Calm Before The Storm

Firstly i want to thank everyone for their comments and to those who have subscribed to the blog and to the YouTube channel, it’s very much appreciated and it’s great to know you like what you’ve seen so far.

It’s been a bit quiet around hare since the video, which is mainly because i’m enjoying getting back into some solid editing, and not playing around with codecs and sequences. It’s kind of like using 35mm film again, having to wait to check the results, only the wait here is encoding and 4 hour upload sessions. Its a painful process when you discover the quality is still no good and you have to do it all over again! At least now i have a nice work flow sorted, so future videos will be very straightforward.

I’ve got some pretty big news coming regarding a change of direction for the project. Firstly though, i want to go over a few things that will help make it a bit more clear for those who are new to the project, or may not remember everything i’ve posted here.

As many of you know, for a long time i have always wanted to restart the map with a larger size terrain, using an island made up of levels that are 100% true to the originals. When i first merged all the individual levels into the one island mesh, I downsized the island by about 10% to fit within a 4.096 kilometre square area, and foolishly i chose to retain the overall shape of the island over the scale of the inland areas. My reasons for this was that i intended for players to eventually be able to explore a lot of the islands coastline, and i didn’t want the terrain to suddenly end with a sheer cliff and ocean at the edge of the heightmap (which would look pretty terrible), there needed to be a few metres of buffer where the ocean could drop away, so the terrains edges couldn’t be seen.

The results were good, and the size difference was initially hard to notice because of the different way CryEngine and the Trespasser Engine render the terrain. Vegetation sizes also messed with my head a little, because plants are actually pretty huge in Crysis, and can make some areas look smaller than they really are. The player height is also a bit different, and the texture resolution can also throw you off a bit too.

After some scale tests, i decided that the size difference was not as bad as i thought and i decided to keep on working with the map as it is, and not resize it or start again when the Crysis3 MOD SDK comes out. Things have been working nicely and i’m really happy with how things look, but one thing im not happy with is the slow rate of progress and lack of real goals.

Right now im working with a pretty relaxed attitude, choosing to work on what i like in whatever order i feel like. This is fine if its just me working on it, and its just a single level, but i’ve got David to think think about, and im not just working on a single level, i’m working on a bloody huge island that, at this rate, probably wouldn’t even be finished by next Christmas. That’s not even an exaggeration.

This is not so much because of my random working methods, its because of the sheer level of detail im working towards. It takes a very long time to place all those trees, objects and decals (not to mention all the particles and entities that I’ve barely touched) and i find myself getting way too focused on one area, rather than laying down a basic level of detail and going through later to fill it out. Now regardless of the order i work in, its still going to take X amount of time to reach the desired level im aiming for, so it kind of evens out in the end. But it does mean that the island is very patchy in detail, with some areas completely void of detail and look like crap, while others are almost 100% finished and look great.

This means there is no chance of a release until its finished, which sucks majorly for everyone, and its just not satisfying to work like this.

The change of direction will ensure that i remain focused on my editing and set some clear goals for both myself, David and any future members to work towards. Not only that, but it will also mean that you guys will be rewarded with not only a faster first release, but also more of them.

So here’s the plan.

This project will now be developed over 4 stages, with each stage gradually increasing in quality, features and detail. As each stage is completed, it will be available to download and i will move onto the next stage of development, building on top of the previous stage.

Based on my current rate of progress, I anticipate the first stage will be available for download within 2-3 months (max).

Stage 2 will be available about 3-4 months later.

Stage 3 will again be about 3-4 months, possibly 4-5.

And the 4th and final stage will be at least 6 months after that.

Now im sure the first question on everyone’s lips is “What will the first stage look like?”.
Well i can tell you now its not going to be some crappy basic terrain with just a couple of textures and no trees or objects. No, its a 100% complete recreation of Trespasser as it was, but in Cryengine 2. And you will be able to download it in 2-3 months 🙂

How? Well, ill explain.

Since the Trespasser source code was released, there has been very little work done on it and there have been no releases of any custom builds with new features. This is a real shame (criminal actually), but there are reasons. Firstly, the source is based on an older version and is not as good as the retail version or the enhanced ATX version, so it would take a lot of work to get it back up to that level. Some people have played around with it though and have enabled a few features here and there, but they mostly agree that the source is so messy it would be easier to start fresh and rewrite the whole thing. This is a huge amount of work too, and if you ask me, i’d rather see slow updates on an existing engine, than nothing for a long time on a new engine. Plus there is a certain level of satisfaction from seeing Trespasser’s engine getting improved, like the Doom and Quake engine projects of the past. There are no doubt copyright issues that come into play as well, but you get my point.

Now when i first started this project (2007/2008), i purchased a full commercial license for Torque Game Engine Advanced and soon after, the Leadwerks engine. Both are great engines (paid way too much for TGEA though..), and were probably capable of supporting the project at the time, but real life got in the way and my vision now far exceeds what they are capable of supporting. They need a lot of work to enable even basic features i need, and as an artist, i would be dependent on a programmer from day one. So you can see why developing as a Crysis Mod was the better option, its a huge head start and the editor is incredible.

I think Leadwerks engine would be a great base for a Trespasser Engine rewrite, as it comes packed with more than enough graphical features and has the lovely Newton physics already built in. So i made a really quick test map using an early version of my projects heightmap and remade the original starting beach area, with just some very basic textures from Trespasser and posted it on TresCom in the admin section:

Basic Leadwerks Engine Test

No reply.

Okay, fair enough. People are busy and may not have seen it. Anyway, i decided the idea was a winner and i would work on it a bit more and when i had a pretty good example map, i would upload it somewhere and whoever wanted to take on the project, i would give them my Leadwerks license and account etc, and the map and they could get the ball rolling.

