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.