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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:52 am 
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Hi there everyone, as I said in this topic: http://www.mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=16315

I have some evidence that Uru can, with some development, have a user-friendly age making system.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedural_generation <-- this is a bit of a backgrounder on the subject.

Quote:
Almost entirely procedural games

* .kkrieger (2004)


This, is .kkrieger: http://www.theprodukkt.com/kkrieger (note the filesize!) (free, too!)

It might not be your thing, the game itself, but, check it out, if not only to see the tech in action. (I believe .kkrieger is a First Person Shooter, but the technology is not limited to that genre.)

http://www.introversion.co.uk/darwinia/ <-- This is Darwinia. The landscape is procedurally generated. It may not look like much, but, the graphics are like that, by design, not by lack of effort. (Its actually quite hard to do that kind of thing, I can assure you.)

The Procedurality Engine an open source offering, with a research paper on how it works, as well.
http://oddlabs.com/procedurality.php

Note: These are not the *only* examples of this, there are many, many more out there.

We can use this kind of technology to allow Canon-true writing, in-game, with a minimal footprint (filesize, etc)


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 5:06 pm 
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Now THAT is cool. I've heard of procedural generation before, but I'd never really made the connection with Age-writing for Uru before. Obviously it would take a lot of work to create an Uru-compatible program, but once it's made available to the community, it could lead to an explosion in the number of Ages we see being made, as the "traditional" way of making them is so labor-intensive. And even with procedural generation, it would take some work to "clean up" what the computer feeds you, adding paths, specific areas, etc... but it is a great idea and one that I would love to see someone make a reality for MOOSE.

And for those worried about having already but so much effort into the fantastic fan-made Ages that have been created so far, not to worry... procedural generation'll probably never replace the "old fashioned" method of "hand-making" an Age, bit by bit. It'll just create quick Ages for those who don't want to put as much effort into the process but still want and Age of their own. Such Ages probably won't be nearly as impressive as the more detailed "hand-made" Ages, which is why they'll stick around. I personally think a blend of the two would be the best of both worlds... a procedurally generated background, which is hand-tweaked by the Writer and then has paths, items, structures etc. placed within it.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:28 pm 
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Printehr wrote:
And even with procedural generation, it would take some work to "clean up" what the computer feeds you, adding paths, specific areas, etc...


If you give the program rules on which to follow you could gain some interesting results right out of the box without much effort on the users part, cleaning up wouldn’t be an issue, it’s all about defining what you want really

Personally I can't see it been used too much for creating ages as people mostly have specific ideas in mind, but building randomised ages built on pre-existing content (think neighbourhoods) could very well be a possibility.

I'm intrigued by this ...


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 Post subject: As for Ae'gura
PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:24 pm 
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As for Aegura...

http://www.procedural.com/

Pretty impressive. The ideas behind the program are very interesting, in principle it works like procedural tree generation, just using it to create streets and buildings.

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 Post subject: Re: As for Ae'gura
PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:08 pm 
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Bah'tahm wrote:
As for Aegura...

http://www.procedural.com/

Pretty impressive. The ideas behind the program are very interesting, in principle it works like procedural tree generation, just using it to create streets and buildings.


As one who works, in a small way, in the city planning biz, I found that jawdroppingly awesome! :shock:

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:30 am 
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Some more links, and articles...

http://sponeil.net/index.htm - A Real-Time Procedural Universe

http://www.vterrain.org/Elevation/Artificial/ <-- Artifical Terrain Generation (more links on site)

EDIT:
Quote:
And even with procedural generation, it would take some work to "clean up" what the computer feeds you, adding paths, specific areas, etc... but it is a great idea and one that I would love to see someone make a reality for MOOSE.

And for those worried about having already but so much effort into the fantastic fan-made Ages that have been created so far, not to worry... procedural generation'll probably never replace the "old fashioned" method of "hand-making" an Age, bit by bit. It'll just create quick Ages for those who don't want to put as much effort into the process but still want and Age of their own. Such Ages probably won't be nearly as impressive as the more detailed "hand-made" Ages, which is why they'll stick around. I personally think a blend of the two would be the best of both worlds... a procedurally generated background, which is hand-tweaked by the Writer and then has paths, items, structures etc. placed within it.


