Elite Strike status update

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Elite Strike status update

Postby Halleck » Fri Aug 17, 2007 10:47 am

I think that you all deserve a status update.

Elite Strike has clearly been on the back burner of everyone involved for over a year. Noz has been busy with art school, and is under certain restrictions that make it difficult for him to share his artwork.

As for myself, I have lots of priorities to balance. That said, Elite Strike is my personal labor of love and I'm not going to let it die anytime soon. Currently, my hands are full with prepping content for Vega Strike 0.5.0, but after that is out, I might be able to make time during the semester to brush up what we have and finish adding the great ships, bases, and cockpit done by Chuck starchaser.

Who knows, I might even put together another pre-release. :)

I've also come to thinking that I am ill-equipped to serve as an art director. My previous decisions concerning artstyle were based mostly on pragmatism, as the current simplistic style with solid-color textures are the only thing I'm capable of making. In absence of any commited texture artists, keeping the artstyle simple is the only way for me to produce enough content for the game.

However, I realize now that my decision may have been off-putting for a lot of people who grew up with Elite (I did not) and want to see it's universe fully realized.

As long as I'm the only person doing textures, things will stay simple. But I want to make it known that I am totally open to new directions in art style (such as those being taken by JAELC and, to a lesser extent, Oolite) as long as there are people who are willing to put in the effort to pursue them.

This really echoes back to Elite Strike's origins as a simple ship mod pack. We've actually gotten damned close to my initial goal of getting all of the original Elite ships into the game. I dared to dream bigger after the great reception I got, but I'm still not able to do everything. The deal is, and always has been: If you want to see something done in Elite Strike, do it yourself, or otherwise convince me that it's a really really good idea. Preferably one that doesn't require weeks of work on my part. :P

I will now post my train of thought from my recent re-encounter with the game:

Yesterday, I dusted off my Elite Strike data dir and fired the old girl up again, this time under linux (my SVN build of the VS engine worked fine)...

and my mistake of using Privateer as a base has once again become glaringly clear. I'd been meaning to transition over to pure VS as a base for a while, which I'll do at some point. Shouldn't be very tough at all.

I realized I should be making use of Version.txt to name the user directory .elitestrike.

I did finally manage to fix the ads in the coriolis station. It haunted me for months as to why they wouldn't load. Now I realize it's because they weren't a power of two.

Here are screens:
Image
Image

In the long term, I would like to make some bases now that I know how. I think that a static landing screen can be coupled with some Frontier-style base screen graphics. Won't be perfect but I think I can approximate some of it.

I have some Frontier fonts, but I need to figure out how to make them work with VS.

Also, the elite-style radar still needs to be fixed. I'll need help from a VS dev for this.

Still not sure how I want to handle flight. VS time compression does not seem like a good idea since it's so buggy. That's not really an option unless a dev volunteers to clean it up. I'm thinking maybe I can make use of SPEC but without star streaks. Currently I am unhappy with using the privateer autopilot.

That about wraps up my current thoughts on what to do with Elite Strike in the forseeable near future.
I'm more than happy to hear yours. :wink:
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Postby Halleck » Fri Aug 17, 2007 4:02 pm

Today I began the transition to using VS as a base.

Image

Here is a Cobra Mk III passing Earth in the Sol system.

I hope this is a small glimpse of where we're headed in the future.

On the practical side of things, this is a good opportunity to improve the VS mod framework, as that's what I plan on using. Right now it's not falling back where it should. I have to get the new music system to read my playlists, but I've sorted out most of the major kinks with some debugging assistance from Hellcatv.
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Postby charlieg » Fri Aug 17, 2007 4:17 pm

Good stuff Halleck. I'll see if I can drum up some artistic interest via Free Gamer.
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Postby Halleck » Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:22 pm

I appreciate the gesture but I'm not sure if I'd be able to handle much of an influx of artists right now.

