Friday, 2 August 2013

Friday With Visuals

At Long Last - Terrain Visuals

If you are a subscriber of the TGC newsletter, or subscribed to our YouTube channel, you will no doubt be aware that the rest of the team have beaten me to the punch and released shots and a video of the terrain module.  Allow me to supplement this material with some of my own.

Thanks largely to a lot of help from the Blitzwerks Terrain plug-in for Dark Basic Pro, I was able to complete the editing and playback parts of the terrain module in less than two weeks, and I am pretty happy with the result.  I am getting good performance, and thanks to Mark we have some gorgeous textures and shader insight to lavish on you.

We've decided to focus on a desert theme, which will compliment the other assets we are doing in the desert third world style. It also allows us to come back in the future with a green, forestry make-over to knock your socks off. It is also an honest genre to use, as the terrain is often bleak and lifeless, and if we can get THAT to look good, then we'll be laughing.  Please don't ask me why there is lots of water in our desert, we just thought it looked cool :)

Terrain In The Game

The next two videos are from the in-game prototype component, which shows a few key features we added to create a believable landscape. Obviously the water shader, which uses reflection and refraction effects, plus a rather nifty idea by Evolved which uses a water mask to soften the interaction with the shore.  

You will also see a patch of shadow coming from the high rocks, which is a technique I intend to optimize and internalize as a C++ routine, partly as this would then afford me the opportunity to thread it and get some serious speed up when generating this pre-baked data.

The vegetation takes the shadow from the terrain itself, and also moves the plants around and oscillates their color slightly to give them more life, and they can be rendered at different sizes to mix it up a little. I have more plants, and might create a system where several grass types will occupy the same clump area, but we'll come back to that when more essential matters are taken care of.

One of the last things Mark did was enhance the vegetation shader, as shown in the above shot with more detailed grasses and a reflective term applied to the grass directly under the sun.  It's subtle, but that's because I went in and modified the shader to tone it down a bit (I am expecting an angry email from Mark any day now) ;)

Terrain Editing

The editor is really my pride and joy because it is here where you will be spending most, if not all, your time when creating games in Reloaded. I only intended it to be a basic slope editor, so you can run some ground up to the side of buildings and have a nice curve or steeple effect. What I ended up with is a sculpture and paint system so cool, you could almost create buildings out of the very terrain!

I am the first to admit the 8 modes currently in the editor are opening shots across the bow of this terrain module, but they are pretty useful and probably represent 80% of the tools you would most need.  Once they are in the main engine, I will probably add a few more such as smoothing tools and perhaps more painting modes (i.e. paint highlights and dark patches, basic colors, e.t.c).  I won't be adding texture stamps at this stage as the performance hit was getting in the way of adding that one quickly, but I have a few ideas to mull over and more on this when we take the terrain module back out of the box and shake it up.

The system can save and load terrains, complete with what you painted, it can automatically spawn rocks, shadows, water masks, vegetation and even generates a realistic random terrain using a diamond-square technique.  The final bits will come in the form of improved textures, shader tweaks, small editor and in-game performance improvements and testing.  I have decided to post-pone full engine integration until I have the physics complete, as they pretty much go hand in hand, and when you press the big green test game button in the Reloaded IDE, you really want to stay on the ground when you walk out of a building.

Here is a video Rick produced when he got his hands on the prototype earlier today.  I think he needs more practice  but it did not take him long to find and use all the features, a good sign:

So with terrain pretty much boxed in, I move swiftly onto physics and a little AI work too.  The good news is that despite the meeting and a few other distractions, I am on track with the physics work and have a character controller wandering over the terrain height data, and dynamic objects raining form the sky. I also send off a very early prototype of the DarkAI system to Paul, to resolve a little issue with line of sight through mountains.  Even this early prototype has found a way to generate obstacle data from the terrain heights so that when an AI entity navigates to a high vantage point, they figure out that they cannot just take a direct line up a steep slope, but have to walk around until they find a slope that is acceptable. A very nice idea from Paul and implemented in less than 30 minutes ;)

