June 25, 2008

Sometimes, there is light...

Well we got an extension on the LD assignment, sort of... The gameplay milestone was moved to Monday morning as the last milestone the levels were not "what is expected of a whitebox." Plus, I begged for an extension as my level was especially behind and my personal commitments were going to make it nearly impossible to achieve the next milestone. I say we "sort of" got an extension in that none of the other milestones moved, so we really just compressed the schedule to give us a little more time now and a little less time later. *Shrug* I suppose it's better than having to pull an all nighter tonight. We also got the grades back for the last milestone and I managed a solid B, which is on the higher end of what I think I deserved (based on how well I met the requirements, not effort mind you).

There's certainly enough that needs to be done this weekend that I wouldn't say I'm out the woods yet, but at least I think I am nearing the exit. We got to work more in Gears of War today and I am really falling in love with that editor. Kismet and the new Matinee and Material editors are just brilliant. They make it really easy to script things for coders and non-coders alike. I suppose it still helps to have a coding/logic mindset though, which I can totally appreciate. There are really only two things I don't like about the engine/editor.

The first is that it is so heavily mesh based, that is most of the stuff is created in external 3D modeling software like Max and Maya (and requires textures and unwraps). As such, the BSP editor is sort of secondary and not as powerful as the BSP editor in either Hammer or Radiant. I recognize that as graphics continue to move forward, engine will continue to be more mesh based as even the best BSP editors still aren't as good as Max or Maya. Still, it sure is nice to be able to create cool objects right in the editor without needing a new texture and unwrap. It basically takes some artistic license away from the level designer, which I don't mind professionally, but makes modding harder as I am programmer, designer, and artist all at the same time.

The second thing is that, despite being a mesh based editor, UE3 doesn't have any of the filtering or searching functions that Hammer and Radiant do. For example, if you want to add a chair in Half Life 2 you type in chair and the model viewer shows you all the chairs available in the game (or at least the ones with the word chair in the name). Radiant works in a similar way. UE3 on the other had inherits its legacy from UE2 and it's horribly confusing package system, where every asset is locked away inside some (typically poorly labeled) package. They've improved by moving to universal packages that can hold everything (sounds, actors, models, textures, etc.) as opposed to requiring a unique package for each asset type. UE2 was actually so bad about this that the community created a tool that allowed users to find meshes by keywords, and the tool would tell you where to find what you wanted. A similar tool will probably come out for Gears of War and UT3 at some point (ideally a universal tool that you could download package info from on a per game basis) but I'm not holding my breath. The result is that the designer either needs to know where the exact meshes they want are, or spend a long time searching for them.

That being said, I still love the editor and I look forward to working in it exclusively over the summer. Now, I've got to finish packing and get some shut eye before my flight tomorrow morning. This weekend is sure to be hectic with wedding stuff and work and whatnot, not to mention being out of town so posting may be sporadic. Later!

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