Sunday, November 28, 2010

Outta town

I realize this doesn't look like much, but it's all of the town through Hicky's Ridge, mostly built. I've got a fair amount of detailing to do to make it look like the town at the start of Dead Man's Run, but the hard part is finished. Now it's just going to be a few weeks of wrangling with terrain as i make my way down to the drive-in.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back at it

Okay, i'm back. I spent the last 2 months getting sucked into work and some epic games of Minecraft, but i'm finally back into the right head-space for track building. I've built myself out of the town in Hicky's Ridge and am starting to head toward the drive-in at the end. If i can keep at it, i might have a rough but raceable version of the entire track ready by Christmas, we'll see. However it goes, i'll post some screenshots in the next day or two that show where things are at.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Busy weekend for track building

Lately, I've been obsessed with getting the basics of the town and surrounding landscape roughed out. While doing so, i've been building some sneaky extra chunks of track that will build the backside track to Hicky's Ridge. It'll also allow me to build out some cool track variants once i've got the full track done.

Here are a few screens of where the weekend got me. They're scratchy shots out of the track builder, but they show how far i've been pushing things. These shots show the area where the end of Tornado Flats meets with Hicky's Ridge. I've been building out the basics of the town that starts right there as well as a newly designed backside to Hicky's that will allow me to make it all a circuit. All that's in these screens:

Monday, September 13, 2010

First shortcut

Spent some hours with beer and the track this weekend. I've got the basics layed out to the start of the first shortcut on Hicky's and i'm picking up speed. Hopefully i can get to the end of town by next weekend - we'll see.

Here's a screen from the track builder:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chugging along

As soon as i decided to get back to building Skoggit, i got sidetracked by trying to export the current track as DX files. That's an option in the track builder that allows you to export in a format (DX) that can be opened in 3DSimed and then converted to a 3D Studio Max format. From there, the track could be properly polished and some nice work on the terrain could be done - not that i'm going to take the time out to figure all that out now, but i just wanted to see if i could start the process. Sadly, the export throws a fatal error almost as soon as it starts and i haven't been able to get beyond it. I finally gave up entirely and started back into working on the track.

When i first started into the Hicky's Ridge portion of the track, i figured out that the texture blending tool does actually work and that i could make the terrain look a lot better than it does now. Or maybe i should just wait and work it over in Max... i'll figure it out later.

After i was finished being distracted with all that, i finally got back to actually building stuff. I've come to realize, now that i've been looking at it all for awhile - i'm  going to have to build the front side of the track and the back side of the track in tandem. They get extremely close to each other in one area and it's a chance to do some cool stuff with the terrain and objects.

So, i tweaked some of the front side of the track for a couple days and then started in on Hicky's Ridge. I've got the gas station at the start of it all mostly built; I just need to find some gas pump models. There's a gas station model i use at the beginning of the track that i was hoping would fit right in this spot too, but no dice. So i'm piecing one together with the wall tool.

Anyway - i'm hoping to start making solid progress again and stop fiddling with other crap. We'll see. In the meantime, here are some screenshots out of the track builder:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Done being done for awhile.

Well, i managed to last a whole month without working on the track. I did, however, spend some time figuring out how to get an HD video on youtube of a lap around the track (which you'll see posted on the right). I also spent a good amount of time doing other things while secretly thinking about working on the track. So what the hell, i guess i just need to finish this damn thing.

That being said, i'm starting to lay out the Hicky's Ridge section now. I'm only just starting into town, but progress is definitely being made. I'll post some screenshots once i've got something more than a skeleton going on.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Done for now

And another weekend has been sacrificed at the altar of track building. I feel like i just washed up on a beach after a 20 mile triathlon... in my brain. There's sooooo much that needs to be done to get a track ready for release and it's been long haul.

Thankfully, i've got a beta version of Dead Man's Loop done now and ready for public consumption. If you look at the top-right of the blog, you'll see a download link and info. And if you look below that, you'll see some video links (updated with HD video in aug2010).