Signing Off

Again, I have more 'crappy' visuals from my physics and AI work that I would like to show you, but I fear the almighty glass eye in the sky will frown upon my transgressions.  I did have the idea though that as we move forward to a beta release, we start an 'official' blog which Rick can author, featuring all the lovely final art and choice eye candy for the masses.  This would then allow me to move my own blog underground, and provide the link only to pledgers who are beta testing and following the internal development. Properly plastered with warnings and conditions, I think we should be able to get away with a more open policy on screen shots if there was something official to distract the buying public.

I honestly believe something was lost when we did our black out trick, for now you do not have the visual log of how that horrible green blotch of a screenshot you saw two weeks ago turned into the terrain module you see today.  You also did not see all the dead-end versions of the prototype, which might have triggered some stimulating conversation in the comments section and give rise to a new terrain idea. Ah well :)

I hope you enjoyed the terrain videos and if you are lucky, I will make one more which features the editor itself and give you a whistle stop tour of the features and the thinking behind them.


  1. Well Lee, your terrain editing system is fantastic. I dare say a lot more than what I expected.

    What did you mean by this? "I won't be adding texture stamps at this stage".

    I should add, and I understand the system might not be complete yet, there is something a little rough about the terrain visuals themselves. Something missing. It seems very blocky.

    (Also, great that you are moving about the project area to area, but don't forget about the other areas that sound unfinished! We want good, polished content, not lots of quick, unpolished features.

    Lastly a question - Have you finished with the lighting system? I hope not, I was really hoping we'd get dynamic spotlights which can cast dynamic shadows, thus fullfilling the promise of flashlights.)

  2. Could you send me a screen shot with some highlighting to show which part you thought was 'very' blocky? And also a shot from a game you play that has a similar visual but is not blocky. From this I can think about how to solve the issue you raise. Thanks!

    I have yet to do much 'interior' lighting work which I think is where spot lights (torches) really shine (ah-hem). The problem with point and spot lights is that they require multiple render targets, updated 60 frames per second and it can really drain performance. Whatever interior lighting shader system I employ would have to be critical of in-game performance. That said, a spot light could be simulated by re-using the cascade system, but you would not be able to have both an outdoor sun shadow and an indoor torch spotlight, not that it would be a problem given the contrast in those situations. Prototyping will tell :)

    1. I should add; you CAN have sun shadows and torch spotlights, just 'not at the same time' ;)

    2. Well maybe blocky was definately not the correct word to use. What I really meant was it seems very low-poly. For example, the rocks in the landscape have incredibly jagged, straight-lines. It looks good, but, and I mean this constructively, it looks it's out of a game from yesteryear.

      We have not seen very much of the terrain editor though so it is highly possible that fine tuning and good, clever terrain design will fix this problem. All of this being down to the user.

      I don't enjoy using this game as an example but I do feel it shows the smoothed style I'd like to be able to see FPSCReloaded be able to create as it's just a little more polished and easier on the eye.

      And that's excellent to hear about interior lighting. I am excited and hopeful once again! On a note about a flashlight, the kind of style I am referring to can be found in the Silent Hill series. ( for reference.) I don't know whether that helps as I am not entirely sure how they did theirs, though it's impressive considering it was a playstation 2 game. But I guess more on that when the time comes.

      Anyhow, keep up all the awesome work you are putting into this Lee!

  3. Hey Lee, awesome videos. The possibilities are incredible. Looking at the terrain controls reminded me a lot of Far Cry 3's map editing tools. I found this video that's a tutorial on the Far Cry 3 terrain editing. It's designed for console and PC, and some of these tools you already have integrated, so some of the stuff in the video won't mean a lot. However, It's great example of the exact kind of ways you'd want to manipulate terrain. I've used the Far Cry 3 map editor and its awesome. It may help with some ideas for later on down the track, but here's the link I recommend you'd check out:

  4. Lee, I have a few questions about the system.
    1. Can we have different water height at different points?
    2. Can you add a tool that snaps the terrain to the bottom of the segment area?
    3. Like in UDK, can you make an a brush that smooths the terrain, and a brush that creates a sort of randomized, rocky, bumby area?
    4. Will there be trees? And other entities like rocks?

