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Monday, July 27, 2009

CreatorTip: Fooling around with 3d spore models

As everyone should know by now, the latest Spore patch added several new features to the game, such as the possibility of riding vehicles in adventures, in-built asymmetry for all editors, and a cool cheat that exports 3d models of your creatures in a format readable by most 3d modelling programs.

You can get more detailed info here, but to make it work you just need to enter the creature editor, go to Paint Mode and type "ctrl+shift+c" to enter the cheat "colladaexport".

That saves a collada file of your creation in the same folder your creatures are saved. You can then import it into a program such as Autodesk Maya. For those of us that don't have the skills to use or the access to Maya, I highly recommend a little program called FX Composer, that can be downloaded here.

The FX Composer isn't as good as Maya, but it does let you do some cool stuff, like changing lighting effects...

... switching textures ...

... and placing several models together:

I'm still learning how to do the most basic stuff with the program, so I'm not sure if it's even possible to animate or to export a movie, but at least you can create some cool pics such as these:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Creator Tip: How awareness works with buildings

DVDMaster at the official Spore forums has made a discovery about how the awareness system of NPC creatures works with buildings in the adventures. Check the picture above. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are buildings created separately. As should be expected, most of the creatures on the picture are able to see one another, with exceptions: A can see only B, because the buildings are on the way, for instance. But let's move to another example:

Here the building 4 is only one building, despite having the same shape of the two buildings from the previous example put together. There should be no change, right? Wrong!

Now the creatures B and E can't see the C and D guys, and vice-versa. In fact, C and D can't even see each other, despite being side by side!

DVDMaster has thought of an explanation for that, and his finding has been confirmed by the developers:

Imagine there's an invisible box around each building, and that these boxes actually hide stuff that's behind them or inside them. It would explain why the C and D creatures are practically blind in the case shown.

This happens because the game computes a bounding box that encases each building and uses it to determine awareness. The line-of-sight checkings are expensive, and Spore uses this solution in order to avoid taxing the machine's processor.

This means that if you're planning to build interior spaces, you should create floors, walls and ceilings separately, or any creature put inside it won't be able to interact with objects or other creatures.

Creator Tip: a few tips on making adventures

There's more to goals than just "kill N creatures". Make sure you experiment with the different kinds of goals. Extermination missions can get really boring, especially if there's no challenge, or if it's too challenging. No way to defeat that big boss other than getting all upgrades for the captain? Then your mission will be left aside until the player gets the upgrades, by the time he'll probably have forgotten it.

If you want to make your mission hard, make it short. That way, the player can try a few times before getting bored. It's highly frustrating to play a mission for 20, 30 minutes, and then be killed by an overpowerful NPC.

A longer mission can be hard, as long as the player can figure out a solution after playing and failing. Just making the enemies epic, with high attack and health points is pointless, unless you also give the player the tools to finish it, and ways to find out how to do it.

Remember that gameplay objects can be disguised - in other words, replaced by buildings or vehicles. This allows you to disguise a gate as a UFO, and have a parked spaceship, for instance. Also, remember you can set any object to appear/disappear only in certain acts, allowing for story development as the adventure progresses.

You may want to use the first act for a "talk to" goal. That way you can have a character explain what the mission is about. You can also give tips by the speech boxes on the behavior panels. This allows for some cool detective work, where the player clicks on an object on the groun and gets some info, without having to sacrifice a goal for that. It's very rewarding for the player when he can put together the pieces of a mystery.

Finally, remember to tag your adventure creations GAprop! That way they won't show up in the stages of the core game. It's really annoying to meet alien species called "The Mayor Bob Empire", and even worse to find cities made of wall parts and giant keys. Also remember that you can change the name of the creation in the adventure editor, without really affecting the creation outside the adventure. That way you could get one of your alien species and rename it to "Mayor Bob", for instance.

Well, that's it for now, folks! More to come soon!