Saturday, 12 October 2013

Saturday Continued

As I Was Saying

My Friday blog was cut short due to a little fatigue on my part, but I did have more to say. I resume my monologue in a rare weekend blog post and I want to start with a nice screenshot of what I have been working on in the last 36 hours.

As you can see, I have been working on blending the character shader into the rest of the visual feast.  In doing so, I found it convenient to bring in the AI and Character physics module as well, which went in a little too smoothly. It was this lack of pain that caused me to carry on and run out of steam.

I returned to a decent place in the code, and could carry on with the AI some more. Right now the character can initialize and immediately connect with the DarkAI brain that was running in the prototype. Shows my plan to create prototypes that also directly plug into the main engine was the right one.

The new code is not without it's challenges though. The character seems to stretch some internal limbs, hides the in-hand weapon and has a strange glitch which is very subtle to detect, thus fix.

Bring In The Bullet Ray

As these glitches are vague, I thought I would connect the other necessary part of the AI system which is the ability for the player to fire the weapon and have the AI character respond to this impact.  This will allow the creation of a video which shows running around a small scene and knocking over characters. Almost there, just a few more lines and tests and it will be in.

As I copy, paste and correct the legacy 'entity hit' code from the classic FPSC, I respect the fact it's quite huge now, and probably not highly optimized. The current code uses an entity loop and checks every entity against a ray from the players gun. A bit crazy really. Not too bad in overall performance, but this idea of an entity loop multiplies out and I cannot shake the idea that there is a better way, something more spacial in nature might be better all round.  For now I can keep the current approach, but I will be looking for other options.

I did do a little optimizing though and the main character animation and combat system runs on a smaller loop, only including characters in the level.  

You may notice I also worked on the character shader, cleaning up the normal map shader code and more significantly added self-shadowing for them.  As character animate 'all the time' the initial shadowing artifacts from the depth camera resolution made the end visual pretty bad. By tweaking an epsilon for shadows close to the casting pixel I made it a little nicer at close range. I still have to do more distant shadow tweaks, but it's a good start I think.

Signing Off

I am just finished off the ability of the editor/engine to allow the test game to kill the characters but restore them when you are back in the editor, and the ability to dive back in and shoot them again. This will allow more testing and start the process of my 'multiple test game' nodes which will allow you to go into the test game as an editing mode. Things you do in first person view can remain in place and saved back in the editor. At one point the characters did just that, but it's not quite right that your well placed level assets start walking off :)  Again very pleased the character AI just dropped in, which means I can dive straight into the other million connections required to complete the character system.


  1. I'd like to say fantastic work this time, but I am afraid I am going to have to speak my mind.

    Lee, be very careful with that bloom. It's spoiling the scene now, stepping far beyond Elder Scrolls IV territory. It does not leave me impressed at all.

    What on earth are those weird lines, almost like particle intersections, over the character?

    What I am seeing problematic with the visuals is that everything has the same, washed out, faded, over-bloomed appearence to it. Nothing stands out, everythings the same material and brightness and while we can all applaud that outdoor scenes are now possible with these new tools, the visuals are strikingly similar to the dated FPSC ones.

    Perhaps I am expecting too much, especially right now in the development phase, but so far, on graphical quality, I am not sold.

    The only thing I can really comment on being amazing, are the shadows so far, (and I also feel they need some extra work, or better yet, give players the ability to choose shadow softness!)

  2. Send me a link of a game shot you consider 'top draw graphics', which will give me a base line for your comparisons. Thanks!

    1. I don't know whether that would be fair considering the graphics will be, for the most part, as good as the user allows them to be, but as you wish.

    2. @Huknar none of those shots is actually lookin better, difference is the bloom/blur

      it might be best to make the postFx have a base setup with tweakable variables

      stuff such as
      Bloom/DOF/Blur/Bokeh/Vignette in a Global HDR Setting
      that way ppl could tweak the base look of their game
      and evryone should be happy

    (not from a game, its from a engine and since i saw the grass shot i believe Reloaded can top this)
    that woudl be something i would consider top draw
    regarding bloom/ lets be honest the current shots are what they are - wip
    not more

  4. Actually I feel guilty now. I need to add a comment that congratulates you on your technical work. Where AI is not really something I am interested in that much, I tend to skip over it.

    I guess I read "Character Shader" and immediately jumped to the blog being about visuals.

    1. How can you enjoy game development if you're not interested in AI? AI makes or brakes the game. Visuals are just useless eye-candy for the most part and without AI we would end up with a fancy virtual "walking" simulator. :)) I'm really looking forward to some major improvements to how characters behave in certain situations. AI in Classic was too simplistic for my taste. As for the "stripes" on character in the first image, I do think a shadow from somewhere above comes down and is stretched and not blurred. Shadow blurring issues can be seen in the back of the image (on the wall), hopefully params can be tweaked to increase the smoothness of lighting. Anyway, it's nice to see some major progress. Keep it up Lee, it gets better every day.