  5. The walking (running) around on the terrain videos reminded me strongly of Fallout 3, particularly the areas of high rocks. Awesome work! :D

    With regards to the lights, cube-map spotlights are very fast to render and look great, so perhaps at the very least we could have spotlights?

  6. ... same here clonkex! I can now create games like Fallout and Skyrim! WOOT

  7. This was well worth the 'no screen/video' wait period. I am amazed at what you've managed to accomplish in such a small time frame. Also was that a peek at the real time shadows in the editor I just saw in Rick's vid? :)

    In regards to the same vid, when terrain was built then previewed, is that the result of hitting the Run button or is that a new quick preview function... because that was FAST. :D Amazing job on the terrain editor.

  8. I like it very much.

    I'm interested to see how it interacts with the segment system and whether it's possible to create things like mines or other subterranean things by cutting holes in the terrain?

    Also, is the terrain itself shaded?

    And is there any intention to give the water plain some customisables? For instance could I create a beach scene with crashing waves and choppy water rather than the current millpond?

  9. will the fpsc reloaded use anything from x10?

  10. Almost certainly not. Well, other than DarkAI, but X9 already has that. What are you hoping for?

    1. Well you can already use shaders in X9 (and pretty much anything that's in X9 will be in Reloaded), and Lee's already making a better water shader for Reloaded.

  11. Since everything is more atmospheric.. we will need some sound improvements. A layer for music but we'll need one for wind gusts, insects and shore line sounds.

    1. Indeed. We should also have different walking/footstep sounds, so that we don't get the "classic footstep" sound from the original FPS Creator, when we walk in the terrain. Sure that sound of the classic footsteps will be fine when we walk on a floor, even though that could also be improved.

    2. I agree with both of you :)

    3. Yes I believe when the player and entities walk on specific terrain it should load a different type of footstep sound effect.

    4. I'm glad that you guys agree :)

  12. Any chance of a Sunday night blog im hungry for more and anything is better than nothing

  13. I'm hungry for a beta now.

    When do you think a beta will be sent? :3

  14. I am curious to know if we hit the second stretch goal as 20 was all needed if going by the kickstarter markers. As project was funded by mr x. And im sure we close. I hope. :)

    1. They said something about that in their latest newsletter (issue 126)

  15. OMG. I can't believe what you've been able to achieve here and it really gives some context to what a 500x500x20 map feels like.

    This is going to completely change the face of FPSC games and we can start making some truly compelling FPS experiences. Bravo.

    Don't quite get some of the previous comments about looking blocky. This is comparable with any game I've seen of late and thats without trees, plants and buildings etc.

    Once the physics prototype has been done it would appear to be a reasonable point to start letting pledgers get their hands on some of this stuff. I would have thought it would be better to get some free testing at each stage rather that trying to bring everything together and pick the bones out of it right at the end.

    Anyway really impressive stuff here. We can leave FPSC classic and X10 far behind now.

    1. They say blocky based on how some parts are hard edged. But I know Lee will be working to create different smoother options and rougher options.

      I must agree with you though im quite impressed too with the new map editor and how its turning out.

  16. Presumably what some people have referred to as Blurry or Blotchy are the Videos and they are - if you view them "Full Screen" - as the originals are I presume of small dimension and or of low quality, certainly not large video at HD which might be a good idea when promoting Reloaded later on to the wider world if you are concerned with only showing the highest quality for promotional purposes.

    People are now used to seeing HD Video for all kinds of video including game engine and games promotion, and Video quality being distributed nowadays is increasing rapidly at large sizes up to HD 4gb and beyond yet to come.


  17. Yep, Nomad, I agree completely :D