Some notes of interest:
  • The track files are as big as they are because i didn't pack them up into MAS files. Any time i'd try, the floor of the garages would disappear. I did this shit by the book (as far as i can tell) and this is how it went. I'll see if i can figure it out and upload a new version at a later date. *grumble*
  • Shadows are a relatively new and fun thing that i've been screwing around with. Some of them suck and need fixing, some don't exist, and in some cases - there are too many. It'll hurt performance a bit when the shadows get long (4:30pm, 6:30am etc), but it's not too bad. If you start dropping frames, either switch to a less shadowy time of day or turn down the quality on them. It runs like butter with the shadows off entirely, but it doesn't look quite as nice.
  • You might not recognize the track until you get out on it a ways. I had to build a big garage area and a linking road to get Dead Man's looping into Tornado Flats. If you've been watching the blog for any amount of time, you probably already know this.
  • The default track building sky is used. I might switch it over to the old Skoggit track sky for the finished version or i might get a new one all together. And if i'm lazy... it might just stay the same. It looks just fine imo.
  • There are lights throughout the track for night driving, but i haven't done much of it and i'm not sure if the lights are in the most desirable spots. You'll need headlights on anyway, so it shouldn't be too bad. But yea, a final version will have polished night driving.
  • Speaking of polish - if you run into any bugs or have suggestions - email em to me through the blog or just post a comment under one of my posts. Either way works for me.
  • While i would think there's something wrong with anyone who's still checking MCO related forums on a daily basis, the absolute lack of response to my offer of putting fan screenshots on the track was a little disheartening. I'll still do it if anyone's interested, but the clock is ticking - you've got 6 months! Better hurry... ;)
  • I think i'm going to take about a month off from track building. It's been brutal these past few weeks and i could stand to spend some time on other projects. I'll still hover around here, waiting to see if any comments come along, but there won't be any solid updates for awhile.
  • If any fellow track builders come upon this - i'm always open to learning sneaky tricks or getting feedback from other freaks in the trenches. Let me know what i can do better. :)
***edited to add***

If you want to check out the rFactor, MCOMOD and this track - free for an hour, you can do this:

 - Download the rFactor v1255 Full Install from one of the sites here (1 gig download):

 - Grab the MCOMOD here (requires a login):

 - Get the track from the page you're on right now

 - Install rFactor, but don't run it (no need to until everything else is installed).

 - Install the MCOMOD

 - Install the track

 - Run rFactor and get all your settings right. You'll have a 60 minute trial going, so you'll want to move fast. When you first start it up, you'll be asked to join a league - select MCOMOD.

 - To get enough money to buy any car/parts you want, go to either Testing or Race Weekend and select the Dead Man's Loop track. Once the track loads and you're sitting in the "Monitor", type "ISI_BABYFACTORY" in the chat console and enter it. Once you've done that, back out to the Main Menu and you'll see your bank account go ape-shit. You can then buy any car with any upgrades you want. I suggest the Cobra - :)

 - Once you've got your car and settings all squared away, you can go back to Testing or Race Weekend and race for the remainder of the hour.

That's it for now - i hope you like it! let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The marathon continues

I've finally got grass, trees, terrain detail and rocks stretched through all of what will be the Dead Man's Loop beta. I need to do a little cleanup, adjust some weird track edges, put up invisible walls, add a few high-detail trees to cast shadows across the track and then set out lights for night racing. After that, i'll be able to join the two ends, detail out the small joining area and it'll be done.

I figure i'll leave the track out in the wild as-is for a few months to see if anyone points out any bugs worth fixing. After that, i'll fix whatever bugs come along and then release a final version. It's also possible i'll just leave it be so i can finish the rest of the track in a respectable time, but we'll see.

