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Amazing what you can find on the internet today.

Flexman

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Not a Combat-Helo post. I'm engaged in a spot of design and research but was looking for some old material online and found I had left a digital trail pre-dating commercial internet use.

 

28 Years ago I drew this. I was in high school. Shocking really. I used Z80 machine code to generate the 'impressive' sound and visual effects in this game. *wince*

 

Usurper.gif

A lifetime of programming and tinkering, stacks of hard drives of unpublished projects ranging from Spanish school time-table generators to a Black Shark snapshot campaign generator.

 

Some material I doubt will ever be revived, the Memotech MTX 500 version of Next War was stored on cassette tape, probably oxidised beyond recovery. However the code lives on in other forms, the dynamic campaign system was enhanced and put to some use in a PC build. Some of which will form the backbone of the Combat-Helo campaign. One day I hope to merge the big war game with the Apache simulation and revisit the forgotten Fulda Gap scenario.

 

next_war_redux.jpgMore unreleased WWIII fun and games

NATO vs Warsaw Pact at the Fulda Gap

 

Even my own attempt at producing a self-indulgent comic based on our exploits in the Star Wars Galaxies MMO...(PDF dug out of the old SONY Online game forums).

 

 

comic_cover.jpg

 

comic_page_1.jpg

 

comic_page_5.jpg

 

comic_page_7.jpg

Even though the game will soon have the plug pulled the footprints we leave behind in the digital space will live on...for a bit.

 

I've rescued the original PDF and made it available here... Orion Outpost Chronicles part 4 - PDF

 

Anyway back to work.

4946580266235927217-7895426779230062971?l=combathelo.blogspot.com

 

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  • Blog Entries

    • By Josh in Josh's Dev Blog 2
      Previously I talked about the technical details of hardware tessellation and what it took to make it truly useful. In this article I will talk about some of the implications of this feature and the more advanced ramifications of baking tessellation into Turbo Game Engine as a first-class feature in the 
      Although hardware tessellation has been around for a few years, we don't see it used in games that often. There are two big problems that need to be overcome.
      We need a way to prevent cracks from appearing along edges. We need to display a consistent density of triangles on the screen. Too many polygons is a big problem. I think these issues are the reason you don't really see much use of tessellation in games, even today. However, I think my research this week has created new technology that will allow us to make use of tessellation as an every-day feature in our new Vulkan renderer.
      Per-Vertex Displacement Scale
      Because tessellation displaces vertices, any discrepancy in the distance or direction of the displacement, or any difference in the way neighboring polygons are subdivided, will result in cracks appearing in the mesh.

      To prevent unwanted cracks in mesh geometry I added a per-vertex displacement scale value. I packed this value into the w component of the vertex position, which was not being used. When the displacement strength is set to zero along the edges the cracks disappear:

      Segmented Primitives
      With the ability to control displacement on a per-vertex level, I set about implementing more advanced model primitives. The basic idea is to split up faces so that the edge vertices can have their displacement scale set to zero to eliminate cracks. I started with a segmented plane. This is a patch of triangles with a user-defined size and resolution. The outer-most vertices have a displacement value of 0 and the inner vertices have a displacement of 1. When tessellation is applied to the plane the effect fades out as it reaches the edges of the primitive:

      I then used this formula to create a more advanced box primitive. Along the seam where the edges of each face meet, the displacement smoothly fades out to prevent cracks from appearing.

      The same idea was applied to make segmented cylinders and cones, with displacement disabled along the seams.


      Finally, a new QuadSphere primitive was created using the box formula, and then normalizing each vertex position. This warps the vertices into a round shape, creating a sphere without the texture warping that spherical mapping creates.

      It's amazing how tessellation and displacement can make these simple shapes look amazing. Here is the full list of available commands:
      shared_ptr<Model> CreateBox(shared_ptr<World> world, const float width = 1.0); shared_ptr<Model> CreateBox(shared_ptr<World> world, const float width, const float height, const float depth, const int xsegs = 1, const int ysegs = 1); shared_ptr<Model> CreateSphere(shared_ptr<World> world, const float radius = 0.5, const int segments = 16); shared_ptr<Model> CreateCone(shared_ptr<World> world, const float radius = 0.5, const float height = 1.0, const int segments = 16, const int heightsegs = 1, const int capsegs = 1); shared_ptr<Model> CreateCylinder(shared_ptr<World> world, const float radius = 0.5, const float height=1.0, const int sides = 16, const int heightsegs = 1, const int capsegs = 1); shared_ptr<Model> CreatePlane(shared_ptr<World> world, cnst float width=1, const float height=1, const int xsegs = 1, const int ysegs = 1); shared_ptr<Model> CreateQuadSphere(shared_ptr<World> world, const float radius = 0.5, const int segments = 8); Edge Normals
      I experimented a bit with edges and got some interesting results. If you round the corner by setting the vertex normal to point diagonally, a rounded edge appears.

      If you extend the displacement scale beyond 1.0 you can get a harder extended edge.

