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Topic: Animation of workers like builder

lilovip
Joined: 2009-11-04, 02:45
Posts: 9
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Pry about Widelands
Posted at: 2009-11-04, 03:32

Hello, and thanks for great game. When I saw Widelands first time, I sayd: "So cool and soft graphic! But wait... Something irritates the eyes..." And after that I started to search really big shortcomings in graphics. So, there are my "collection" of them and related questions. Note, I post it here not because I don't like Widelands, on the contrary, I like it and want it will has nice, finished view.

The main problem is missed animations of some workers (I counted 18 only for barbarians). All of them have the same animation, which I called "weakling". He has terreble alliasing and even walk at the distance from roads. So, my question is: Do I understand correctly if those animations are the main emphasis of graphic developers now? If not, it should be. Why not to copy some animations from related (finished) workers? For example, miner. Or do you want to have really different view of other workers (like different hats, beards, etc.)? May be it's better to accept interim measures like copying? And "idle_00.png" (blue rectangle) seems like bug now.

The second big problem I see is sharp roads and tile borders while all another graphic are soft. May be it's possible to make some kind of smoothing of road angles? I know (I'm C programmer btw), you need to make changes in graphic "engine" to make soft tile borders (like in WarCraft2 or Northland Cultures 3), so it's not so easy. Did you see Northland Cultures 3? If not, you should! There are so many nice graphic solutions there! I could to upload some screenshots from that game if you wish. Tile borders are beautiful there (hexagonal too).

And the third is the water. It's too shining while all the graphic are mat. It has contrast like between for example Win95 theme and GNOME Clearlooks theme. In addition, water surface is curve. I know, it's hard to change without graphic "engine" changings, but it is.

My overall questions are: 1) Do you understand those shortcomings are very important for first user perception? 2) What arrangements are doing to fix them now (I mean what is priority of those shortcomings?) 3) What can I (or any other volunteer) do now to help you fix them? (It is the main question)

I guess, you have heard those question many times, but I think they are very important for game now.

Thanks for great game once time more! Best regards, Ilia.

Edited: 2009-11-04, 05:07

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death
Joined: 2009-04-13, 13:09
Posts: 40
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Pry about Widelands
Posted at: 2009-11-04, 13:25

1) yes

2) We dont have enough people capable of doing animations in Blender that have time to do it. If you can do it, You would be very welcome. I personally can do it but Im not that good and Im terribly short of time. There is one person that has contributed most of the animations of people sofar but his time to work on seems to be quite limited too.

3) If you are an artist with Blender skils you are MOST welcome to contribute arts. Also you metion water. Its an animated seamless tile and they are terribly dificult to make. I suspect specialized tools and a special skills are needed. Ive tried on several ocations and failed. If you can contribute such things, again they would be very welcome. Improvements in graphics engine, specially in blending terrain textures and roads are most welcome aswell. Hop in IRC chat, see whos who and start hacking.

Edited: 2009-11-04, 13:26

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lilovip
Joined: 2009-11-04, 02:45
Posts: 9
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Pry about Widelands
Posted at: 2009-11-05, 03:11

Thanks for answering! There are laconic and exact answers. I already have downloaded Blender sources of workers animations and have some ideas. And I have time. Also I have two friends which are artists, may be they will help. May I ask, where can I read about automatic making masks of player colors for workers animations? I have found this your post: http://wl.widelands.org/forum/post/1186/ but I can't found any scripts for generating masks in .blend files from media SVN.

Edited: 2009-11-05, 03:11

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death
Joined: 2009-04-13, 13:09
Posts: 40
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Pry about Widelands
Posted at: 2009-11-05, 10:16

The script for player color masking may not be included in each blend file, but it is there. Barbarian buildings predate masked player colors and so do most empire buildings, so they wont have it. Any atlantean building has it and I think theres a separate blend file with it aswell.

Be warned, changes made by the mask setting script may not be undoable so dont save after running&rendering.

It alters texures of objects so that the set renders as as a mask. Any objects belonging to PlayerColor group will be textured for player color.


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Brigadon
Joined: 2009-11-07, 15:24
Posts: 3
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Just found this site
Posted at: 2009-11-07, 15:33

Wait, do the animations HAVE to be blender? It looks like the game is isometric 45 degree 2d. Is there a 3d component I haven't seen?

I like to think that I am rather good at pixel art. Would this be acceptable for creating a set? Not the buildings, of course, but the characters might look better as pure sprite creations?


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death
Joined: 2009-04-13, 13:09
Posts: 40
Ranking
Pry about Widelands
Posted at: 2009-11-07, 19:10

They dont have to be 3d in any technical sense. However making changes to the graphics is much easyer if they are rendered. Also, Id like to know how you would do decent player color masks as pixel art.

Theres one place however where pixel art is much needed and that is textures for terrains.


