with hyperlinks.

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