It lacks...what?

Community Forums/Developer Stations/It lacks...what?

Alberto(Posted 2005) [#1]
Hello
I was going through the "3d tools overview " thread.
Very interesting , but , in my opinion ,the discussion was more in general terms rather than being focused on game \low polys applications .
Max ,Maya,XSI ecc were originaly created for movies \ high polys applications.
First of all , I am interested in animation only.
I am using CharacterFX and I am willing to invest some money for a more advanced software.
What additional features are of real interest for game
developers ( not available in CharacterFX, I mean)
Thanks


Alberto(Posted 2005) [#2]
For example, CharacterFX and other cheap tools do not provide ;

- Clips , non linear animation
- Function curves (variable speed along a path)
- Phisics

However these features are necessary to make a movie while in a game it is better to code them.


AdrianT(Posted 2005) [#3]
Actually apps like 3dsmax have a pretty big focus on games, and try to keep up with all the latest developments. Much of what were doing today is running parallel with movies and TV, just developing at a slower rate due to the limitations of hardware and realtime. But its all the same technology and techniques at the end of the day.


Gord(Posted 2005) [#4]
I have got Cinema 4d and Carrara 4 and game creation content are not even mentioned in the large ref manuals. So I don,t know if animations for Blitz are possible. with these progs.


Alberto(Posted 2005) [#5]
"But its all the same technology and techniques at the end of the day."

Thanks for reply
Yes, but I wonder which featurs are of real use also for games rather then for movies and TV.
For example the ones quoted in my 2nd post do not seem to be a must for an hobbyest game programmers , being implemented in the code.
On the other hand high end apps do not fully support features which might be extremely usefull for our comunity.
I quote :

Prefabricated and Editable human an animal skeletons
Prefabricated and Editable basic animation cycles
Import\export of the most common file formats

Nowadays we must jump from an App to an other to put the pieces togheter


Pax(Posted 2005) [#6]
Hi Alberto, just to let you know, there are several "prefabricated rigs" that are fully customizable in xsi (there are even custom body parts, already scripted, say for tails and spines). Then there are also some motion capture samples in the net view (which also holds some textures).

As for geometry, there's the character desinger and you can get some ugly "man and woman" models (which with some tweaking are a great start for your custom model).

For file input and output, Xsi can export to .X format (via the plugin found in the web) which i've found works nicely with ultimate unwrap to get content in .b3d format quite fast wo. so much work.

About those extra functions in your first topic, from an animator viewpoint (specially the fcurve editor), i wouldn't like to have to animate without them, because it is with their aid that you can really put some juice in the movement (does ease-in, ease-out sounds familiar?), the way stuff moves in space. Then there's also the dope sheet (great for basic timing and some pose stuff).

Maybe the animation mixer seems nonsense to you for games, but in reality, it lets create different motions for different characters in a snap.. sharing and blending.. you know, it is "character" animation, not moving an array of robots which have the exactly same motion (boring).

There's a .bvh import function in xsi, it's just that you've to play with it before getting it to work correctly and then you'll have lots of "prefabs" motion clips floating in the net (which btw, are way easy to edit, again with the fcurves editor).

If you wanna develop for consoles, I know that some game content has been developed with Softimage (the father of Xsi) and that there are several plugs for consoles (if you are a licensed developer, nintendo for Softimage, psx for softimage and Xbox for xsi).

As you state you are just interested in animation, i will just mention rendermaps, normal map generators, and scripting. So even for games, these tool indeed fits quite nice, at least for me.


Alberto(Posted 2005) [#7]
Pax
Thanks for your answer and useful informations about XSI.
Some points are not clear to me.