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lilovip
Joined: 2009-11-04, 02:45
Posts: 9
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Pry about Widelands
Posted at: 2009-11-07, 23:17

Brigadon, did you really think all the (6 views X 10 frames X 27 workers X 3 races X 2 masks = 9720 pictures) were painted by hands? With all the halftones? Did you see Heroes3 animations? They all were created in 3d editor and rendered.

I think pixelart also could be usefull for drawing menu pictures of workers. They are comleted now, but I think they could be improved alot (increase resolution and make them more recognizable).

Death, how do you think - is it acceptable to make ferner and weaver as women models? What kind of women appearance of each race? Also, I see lime-burner has completly the same model as carrier has. Is it needed to remake it?

Offtopic: wheat_idle.png has incorrect hotspot (picture is too low about a worker). Will someone fix it soon?


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Brigadon
Joined: 2009-11-07, 15:24
Posts: 3
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Just found this site
Posted at: 2009-11-08, 02:59

Of course not. it would take a full time artist several days to make that many animations.

The problem is, I am a game artist (my job) so when I look at a game, the first thing I notice is the artwork. The carriers look fine as renders but there is a huge stylistic difference between the carriers and say...lumberjacks, it looks a bit jarring. On the whole, though, i can tell whoever has worked on the graphics has done an awful lot of work... just a few things I'd like to ask about/reccomend/offer some help with:

  1. Roads: I know the game is intended to be similar to settlers 2, but settlers 2 roads kinda sucked. is it possible to make them a little more.... natural-looking? They also tend to blend into certain terrain types to the point of being almost invisible, such as in the mountains. Perhaps a touch of 'artificial' antialiasing towards a darker color, so that the edges are always clearly defined, even against similar-colored terrain?

  2. Terrain blending: How is terrain blending handled, or is there any at all? If 'edge tiles' with alpha maps for blending were provided, could terrain blending be implemented? Is terrain 'random tiling' or 'large terrain maps' possible, so that each tile in a terrain is not identical? (for instance, having a dozen randomely-placed 'grass tiles' so that larger areas of grass do not have clearly repeating patterns.) If necessary this could be done in the editor so when players make new maps they pick or apply the textures randomly. (so it's not necessary at runtime) and large terrain maps are areas of like 9x9 tiles or bigger (or even alpha-mapped 'flaws' that could substitute for blending or large terrain maps.... Hmmm, That could be done with the existing map setup. Do details like 'grass patches' have any effect on the underlying terrain? are there provisions for adding new ones, or are the array sizes set?

  3. The stylistic differences between the races are very cool, but it kind leaves the problem that a LOT of buildings look almost identical, with almost no way to tell the difference between them. Do buildings have animations? have you considered adding in stylized characters or work areas for when the building is 'active' (full of supplies, working) or 'idle' (empty, missing supplies, shut down, not working.) as such cues might add dramatically to 'gameplay at a glance'. ala 'pharaoh and cleopatra' by impressions/sierra.

For instance, a woodcutter's hut might have some guy sharpening an axe with a pile of logs nearby when it's active, or be empty with just the grinding wheel when it's idle, the wood hardener might have a guy moving wood across a fire, and a lot of buildings might have 'animated' smoke.

Just some ideas. I like the game so far (except for this prediliction for causing huge traffic jams that I have no clue how to avoid) and would be happy to donate some art time. I make textures/blender items/pixelart for fun, and to take a break from my real job (3d mapping) to avoid burnout. I'd be pleased as punch to make a few terrain textures if that's all you really need.


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lilovip
Joined: 2009-11-04, 02:45
Posts: 9
Ranking
Pry about Widelands
Posted at: 2009-11-08, 14:46

Hmm, Brigadon, I'm not this game developer (yet), but I think I'll answer to your questions. You are artist, so you have view (at the game) of artist, and I can't see some things which you can. I'm programmer, so I have view of programmer, and you can't see some things which I can. However, it's not needed to be artist or programmer to see shortcomings of game graphics. They are the reason why I created this topic. Thus, if you will look at my first post thoroughly, you can see it contains the same three subjects as your ones: workers, roads, tile borders. So, I will try now to explain you what I already have understood about these subjects (in my programmers view of course).

Chapter 1: workers. A long time ago, in a gal... In this game all the workers graphics were the same as builder one now (I suggest to call such graphic "weakling"). But once, someone started to create Blender models for workers, has written the python script (in Blender) to get rendered pictures of all the view degrees and all the animation frames for workers. Then some workers were modelled, rendered and added to the game. Now they are 8/27 of barbarian workers and 0/~27 of other races workers (however some barbarian were copied). So, you may to count "weakling" as old style or as interim state or as signals "work needed here". What about graphic engine - it supports masks for player color for workers (you could to get almost completely conception about how it works by thoroughly looking into game folder "tribes"). So, there are no any other style of workers except barbarians race and "weaklings". I'm going to work on other worker animations in Blender after my short current work - I'm porting Widelands to Maemo GNU/Linux (OS for Nokia mobile devices like N810).

