Busy!

Long time no update doesn’t mean we stalled work. We just don’t made any “visual progress”. yet. What kept us busy then?

Well here’s a short list:

  • Multi-threading
    • physics and update functions are run simultaneously.
    • (Still thinking on running update/physics simultaneously with the rendering).
  • Physics
    • (modified version of JigLibX for the ones who are curious).
  • Hierarchical model definition (we just call it model-files)
    • This means we have a file that defines how a 3D model looks like and behaves.
  • Particle engine
    • It works and can be defined in the model-file.

Next phase is “The Game”… what game? Well… we speculated a lot at this point but we don’t want to reveal anything at this time. It could be that we suddenly change our perspective to make something completely different.

3D vision

You hear more and more about 3D in movies and games. So after I saw James Cameron Avatar a second time (and still was impressed) I was wondering how it could be implement it in our 3D engine. The only solution I could came up with it using a red/cyan glass and use the Z-buffer to offset some colors – that’s the cheap solution – and also used in Trackmania Nations.

So after browsing “The Internets” I figured my GeForce 8800GTS has the ability enable NVidia’s 3D Vision. I don’t have a shutter or polarized glass, but I have a red/cyan glass (which also works) so I gave it a try. I tried it on several games and I concluded that not every game is ready for this. For example in FUR it’s just totally crap and the in-car view is horrible because you see it twice! But I also tried some other race games like Clutch (Armageddon Riders – Google/Bing for this and you know what I mean) where the effect is basically perfect!

With this game it really got me started to see the use of 3D Vision in games. Everything just flying off before your head. When I smashed into something you almost need to dive from your chair so you don’t get hit by flying debris! And this all should only be better if you *buy* the NVidia’s 3D Vision glasses together with a 22″ 120Hz monitor!

So how does it work? Well, it due to the frame drops I experienced, I guess the world is rendered twice. Once for the left eye and once for the right eye. But I’m not sure because I didn’t dive into it yet…

After all the conclusion for this 3D experience is that we will make our engine ready for supporting 3D vision.

Terrain

While we are still busy with our next game and engine, I started on terrain rendering.

For now the terrain is brute force rendered, creating a new vertex buffer every frame with no optimizations what so ever. The terrain is infinite, but for now I can only look 200 meters ahead to keep the frame rate up…

Next step is to apply some optimizations so the view distance is 5km+. The technique is still something to dive into and do some experiments.

As for now also we have a basic vegetation engine in place that can place objects (currently a car model from FUR) on the terrain. For now the “cars” are also rendered brute force with frustum culling, we are planning on making some impostor-based approach. Simply said, objects far away, say 100 meters, will be rendered as simple sprites. This reduces render time and thus can we display more tree’s on screen.

Screenshots come soon… stay tuned!

New engine!?

What!? Again!! YES! We started porting the “old” engine from Delphi to C#. The reason is that we’re porting the engine is to cut down development time. Also with the whole .NET framework and CLR less work is needed to achieve more. The architecture of the engine remains basically the same.  Apart from some changes at least I’m quiet happy with the design.

Why .NET and not C++ or brainfuck? Well… C++ would take a lot more development time for me as we are more experienced in C# that C++. Speed is not really an issue with simple games as you have a shit load of processing power under your fingertips. And it that’s not enough, you still have the GPU!

Also an other thing that pulled me over the line is Mono. With mono you can run .NET CLR applications (written in C#, managed C++, VB.NET, etc) cross platform. The supported that took my interest are Sony PS3 and the Nintendo Wii. Also I tested it on Suse 11.2 (Linux) with a demo application and it runs with without a problem. The only thing we need to do is keep the engine mono-compatible.

For Windows I want to use the .NET framework and DirectX 9 and 11 (soon). For the other platforms I need to make a new renderer in OpenTK or something similair. Also I need to switch to a mono-compatible physics engine. I’m thinking on BulletX (Bullet for C#) as it’s open source.

The current status of the engine is that I setup DirectX 9 and can render models and a simple GUI all with shader model 3.0 which is also the minimum I want to use. Also I modified the material system to be more easy to use and has less overhead. Further more the editor will be less advanced and used for basic operations like adding and moving objects on the screen. Also the editor is now in-game so we have only 1 executable. (apart from 32 bit and 64 bit).

Stay tuned as more updates will follow!

Industry Beach

No waving palm trees or white sands, but rough industry and large factories on the shores: Industry Beach. This is where you don’t want to be  unless you want to race!

Artificial Intelligence

Driving a computer controlled car around the track.

Last few day I worked on the vehicle AI.  To get the AI working I did 2 thing: created AI itself and scattered “control points” around the track so the AI knows where it needs to go.

The AI is very limited, but works well. The only thing it does is follow the track, brake a little in tight corners and goes full speed on the straight roads. As it is not very thoughtful and always brakes too late, it often crashes into the walls. To compensate this, the AI has the ability to drive backwards and steer a random direction for a short period of time. Most of the time this is enough  to follow the track again. Also vehicles are not aware of each other or objects/walls on and around the track.

I made a movie that I put on YouTube to show what the AI does certain situations. The movie shows only AI, no input is given by a human being. I also enabled the lights on the car for a more visual-appealing look.

ps. 1: Sorry for the choppy frame rate, I think my hard disk is fragmented.
ps. 2: The white dots are the places where lights are located.