.:Welcome to Below and Beneath Blog page:.

0010. Rig that!
Rig that!

This week's issue of our blog is dedicated to - you may have figured by the headline - rigging, namely rigging the four-legged Nyctalus I currently work on. As if this weren't enough for one blog post you also get an insight on; well, let's not spoil that. Here we go.

Since my last blog post several things changed in my assignments. About six weeks ago I wrote that I was texturing the four-legged beast. By that time I was convinced that painting the so-called color maps as well as generating normal maps would take another two weeks before I'd start the next task. Think again, Sven!

You know Murphy, don't you? Of course you know him. Literally everybody who can turn on a computer knows Murphy. Not only as the person who dictates the homonymous law but also as the - sorry - bitch that lingers around and destroys your work whenever you absolutely not need destruction.

I could, of course, tell a tale of something bad happening to my work, throwing me back days and weeks. To tell the truth it was simply me that happened to me. Sort of a hidden Murphy. Normal mapping, the technique of using colors to "paint" details on an object that in fact lacks detail, used to cause trouble in our engine. Now it gets a bit technical for a sentence or two. You may skip it and read on in the next paragraph. In our textures certain UV shell borders are clearly visible on our models. When you use a plain white texture for a model, it should appear plain white in the engine, too. Our models do so - unless we use normal maps, too. Then most UV shell borders cause a distinguishable shadow coming from nowhere.

Weeks ago I estimated how long texturing the four-legged Nyctalus would take, how long rigging would take etc. I had no idea that fixing the issues in our textures would take me that long. To make a long story short I missed the last milestone. I was way slower than I had expected. Additionally we still weren't able to completely fix the normal mapping issues.

Then a few days ago the eagerly awaited Vision Engine 6 was released. We installed its first version on two of our machines and exported objects we had normal mapping issues with. Of course, we hoped that the new engine - updated to DirectX instead of OpenGL and featuring loads of improvements - would fix these issues along the way. But it didn't. To be precise it probably didn't. We don't know that for sure since complex objects exported with Vision 6.0 apparently cannot be loaded into the model viewer and the engine. So we actually can't look at them. Relatively simple objects can be exported. But on the other hand we never had normal mapping artifacts with simple objects.

We decided that it was time to skip the four-legged Nyctalus' texture for now and instead move on to the rig. Time will tell whether this decision causes us more trouble than correcting the textures or upgrading to the engine's new version.

I started rigging and am currently working on the Nyctalus' arms. In the last rig I created - for a fighter called Lea - I used arms that could be dynamically switched between Inverse and Forward Kinematics (IK and FK, that is). The animator had a slider for the character's arms ranging from zero to ten. Zero meant FK, ten IK. Everything inbetween was just a quick mouse move away. The current rig will be primarily an easy to use rig and therefore will feature mostly basic controls. Though I implement the IK/FK switcher. This is the perfect opportunity to stress test it. One of the worries while rigging the character of Lea was whether it could still be exported into the engine; or whether the rather complex rig would make exporting impossible.

We (and you) will see how the Nyctalus and its rig controls evolve.

Stay tuned for next week's blog post and meanwhile: chill ;-)

... a little

Sven - Wednesday, 13 December 2006 @ 10:36:43
0009. Game physics.

I was quite busy the last days. Milestone 2, 2 presentations for our C++ lessons, 1 presentation at the dev day and last but not least one "making of".

Well, finally everything went fine. The interesting part for you, I expect, is the last milestone. My task was to implement the Ageia PhysX SDK in our current project. I had some trouble with the NxuStream loader, but after some research I got a clue of what was going on. Now it is possible to use the PhysX engine to simulate the physics for our game.

For those who can't think of what the physic engine can do for us, here some explanations. The physics engine is a middle ware like a graphic engine, or a game engine. We can use it to calculate real time physics. Each object in our project will have a model which is used to render in a scene. The physics engine also gets a representation of this model. Less detailed, but enough to bounce it in a proper way from surfaces. Then each time the physics simulation has computed a new position and rotation for this object, we have to set the information to our model that will be rendered to the screen. This is a very simple example for a physic simulation. There are plenty of things you can do with it. For example: it is possible to simulate fluids, cloth, rag doll or particles that behave correctly as you know it from the real world. Well one drawback is still there. It costs a lot of processing time.