Actually, for example, something like Serene (iirc, one of Andy Legate's Ages) could probably be done with proceedural generation.

Cleaning up won't be an issue, either, proceedural generation works by giving the program a set of rules, and those rules can tell it that you don't want this or that kind of feature. It can also generate different paths, etc. There are a /lot/ of things one can do with proceedural content.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 4:19 pm 
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Oh yes, I know that cleanup might not be necessary; just something that Writers might want to engage in so that an Age is more in line with what they want (if the procedural generation program produces something that doesn't knock them out of the park but is too cool to redo).

And that CityEngine site caused images of a completely excavated City Proper to flash in front of my eyes. I think someone needs to get on making tools like that for MOOSE right now!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:41 pm 
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I'm not at all against the idea of user-friendly map creators, but there are some misconceptions about what sort of options are out there. I'm going to take the example of .kkrieger and compare it (briefly) against another solution (SpeedTree, which is used for only one part of the environment - foliage).

.kkrieger is not an example of a user-friendly content creation system - for the goals we have in mind. What you get there is the result of a lot of painful and skill-intensive (labor-intensive too) manual compression and programming, and while theoretically you could re-use it for any application, the content it generates would not fit Uru. The content editor is not your traditional map, model, or texture editor; it's all generated from stripped-down instructions the program executes to build the content when you load the game (this also takes a while).

It also runs as slow as molasses even on a good graphics card (aside from the aforementioned pause at program start while the game builds itself), probably partly due to the fact that they build as much off geometric primitives (like cones, spheres, tubes, and the like) which means that there's a lot more polygons in places than need be.

Quote:
We can use this kind of technology to allow Canon-true writing, in-game, with a minimal footprint (filesize, etc)

Again, no. kkgrieger's instructions on making polygonal objects (the easiest example) is something like this:

Create a sphere with a certain scale (diameter).
Create a tube of a certain length and radius on the end point.
Rotate the tube and attach it to the sphere at a certain distance.

Textures work in a similar way; sound is synthesized. This is not how great-looking architecture is built; it's how small architecture is built.

.kkrieger was designed with the size of the world as its overriding goal, not its graphical fidelity. Yes, there is a special tool used for making .kkrieger and other Products from that group; aside from the fact I don't think they are about to release it, it is user-friendly...but you won't get results you like.

If you want to find a program that creates worlds while letting them look fairly nice, you should check out IDV's SpeedTree, used in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and games since to make convincing-looking foliage. But it uses a lot of space because here's the tradeoff:

1.) The .kkrieger route - not so many instructions or data to start off with so it takes less space and can be generated in real-time
2.) The SpeedTree route - all the content it built before it is distributed to players, and takes a lot of time to build and a lot of space - but loading it is only dependent on the hard drive speed, which would be faster than building it at program start.

Far Cry 2 also has a fairly robust user map editor, although it's limited to a field of a certain size and with that game you again are going to see lots of wasted polygons as prebuilt objects settle in the ground (but they aren't clipped in real-time), and things start to seem samey if you reuse some prebuilt object over and over (otherwise, you should make it the old-fashioned way to save download time and performance).

Small edit to fix an embedded URL, thanks Nalates!


Last edited by Ed Oscuro on Sun Jan 11, 2009 12:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:10 pm 
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Ed Oscuro, great post with comparison and points. Thanks. (Your trailing /url is missing)

CityEngine is a US$4,000 program with a recommended $2,000 per year subscription. Ouch.

SpeedTree also appears to be a commercial program. I don’t see a price at SpeedTree, just call for pricing. Googleing I get it is about US$500, which some of us might go for.

Getting age builders to give up free Blender/Gimp and learn these tools is going to be a challenge. The cost plus the learning curves would be a block to many people using this route to build ages. Has anyone here used Blender and CityEngine or SpeedTree? How do you think they compare? Or is comparison not legitimate because they do different things?

Perhaps I don’t understand, I am thinking these programs create an output the game engine must be designed to use, which means, to me, it would be some time before we could see this in Uru. I see it being a radical change in the server and client side software to enable use of procedural processes. Does anyone know if the Cyan Plasma engine is doing procedural stuff or capable of it?