How about.. let's see if I can get a release out post-VS 0.5.0. Right now there's not much to show, but if I can get chuck's eye-popping cockpit and stations working, then the excitement might be warranted. :P
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Postby chuck_starchaser » Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:23 pm

Right now I'm tied up working on the wcnexus.com wiki, but in about 6 weeks I should have time to revisit those stations and the cargo ship. Funny, about a month ago I found those stations in my hard drive and was having pangs about them, wanting to finish them, and thinking what a pity elite strike was no more. And the other good news is, Blender has evolved a lot since back in those days, and I've learned a lot more about it. So, I'm not sure I can commit to doing many ships, but I can give you a commitment to the stations for sure, which are what you need first to build the universe, anyways.
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Postby Halleck » Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:27 pm

Not dead, just resting. :D

I realize you've got a lot of stuff going on (as do we all) what with WCU, PU, and even tadpole on the back burner.

But any help, as always, is appreciated.
(As it is, I think the models are more in need of textures than anything - certainly for the hi-tech station, I think the LRC already has one. I don't remember if I ever got the wheel station textures, I'll have a look.)

And if you're up for modelling more stations, that would be awesome. Go wild! Just make sure there's some sort of LOD. :P

EDIT: Doesn't look like I have textures for the wheel station. As I recall Ryder had something but I never got them. I do, however, have the LRC textures.
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Postby chuck_starchaser » Fri Aug 17, 2007 8:09 pm

The LRC texture was garbage, but it could be used as is for now.
The thing about texturing is that now Blender has texturing facilities built in that are better than Gimp xcf's. It has "nodes" and "noodles". Nodes are like input and output nodes (both textures) and functional nodes, which are any kind of blending, scaling, offset, blurs, linear blurs and other filters, and general math expressions you can just write how you want them. So you can build networks that replace layers, and all the operations are done in floating point precision, as opposed to in 8-bit precision, like Gimp does it. Dual Joe's been experimenting with it; I haven't yet, but can't wait. As far as LOD's, I haven't done an LOD yet. One of these days...
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Postby Halleck » Fri Aug 17, 2007 8:26 pm

As for textures, do what you want. I thought the LRC texture looked decent. The wheel station texture did seem a bit grungy but it would work as an outlands variant for sure, and works fine as the main one for now. Just remember that if it doesn't have a texture, it's getting a solid color texture made by me. The blender texturing facility sounds cool, use it by all means if you can figure it out (and can eventually render it to a raster format that can be used in VS.)

Regarding LODs: For my purposes, a de-greebled version of the top-level mesh is all I require. If the de-greebled version is still too much I can use blender's poly reduction script to messily slash the polycount- but this LOD would be so tiny on screen it shouldn't be noticable. (I think I have "no doodad" versions of all the models.) At this point it's to be fair on everyone's hardware.

However, I have the full intention of including the complete top-level model, greebles and all, in the one and only (highest detail) version of the game avaliable! :D

As I tried to explain above, I have clear reasons for choosing a simple art style to start with (it's the only way I can manage it alone,) but I've realized it was a mistake to let this get in the way of anyone who wants to dream big and produce fantastic art that really takes Elite to the next level.
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Postby chuck_starchaser » Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:58 pm

Halleck wrote:As for textures, do what you want. I thought the LRC texture looked decent. The wheel station texture did seem a bit grungy but it would work as an outlands variant for sure, and works fine as the main one for now. Just remember that if it doesn't have a texture, it's getting a solid color texture made by me. The blender texturing facility sounds cool, use it by all means if you can figure it out (and can eventually render it to a raster format that can be used in VS.)

The output nodes output to tga, I believe; but one can load'em into gimp and save as a jpg, dds or whatever. One still has to do the input textures, but the input textures can be many: One for paints, one for metals, one for other materials, an ambient occlusion baking, dirt, scratches, etceteras; but going from those inputs to the generation of diffuse, specular, glow, shininess and whatever else final textures one might need, can then be algorithmized with blender's noodles.

