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Frankie V

Making Casa UE4 eps 1

posted Monday, 19 May 2014
Been working for a while on a remake of Casa for Urban Terror HD using the Unreal Engine 4 and though you all would be interested in following along.

To start the conversion I broke down the .map file, that uses brushes, and imported into 3ds Max I was able to create the source chain with textures and materials intact. More or less this is what Casa would have looked like if idtect3 had an improved rendering engine and if texture resolution was a bit higher there would be very little need of additional work beyond filling it out a bit more as well as a bit more work in the detail.

At this stage there is a good sampling of old texture work and new physics based material to get a good sense of direction as well as between cheat textures converted to detail geometry.

At the moment I'm building all of Casa inside of a sandbox to also accomplish the development of necessary game assets so although this is not the actual game it's also a good opportunity to show off some of the detailing as to textures, materials, of the HD weapons.


Can i haz more disc io plox!

posted Monday, 19 May 2014
Ahh yes....

For those who like "Infer-structure", here is your top tip of the day. Over buy disc iops. When you dealing with VM environments as ESXi Hosts you will love how well everything works, up until the point you under-estimate disc io.

Normally people think about average and "peak" usage, you can easily forget how heavy backup is on a production system. Thinking about it there is a reason why Backup tends to happen "At night". Saying this, how do you define night when you run a "Global" used website??

People may have noticed auth dieing around 3am GMT ... well that would be some more "Heavy" backup scripts running.

Fear not! We are replacing our horribly heavy backups with super light lovely differential VM backups. Then auth should stop crashing and all is good is the world!
comments: Feel free to discuss this on our forums


Car tire model explained

posted Monday, 12 May 2014
Welcome everybody to my blog. In this blog I will mainly talk about level design, modeling, texture creation and any other creative work I do while working on Urban Terror HD. Why? Because I like to show off work that I'm proud of. :)

When working on a map I usually start with the things that give me the most joy working on and I procrastinate doing the boring work, even if that's what actually should be done first. So in my first blog entry I'll show you screenshots of one of the first models I created for Urt HD and I'll explain a bit how I did it. If you have no experience in level design this might give you a glimpse of how the environments in games are created. If you are a mapper you might learn some new technique. In any case I hope you'll enjoy reading this post.

When creating a game asset I always start with a high poly model that has tons of detail. I use blender as my 3D application of choice but 3ds Max or Maya are just as good (those two are actually the industry standard). You can see the high poly version of a car tire I modeled on the very left on the two images below. The first screenshot shows the models in solid mode, the second one shows the wireframe. As you can see, all of the detail is actually in the model, there is no texture used on the high poly model, just a basic black color. In case you didn't know, game engines break down surfaces into triangles (tris for short) no matter what shape the surface initially has. The more tris your graphics card has to render, the lower your fps (frames per second) will be. 64740 tris is obviously too much to be used in a real time game for such a simple object. In current UrT maps somewhere around 20k - 50k tris are drawn at any given time for the whole map (!). So, since the high poly model is far too complex to be used as is, lower resolution models have to be used and much of the detail has to be faked by textures.

A series of low poly models labeled lod 0 - lod 2 (lod = level of detail) are actually used in the game. The lod 0 model is used when you are very close to the model. The further away you get, the smaller the object will be on your screen and the less detail you will be able to see. That's why the lod 0 model automatically gets replaced by a lower detail lod 1 model at a certain distance. If done correctly you won't even be able to see the switch happening. In theory any number of lods can be used but at some point it's not worth the effort to create them or it's not even possible to reduce the tris anymore. In this case I used three different lod models.

Now let's talk about getting the detail of the high poly model onto the low poly models. That's the job of the textures. Each model uses several different textures which are more or less important. The image below shows the three main textures I use for the tire model. The base color map (also called diffuse map) defines, like the name suggests, the color of the model. I created this texture with the free version of dDo, an awesome photoshop add-on that makes it so easy to create amazing textures for your models. The ambient occlusion map and normal map are generated in blender from the high poly model in a process called "baking". All of the detail of the high poly model is baked to a texture that can be used on a low poly model. The ambient occlusion map fakes the darker, more concealed areas of the model, whereas the normal map shows the direction the surfaces are facing in the world. The latter information is used to make light and shadow behave as if there was all this detail in the model. The textures play such an important role in how realistic an object looks, they almost work like magic :) . Having explained this, take another look at the first image and note how you can hardly see any difference between the high poly model and lod 0. All the lod models use the ambient occlusion map and normal map generated from the high poly model.

You might have wondered what the collision model in the first two images is all about. Determining where a player can walk and where his path is blocked is computationally a very expensive task. Poor collision has an even greater impact on fps as poor modeling. That's why it's important to keep the collision as simple as possible and therefore I created yet another, even simpler version of the car tire that will be invisible in the game and is only used to block the player. Most people do not realize how simple and blocky the environments in games really are. The visuals may be highly detailed and realistic but the movement is limited by flat walls and big cubes.

Putting all this together, the lod models, the collision model and several textures we end up with one simple game asset that can be placed in any map:

Did you like this post? Would you like to see more of these entries focusing on level design? Let me know what you think.

And as always, have a happy day! :)
comments: Feel free to discuss this on our forums


BladeKiller Is UVW Unwrapping

posted Sunday, 11 May 2014
It's been a long time since I blogged or what at the time passed for a blog. I used to have a personal website on when Q3 was new and wonderful artists in the community helped teach me how to skin. Thanks to Kalish for making it possible to write these blogs and share our UE4 Urban Terror progress with you.

One of my favourite pass times is uvw unwrapping a 3ds max model, especially player models, so it can be textured. I'm very fussy about how I like my uv's laid out after having suffered at the hands of other modelers and their horrid uvw unwrapping. Some of the early Q3 models overlapped body parts. This makes me a bit odd since most normal people detest this task but to me it's a fun puzzle to solve. I am currently working on a male player model for UE4 Urban Terror HD.

In this image I have unwrapped his torso, arms and lower body. You may have noticed that the model is basically naked. The gear like holsters, belts, boots will be added as separate models later. Previously, these parts were either part of the main model or simply painted on. This new method allows for flexibility and efficiency.

Stay tuned.


We are back! Scaling

posted Thursday, 08 May 2014
First thanks to Kalish for writing the Blogs parts for us.

I have just finished my works on our "Hosting Platform" for 2014 called "Lazerus". All i must do now is clone our VMs over to our 2nd host. This should make and its services completely redundant.

Some code to go yet on getting the CMS to autoprovision the Routing and to fail over the IPs ... but not long now! :)

If you ever wondered where i do all this from :) there we are :D
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