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Topics - SilverAgeFan

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General / Gallery: Show off your Asym Female Open Beta creations here!
« on: August 26, 2021, 08:55:30 pm »
This is a gallery to show off your discoveries and creativity with the new options on Rebirth's PTS and the Female Asym Open Beta. Please look in the Almost Tested section for a thread for posting bug reports and development related feedback.
Hi all! Feel free to show off anything and everything you've created with the new systems and options on Rebirth's PTS during our Female Asym Torso Open Beta.

Be it a masterpiece or a disaster from the random button, seeing what you all are getting out of the new options helps me (and my team, yes I have helpers now!!  ;D ;D ;D ) be better designers for our community.

This thread is intended for feedback. You can show off your creativity and screenshots in another thread I'm about to start in general!
Hi heroes, villains, and everyone in between!

Starting this thread as a place to collect feedback on the new costume options coming to Rebirth's PTS. Female asym torsos are about to go into public beta.

They include tons of new options, including a WIP test library of over 100 new pattern masks; new geometries such as the bell bottoms, jodhpurs, and single panel tights; new techniques such as Integrated Tights, quasi 3-color pattern masks, and multi-color pattern masks; and a revamped set of options for pants allowing you to create contiguous catsuits and unitards for your characters.

Back in early March of this year, while my work on Rebirth Issue 1 was winding down to just bug fixes and polish, I sat down and charted out the range of possible small, medium, and large art projects I could undertake for Rebirth's future development.

Some of the projects I weighed included: new full body patterns based on some of the capes players were loving on Rebirth's Public Test Server (PTS), our own version of full body glowing and animated skins that other players expressed excitement about while playing on other private servers, a more modest female chest piece which I refer to as single panel tights (and others in cruder terms call the "uniboob"), and even a player request for the classic golden age jodhpur style pant that we all associate with adventurers and pilots.

One thing all these projects had in common is they would add to our existing library, on top of the foundation we currently have. There was one other project that I was aware of out of the corner of my eye that was more foundational than any of these additions: full torso asymmetry. The promise of the idea always excited me. Back on live, I was definitely one of those in the costume forums floating the idea repeatedly to the Paragon devs. Back then, we were told there was no easy way and it was essentially impossible.

Truth is it was never impossible. But it always represented a lot of work.

The Challenge:

Early in City of Heroes development, the original team decided to use mirrored textures on central body parts. They would later go back and revamp heads, giving us the possibility of asymmetric faces. But they never got into the complex nest that is the torso library. Late in the development of the Live game, they would circumvent this, making new chest geometries for some First Ward enemies and even a new hip geometry used only by the post apocalyptic pants. These were nice add ons that gave a tiny taste of what chest and hip asym might do for the game's aesthetics. But they did nothing to attack the real problem: our massive and widely used library of symmetric legacy geometries.

I knew if I were to take this on I needed to take a systems approach, as I go into in my prior diary, and be thorough about it. Chest and hip asym would need to neatly bookleaf into our existing library of parts.

In our game, 3d objects all have what is called a UVW map (also called UV map for short by many 3d artists). This map tells the computer how to wrap a flat 2 dimensional graphic around the 3d coordinates to give it color, surface, and other details. It can even be used with bump maps or normal maps to give the lighting renderer clues as to how to shade fine surface detail.

The legacy male chest geometry has a map that looks like this:

The bottom of that image is the front of the chest. The top is the back. And the shapes jutting out to the left are the upper arm.

You'll notice that it looks like just the left half of the body. That is because the right half has been cleverly mirrored and folded to overlap exactly with the left side. In this sense, the original UV maps were very much like an old school paper doll you may have cut out in kindergarten.

What that means is that a texture intended to look like this

would actually show up in game looking more like this

Working towards a robust, viable solution:

So the first task was to take that paper doll and make sure it was no longer overlapping. There were a couple ways I could have gone about this. But I ultimately settled on a technique referred to as "tiling." Here, tiling is a fancy way of saying "repeat." This way, with the help of some of that X_ texture code I described in the last diary, I could implement chest and hip asymmetry in a manner that only required that I remaster (reformat and double up the graphics in an outside program like Photoshop) of the pattern masks and not every single base texture, normal map, compound mask, and glow map that players might employ. (There are over 350 pattern masks in game. The base patterns, normals, and glow maps are several times that!)

Also around this time, while doing bug fixes for Ri1, it became clear to me that I could not do this universally because some of the parts we use--both geometries AND textures--are utilized by enemy groups throughout the game. And I knew that those needed to be left alone or the scope of this project would just bloat to a place that was once again impossible for me to see through alone!

This is what the new UV map of the tiled version of the legacy male chest tights geo now looks like

With some rudimentary X_ texture code in place, I was finally able to look at the modified chest geo to see if anything was showing up properly.

It was close. Much further along than it had been. But you may notice there is a distinct streaking phenomenon on the left side of the figure's torso. At the time, I was certain my code was correct to make the graphic tile up properly. But clearly something was wrong.

The issue is even more apparent in this combination

It took me several days to maybe a week of experiments and digging deeper and deeper into how the game manipulates textures before I sorted out what was going wrong. In the games internal lingo, when referring to 2d textures, the letters `S` and `T` represent the dimensions x and y. I knew there was something that was locking out the S dimension from tiling, since it is a left right streaking.

The answer for me ended up becoming clearer when Naomi, an awesome art dev from the Homecoming server consulted with me regarding a graphic bug that Draggynn first identified on the Ri1 cape patterns: there were these little ghosted edges showing up on any of the alpha cut out capes. This was because the graphics were trying to tile. And the solution to fixing this was to get clampS and clampT flags associated with each of these new patterns. What these flags essentially do is tell the game "HEY, You! Graphics engine! Don't tile these graphics." On the capes, the chance of tiling meant the last row of pixels was sampling from the other side of the graphic and picking up a touch of the solid edge and trying to dither to it.

For the issue with smearing chests, I needed to do the opposite, and make the textures yell at the game and say "HEY, You! Graphics engine! TILE these graphics--especially in the S dimension!" It took a lot of digging and several experiments, but it turns out another flag that you can apply to textures is RepeatS. But this needs to be done at exactly the right place in order to override any clampS flag which can often be baked into the header of the legacy .texture files.

Though I was still nervous that all this alpha-stage research and effort was for naught, on March 20, 2021 something magical happened. I loaded up my latest iterations of changes, muttering to myself "if this doesn't work, I don't know if asym chests are possible." I went into the CC and to my test entry, started fiddling with the options and lo and behold

This is the first screenshot, to my knowledge, of a generalized asym chest piece in the game. It is definitely the first combination I laid eyes on and the first screenshot I took.

Current Development:

With the alpha proof of concept finally successful, I set aside my very sloppy alpha stage test assets and code, reverted the copy of the game I was working on to what was on PTS and then began taking notes. Long copious notes inventorying each and every geometry I would need to adjust for each and every gender.

I also decided at this point that it made sense to start integrating the new geometries that I'd identified as common standards that arguably should have been in from day 1, like the single panel chest for females and the golden age jodhpurs for all genders, but oddly never made it into the game. (The third, latest, and likely final addition to this short list is the '70's style bell bottom pants.)

It's definitely been a slow grind since the end of March through now. But I'm nearly done with the full system conversion for females, currently wrapping up some of the last categories of hips. Luckily, much of the X_ texture code I need to write, covering every single base texture entry in game for these parts, can be recycled across genders. So the first pass is always the most time consuming. I anticipate male and huge conversion will take about 50% the time it has taken to do the female model. (Plus a lot of time was spent perfecting the single panel tights and their associated chest details! But when you finally get to play with them in detail, I'm certain you will agree that it was time well spent!)


To underscore the scope and scale of this endeavor, this image is a capture of all of the geometries bundled into the female asym torso core system. Again, this is only for female characters. When I get to male and huge, they each will have their own bundle of converted geometries.

Hi all. The kid gloves are coming off and the diversified gloves are going on!

Today, in advance of the BIG Ri2 REVEAL, I'd like to take a little time to talk about Glove Diversification (what it is and how it works) and couch that in the notion of thinking about our beloved costume creator library from a systems based perspective.

I know when you read systems based perspective, some of you may immediately think I'm talking about anything but art. And SAF is an artist, not an engineer or coder. Believe it or not, systems informed art making became quite a thing in the fine arts over the last 50 years--be it social or environmental systems, self-propagating artworks or things that eventually become subsumed by the space around them, or even temporary interactions of a happening that then ricochet through an environment.

But enough high minded speak. Let's get down to what this means here on Rebirth and in our costume creator. Hopefully by now, you've all gotten a chance to play with some of the new content offered in Rebirth Issue 1 - Guardians Rising. One major cosmetic component of our new release is what we are calling Glove Diversification.

This new feature allows you on about a dozen different glove options to now mix and match things like wristbands and bracers or small 3d gloves and elbow pads with a majority of our existing glove and wrist pattern library, essentially creating hundreds of new costume parts. While working on a smaller project, I recognized an opportunity within the way our game engine allows for compound textures to take a systems approach and potentially open up a multitude more options than I would if I had to craft every single new option by hand.

Here is an explanation of how glove diversification works:

As you may already know, every 3d object you see in game has a texture applied to it. Every texture is actually a composite of several graphic files, stacked on top of each other. There is the base texture that has things like shading for fabric folds and rivets and a touch of figure shadows. Then there is the normal map which is a fancy name for a more modern version of a bump map, a graphic used for more detailed shading and determining the shininess of a surface. And lastly, you have the dual color map. This is what gives you the player the ability to set different colors to different parts of a costume. Those patterns you select for your tights? All of them are dual color maps. Those new cape patterns? Dual color maps with an alpha channel cut out. Chest emblems? Same thing.

What you might not have known is that the City of Heroes engine allows you to combine two of each of these in what CoH devs sometimes refer to as tricks, texture tricks, or X_ textures. These X_ textures also have a few additional options, like adding a multiply layer (commonly used for reflections) and a glow map. Things like the Metallic and Bioluminescence textures already were using these fancy X_ textures.

In order to combine two sets of textures, we have one more graphic. A mask. If you've ever done any intermediate or beyond Photoshop work you've probably encountered a mask. But if you haven't, here is a quick explanation of how they work.

Take any two arbitrary images.

Pretend each of these images represents a stack of in game textures I described earlier, the base texture, the normal map, and the dual color map. Then say you wanted to combine parts of these images in the same way CoH does it. To do so, you'd need to make a black and white graphic for your mask layer. This is as good an example of a mask graphic as any.

When applied to the two stacks of textures, the blended channels using that mask would look like this:

With this in mind, I want to loop back one last time to the glove diversification. In a very similar way, I found that I could take what were more basic single stacks of textures and use masks (some already in game, some custom) and get them to relatively quickly play nice with other existing textures in game. It took a decent amount of time and care to set the files up. As well as a bit of a curatorial eye to weed out combinations that just didn't makes sense in certain contexts. But the ultimate result is a new costume sub-system that allows us to have small gloves and tai padding on our stoney characters!

And of course since I was already deep in X_ texture land, it seemed like a no brainer to create a few custom graphics to add glows and metallic sheens to some of the options where it made sense.

An addendum to this all: If you've played with the Glove Diversification, you may have noticed the conspicuous absence of a few prominent texture options for wrists, such as Metallic, Muscular Bodysuit Shiny, and Chainmail. These are absent because unfortunately, the way these textures create their luscious surfaces require usage of BOTH stacks of textures. So it is like the game is combining one picture of lemons with another picture of lemons (only adding a slight, selective reflection to the second stack of lemons). In the end, there is NO ROOM for the puppies! Which means no diversification for those specific textures.

And an EDIT: All this is possible because Paragon in their wisdom or by chance decided to standardize how most of the costume parts textures unwrap. For example, the knuckles and fingers fall in exactly the same place on the texture map for almost every glove in game! (Except the dreaded Sport gloves which are mapped to a boot texture because :o ?!)

What's next for systems based costume improvements after Glove Diversification?

Glove diversification is only the first big step in opening up hundreds if not thousands of new options for Rebirth's costume creator. In coming issues, I will where possible, be proliferating the technique to other costume parts. We also have some more obvious asymmetry work planned including asymmetric boots and gloves which have been proven elsewhere to be fully possible--albeit with a bit of labor on the geo models to split the left and right pairings.

But the big news, which I can't reveal quite yet, is we have something really special coming to Rebirth with Issue 2. The astute forum reader may have already discovered an image or two of this feature tucked away in plain sight on this forum. But for those of you not wanting to engage in the egg hunt, I promise my NEXT diary will be all about this new feature that represents not only a Rebirth first, but a first across the entire CoH community!

General / Don't know about you all...
« on: April 21, 2021, 08:09:17 pm »
...but I'm crazy excited for THIS SUNDAY and the release of Issue 1!

Developers Diary / SAF's Dev Diary no. 1
« on: April 21, 2021, 07:59:12 pm »
Hello and welcome everyone!   :D

I'm one of the art devs here on Rebirth and this is my inaugural dev diary. My current primary focus is on player cosmetics. If you know me from the Discord, you'll recognize me from copious screenshots of things like emblem and cape pattern development, and more recently the glove diversification feature that made it into Rebirth Issue 1.

In the future, I'll be using installments of these diaries to share screens of works in progress, new or expanded features, and open up about my creative process in general.

I want you all to think of these diaries as a good place to get in touch with me regarding concerns, requests, and feedback. These are also places you can come to share your enthusiasm, screenshots, or just your love of the costume side of the game.

Know that it totally fuels me to see all the creative things people are doing with new options. As more and more costume options make it to either our Public Test Server (PTS) or Rebirth Live, consider dropping in on any of these diaries to share a screen of your latest creation made possible by parts old and new! Seeing parts in action, and used in both intended and unexpected ways can help guide me in future efforts to keep making Rebirth an amazing place for character costumes!!

Until the next diary, I'm going to leave an image here as an attachment and a tease. A few of you have already seen this elsewhere (along with maybe a few other peeks that were promptly deleted  ;) ). But I'm going to add a little more info this time: this is a screen shot of all the contents of one of three key .geo bundles that is the backbone of a MAJOR improvement coming with Rebirth Issue 2.

Going to leave the major reveal for our admins in the coming weeks. :-X But once that reveal drops, will be sharing oodles of images and insights! So definitely stay tuned. I think many of you are going to like what we've got cooking!

(Almost Tested) Bug Reporting / Issue 1 Costume Feedback Thread
« on: March 17, 2021, 01:35:54 pm »
Hi all. I've been taking feedback on the Discord mostly, but opening this thread here for any who prefer using forums.

Please post any concerns, bugs, general feedback to new costume options included in Issue 1. These include the new chest emblem, glove diversification, new capes, the Paragon Halloween pack from 2012, and the small handful of NPC items unlocked with this update. (Check patch notes for a detailed listing of all the new options.)

And of course, screenshots of showcasing your creativity with these new parts are also always welcome.  ;)

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