Regarding LODs: For my purposes, a de-greebled version of the top-level mesh is all I require. If the de-greebled version is still too much I can use blender's poly reduction script to messily slash the polycount- but this LOD would be so tiny on screen it shouldn't be noticable. (I think I have "no doodad" versions of all the models.) At this point it's to be fair on everyone's hardware.

Yes, but the big question is: Do the lower lod(s) have the same uv-mapping?; that is, do they use the same texture? Blender has now sort of built-in LOD's, but they are per-object attributes, btw; haven't tried the feature yet. It's like a conditional sub-surf.

However, I have the full intention of including the complete top-level model, greebles and all, in the one and only (highest detail) version of the game avaliable! :D
Excellent! :D

As I tried to explain above, I have clear reasons for choosing a simple art style to start with (it's the only way I can manage it alone,) but I've realized it was a mistake to let this get in the way of anyone who wants to dream big and produce fantastic art that really takes Elite to the next level.
I've never been into complex textures, myself; I just like them to look realistic; like you're looking at a photograph. But if you're looking at the photo of a Porsche, the texture is not complex --just red, but it does look like real red paint ;-)
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Postby DualJoe » Sat Aug 18, 2007 5:02 am

Blenders noodles are an enormous timesaver for texturing and can be used for all the textures you need. Btw you can export them in all image formats Blender supports. Which means only dds is missing sofar. Also keep an eye out for "Project Apricot" thats coming up, which has the main goal to improve the game-artist functionalities of Blender.

Back on Blenders nodes. I've set up a basic noodle for generating textures for the current Vegastrike-engine. It has a procedural metal-material as a base which you can edit (color, details, etc) as you see fit. The current version I made specifically for my Hornet, works like this, I've set up a few "layers" which take images as inputs. Each of those images is than processed according too its function and the noodle will spit out the correct diff-, spec- and glow-maps.

What's so great is that you can change each of these base inputs and the new textures will be generated. I've separated the following functions for the base-images:
1. The size of the texture used while processing. I recommend setting it at least to twice the size you want your end-textures to be. Also remember to set the scale-node of all the input-images to the same resolution.
2. Paint-layer: Keep in mind that I use black as the alpha-mask, so if you want black use dark-brown, looks better as well.
3. Markings: Black and white image for things like stripes (the hornet has a number of red stripes), change the rgb-slider to change the color of those markings.
4. Scratch: B&W/grayscale-image that represent the scratches. It will remove paint and markings. It will also darken the diff of metal, but lighten spec (This means dark scratches in paint/metal, but bright highlights in spec/shade)
5. Logos: Put your logo here and adjust size, rotation and location with the sliders next to it.
6. Bump: Grayscale
7. AmbientOcclusion: Grayscale
8. Glow: In this case for the engine. Just grayscale, the color of the engine-glow can be adjusted with the RGB-slider.

The three resulting textures are all a mix of all the base images.
Every one of these base images can be painted right on the 3d-model with Blenders-texture-paint or generated Blenders bake-to-texture option. The sliders will let you generate different faction colors or paint-jobs with a single click of the mouse.

I posted the .blend for the hornet a couple of weeks ago, which has everything you need to get you started. I currently can't find the link, but if your interested I could send you the .blend directly.
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Postby Halleck » Sat Aug 18, 2007 2:06 pm

That sounds frigging AWESOME. :D
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Postby DualJoe » Sun Aug 19, 2007 4:47 am

Ah found it, here you go:
http://www.deeplayer.com/dualjoe/PU/Hornet/pu-hornet.7z
The hornet is just an example, but without it I don't think it would be all that obvious how the noodle works.
It's just a basic functional concept, feel free to enhance the noodle as you see fit.
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Postby Xit » Sat Feb 16, 2008 6:18 pm

I'd be interested in modelling any of the Frontier or FFE ships if you still need any.

Incidently, I know it's not a priority but how does Elite Strike aim to go about having the registration and names on ships and spacedocks? Will it use the same (sometimes haphazard) method of having huge 3D letters bolted onto the stations? If so will it need an entire 3D font to be modelled like the original?
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