If that is the case, do those looking at modifying the code even want to consider this?

Will the Cyan license allow it? We'll find out. If it does allow Cyan ages to move to other engines/platforms that open a whole other can of worms... (see other threads)

However, if these programs (I get SpeedTree may do this) will generate meshes and textures for use in other 3D modeling programs then I would see them being useful in the near future. If this is the case then this would be something that would be used ahead of 3DMax/Blender to save modeling time. Or did I miss something?

Bryce 5.5 is US$40 and the new 6.1 US$100. While it does not do cities like CityEngine, AFAIK, it does great landscapes, which is where I think a lot of time consuming effort is spent.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 12:42 am 
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Glad you liked the post, and thanks for the catch. I've done that twice today for some reason; the other time I tried to close it out with a quote tag :lol:
Nalates wrote:
I see it being a radical change in the server and client side software to enable use of procedural processes. Does anyone know if the Cyan Plasma engine is doing procedural stuff or capable of it?

Procedurally generated stuff can be done before runtime. I realize you mean "procedural at runtime" but there is a difference, as noted before.

I'm just not sure that there is any procedural stuff out there that is fast enough for our purposes. There may be ways to do something like, say, veins going through marble when you break it up, and do it quickly; but breaking stuff hasn't been a major part of Uru thus far. In any case that's a far cry from creating trees or landscape procedurally.

On top of all that, Uru's Ages tend to be relatively small and the draw is split evenly between some landscaping elements (which I would think are easy enough to hammer out by raising and altering the landscape the old-fashioned way; the current Valve Hammer editor makes it quite easy via so-called displacements), and manmade stuff 'n' technobaubles which must be assembled by hand if they are to look good.

Of course, there's nothing to say that you can't create "unexplored" Ages, just like our Explorers might if D'ni suddenly were opened for business again. These new Ages wouldn't necessarily have stuff in them that you'd expect to find in an Age the D'ni spent lots of time in.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 3:15 am 
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@Ed Oscuro: Ok, then, scratch .kkrieger from this list. The Proceedurality Engine still stands.

Sniping at one piece of content is all well and good, but, the statement still stands.

This can be done without huge costs.

That a number of /existing/ tools are highly expensive, does not mean the technology in general is expensive.

The proceedurality engine, is under the GNU GPL, an open source license.

Also, in the case of .kkrieger, they do, infact, offer the tools.

Remember, Canon-true writing, the writer could never be 100% sure if the age was right, until /after/ they linked into the Age.

In any case, as you mentioned, proceedural content would be best done in the speedtree way.

What you're not thinking of, is that we should, perhaps, implement an in-game creation tool. you "write" the age, using, say, a seed-based RNG, along with other options, to customise it, I can't remember a good example, right now, but, eh, its a fairly common system, and could be improved.

I do not recommend using any of the existing solutions, so, the cost of those is irrelevant..

There are other references, etc, of content that is /not/ horribly unoptimised, etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 4:12 am 
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Sorry, but I say nay...
Really, do we need 10000 easily made random ages? I'd rather have 10 good ages made with real work. Don't care how good the system is, it will never be able to make ages like we see already in Uru.

Now, using it to say make random shaped rocks or something I can see as something beneficial, but to create a whole age that way? Seems...lazy to me. I understand wanting to let "everyone" make their own age, but frankly, that just isn't going to work well.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 6:36 am 
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neereus: actually, take serene for example, i'd say that was one of the best fan-made ages.

That kind of thing would be definitely possible, with proceedural genertion.

and, also, this kind of age writing is much truer to Canon. Much more like what the D'ni would've done.

And, no, it will be able to produce a number of ages very similar to some of those already in uru. I guess part of the difference is:

1) These would be *new* ages, written by explorers, so, no, they would not have several thousand years of history. That's a given,. and that's the same no matter what age you write, nor how you write them.

2) They would not have Journeys, but, then, why would every user-made age have journeys? That would make no sense.