I'd post some screenshots, but i think i'll just wait until i've got it all finished off and then make a new video. It won't be long now - there'll definitely be a new version to race on this Saturday.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Finishing off a lot of DML this weekend

I'll have a lot more of an update after tomorrow, but for now - i've got trees, grass and rocks looking about like this from the town, all the way down to the turn-around. (screenshot from the track builder)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Marathon weekend

The wife and i had such a busy week last week that we decided to stay in for the weekend. I figured i'd get some work done on the track, but had no idea i'd end up putting in more than 20 hours on it. So where to begin...?

I decided a few days back to just start at the beginning and treat every inch of track as though i was finishing it off for good. My first mission was to create some better blends on the track edges and on the various intersections. I also took my first stab at a gravel-to-pavement blend. There's a specular map on the pavement texture that i also applied to the dirt half of the blend texture and it looks a little weird, but i'll fix it up right later. Here's are some screens of that stuff:

Gravel intersection

Fork in the road - shows the track edge

Gravel to pavement blend - needs some work, but it's getting there.

Once i was finished screwing around with textures i started in on putting shadows on stuff. This ended up being a lot of trial and error work. I started by putting medium detail shadows on buildings and light poles through town. The end result looked all right, but it hit the framerate pretty bad, so i started digging around the support forums for some ideas on how to improve my methods. 

There ended up being a few different things i could do that implied a ton of work, but would help tremendously. So this is where i decided to just bite the bullet and do a major overhaul of everything i'd done thus far. 

I started by turning off shadows and collision for damn near everything on the track. I then went through and meticulously placed invisible walls along the track edges and invisible shadow-casting walls where ever there was a building that needed to give off a shadow. This made it so that not every side of a building had to cast a shadow and i could control exactly where i did or didn't want them. It was a pain in the ass, but i'm done with everything through the first town and the garage/pit area.

There's still some tweaking to do in places where it can chug a little when the shadows get long. If there are a lot of terrain polys in an area, or there's anything funny about how they're put together, they take a lot of processing power to deal with shadows. I've cleared up the worst areas, but there are a couple other spots i could improve on next time i'm feeling that patient.

Anyway, check out some of this sweet looking shadowy shit:

While cranking away on all that, i also made a point of fixing anything that was buggy looking and polishing everything as i went along. Every time i run a race i see more stuff i want to fix or improve on, but the first town isn't that far from being completely finished. With all that about where i want it for now, i decided to string trees all the way down to the turn-around. They're not all polished up like what you've already seen, but it won't take long now to make the straightaways look pretty good. The fact that i spent the time to figure out how to optimize stuff correctly and get it all polished means that i can build the next town without any guesswork or having to do things twice. Anyway, here's the beginning of trees on the straightaways:
So that's the end of that marathon. Hopefully i can finish detailing everything out for some racing on Dead Man's Loop by next weekend. Or - at least have a good beta ready to roll. :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

shadowy goodness

I keep wanting to push my way out of town with trees, grass and such, but there's so much to do around the garage that i haven't moved much. I came across some sneaky tricks on the support forums that help with optimizing performance, while at the same time, allowing me to put some shadows on stuff. I've completely avoided attaching shadows to anything thus far because it brutally impacts the framerate, but now i've got some ways to make it work right. :)

Basically, I've removed hit detection from anything that isn't directly on the side of the track. The fewer polys of grass and tree crap that the game has to calculate as a solid object, the better. Since i've been meaning to surround the whole track with high invisible walls anyway, this has been a good reason to start doing that. So - i removed hit detection from the fancy fences i've been using and dropped a smooth, invisible wall right on top of them. This will make accidentally hitting the fence a much easier thing to deal with. Using the fence's natural hit detection made it so that you never knew if it was going to send you flying or knock you completely through it and off on to the surrounding terrain. Now you'll just casually glance off it and keep on your merry way.

Making it so that the only solid object next to the tracks are either buildings or the invisible wall has made it so that i can turn shadows on for trees and such without it annihilating the framerate. Now that i know this trick, it could totally change the way that i build the next town. Like - i might make ALL structures and most of the objects intangible, but with a low-poly, invisible wall in front of them. This will make it so that i can really polish the look of things with shadows and other cool stuff without screwing anything up.