Chapter 2: tiles. 2.1: tile borders. Tiles have diffuse borders, but completely the same pixels combination for EVERY tile. You can imagine this system like a puzzles on this picture: http://www.sonoloco.com/rev/imed/0575/puzzles1x.jpg. You can change any two puzzles, but surface will still has no chinks. Except tiles have much lesser ratio ("hook" length / tile length) then puzzles. So, no alpha-blending for tile borders now, there is only full transparency. It is in the engine (but it is not so hard to implement, it's more difficult to imagine such system). There are at least two ways to make tile borders more soft. 2.1.1.To invent system using alpha-blending. It's not so hard to implement, but it's very hard to paint (just imagine if grass will blends with lava). 2.1.2.To implement system like used in Warcraft2/3: every type of tile can have only small amount of different types of neighbours. In other words, streak of certain type is needed for certain combination of tile types (for example: grass <-> sand <-> sea, but never grass <-> sea). With this system artist have to draw a little amount of (nice) borders and seamless (with borders of same type) textures for "cores" of tile. But it's much more hard to implement (for coders) and this system will break compatibility with older versions and older maps. 2.2: similarity of tiles of one type. Widelands has 4 tile sets, 16 types of tiles per tile set. You can look at them in the Editor. There are at least two (again) ways to make a system with non-repeated tiles. 2.2.1. Expand amount of tiles per tile set up from 16 to i.e. 256, so we'll have 16 different textures for each tile type. Map file have to keep all the data about tile types and subtypes. So, artist will have to draw 256 textures. This system will break compatibility with older versions and older maps. It isn't so hard to implement, but hard (at least for me) to draw. 2.2.2. Expand amount of tiles per tile set up from 16 to i.e. 256, so we'll have 16 different textures for each tile type. Graphic engine will choose which texture (subtype of tile) to use by coordinate-dependent random function. So, pattern will repeat every sqrt(2^32) = 2^16 = 65536 linear tiles (or if we afraid if user will explore so far tile repeating, we can to use "Mersenne twister"). This method is mine, but I'm sure it is implemented by someone yet. Advantage of this method: it will NOT break compatibility with older versions and older maps, and map file doesn't need to keep any additional data. Implementation isn't very hard, again. However, artist have to draw 256*4 textures again. 2.3: water. Water is animated, seamless and triangular. Death said it's very hard to paint it and I believe it. I said it's too shining. Isn't it? If we will expand to 16 textures per tile type, you will have to draw 16 animated, seamless (with each other) and triangular textures. Can you do it?

Chapter 3: roads. Now roads are very straight and sharp in Widelands. It's possible to implement alpha-blending for roads, but it isn't enough. Artist have to draw curve, soft, seamless road texture and it's shape (mask) for all the directions (angles). It's a little work for programmer and big work for artist (I think so). You may look at roads in Northland Cultures 3 (many screenshots available from Google search). Roads are beautiful there. I think, roads could be the best help from you to Widelands now.

Chapter 4: buildings. Buildings are created by the completely the same way as workers: Blender model -> big PNGs -> small PNGs. Graphic engine supports for player color masks for buildings (except pictures in building menu). So, all what needed to fill buildings with inside-workers animations is: modeler/artist work. But I think it shouldn't to be main goal now. Buildings with similar functions are similar, it's true. If you want to different them easy, just play the game some more time. It's experience I believe.

Chapter 5: disclaimer. All the information above is my view and/or my opinion. If any Widelands developer can correct me, please do it here.

Chapter 6: a little request. English isn't my native language. So, you may be have fun reading my posts. I'm sorry. Every long post is hard work and experience for me. So, I want to ask you - please, estimate my English by two scales (1 to 10 points): grammar and clarity. What do you feel reading my post: "writer is foreigner" or "writer is illiterate"? Thanks!

Best regards, Ilia.

Edited: 2009-11-11, 11:35

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sigra
Joined: 2009-03-05, 19:02
Posts: 130
Ranking
At home in WL-forums
Location: Orsa
Posted at: 2009-11-08, 15:46

Chapter 6: a little request. English isn't my native language. So, you may be have fun reading my posts. I'm sorry. Every long post is hard work and expirience for me. So, I want to ask you - please, estimate my English

understanded -> understood

completly -> completely

interlaying -> ?

sayd -> said

beleave -> believe

beautifull -> beautiful

beliave -> believe

expirience -> experience

openion -> opinion

All these can be easily found by the web browser when typing them here. For example I am using Konqueror 4.3.1 right now. It draws a red curly underline under the strange words. I can just right-click on one of them and select Add to word-list or have it corrected for me. You could use this helpful tool too.


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