    2. Because unlike many people, I am more interested in games that tell stories through visuals, characters, and feature puzzle-like gameplay, not, gun down as many enemies as you can find.

      I am quite contempt with simple AI. If an enemy can turn a corner and chase you down it without getting stuck on a wall, I'm game. Don't need anything else.

    3. Am I wrong or this product still has "shooter" in it's title which implies what I said earlier. There are tons of 3D visualisation creators out there, but we need something that can create decent FPS games. Speaking of stucked characters, Classic had all of the issues and in my opinion AI in Reloaded is the second most important improvement after engine performance optimisations.

    4. Actually, there are very few 3D creators that offer the expansive, easy features that FPSC creator does. That's why I feel this product is so important to feel such a role, and not just to create clones of Call of Duty.

    5. To be honest... for an FPS game... AI is the most important part of them. This is after all First Person Shooter Creator...

    6. Guys, stop trying to force Reloaded into a shooter creator. Yes, that's what it's called, but that's a legacy name and it is no longer limited to creating shooters. Even x9 had the potential to create some awesome non-shooters if you put the effort in.

      I feel that AI is important for Reloaded as most people will want to create FPS games, but I also feel we shouldn't be shunned if we say that we personally don't need AI for the games we want to create.

  5. Hi Lee

    This looks amazing. I love how you've been able to enable self shadows on the characters which is going to be really awesome.


    We need to allow Lee to finish working on the character shader and the shadows. The fact everything is working at the moment and with good performance is whats really important at the moment. I'm sure by the time he has finished tweaking things it will be just perfect.

    1. That's fair, but I wanted to point out that the character, especially the bloom on him, in my opinion, looks far from good. Considering he is working on the shader I thought such feedback might be useful.

  6. Could you provide a shot with a character in it ;) I need to see how the details such as shadows, bloom and normals are being presented. I am working on visual continually and any opportunity to improve is good. Bear in mind most visual values can be tweaked through sliders, not much will be fixed!

    1. Hopefully these might be helpful.

  7. Here are two good in-game character screenshots and how lighting/shadows/bloom/etc interacts with it:

    Don't mind the "I like cheats" part in the second screenshot xD I just googled the games name and picked a screenshot that displayed the characters well in terms of lighting etc.

    The game is called CS GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) if you want to check it out more. And it's only 15$ on Steam if you really want to study it (not trying to advertise it or anything, just trying to be helpful if you need sources).

    I do like the fact that all of this stuff is slider editable in Reloaded!

    1. I really like those two screenshots, I think they do an excellent job in showcasing lighting, shadows and material.

  8. csgo is pretty optimised. its a comptetitve fps, so being pretty is not a primary concern.
    valve have done a good job with it though.

    why are the screenshots all squashed?

  9. Glad to see your brain is back in gear lee,looking forward to testing the first release.

  10. A quick observation on 2nd screen shot. Far right one hill as what looks like a seam. Or am I seeing things. Good work by the way and glad it is all melding into one. This as been an exceptional years blog or will be in Jan. Watching how it all falls into place and seeing shots from early to now. Been great

  11. Hi Everyone,

    Its certainly nice to see the screen shots of the Character inside Reloaded and know that progress with the AI is being made. Thats a step forward which is whats going on here.

    As to the use of Reloaded well its could be used for almost any purpose you care to use it within the scope of its ability. Non shooter or walk through world or Intense shooter and more. The choice is yours.

    What that world, environment and any Characters look like is another matter.

    It seems to me and I may be incorrect that at the moment Reloaded is maybe using a kind of global Shader which affects everything so that cloth and wood or metal and even terrain in some all look as if they are made of a similar material depsite having different textures and being quite different materials?

    Presumably users will have or hopefully will some ability to manipulate things like the colours, intensity, lighting, Shaders and other things affecting the scene as a whole and or individual parts or objects in the world so the can adjust the look and feel of whats being displayed otherwise all game levels made by different users will look much one like another to a large degree.

    As to what looks good outside of Reloaded to compare and aspire too as this is an Engine/game maker or World builder depending on your preferences shown here by different people what not simply look at the best of the best in the field of FPS and look at the top AAA titles - coming up and yet to come that may set the bar.

    My personal like is Bungies Destiny. Its easy enough to go and have a look at the Destiny web site where things are immediately apparent. Look at the screen shots, characters, weapons and environments in the screen shots and videos. Yes they have bloom and other special affects but they are subtle. Shaders and Materials do not necessarily have to have aggressive high contrast special affects just so they can stand out and hit you in the face to say to the viewer look how great our special affects and visuals are. If they ecxist without the user actually particularly noticing as they become part of the overall visual appeal and play subconsciously on the viewers senses then they do their job very well. Yes its good to have a great blastings pecial effects when needed e.g. explosions and so on but in the main subtle and natural it good with a little hint of something special. Over accentuated eye candy wont win Reloaded any medals.