So - here's what the shadowy scene is looking like at the moment. This is a pretty bad spot to try and show it off because the sun doesn't rise or set in a spot that throws the shadows on to the pavement, but you can still see them hanging out at the base of trees. This will look really cool in other spots at different times of the day:
Oh yea, and i can't get shadows to come off of that fence for the life of me - it's broken somehow and would probably be too complex anyway. But still, it'd sure look nice if i could get it to work. And here's a shot from inside the track builder - it shows the nice treeline i've been working on around the start of town.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Decorating the garage

For whatever reason, i can't seem to leave the garage alone. I started by wanting to cover the whole thing in a brick texture (no small task), then i decided to put lights along the front... then hang some pictures on the walls... then frame the pictures. I'd probably have most of the loop detailed out if i wasn't so hung up at the beginning. It's fun though, i've also been working in some old-school MCO images into some of the buildings around town while i'm at it and it's starting to feel like home.

How about some screenshots. Here are some buildings in town, done up right:

And here are some pictures hanging up on the garage walls. I think i'm going to go through a bunch of old screenshots and find ones that really captured the spirit of MCO. If anyone out there has a particular shot they'd like to see hanging on a garage wall, let me know - there are a ton of garages here.

And here are some night time shots of the area. They make me realize that i really need to do at least a little work with shadows. They can be such a major hit on frame-rate that i've been avoiding them entirely throughout the beginning stages. One of the last things i do will probably be to take a pass on every roadside object and see if it kills performance to make it all shadowy. Anyway...

All right - i swear i'll get my ass out of town during this next week. It should go pretty fast from there... famous last words. ;)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Starting in on the trees

I raced a ton of laps tonight on Dead Man's Loop with the guys over at MCOMOD and maaaaaan was it some fun! Bob hooked me up with a decent setup and i was getting times as low as 1:56 on both directions of the track - thanks Bob! And many thanks to Ralph for getting the server up and running. I didn't notice any lag and i never got randomly dropped - seems like a pretty good setup. Good times!

Once we were done, i got an itch to open the track editor and start detailing stuff. Since the whole garage/pit area was still needing some structural work, i decided to start there with fixing up the terrain and working on the general look of everything. I planted trees, grass and dropped some rocks around. I also started covering the garages in bricks. I'm going to put some MCO tribute posters on the inside walls of the garage for people to look at when they first start up, but just put a blog banner on the side of the garage for now. Anyway, the detailing begins. Here are some screenshots from the track builder:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

1st playable version of Dead Man's Loop

So i've finally put together enough of this beast to get something raceable. The track is a slight modification of Dead Man's Run and Tornado flats. It's not pretty, but you can at least get a feel for the track, set times and race other people. I've also put together a reverse version of it so if you get tired of running it forward, you can load up the reverse version.

I've made a video of it that you can view on the right side of this page if you're just wondering what it looks like. It's kind of a scratchy YouTube video, but you can see what's up. It might be a little confusing at first because it starts off on a section of the track that's nowhere on the original Skoggit track. Give it about 15 seconds and you'll know right where it's at.

And if you want to download the track - click the download link at the top of the page to download the track.
Unzip it to C:\Program Files\rFactor\GameData\Locations
The zip is about 89mb, but it unzips to about 218mb. It contains both forward and reverse versions.

I feel like i can't express this enough - it's an ugly-ass alpha version. There's very little detail around the track once you get outside of town. By which i mean:

 - Very few trees
 - No texture blending on the terrain
 - No grass or bushes
 - Limited objects - just fences, light poles and a few signs are to be found outside of town.
 - Weird terrain edges off in the distance
 - Ugly splices in the few areas where different roads intersect with the main track
 - No barriers around the track - you can basically go anywhere once you get around the fences and there's a good chance you'll get stuck doing it. Stay on the track and you won't end up getting annoyed and needing to restart.
 - The AI are retarded. They work and can race laps, but not in any competitive fashion.
 - The Start/Finish lines aren't extremely clear, but you'll get the feel for it.