As i was working on it though, the limitations of the Leadwerks editor got in the way, and some of the stuff i wanted to do would need to be added to the editor and would demand a bit more time than i was willing to give it. So i decided i could use Cryengine instead and pump it out nice and quick, so i could get back to working on the Petrolia project.

I thought i might as well do it properly and provide a really good map to start with. So i ditched the old heightmap i was using, which was a mixture of the old levels and the very basic start of all the new areas, and started fresh with a new version of the island that was not scaled down and matched all of the original levels together (including pine valley), end-to-start. The island was rotated 45 degrees and the very outer edges of the coastline were pushed in within the heightmap boundaries, resulting in a perfect replication of all the original levels in one big island. I then imported this into Cryengine, painted the terrain with a basic mock-up of Trespasser grass using default Crysis textures, then painted the entire island with trees. For this i used 3 types of Hill Trees, which are low detail 3d trees used in crysis for out of reach areas, gave them varying sizes and rotation and painted only the out of reach areas, leaving the playable areas clear. The whole process up to this point only took a few hours. A few hours to build en entire island, texture it, and lay down over 50,000 trees is pretty good i reckon!

After this i worked on the lighting and set it up with very basic settings to replicate Trespasser’s sun position, height and brightness. I then added some draw distance fog and toned everything down a bit so it resembled how an updated version of Trespasser might look, with nice shadows and light rays etc. I then made a few decals, including a big decal for the cliff textures around the original Trespasser starting beach, and then started adding some trees, rocks and some very basic structures like i did for the beach resort visible in the Petrolia flythrough video. I probably went a bit overboard though and made it look better than it needed to be, and it wasn’t long till i had imported the depth of field and colour correction flowgraphs and got the colours looking spot-on and everything looking better than it needed to be. It was at about this time that i realized i was actually really enjoying working on it, AND it started to look good. REALLY good. Not only that, but i was pumping it out in record time. I had made an entire island, textured it, covered it with trees and had remade about 50% of the first level, all in less than a day!

This is when i started thinking about a new direction for the project and a by the next day i had already made up my mind.

Since then, I’ve made a hell of a lot more progress and as another example of how quick im getting through it, i made the whole Town yesterday. One day for the whole Town!

So you wanna see what it looks like? I’m sure you do!
But because i’m an arsehole, you’re gonna have to wait 🙂

I want to get a little bit more work done and put together another fly through and upload a heap of new images, so the next update will be as good as i acan possibly make it. This next update will explain exactly what every stage will be like, so you have a clear understanding of where this project is going. Don’t worry yourselves with questions of the work i’ve already done, or beta testing and this and that. Understand that it looks awesome, and you’ll have it in 2-3 months!

Now i’ve spent way too much time on this post and i have pizza dough to make and beers to drink!

Stay tuned for awesomeness!

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~ by newoldmate on 27/07/2013.

9 Responses to “Calm Before The Storm”

  1. I recap this just to confirm i understand this correctly. You started working on a side project with the SDK in mind. You are willing to give away the assets of this project to anyone who is willing to finish that project. Working on this side project made you realize progress on Petrolia could be quicker.
    Instead of working on an area from start to finish you want to have a basic layer of detail on the island for the first release. Each big new detail layer will be a major update/release.

    I like the method you want to use, not only will the 1st release see the light of day sooner. Also the more professional approach is very enjoyable.
    IRL i’ve done a couple of big projects and the project management is something i really enjoy. Maybe we could discuss this topic sometime and see if my skills could be of any help.

    Great update, Keep up the wonderful work!

    • I was working on a demo for Leadwerks engine. Something that would demonstrate what it could look like, but the editor couldn’t do what everything i wanted, so i used CryEngine2 instead as i could make it much quicker and have access to more features.

      It looked so good and was so easy to make, i stuck with it and am now using it as a base for the new direction.

      I’ll build on top of it for stage 2, then stage 3, until stage 4 looks like the flythrough video.

  2. There is one thing I fear… CryEngine map objects limit … Maybe so called 1st release could be based on island with extended Trespasser levels only. By extended levels I mean typical Trespasser levels +/- additional levels area size and objects and things seen by player on the horizon. As we all know all levels in that game were properly isolated by natural or artificial barriers such as walls or cliffs. Using the same strategy would allow you to concentrate only creating playable corridors on the island. That way:
    1) you could save great amount of time;
    2) limit the total number of objects on the island.
    In the next releases more areas would be gradually opened and more objects would be added. This way the hole island would be opened for exploration in the final version…

    • Its something i’ve asked a lot of people, but there has never been any conformation of a limitation. The only imitation it seems is your memory and your own dedication.

      Its something that’s always on my mind though!

      I believe things will be fine up to stage 3. Stage 4 will be the tester.

  3. Full steam ahead!

  4. ^ Ha. You slay me.:)

  5. Tresspasser has been a long time no see friend of mine that i played occasionaly throughout years from time to time. Sadly, every time i came back to it, there was never any upgrade that would make this game a fraction of what it could have been and what you are currently creating. Last time i tried to immerse back into isla sorna was 2 years ago, still no big announcements. But now i found about your project and you’ve really made me feel like a 14 yr old boy again, about to be all alone on jurassic park site b. I wish your project all the best and i eagerly anticipate stages of progress that you will be releasing. I hope i will soon be able to quote malcolm and say “you did it… you crazy sonuvabitch… you did it!!” 😉

    Best regards

    Marin

  6. I’m absolutely loving this project and what you’re doing with it. You’re basically bringing back to life one of my most valued childhood gaming memories. There’s just something about this game that always stuck with me. I think it’s the sense of isolation. I’m looking forward to playing it, a lot!

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