    Having said all that as said I hope these things may be user editable or affected so no worries and lets carry on forward until they are.

    Someone before me here said again today what I would again re-iterate. Said so many times :

    Stability and Performance and AI first priorities please without which - what everything looks like wont matter a jot. Whatever else Reloaded will provide the two of these things should be paramount so I am glad to see the AI going in.

    If you can't maintain stability and performance at a level that users can work with and game players can acceptably play with when the AI is in place and users fill the Reloaded world with lots of other goodies which they surely will then what indeed are you left with? A Walk Through world indeed which will keep some happy at least - that is if you can walk around at all.

  12. Sorry I have to comment just a little more here.

    Looking at the screen shots here again - other than the somewhat slightly overdone contrast/bloom I am sure that once users get hold of Reloaded and start making their own textures with different styles things will look better.

    Generally speaking though there is always room for improvement I think that Reloaded visually will deliver a fair quality for the status of the product. I don't have any concerns there.

    However I do have some considerable concern over how all these things to be included will have affect on stability and performance which is far more important than trying to make Reloaded match AAA titles visual and rendering quality as many even TGC may aspire too.

    What price that if the basic core stability and performance is inadequate for end users to
    move from and raise their endeavors from that level which they have always suffered previously for these reasons. What price is acceptable to pay as an exchange for a high level of stability and performance that will allow users to drag themselves out of the past in these areas which affect wholly their ability to successfully make and deploy games which others will want to and can successfully enjoy playing.

    Some kind of balance is always needed of course, however I know which of these things will be of benefit absolute and those which will be nice to have. Some things are nice to have and some are essential must have.

    We already have a Larger World size and Terrain capability.

    Now Stability, Performance and AI are must have and Performance is King. Without that all else is lost as everything depends upon it.

    Said my bit anyway.


  13. I think it's interesting how every screenshot that comes out is better than the last, but expectations are raised after seeing each, and the propensity to pick visual areas to offer critique on also increases.

    Not to buck the trend: the first screenshot looks nice, but the shadows aren't quite perfect. The ones on the walls appear to be double shadowed - they should be sharper closer towards the source of the shadow and blurrier the further away they are. This is a universal constant in a game as in real life.

    The shadowing on the floor looks good, particularly the way it's affected by the normal map (which also looks excellent) but it should still be sharper.

    On the character, the shadows look striped. I can't quite put my finger on that, but it needs a little something.

    The second screenshot - the gun looks like it should be brighter (by which I mean affected by the same lighting as the character). But I'm not sure if it's enabled yet. Also the blurring on the shadow of the character is too high. It should be sharper towards the feet but the blurring on the head end is about right.

    Also, a problem with all the screenshots so far is that the character and world appear to be rendered in widescreen (it's particularly noticeable in the second shot). You would agree that the character looks more like the original under 4:3

    Anyway I thought this might give you a few more solid pointers than showing other game engines and saying "aim for that" (nice though it is to look at pretty CG pictures).

    1. I totally agree about the screenshot ratio. Lee, what the heck are you doing testing your game in 1024x768 when you have a widescreen monitor?? This is a BIG problem when it comes to making screenshots and indeed the games themselves look good!

  14. It's like im watching a student handing in his work where he thinks he has done amazing job with his homework until the teacher rips it apart and says do it again. Not good enough. Close but no cigar. I actually have empathy for you lee. I am sure that you know what you have to do with things. And I think it's more than I expected already and I am sure there is more to come. I agree with uman. Physics ai and good stability. And adding the needed. :)

  15. Sounds like there is a strong consensus for me to stay any further visual procrastination and spend the remaining two weeks on AI, stability, performance and completeness. I tend to agree, but it's good to get a general sense of where we are before I decide unilaterally. Most of the visual issues would be down to 'settings' which can be changed by the end user using sliders. Bloom levels, shadow quality, e.t.c. As I added AI, it makes sense to carry on in that direction and bring in more physics, performance and overall memory monitoring. I also have the GPU profiler to try out yet!