The point in me putting this out is so that people can see how it's coming along and have some fun racing a big chunk of Skoggit. I'll polish up this version in the weeks to come and put a new one out that has all the pretty stuff included. Once that's done, i'll start building out the Hickey's Ridge portion and post the occasional update on where i'm at. It's going to be a long haul before i'm completely finished with the entire track, but in the meantime, this should provide at least a little fun. :)

I should also point you to: MCOMOD for rFactor
If you don't already have all the MCO cars, you should go get em. It's the only right way to be racing on this track. ;)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

It works!

I joined the two ends of the track the other night to see if i could get a loop working right, and hell yea - i finally got it working. Setting corridors on a track is an art i hadn't previously figured out. If you set the drivable area to stretch over wall objects (which is what i make sidewalks out of), the AI get confused and freak out. This basically means that the AI will never be able to take the shortcuts, but whatever.

The important thing is - laps and lap-times are being recorded accurately. I was also pleased to find that the crazy shortcuts introduce no problems for human players and the game doesn't give you yellow flags for using them - at least in test mode.

The version of the loop i have right now is lacking most of the trackside detail outside of town - no texture blending, very few trees or bushes and you can still see some awkward terrain edges here and there. Despite the ugly, i think i'm going to kick out a test version for people over on the MCOMOD forums to check out. The track detail is just cosmetic stuff that i can work out in the days to come - the important thing is knowing if the track feels accurate to the original and if it's fun to race on. I think it is, but i'm like a proud parent, so my opinions are skewed.

Anyway, MCOMOD dudes, as soon as i tidy up some loose ends, a very naked and ugly version of Dead Man's Loop will be coming your way. Expect it later tonight or early tomorrow (Sunday).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Back at it for a couple days

Been on a track building bender lately. I don't really have the time for it, but i guess i'm doing it anyway.

After pushing it right up to the start of Hicky's Ridge, i went back to the beginning and started working on that end of things. After putting in a 46 car garage and building a whole new stretch of town, i managed to get the two ends within reach of each other. I can almost create the loop that will give us something to race while i'm finishing the rest of Skoggit.

There's a lot of detailing and tweaking to do before i join the two ends, but i don't think it'll take all that long; the hardest part is behind me. I really want something raceable in the next couple of weeks.

Anyway - here are some screenshots of where i'm at. First up is a shot of a bunch of cars parked in the new garage. I don't know that i'm setting up the race settings just right yet, but it will actually be possible for 46 people to race on the track at the same time. I can't imagine that many people would ever be around to fill it to capacity, but the clusterfuck option is there if it ever goes that far.

And here's a chunk of track that didn't exist in the original, but is essential in this one:

Here's looking across to the other end of the track. SO CLOSE:

Lastly, here are some wireframe shots of the track from inside the track builder:

And i suppose it's worth note - i raced a pretty good line from the beginning to the end in a Cobra and it was about 2 minutes and 23 seconds of racing. I didn't wipe out and nailed all the shortcuts, so tag on maybe another 5 seconds for the joining stretch of track that i haven't built yet, and you'll have an average lap time of 2:28. Well, in the MCO MOD Cobra. I'm sure it'll differ from car to car.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Slow month

Work's been pretty hectic lately, so my time and inclination to work on the track has been at a minimum. Nonetheless, i've managed to slowly work myself quite a bit closer to the beginning of Hicky's Ridge . Track, terrain, fences and a few key trees have been built out most of the way.

Another few hours of work and i'll have the basics laid out to where i can loop the start to the finish and begin detailing in "Dead Man's Loop". I made something similar the first time i built the track, but this version will have the track completed up to the beginning of Hicky's Ridge instead of looping out 2/3 of the way through Tornado Flats.