      This is something I will experiment with more. I think CSG brush smooth groups could be used to make some really nice level geometry.
      Screen-space Tessellation LOD
      I created an LOD calculation formula that attempts to segment polygons into a target size in screen space. This provides a more uniform distribution of tessellated polygons, regardless of the original geometry. Below are two cylinders created with different segmentation settings, with tessellation disabled:

      And now here are the same meshes with tessellation applied. Although the less-segmented cylinder has more stretched triangles, they both are made up of triangles about the same size.

      Because the calculation works with screen-space coordinates, objects will automatically adjust resolution with distance. Here are two identical cylinders at different distances.

      You can see they have roughly the same distribution of polygons, which is what we want. The same amount of detail will be used to show off displaced edges at any distance.

      We can even set a threshold for the minimum vertex displacement in screen space and use that to eliminate tessellation inside an object and only display extra triangles along the edges.

      This allows you to simply set a target polygon size in screen space without adjusting any per-mesh properties. This method could have prevented the problems Crysis 2 had with polygon density. This also solves the problem that prevented me from using tessellation for terrain. The per-mesh tessellation settings I worked on a couple days ago will be removed since it is not needed.
      Parallax Mapping Fallback
      Finally, I added a simple parallax mapping fallback that gets used when tessellation is disabled. This makes an inexpensive option for low-end machines that still conveys displacement.

      Next I am going to try processing some models that were not designed for tessellation and see if I can use tessellation to add geometric detail to low-poly models without any cracks or artifacts.
    • By Josh in Josh's Dev Blog 0
      For finer control over what 2D elements appear on what camera, I have implemented a system of "Sprite Layers". Here's how it works:
      A sprite layer is created in a world. Sprites are created in a layer. Layers are attached to a camera (in the same world). The reason the sprite layer is linked to the world is because the render tweening operates on a per-world basis, and it works with the sprite system just like the entity system. In fact, the rendering thread uses the same RenderNode class for both.
      I have basic GUI functionality working now. A GUI can be created directly on a window and use the OS drawing commands, or it can be created on a sprite layer and rendered with 3D graphics. The first method is how I plan to make the new editor user interface, while the second is quite flexible. The most common usage will be to create a sprite layer, attach it to the main camera, and add a GUI to appear in-game. However, you can just as easily attach a sprite layer to a camera that has a texture render target, and make the GUI appear in-game on a panel in 3D. Because of these different usages, you must manually insert events like mouse movements into the GUI in order for it to process them:
      while true do local event = GetEvent() if event.id == EVENT_NONE then break end if event.id == EVENT_MOUSE_DOWN or event.id == EVENT_MOUSE_MOVE or event.id == EVENT_MOUSE_UP or event.id == EVENT_KEY_DOWN or event.id == EVENT_KEY_UP then gui:ProcessEvent(event) end end You could also input your own events from the mouse position to create interactive surfaces, like in games like DOOM and Soma. Or you can render the GUI to a texture and interact with it by feeding in input from VR controllers.

      Because the new 2D drawing system uses persistent objects instead of drawing commands the code to display elements has changed quite a lot. Here is my current button script. I implemented a system of abstract GUI "rectangles" the script can create and modify. If the GUI is attached to a sprite layer these get translated into sprites, and if it is attached directly to a window they get translated into system drawing commands. Note that the AddTextRect doesn't even allow you to access the widget text directly because the widget text is stored in a wstring, which supports Unicode characters but is not supported by Lua.
      --Default values widget.pushed=false widget.hovered=false widget.textindent=4 widget.checkboxsize=14 widget.checkboxindent=5 widget.radius=3 widget.textcolor = Vec4(1,1,1,1) widget.bordercolor = Vec4(0,0,0,0) widget.hoverbordercolor = Vec4(51/255,151/255,1) widget.backgroundcolor = Vec4(0.2,0.2,0.2,1) function widget:MouseEnter(x,y) self.hovered = true self:Redraw() end function widget:MouseLeave(x,y) self.hovered = false self:Redraw() end function widget:MouseDown(button,x,y) if button == MOUSE_LEFT then self.pushed=true self:Redraw() end end function widget:MouseUp(button,x,y) if button == MOUSE_LEFT then self.pushed = false if self.hovered then EmitEvent(EVENT_WIDGET_ACTION,self) end self:Redraw() end end function widget:OK() EmitEvent(EVENT_WIDGET_ACTION,self) end function widget:KeyDown(keycode) if keycode == KEY_ENTER then EmitEvent(EVENT_WIDGET_ACTION,self) self:Redraw() end end function widget:Start() --Background self:AddRect(self.position, self.size, self.backgroundcolor, false, self.radius) --Border if self.hovered == true then self:AddRect(self.position, self.size, self.hoverbordercolor, true, self.radius) else self:AddRect(self.position, self.size, self.bordercolor, true, self.radius) end --Text if self.pushed == true then self:AddTextRect(self.position + iVec2(1,1), self.size, self.textcolor, TEXT_CENTER + TEXT_MIDDLE) else self:AddTextRect(self.position, self.size, self.textcolor, TEXT_CENTER + TEXT_MIDDLE) end end function widget:Draw() --Update position and size self.primitives[1].position = self.position self.primitives[1].size = self.size self.primitives[2].position = self.position self.primitives[2].size = self.size self.primitives[3].size = self.size --Update the border color based on the current hover state if self.hovered == true then self.primitives[2].color = self.hoverbordercolor else self.primitives[2].color = self.bordercolor end --Offset the text when button is pressed if self.pushed == true then self.primitives[3].position = self.position + iVec2(1,1) else self.primitives[3].position = self.position end end This is arguably harder to use than the Leadwerks 4 system, but it gives you advanced capabilities and better performance that the previous design did not allow.
    • By reepblue in reepblue's Blog 0
      As you may have known, I've been dabbling with input methods for a while now using SDL2. Since then, I've learned how to do similar functions using the Leadwerks API. The goal was to make a inout system that's easily re-bindable, and allows for controllers to "just work". My first research of a goof system comes from a talk at Steam DevDays 2016 as they discuss how to allow integration with the Steam Controller. 
       
