Friday, 16 July 2010

More from the logs

Watching the commit logs is a fascinating way to see what's actually going on in the development team.

The last couple of days has seen a lot of commits of the form:
  • Revision 24513 Committed by ben_sanders: - Deleting and moving female gestures
Basically, this means that there's some reorganisation of the underlying data structure going on. Things are going into different directories, which won't affect what Moviestorm does, but is usually preparation for some other change. It's one of those godawful tricky jobs, because if you get it wrong, you end up shipping something that's missing a file, or which has two copies of the same thing. And when I say a lot of commits, I mean a few days' worth. I don't envy them that job.
  • Revision 24503 Committed by ben_sanders: - This has the reverted version of, and the changes to
  • Committed by julian_gold: - New vidits.jar built for altered openapi.
  • Revision 24479 Committed by dave: - Ignore .svn folders
More underlying tech stuff. Fiddly. Nasty. Probably necessary.

There are loads of updates on the new dressing room and the new light controls, of course. Most of it consists of entries like this:
  • Revision 24501 Committed by chris_ollis: - Female dressing room anims again
However, here are a few juicy bits that give you an idea of the less glamorous side of it all:
  • Revision 24471 Committed by ben_sanders: - saving wrong verb instance to library was causing all sorts of havoc.
  • Revision 24493 Committed by ben_sanders: - More remaps; these anims were submitted after the first remap but still needed remapping.
  • Revision 24495 Committed by alex_gowland: - Changed name of female decal so its recognised by the .bodypart
  • Revision 24500 Committed by ben_sanders: - Republished (without neckbodyweld's which break publishing)
  • Revision 24530 Committed by dave: - Possible fix for modshop crash on windows
However, let me leave you with just one last tantalising hint:
  • Revision 24429 Committed by chris_ollis: - Specular fix for female wet/sweat/rain

Lighten up!

While working on the many changes to the character creation, we've now got the characters in proper dressing room. This gives you a much better idea of how they're going to look on set than having them against a plain background.

We realised during development that this worked much better if you had some half-decent lighting, so we took the opportunity to revisit the way our lighting controls work.

You can see in the shot above that we've now got lighting presets, so you can quickly go to some standard light settings and see how your character looks under different light conditions.

Here's a closer look at the controls. The current version has two main light controls: ambient, which is a general light, and directional, which comes from one direction only. The new system works more like conventional three-point movie lighting, and uses a front light (key), side light (fill), and back light. This gives you much smoother illumination, and the results look much more like what you're used to seeing in movies. And, as you can see, any light setup you create can be saved as a preset.

We haven't determined whether the new lighting controller will make it into the set workshop yet; there are still some big issues we need to address. However, we're fairly confident that it will make it into the dressing room for 1.4.

Monday, 12 July 2010

At the touch of a button...

Are you ready for this? Coming up in Moviestorm 1.4 is probably the single most useful interface change we've made in ages.

When you're in the Director's view, press F2. Everything on the set that you can interact with is highlighted, and each prop tells you everything that you can currently do with it.

No more clicking around to see what does what. It's all there, right in front of you, instantly.

This is still work in progress - we haven't finalised the look and feel of this, and there are some issues with using the F2 key, particularly on Macs - but it's hard to stress just how much difference this makes, and how much this opens up Moviestorm to novices and experienced users alike. Even the dev team are finding things they didn't know were in there.

We're aiming to finalise development on Moviestorm 1.4 this week and get it over to QA. Then we'll test the hell out of it for a while, and make the awkward decisions as to what actually makes it into the next release and what's going to be held over for more development.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Moviestorm 1.3.1 just got too big for its britches

For the last few weeks, we've been packing more and more new stuff into Moviestorm 1.3.1. And now it's got rather bigger than we were expecting. So big, in fact, that it's completely outgrown 1.3 and will henceforth be known by its new name, Moviestorm 1.4.

As we developed the character shop, we came up with all sorts of new ideas. We started with basic decals, and rapidly expanded that to cover not only make-up in the sense of a little bit of lipstick and eyeshadow, but also cyborgs, Ziggy Stardust or KISS style face painting, scars, tattoos, and all sorts of fun stuff. After playing with those for a while, we decided this was just too good to leave out, so we opted to go with the flow and create more details. We also added in more morphs, and more ways to make characters look good when you film them. We've been paying particular attention to things like how shiny the eyes should be, so the characters look properly alive.

We also came up with a few oddball ideas in testing. We mentioned the "create random character" button a while ago. We ended up with three random buttons, which give us different basic parameters. One's fine for generating normal characters, one gives you more extreme characters, and one gives you completely random ones. This was really helpful for testing the morphs, and making sure they all worked together successfully. We then realised that this would actually be a useful feature anyway: you don't really want weird freaks when you're just trying to set up a restaurant scene. So yeah, we rather like the idea of a bunch of "create a sort of random character along these lines" buttons.

Whether this will make it into this release is very much open to question. As of now, we've stopped adding new things, and we're aiming to wrap everything up and get it through QA and out to you as soon as possible. There are several features in the category of "if it works properly with minimal effort, it stays, otherwise rip it out and ship it later."

Does that mean the character designer is finished now? No. There's still plenty more that we're planning for the future. Last week, for example, we figured out how to do some neat stuff with skin shading and tinting that's not going to make it into 1.4 for sure. And even today we were coming up with more new ideas, and everyone in the team is finding things we'd want to do differently if we had the time. The priority is to get you what we have, and see what you make.

So when's 1.4 coming? You know the answer. When it's ready.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Your face looks different

Last week, we showed you some of the more extreme heads we could make with the new face creator. This week, we've got some more normal looking male and female faces, the sort of thing you're more likely to use for most of your movies.

Bear in mind that this is still in development, and we're still adding new things and chipping away at the rough edges, so these aren't final. However, it's clear that we've got vastly more variation in these characters than we've had before, even without going for pointy ears, hooked noses, or oversize chins.