Fcurves :
Normaly game programmers use " walk in place " animations.
The movement in the space (and the juice) is achieved via code.
The typical example of the "bouncing ball" to explain FCurves is not applicable to games
Ok ,you can use FCurves for the limbs, but even CharacterFX provideS a "spline" interpolation between keyframes (It should be improved, I agree).
As far as short and fast movements are concerned, for example the swing of a weapon, it is hard to notice the difference.

animation mixer :
I accept that this feature make much easier the creation of animations (in a snap )but again "Animation blending " is a tremendous step forward for games,provided it is implemented in the code.
I you create off line animations it is of little use since you must create, in any case, several animations and several "States" in your FSM , which is what you want to avoid

However I do not mean of course that CharacterFX is about the same as XSI( 15 USD VS 495 USD ...WELL)
I mean that the "serious hobbyest programmers " comunity
( We are 300.000 , I have read somewhere ) deserve an animation software 100 % focused on games at a reasonable price ( 100 - 200 USD).
Something in between CharacterShop by Halo and Poser by Curious Lab, in my opinion


Gord(Posted 2005) [#8]
The problem I found when I tried Softimage demo is that it requires a screen resolution higher than 1024 pixels across. This does not suit either my eyesight or my other software. The top menus were wrapped around all along the top of the screen.


Pax(Posted 2005) [#9]
Hey Alberto, animation (movement wise) is 2 things, posing and timing. Fcurves allow you to edit timing with a nice amount of control, you control your inbetweens with them. Even if you are walking your character only on spot, fcurves do help. For the juice, I meant the juice for animation, character animation (with good timing you can give a whole sense of personality).

What i have noticed in "low end" systems is that you have just a little bit of control on how those bones move in space and time, so you are somewhat limited. The last time i checked, I was able to move the frame in which action occurs, but just for the whole pose, not for single elements (which was a painful process for me)

For the animation mixer, i wasn't thinking as much as exporting individual actions, but exporting blended actions to have different cycles for every character. But then again i might not be up to programming skills, so this might be a "bad thing" programming-wise.

About the price, you're right, xsi is still somewhat expensive for the casual hobbyst (sp?), just a far cry from what it used to cost. Still i find that i wouldn't like to animate wo. those tools.

Gord: you are right, xsi needs at least 1280x1024 to work comfortably, the bigger your monitor, the better.


Alberto(Posted 2005) [#10]
Pax ,Thanks again
I have created for my games some on spot "run" animations using CharacterFX.
As far as acceleration and deceleration is concerned , I simply change ,manually,the number of frames between key-frames.
Apart from time saving, can an I expect much more realistic animations,using FCurves?
Did you make actual comparison tests?


Pax(Posted 2005) [#11]
Hi Alberto, hopefully the following will clarify on what my point was on F-curves. It shows only 2 keyframes, from point A to point B, hopefully you'll see the difference of tweaking the inbetween (using fcurves) VS leaving it just as a default pose to pose (computer interpolation).

Quicktime Sorenson 3, 2.51 Mb

http://es700x.com/coda/pax_fcurve.mov (don't stream it, better save it and resize the window before playing, as it is quite small as is)

More realistic animation? that goes with your skills (and style), it is just that is way easier with these tools. As for characterFX, just downloaded the demo, if i have some time to play around with it, i'll tell you what i feel it "lacks".


Smokey(Posted 2005) [#12]
Gord

There's a plugin for cinema 4d that export to .x with
animation , you can get it there http://www.c4dplugs.com
the hypernurb in cinema 4d is very powerfull and you can make lowpoly model and there renderer is very powerfull too. but it's not cheap..


Gord(Posted 2005) [#13]
Thanks I just downloaded it. I have version 6 of Cinema 4d which was reissued recently for 79 by Maxon. I don,t know if it is still available, but it,s exelent with good workflow etc. You do,n get a written manual at that price but the manual is online.


Bob3d(Posted 2005) [#14]
Pax , I do have XSI Foundation, too. But in my case, I only animated before at work with Max and character Studio. (well, and with Blender, Anim8or and character Fx.)

Fcurves may not be of much use with *.b3d format: it doesn't support spline interpolation, just linear (your feared robots ;) )

So, indeed, this interpolation, I know, much more subtle, can play against u, and some people even deactivate it to set linear as they know that's where the engine is gonna carry it...

Another way is to "bake" (I think in XSI language is .."plot", and gives the option in the xsi exporter, I have it too, and also tested with ultimate Unwrap to work well.) that smoothness and subtle interpolation as keyframes...it never gets as is, due to u'd need a load of keyframes and that'd kill totally performance and memory limits...which aren't very generous in shareware target machines....

I continue to be a total noob in XSI, as I only use the very basical bones animation, pin object...2d chains with that and a few more things...not more...