Anothing thing to note: you would still be able to alter the age in blender, for example. the model would be written, not unlike the speedtree system. so, later on, you could add buildings, etc. This would be much more canon-friendly, and IC-friendly than the current methodology of Age Writing. I don't for a moment suggest that the current method should be done away with, but, I see no reason not to also implement this.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:58 pm 
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kaelisebonrai: I agree with much of what you're saying.

kaelisebonrai wrote:
Remember, Canon-true writing, the writer could never be 100% sure if the age was right, until /after/ they linked into the Age.

Cyan doesn't abide by that limitation when they build games ;) It seems to be an observation about two things: One, an in-joke about the creative process, and an explanation for those signature oddities Cyan loved to sprinkle throughout Ages; a lot of Myst and D'ni lore seems to be based on the gap between possibilities vs. implementation in the creative arts.

Second: For right or wrong, people are going to judge fan Ages based on their looks and character. Ages filled with impossibly geometrically perfect cones and spheres are going to look unnatural, and that is what I think your reference is about: I can write an Age specifying that there is a perfect sphere in the middle, but I'm not going to get it. Any procedural mapping tool that is D'ni-friendly seems to need the ability to put rough edges on stuff, I think. This is why I had to deflate expectations around.kkrieger's tool; it's good for a certain application but I don't think D'ni lovers would like it. Project coders and programmers will doubtless be in short supply and I figured I'd save them the trouble of explaining what results various approaches would give.

Quote:
I do not recommend using any of the existing solutions, so, the cost of those is irrelevant..

Who do you think is going to write fantastic procedural Uru tools? What would spur them to create a fantastic (and probably highly profitable) procedural tool gratis? Somebody would have to make that sacrifice, and I don't think that is irrelevant.

I agree with you when you point towards "the SpeedTree way." I agree that there doesn't need to be a unified editor for Uru like Far Cry 2 has; any individual tool that can be applied to an existing project (in 3Ds Max for example) would help lighten a mapper's workload and would benefit the project immensely. If the Open Source Uru community can come up with a tool that rivals the commercial stuff, or even approaches it, that'd be great and I'm all for it, of course.

I think I already mentioned procedural marble veining; that is a tool that I wouldn't be surprised to find in existing map editors (I know I saw it described in books from the beginning of the decade, and it's existed since before then I'm sure) and could help a lot with texturing, which probably will be one of the challenges any mapper will face.

Bottom line - it sounds like terrain generation, foliage, and weather are the hard things to get right. The good news is that there are already tools out there that do any one of these things - and I think that terrain generators in particular aren't too rare.

Neereus wrote:
Don't care how good the system is, it will never be able to make ages like we see already in Uru.

As mentioned before, a procedural tool doesn't have to create the whole Age. It can be used to create a natural landscape on which to build an Age, or it can be used to create parts of an Age, from interior garden landscaping to irregular broken walls. Getting something to look natural can be tough, and anything that keeps a mapper from needing to push and pull on vertexes for hours is OK by me.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:26 pm 
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kaelisebonrai wrote:
These would be *new* ages, written by explorers, so, no, they would not have several thousand years of history. That's a given. and that's the same no matter what age you write, nor how you write them.


Now that brings up an IC concept I had not thought of… I had not considered if fan ages could be D’ni era ages or just current era found or written ages. From what I see on GoW many writers plan for them to be D’ni era ages just discovered by current era explorers, thus the canon issues. I suspect a writer is doing an IC story about a newly written age to fit in with the current You-Are-You IC ideas. That would seem to free one from many of the canon and extended canon contraints.


Using Plasma (Uru as is) means some things are ...restricted... In the ‘Remove Lag’ thread I’ve been convinced that the majority of Uru lag (read as overall performance) is a Plasma problem. This makes it seem to me that someone will either redo Plasma (provided Cyan OS’s it) and improve it or replace it. Either way that would seem to open a door for various improvements.

I think Bryce and SpeedTree type things are easier things for age builders to use and require no game software changes. Basically, use some tool generate a model then tweak it with 3DMax/Blender. If using procedural processes is going to be done in the same way, then it seems like just another tool for the builder... which I did not get from the OP. kaelisebonrai, is that what you initially meant or were you thinking client side procedurals?

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