Hopefully you can have a look at the current project, in a few weeks.

Hey, I forgot to mention the new version of Trinigy's Vision Engine. Yep, there is a new version out there. It's 6.0! From now on we can implement our own direct x shader. The last version used opengl to render the game. For those who don't know what is the difference. GLSL is the shader language for opengl. Direct x got HLSL and in our lessens we learn the direct x shader language, only.

Well, that's it for now. Have a nice Christmas, and a happy new year!

Matthias - Sunday, 10 December 2006 @ 15:32:16
0008. 2nd blog entry, refurbishment time!

Soo.. my second blog post for you (which I almost forgot about, props to Sven for the reminder!) will feature - again - some info about the work I did in these last few weeks. Our first Milestone passed by remarkably well, we even managed to sneak some extra work in :) - second milestone is running well, Id judge, and it looks like it will be fullfilled rather easily again. My job during this milestone mainly consists of re-working all of the existing weapon props so far, a task which almost is finished, only one or two more objects left to optimize. What do I mean by re-working, you may ask? Simple: Make it look /better/. This includes re-doing the textures for the object and "painting" a pretty normal map in zBrush. As soon as I have the possibility (probably only after this milestone), I will look into simple shaders to make our stuffs gleam and look all shiny and cool - surely a fun task!
The other - minor - tasks Im workin on consist of adjusting the armor sets we have ingame to fit our enemy models as well as the player, and lastly, working with Paulo to make the game ready for the pathfinding routines. This includes making pathfinder meshes - meshes which are basically only the floor of our cave systems - and very very simplified (as simple as even possible, to be precise. They wont need to look pretty, since they wont be rendered. They just have to work).

This concludes my Blog update, thank you for reading, and a good day!


Stefan Biermann - Wednesday, 29 November 2006 @ 19:23:04
0007. Monster-Rig and Black Seams
Monster-Rig and Black Seams

Did you know what a rigger is? Think of a marionette. The one carving the body is the modeller, the one painting it is the texturer. The one who ist who is pulling the strings is the animator. But who places the strings, and who installs the hindges and joints? This is the job of a rigger.
Our strings, hindges and joints are purley digital, and on the picture you can see some of them. Our animator, Matthäus, won't touch the model, but will be manipulating those green handels.
Ok, let's get specific: The arm-rig of our bipedal monster will be exspecificly designed for forward kinematic. The first rig of our main-character was designed with inverse kinematics both for his arms and his fingers. But it turned out Matthäus didn't like and didn't use those. Until today, the twohanded swords and axes are the only occasions when the arm-IK system is put to use.
In some points the Rig is more simple. The monster doesn't have to move each finger seperatly. It has only three spine-joints. It won't ever be able to move its eyes.
On the other hand it can move its feet-claws, and it will be able to open its spiderlike, four-parted mouth.

While the programmers where reworking the engine they accidently started the game with some of the textures missing - and discovered a problem: Black seams on the main-character-model. We did some research, and it occures that problem arrises on outer seams of UV-shells when using perpixel lighting. We are currently developing a workaround, but it will include the rework of several UV-maps.

Jochen Winler - Wednesday, 22 November 2006 @ 11:27:05
0006. My first story...
My first story...

Ok, if you’ve been reading our blog section, you’ve probably noticed that my colleagues have mostly written about their work in our game – I’m not going to do that!
The thing is, we are living in the Big Brother’s times – I am sure Mr. Orwell had something completely different in his mind when he wrote ‘1984’ – anyways what I mean is: since we are living in times where futilities like knowing something about an unknown person’s life is simply the ‘most’, that’s exactly what I’m going to give to you!
Why, you might ask... I guess I just said why, but if you are feeling like you need a better explanation, read this:
I think nobody gives a dead rat to what we are doing during the time we are working to put our game running, so why should I lose my time writing something nobody cares about? Since I HAVE to write about something I decided to write about my favorite subject: ME! - If you think differently send me an email!

