Into the Unknown: UDK Part 3

My exploration has continued to go off the expected tracks. For some unearthly reason I decided that my first goal would be to port a character model from Halo to the UDK. Well, I’ve learned a lot through my experimentation. The first thing, of course, is to get the model. I downloaded a low-poly model of the Halo 3 version of the Master Chief from Halomaps. The great thing about downloading a tagset for Halo: Custom Edition is that the model comes with a bitmap. A lot of the 3D models on that site are better quality, but lack textures.

Easy-Bake MC (broken image)

So, using conversion utilities also downloaded from Halomaps, I converted from the Gearbox formats to 3DS and TARGA formats for models and bitmaps respectively. The models come pre-skinned, so all I have to do is load in the texture. Of course, I also have to do any rigging I need. Thus, I re-learned rigging in 3dsMax this week. Strangely enough, the vocabularly is ambiguous when it comes to this process. To my knowledge, rigging refers to either the creation of the skeleton OR the application of vertex weighting to a mesh. Similarly, skinning can mean vertex weighting OR texturing. Very strange.

I used one of the skeletons that Epic provides, because it means that you can use the animation sets already in the UDK. I got my Master Chief model in-game finally. There is a lot of boilerplate scripting that goes into creating a new player-character. I also had to fix an (apparanetly prevalent) issue in which any character model (even the examples that Epic provided) would float above the ground. According to online forums, all I had to do was move the origin of the mesh down. Well, little did I know that there are actually two “origins” to a skeletal mesh. One is for the bounding box, and one is for the mesh. It took me a good hour to figure out that I was changing the wrong origin.

Ingame MC! (broken image)

Then I moved onto creating a weapon because the MC I imported looked absolutely swell (except for a few errors in the rigging). I found a great tutorial that explains all the steps, and introduces a way of animating the first-person arms separate from the weapons, and then combining the two meshes using scripts. That way you can change the model of the arms or the weapon independently from each other, and don’t have to re-import the first-person arms for each new weapon. The weapon (a MA5C assault rifle) was breeze to rig and import ingame. The arms were a bit more a struggle.

It took me a little while to realize that I don’t have to use the first-person skeleton provided by Epic, because I’m not going to be using any of their animations. By that time, I had already skinned the arms to their skeleton, though. Because of weird transform issues with 3dsMax’s skinning, I kept getting this seemingly-unfixable error when I imported the arms:

FUBAR Arms (broken image)

It didn’t help that the tutorial I was watching used ActorX to export animations rather than FBX. Well, I realized that instead of trying to fix this utter mess (into which I had poured hours of work), I should just hop over to Halomaps and grab a pre-rigged, pre-textured, ready-to-go set of first-person arms. And that’s where I am right now.

Into the Unknown: UDK Part 2

Well, it’s been a while since Part 1. The delay was a combination of final exams and my re-discovery of Unity (the game engine, not the Ubuntu UI – or the Linux distribution for that matter). But I’ve done a little bit of tutorialing, and so far I’ve learned to set up a new gametype, and have been practicing BSP creation. Unfortunately, I’m using my second monitor for the computer I built, so using the Content Browser or reading a tutorial while working is very annoying.

Honestly, the BSP system is slightly vexing. I don’t understand why I have to use the template shape to add and subtract geometry. It would be much easier to create brushes like in the Source SDK, and then apply the boolean modifiers to them. Shapes without modifiers would just be ignored. The visual scaling in the Source SDK is much easier than entering values in the UDK. Another very minor detail is the fact that you can’t use negative wall widths in the UDK. In the Source SDK, negative values indicate an outward expansion, leaving the original volume an empty space. In the UDK, however, it just places the subtraction volume outside of the addition volume, or some other strange behavior, which results in a very strange visual result.

That’s all I have for now. The next step I imagine would be learning to create materials. I have already done this in my previous explorations, but I need to figure out the editor in more depth. I’ll be in California for the next 10 weeks, but I’ll be able to work on my laptop.

Sim State

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. This idea really started when I watched Day[9] play the new Sim City, and then picked up Sim City 4 again. I wanted to create a game which brought the ideas of micromanaging infrastructure and government into a larger scale. The player would be able to control education, government type, military, trade, etc. Eventually it grew into a sort of “third-world country simulator”, since that seemed like the most interesting route to people I pitched the general concept to.

The basic premise is that you are the leader of a small country, recently put in power by a violent revolution. This country is located in a faux South or Central America, but there is also the possibility for having multiple templates: African, Southeast Asian, etc. The player can only really see the small land area he controls, plus some of the bordering sovereignties. There is no global map (and this isn’t a game about conquest), but there are references to current global institutions (or fictitious characterizations thereof) like the UN and US, or WHO, etc.

Winning the game means pulling your country out of poverty and onto the world stage. This requires many parts, including building infrastructure, establishing governmental rule, and appeasing the international community. However, the win condition is gaining control over every province in your nation. Control just means being the dominant power faction. Routes to control include stamping out resistance (militarily) and appeasing interest groups. Thus a large part of the game is balancing political control; keep the military leaders on your side, stop workers from striking, and stay elected. The last one may mean establishing a dictatorship, rigging elections, or spending a lot of resources maintaining public image.

At the start of the game, your country is poor and unequipped. There are two forms of currency: money, and international repute. International repute can be spent on relief or treaties; perhaps getting a foreign oil company to leave your country. On the other hand, if you drive out the oil company by force, some factions in your own country may approve, while the international community may impose sanctions. Similarly, if their are pirate along the coast, you could demand tribute or try to exterminate them at a potentially great cost. If the world catches wind that you are allowing pirates to operate, however, you will lose repute.

The other form of currency is money. A little macro-economics comes into play here, since you have to manage your currency (printing money), and real “world dollars”. Rapid inflation can be bad for your industries, but it attracts tourists (but only to good parts – nobody is going to visit the region controlled by drug cartels). Real dollars come from exports, mainly. One way to get a boost in the beginning of the game is to exploit your natural resources: cut down rain forests, strip mine mountains, etc. However, you have to establish a more mature manufacturing industry at some point, otherwise you will exhaust your resources and fall back down into poverty.

In terms of infrastructure the player has to build, the main forms are education and industry. Industry includes transportation networks and resource collection, as well as processing. Industry also means municipal improvements, since nice cities attract high-tech corporations and commercial companies. Another route to improving the quality of your workforce, reducing crime, and eliminating overpopulation is education. Building schools takes a lot of resources for little immediate payoff, but it will start to improve your country greatly. It is also a great way for dictators to indoctrinate the population.

Late-game opportunities may include hosting Olympic Games or researching nuclear technology.

As you can see, there is a lot of room for expansions; this is more of a framework for a game, rather than a fleshed out game idea. I know there are games like this, such as Tropico. I think this would be more political and deep than Tropico, but obviously I would aim to offer a different experience overall were I to build this.

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