    1. @Lee
      totally agree - AI, stability, performance and completeness
      should be the way to go especially
      since you mentioned that indeed the graphics setup can be changed by the user
      (btw thats all i for one wanted regarding gfx, as it makes stuff so much easier to combine)

      Visuals can be produced by the community
      after the pledger beta
      and TGC could just pick some of those shots/ ingame videos to promote reloaded
      (ofc with given permition)

      we do not expect a full fledged game here - we at least i believe are happy with a base setup that demonstrates the usage of Reloaded in the form of a level
      that combines
      Larger World Size, Terrain, Veg System, Real Time, Shadows, Physics
      Character + Ai & Weapon/ Item Demonstration

      Its a Engine and not a game
      if Reloaded should be considered as an improvement then it
      has to go away from the way of FPSC - it is not about havin plenty of assets
      its about using the Engine and creating your own content - that at least is it how i see it

      so no you guys shouldnt be worried or to much focused on creating a big promotional Game Maker - just create teh Gmae Maker
      the promotion will come by the community
      and like suggested - pick the best to showcase reloaded
      Thats it before i get stoned by the rest i stop here

  16. Larger World Size, Terrains, Veg System, Real Time, Improved Physics, Shadows and SS is a major achievement.

    Yes an amazing job.

    Have a Guiness :-)

    Thank you Lee.

  17. Everyone has their own sense of visual style, and it's so easy to pick apart static screenshots. Here' a screenshot from The Last of Us:

    If you're being totally honest with yourself, there's not THAT much difference between that screenshot and Reloaded's latest screenshots, other than extra art content.

  18. Hi Lee,

    I like the shadows as they are and not too sharp and therein is Lees dilemma. You will never please everyone when it comes down to fine detail tweaking and personal opinion.

    You will be at it forever going around in circles quite likely and will never move forward to the things that everyone should be able agree on which have been mentioned yet to look at. Those basic core things which are actually a necessity if you ever want to be able to make a game and play a game at all. Spend as much time is as needed on those core things as it takes but not on trying to achieve everyone's dream of what visual or artistic perfection is especially at the expense of the core engine stability and performance and main core features.

    Making and playing a game is almost like a physical thing. We have to make the game first, then be able play it. I cant shoot a lovely beautiful light ray no matter how beautiful but I can shoot an enemy - they are physical in the 3D world.

    Thus making and playing is good. Those core things that make that possible in a helpful way for users is good. Keeping the engine quality is good. Those physical game making and playing priorities first is good. That does not include visual quality which is the least of the important things so I can stand and marvel at the light rays.

    Personally I agree if there is only two weeks left then consolidate. If you can manage some AI work then that may be good but even that can be added later. Reloaded is not going away any time soon so don't burn yourself out please.

    Have another Guiness :-)

  19. Question what's the plan for none human ai. dragons beasts serpents. Etc. I have a lot of none human enemies. mimics. beholders killer plants etc. Will there be a few basic templates for these types etc. Just a rough idea be great cheers in advance.

  20. I have nothing to really complain or criticize. I like what I see. Great work Lee :)

  21. I'm just amazed that Lee has been able to implement real time dynamic shadows and the fact we are also getting self shadows on entities and characters with good performance is nothing short of a miracle in FPSC.

    Lee has said that post processing and shadow quality can be adjusted with sliders so we can all rest easy that if people want to really go mad with a particular effect they can compromise on the quality of some other ones and make the one they really care about maximum quality.

    For example I don't care too much for light rays and will only be having a subtle amount of bloom in my games but I really care about dynamic shadows so I will be putting that slider all the way up and compromising other graphics options if I need to.

    This is exactly how it should be for developers where all the features are there and you can tailor those features to suit your game and what you want to focus on delivering with it.

    I totally agree that Lee should spend the next 2 weeks focusing on AI and physics integration and making sure the package is coming together. Indoor lighting and dynamic lighting sounds like it will be a topic for Lee to visit after the 1st BETA is out and also blob rooms will come in a later BETA which still gives us a lot of scope for testing with terrain, graphics, AI and physics.

    @Lee - It would be really useful if we could have a video showing the latest shadow updates for self shadows on entities and characters as you can't really do it justice with pictures.

    Also you mentioned about reducing texture plates down to 2048x2048 to solve an obscure video memory issue. I thought this was the maximum resolution for textures anyway so was interested to hear more about this.

    You also mentioned shadow artifacts from the depth camera resolution and needing to do more distant shadow tweaks. Will you be doing this before moving onto AI?

  22. First up, excellent work. Great to see the character in the game, but...

    ...second. WHY ARE YOU GIVING US STRETCHED SCREENSHOTS?! I had thought earlier that they looked stretched but dismissed it believing you would be at least running your games at the correct res. So Test Game still defaults to 1024x768, does it? Why? Just use GET DESKTOP WIDTH()/HEIGHT() and it'll be much better.

    Third, since Half-Life 2 is my favourite game OF ALL TIME, I thought I'd get you some more comparison screenshots showing off material, lighting and bloom usage. Here:

    However, having yelled at you and basically told you what to do, I think I have to say to ignore me if you wish. I will continue to say these things and point out your mistakes but honestly I am just so happy that Reloaded has come this far. It's doing way way more than I ever thought possible.

    Please don't work yourself to death just because we're suddenly complaining about every single screenshot (pretty much). They're all amazing screenshots. Just remember that no matter how much we complain, you ARE doing an excellent job :D