I've got tomorrow off, but there's enough to do outside of track-building that i can't say if i'll get any time to work on it. In the meantime, here are a few screenshots from in-game and in the track-builder:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I managed to push ahead quite a bit this Saturday. Here are two videos – one down and one back. It shows everything from the beginning town of Dead Man’s Run to the last ¾ of Tornado Flats. It’s about where I left off with the first build of the track I made – but this one works. :)

**for better looking versions of these videos, here are links to wmv versions around 90mb each:
First Video (down)
Second Video (back)

(youtube videos removed to make way for better versions)

Some notes:

-    I built fences, houses and power lines out to the top of the s-curves in the last quarter of Tornado Flats (as the video shows), but that’s about it.
-    Worked on a ton of terrain.
-    Tons of track tweaking to get the feel right – still a work in progress.
-    I’m leaving the detail for last, so it’s going to look barren for awhile. No grass, no texture blending on the terrain, only some smaller road signs, chunky terrain in the distance, no trees, only a couple rocks… it goes on and on.

I’ll probably give another update before the weekends done – must. sleep. now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Some slow weeks

I managed to get a little more done over the weekend, but not enough to give a grand update. Work has been stressing me enough that i tend to either work on the weekends or spend them doing things that don't remind me of work.

I think it'll chill out enough in the next couple of weeks that i should be able to get back to the track. My intent is to finish the track before the end of the year when my BTB license expires and i need to renew it. The creator of BTB has been on a hiatus lately and it sounds like renewing a license can be some trouble. So - i'd goddamn better get the track done in the next 6 months or so.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One polygon at a time...

I didn't manage to extend the track out any further this weekend, instead, i adjusted - readjusted, did some more adjusting, etc - to the the track, track width and the surrounding terrain for the first half of the Flats. For whatever reason, it just wasn't feeling right and i had to do some serious tweaking.

Changing the track width isn't such a big deal, but using the 'handlebars' on track nodes once you've already got the terrain laid out causes some real trouble. The terrain doesn't adjust to any track tweaking when adjusting the nodes and you end up having to pull the terrain around to adjust it to the track changes. That wouldn't be so tough if it weren't for subtle hills and areas where it isn't just a matter of pulling a section of terrain one way or the other, but carefully adjusting each intersection to make sure it matches the curvature of the track.

But whatever, i conquered that asshole and i'm back to pushing forward in the evenings to come. Weeee! Seriously though, i'm pumped to start into the Hicky's Ridge town. I might break off just before i get into the town and make a "Dead Man's Flats" loop, but i haven't decided on that yet. I'm nervous about adding too much detail before getting all the terrain laid out. If i detail out what i've got thus far and it kills performance during the meaty track and terrain tweaking i have to do for the rest of the track, i'll be pissed.

So yea, not sure what i'll do at that point, but i'm not far off now.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chugging along

Didn't get too much done this week, but i did manage to put in about 8 hours overall. I'm half way through Tornado Flats with fences and houses and about a 3rd of the way done with the terrain. I've got some road-width issues that will take some time to iron out, but i should be able to get it done by next weekend. In fact, if i can get the Flats done in a non-detailed way during the next week, i'll feel fairly accomplished.

I can see moving a lot faster once i'm past these areas that i've already built once before in the first version of the track. The Flats are pretty boring to build and the sense of repetition has it feeling like quite the grind. Thankfully it'll only be another week or two and i'll be on to virgin territory. :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

On to the Flats

It's been a busy week of work, parties and other random distractions, but i've finally managed to get the track built up to the beginning of Tornado Flats. I'm still leaving most of the detailing for a later date and pushing just to get the track raceable, but some amount of detail is necessary just to know i'm putting it together right. So you'll see fences, light poles, houses, brick walls, general terrain and a few big rocks, but it's not too pretty.

I was itching to do a video of racing up and down Dead Man's Run, but i don't think it'll be worth it until it's all detailed out with trees, grass, texture blended terrain and other polish. Since i've decided to save the detailing for later, it'll probably be awhile until another video comes along. In the meantime, here are some screenshots of the turn-around in all its roughness: