Sunday, July 26, 2015

PSA: free (and COMPLETE) photorealistic 3D character workflow from Mixamo

Mixamo got bought out by Adobe... as part of the merge, they've turned off all their billing systems... which means almost everything they have is now free.

"Fuse" is their (free) character modeling / texturing / creation tool that is miles ahead of the old Autodesk Character Generator -- from there, you send the character mesh out to their Auto-Rigger cloud service (also free) with 60+ bone skeletons and facial blend shape support -- and with every (free) account you register, you get 20 (free) animations, and you can potentially make unlimited free accounts. This is a complete character art solution from mesh to skin weights to rigging to animation, for free. It's pretty impressive, and you can easily make a game that looks like a prestige AAA FPS from late 2013. (These assets don't have the accuracy of photoscanned models or DX11 procedural hair, but they're very well crafted.)

Tentatively, they're going to shutdown this infrastructure on December 31, 2015 (I think, according to a cryptic e-mail I got a few months ago) when they've finalized more of the merge with Adobe, so make sure you grab as much stuff as possible while you can.

To celebrate, look at the brunch hunk I made in Fuse (above) and exported out to Unity. Again, it's pretty high resolution stuff with no restrictions. Make use of it for your games while you can.

I'm documenting this resource as a "PSA" because making the tools of photorealism accessible and widespread helps (a) sabotage game industry machinery that privileges fidelity as something valuable, (b) re-contextualizes realism as a stylistic choice rather than a "default" marketing tactic.

Have fun!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

When failure sneaks into stealth games

The last moment of my last Invisible Inc run on "Expert Plus"; don't read the game text if you don't want spoilers
I'm facing my last obstacle on the last mission on the hardest difficulty of Invisible Inc. The past 5-7 hours of this campaign, and last 30-or-so hours of play over the last few weeks, have all led to this moment. There's a dozen alerted guards between me and victory... can I make it, or will I fuck it all up?

The last time I was this engaged by a stealth game, it was the first time I played Thief 1 (1998) in 2002... a pirated version I downloaded off Kazaa, with all the cutscenes, music, and voice-over removed to save on file size. What was left was the most avant-garde game I had ever played, a world of footsteps and silence. Between then and now -- Splinter Cells were okay but not my bag, Thief 3 was a sea of mediocrity with a single shining jewel, Dishonored was okay I guess, those bits in The Last of Us quickly wear out their welcome, and Thief 4 was rather unfortunate -- "stealth" has felt a little dead for the last 13 years.

If we look back at the systems design theory behind Thief 1, we can figure out who murdered stealth.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Some recent exhibitions

Some recent sightings of some sex games out in the wild... approach with caution.

Hurt Me Plenty at Two5Six in New York City. (May 2015)

Stick Shift at "Play Spectacular" at the Wellcome Collection in London. Curated by Holly Gramazio. (July 2015)

Succulent and Cobra Club in the back of a U-Haul box truck (and Stick Shift, in the driver's seat!) at Lost Horizon Night Market in Brooklyn (Bushwick). Curated by Stephen Clark + Babycastles. (July 2015)

Thanks to all the curators and events for having me! There's also a few more shows / appearances lined-up, so keep your eyes peeled...

Monday, July 6, 2015

Stick Shift has been Greenlit on Steam!

Thanks to all your support, Stick Shift has been greenlit for distribution on Steam! The gamers have spoken!!! Now to do this giant mess of paperwork and to figure out how to navigate the Steamworks infrastructure! (... Steamworks being a popular North American gay bathhouse chain, of course)

There is currently no ETA for this release. I've never implemented Steam infrastructure in a game before. I also want to bundle some extra games with this game, and it'll take some time to figure out any permissions / get the systems to play nicely with each other instead of deleting each others data.

Any ideas on what the game's name on Steam should be? I'm thinking: "Stick Shift GOTY Edition"

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lighting theory for 3D games, part 4: how to light a game world in a game engine

This is part of a series on how I approach game lighting, from a more general and conceptual perspective. I build most of my examples in Unity, but this is meant to be generally applicable to any 3D game engine, most of which have similar lighting tools.

We started by thinking about light from a cultural and conceptual lens in part one. In part two, we treated light more instrumentally in terms of level design and readability. Then in part three, we surveyed the three-point lighting method for use in games. But none of this theory matters if we can't actually achieve it within the semi-hard constraints of computer graphics.

Lighting is traditionally one of the slower or "expensive" things to calculate and render in a game engine. Consider the science of visible light: countless photons at different wavelengths bouncing around at unimaginable speeds that somehow enter your eye. To do any of this at a reasonable framerate, game engines must strategically simplify light calculations in specific ways, and then hope players don't notice the inconsistencies. It is "fridge logic" -- we want the player to nod along, as long as it "looks right."

Okay, so how do 3D game engines generally do lighting?