So, to start off: I am Paulo Jorente, I was born a long time ago in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now I live in Berlin, Germany, where I am studying 3D programming.
Actually I want to go back in time and tell you something that everybody went thru at least once in his/her life:
There was this girl she was the most beautiful girl in the school. Her name is Fátima. Black haired, wonderful big almond brown eyes, white skin, well not entirely white, I better change that to pale rose colored skin, an angel and I was in love with her...
Did you notice? ‘I’ was in love, she didn’t even knew I existed, well she knew I was there, but not really noticed me – you know what I mean.
I tried many times to talk to her, but way back then, it was really hard for me to talk to girls – well, giving a second thought to it, I guess it still is - never mind.
Finally, after I gathered all my courage together, I made a thing that even now, when I think about it, I still feel this funny feeling in my stomach. I went to her house at about 2:00AM and made a graffiti on a wall right across of her front door, so every time she goes out, she would see it and of course, I signed my name right under my work, so she would know who did it. It is obvious that the whole damn street would know it as well, but I couldn’t care less!
Man, that was a stupid thing to do, I know, but come on, I was just a teenager and teenagers do things like that...
Well, the graffiti worked!
On the next day at the school when she saw me she walked over to me and asked if I was the guy who made the graffiti in front of her house. I just nodded, things were running way too fast in my head, I was about to make a touch down!
Although I wanted to invite her to go out with me right way, I decided to start slowly. I asked her if she liked the graffiti to what she answered: “Yes, I really did, but my boyfriend did not!”
Well, she doesn’t know what she missed...

Paulo - Wednesday, 15 November 2006 @ 10:50:50
0005. It moves!!!

Hi there,
my name is Matt and I’m the animator in our team. Besides having no life because of a MMORPG called WOW, I give the life to our characters ;)

So what have I done ‘till now?
Last semester I started animating our first Komo, a little froglike enemy, and Felted our main character. First he started to walk, run and strafe. After that he learned to jump and fall and finally to defend himself with some nasty little hit- and kick-animations.
This semester, after weeks of complaining, I got an enhanced …. well lets say repaired rig from Jochen so I could start with the more complex hit-animations. The 1-hand-animations are finished now so I will start with the 2-hand-animations this week and … well that’s it ^^

Oh next milestone I will get 2 new enemy characters so look forward to some cool fights!!!

Matthaeus Saternus - Tuesday, 14 November 2006 @ 13:01:42
0004. Of Living and Working
Of Living and Working

Moin moin!

That's the Northern-German version of "hi". You may use it by day and night - no matter when. It's always right and since it is dialect it's always a good means to identify yourself as someone who loves our country's north. Like me.

My name ist Sven-Erik Neve, you call me Sven. Besides Jochen, Matthäus and Stefan I'm the fourth Game Artist here at Dripstone - and the new one. Since the second semester's end I'm a part of the team. In this blog post I provide you with a few details about myself as well as what I currently do for "Below & Beneath".

I'm 24 years old and was born and raised in Northern Germany. Did I say that I'm quite fond of Northern Germany? No? Well, I am. My curriculum vitae in one sentence reads: school - German Army - school. The latter being the Games Academy at which we just started our third of four semesters. I like having a life besides working for the project and I like feeling healthy. So a few weeks ago I started working out regularly at one of our local gyms - after about a year of doing no sports at all. Plus I started to cook real meals - after about a year of almost exclusively frozen food. I have to admit that I'm a bit proud of myself for really doing these two things: sports and cooking. Ah well, that's enough personal info for one blog post.

You just read that I'm one of the team's Game Artists. I continue there: I like working on everything organic we need for the game. I model, texture, rig and animate.

I'd better explain terms like modeling, texturing and rigging right away. Modeling and texturing mean the processes of constructing and painting objects. For example when I've constructed and painted a character it's probably expected to move in the game. There rigging comes in handy. In my 3d software I put a skeleton into the model. With so-called handles I make sure that the skeleton can be moved easily. At least in the games industry the combination of a skeleton and it's handles is called a rig. Once the rig is done the character can be brought into virtually any position and be animated.

Now a few lines about the assignment I'm currently working on: a monster. For our game's first big enemy race we don't create - as initially planned - one species but two, right from the beginning. The race both species belong to is called Nyctalus. While Jochen completes the two-legged Nyctalus I've gotten the assignment to create the four-legged one. The image shows an early concept sketch of this quadruped. Since the final four-legged Nyctalus looks a bit different I don't spoil too much with the sketch. Take it as our appetizer especially for you. A week ago I finished the character's model. Right now I paint (i.e. texture) it. Ready and in-game this monster will be one of the so-called shamans. The shamans are the most powerful members of the Nyctalus tribes and extraordinarily important for a tribe's survival. They are the only Nyctali capable of using magic. Their social prestige lets other clan members safeguard them sacrificially.