      My thought was: "If I can create my own Action System, I can bind any controller with any API I want". The SDL experiments was a result of this, but they ended up being sloppy when you tried to merge the window polling from SDL into Leadwerks.
      The next goal was to remove SDL2 out of the picture. I've created functions to allow reading and simulations of button presses with the Leadwerks Window class.
      //----------------------------------------------------------------------------- // Purpose: //----------------------------------------------------------------------------- bool InputSystem::KeyHit(const int keycode) { auto window = GetActiveEngineWindow(); if (keycode < 7) return window->MouseHit(keycode); return window->KeyHit(keycode); } //----------------------------------------------------------------------------- // Purpose: //----------------------------------------------------------------------------- bool InputSystem::KeyDown(const int keycode) { auto window = GetActiveEngineWindow(); if (window != NULL) { if (keycode < 7) return window->MouseDown(keycode); return window->KeyDown(keycode); } return false; } //----------------------------------------------------------------------------- // Purpose: //----------------------------------------------------------------------------- void InputSystem::SimulateKeyHit(const char keycode) { auto window = GetActiveEngineWindow(); if (window != NULL) { if (keycode < 7) window->mousehitstate[keycode] = true; window->keyhitstate[keycode] = true; } } //----------------------------------------------------------------------------- // Purpose: //----------------------------------------------------------------------------- void InputSystem::SimulateKeyDown(const char keycode) { auto window = GetActiveEngineWindow(); if (window != NULL) { if (keycode < 7) window->mousedownstate[keycode] = true; window->keydownstate[keycode] = true; } } The simulate keys are very important for controllers. for this case, we would trick the window class thinking a key was pressed on the keyboard. The only direct input we would need from the controller is the value analog sticks which I haven't touch as of yet.
       Using JSON, we can load and save our bindings in multiple Action Sets!
      { "keyBindings": { "actionStates": { "Menu": { "selectActive": 1, "selectDown": 40, "selectLeft": 37, "selectRight": 39, "selectUp": 38 }, "Walking": { "crouch": 17, "firePrimary": 1, "fireSecondary": 2, "flashLight": 70, "interact": 69, "jump": 32, "moveBackward": 83, "moveForward": 87, "moveLeft": 65, "moveRight": 68, "reloadWeapon": 82 } } } } You may want a key to do something different when your game is in a certain state. For this example, when the Active Action Set is set to "Menu", Only KEY_UP, KEY_DOWN, KEY_LEFT, KEY_RIGHT, and KEY_LBUTTON will work. You can still hover over your buttons with the mouse, but when it comes time to implement the controller for example, you'd just call GetActionHit(L"selectActive") to select the highlighted/active button. If the state is set to walking, then all those keys for Menu gets ignored in-favor of the walking commands. All keys/buttons are flushed between switching states!
      Here's example code of this working. "Interact" gets ignored when "Menu" is set as the default action and vise-versa.
      while (window->KeyDown(KEY_END) == false and window->Closed() == false) { if (window->KeyHit(KEY_TILDE)) { if (InputSystem::GetActiveActionSet() == L"Menu") { SetActionSet(L"Walking"); } else { SetActionSet(L"Menu"); } } // Under "Menu" if (GetActionHit(L"selectUp")) { DMsg("selectUp!"); } // Under "Walking" if (GetActionHit(L"interact")) { DMsg("interact!"); } } Only things I didn't implement as of yet is actual controller support and saving changes to the json file which might need to be game specific. I also want to wait until the UI is done before I decide how to do this.
      As for controllers, we can use SteamInput, but what if your game isn't on Steam? You can try to implement XInput yourself if you want. I tried to add Controller support with SDL2, but people reported issues. And then, what about VR controllers? What matters right now is that we have room to add these features later on. All I need to do is use the GetActionHit/Down Commands and the rest doesn't matter.
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