Character Fx can activate spline interpolation, but the very little control u have over the interpolation is quite hidden, and not enough. It has no real IK. Is all fk. It has no way to make joint pinning or the like (Blender has)
But it has a big market being simple to learn, and loaded of game exporters integrated in it.(md2, x, b3d...all work well)

In Blender you can do most of the advanced stuff, but allways in a way mroe long a complex, less accurate and less perfect way than animating with xsi, less powerfully, and less also than doing in Max or Gmax, even.

I'd like to have time to work on learning well this tool, but seems I continue with projects and life stuff, and have my documentation and videos almost intact...bad thing is as I learnt what I need to bang animations, seems lost interest for the moment to go deeper, hehe. I'll do at some point.

Yup, better have a monitor reaching 1280...most TFT 17" reach that very well, if of some quality...

I use it with 800x600, but due to the use of certain layout, and as I only use th very raw character animation core stuff, and as I use to with any tool, I did set up my key bindings for the tools I'd use...

In max, Character STudio curves are *a pain* to handle, while standard max bezier handles for that and other tools,make much more sense... Yup, the ease in , and out, and the huge world of control you have just handling properly the curve is important, but b3d engine is not the only (i said wrong, probably the format carry it, indeed, I'm sure of that: is the b3d engine what can't play it) engine with only option of doing just linear interpolation.

Quake3 used to make some kind of smooth non linear interpolation (quake 2 was linear, so, md2 too) for md3...

Sorry if I don't reply...I hope to remember to check it back, but lately I'm not much into Blitz worlds...


Pax(Posted 2005) [#15]
Yep Bob3D, plot was the term. So there you go Alberto, it seems that blitz3D can't (yet) handle that amount of data.. too bad to be condemned to linear interpolation (as Bob said, it won't be the same; damn robots, thx God i'm still on tv stuff :D ).

I guess you can still compile some .md2 files to keep as original, but then you better check out what you would exchange because of the file format.

So in conclusion (given new facts presented by Bob3d), for game development using Blitz, fcurves wouldn't make that fine control difference for your non rendered stuff (sprites or cut scenes). Though fcurves still can be used to shift position of bones (for some succesive breaking of joints).

Damn robots again...


AdrianT(Posted 2005) [#16]
3D apps even have full DX9 shader materials in viewports. Like Max for example. You can use the standard max material editor, more or les the way you would for pre rendered stuff, and max will create shaders for you that simulate this material. You can also save out the material as a .FX of HLSL file. on top of that you can load in these files and apply them to your models in max, giving you a WYSIWYG environment to work in.

I usualy end up doing environments and level building more than I do charcter stuff, more and more games are using regular 3D meshes instead of Legacy BSP stuff in modern engines since GPU's have come a long way and can throw pretty complex geometry around.

This isn't quite the case with blitz which uses a 5 year old API to render graphics with, but it still allows for a lot of flexibility, particularly if you have something like the excellent B3D pipeline exporter that Pudding created for 3dsmax-Blitz.

It's actually better than a lot of commercial engine pipelines, allowing you to create in game cut scenes and only requiring about 10 lined of code in blitz3D in order to play it back in its entirety with fully animated lights, cameras, fog, brushFX, UV's (you name it)

In this case you can use max to its full advantage, and set up or play back pretty sophisticated scenes and environments.

You can't expect the cheaper shareware tools to compete directly with the high end apps in all fronts, but some do prove to be exceptionaly good at key areas that they target specificly. like Wings for organic modeling, unwrap3d for UV mapping and translation between formats.

And then you have tools like sswifts new seamless texture tool which does an amazing job of preparing your digital images for working within realtime environments.


Alberto(Posted 2005) [#17]
Hello Pax and Bob3d

"the following will clarify on what my point was on F-curves"

Yes ,it is what I mean thanks for the movie
Maybe I can use Fcurves to create an animation using a limited number of key frames
Then I add some more key frames in beetwen, before exporting the file to Blitz.
Even though the .b3d format supports linear interpolation only, the result might be acceptable

" due to u'd need a load of keyframes and that'd kill totally performance .."

If you increase the number of keyframes , the animation speed should increase ,in my oipnion .
Memory should not be a main issue , the size of skeleton based animations being alwayes rather small