Once the Two- and Four-legged Nyctali are in the game our main character Felted will meet them in a relatively early stage of his adventure. But hey, before I really start spoiling details of what you'll see in "Below & Beneath" I just finish. Read on what the following weeks' blog posts let you discover.


Sven - Wednesday, 01 November 2006 @ 09:53:44
0003. A technical overview.

Today you will get a more technical look on Below & Beneath. But before I go into detail, just a few words about me. I am Matthias, the former lead programmer. Since Dennis Schwarz has left the Games Academy, we had to choose a new team lead. Yes, you are right if you are thinking that I was elected.

Now we are working on the first milestone in this semester. The programmers have decided to rewrite the whole project from scratch. We made a plan to divide the game into modules. Until now everything looks much cleaner than before. New modules can be attached to the project without effort. Through interfaces, it is possible to receive information from modules. It is like a black box. If you need anything, you only need to call the manager of that module and get the required interface. Generally speaking, it is easy to extend the program.

But enough for now. The next milestones will implement really cool new features to our game. I am looking forward to play the final version.

Matthias - Sunday, 29 October 2006 @ 18:56:49
0002. Files, files and even more files

Today you shall get a summary of the first few days from my perspective. Quite a lot changed, organization-wise, and it should prove to be well worth it.

The main news: We're now using an SVN to manage our art content instead of our filename convention, which used to store the version number in the filename. To be frank, it led to quite some chaos and searching, mostly related to: Is file number x the most recent one? Or is there a more recent version hidden on the network server or someones HDD? Even with only 3 artists which hardly shared any files, the confusion was a constant factor. Also the organization of my own workspace was best described as catastrophic, what with me having no idea how to group my files best.
However everything was resolved a week ago, when we put our heads together to come up with a new file structure for a common SVN. The neat thing: All of our working copies are located in the same path for each of us artists, thus we dont face troubles with re-linking texture files in maya scenes when opening them on a different machine.
Already, work has become much more swift and easier to comprehend, as things are very well organized now.

Another part of work included re-exporting all our files to get rid of the long texture names. Also our level was fixed up a little and tweaked for more performance (its amazing what a lil checkbox during export can do.. ).

Next up in my to-do list:
I get to try a different approach at clothing and improve a few weapons of mine. Both of which may include playing around with zbrush, a really nice tool to work with.

With that, I conclude my blog entry. Holidays were fun and relaxing, and Im more motivated than before, seeking to put down a good 3rd semester's work.

/me signing out

Stefan Biermann - Wednesday, 18 October 2006 @ 09:30:20
0001. Pens, legs or "What I did in my summer holydays"

Welcome to our new feature, the Below&Beneath-Blog! Every week one of us will tell you about his work-in-progress. Or his current plans. Or whatever he wants to tell you. Today, I will tell you about...

"What I did in my summer holidays"

As you read on the news, Alexander Raphelt got a job at the GCDC. He was bored, began swinging his particularly powerful pen, and got noticed by a bystander. Next day he had a contract in his pocket and leaving on his mind.
Well, we lost his superior sketching skills, but there were concept artworks to be made. So I started swinging my particularly pow- eh, pitiful pen.
The last time we tried doing concept art and showed them on a presentation, we got a very precise feedback: "Don't show nobody. Nowhere. Never again." We got that feedback from five different people in only half a day. So one thing you won't see today is pictures.
I lost a round of "rock-paper-scissors" against Sven, so I won't be the one to modell our four-legged Nyctalus. If you read our Game-Design-Dokument, you might be surprised: a four-legged Nyctalus? Well, it was our original plan only to create a bipedal one, simply to demonstrate our unusual inventory-system at its best. But on the GC Matthaeus was asked if he had animated any multi-legged creatures yet. It seems to be a wanted skill in an animator. Well, he will get his chance soon.
Last not least I did some planing - for every artist a task he liked, and for every task an artist who didn't hate it. Did a rough timetable too.
Hm. Anything else I did? You can bet so. Anything interesting? Nope. Helped my parents, did some house- and dog-sitting, had some fun. And yes, I enjoyed my holidays.

Jochen Winkler - Tuesday, 17 October 2006 @ 14:12:16