Jul 26, 2007

WebRage Returns

Like a zombie in a bad B-Rated movie, Web Rage made it's triumphant return today from beyond the grave.

What is this Web Rage, you ask?

WebRage is a small program I made in 2003 that essentially takes a snapshot of the screen
and then allows you to mercilessly shoot and claw at it with the left and right mouse buttons.

Thats it. Made for Windows only, it wasn't a perfect program, but it worked just fine for what I was attempting to accomplish: stress relief when something crashed or just didn't want to work right. Also good for websites that just tick you off to no end.

I've fixed the old install version so it now works (old one had a bad header), and this one should work fine now. You can download it here if you would like a blast from my past :) if this version doesn't work for you, drop me an email at DarianKnight@gmail.com and I'll make a Zip version for you.

[ Download WebRage]

Jul 25, 2007

Space Station Bingo :)

Well, today the world AWBingo3 opened it's doors (?) to the public for consumption. AWBingo3 is known as Space Station Bingo, and I had a hand in it's creation. The effects on the bingo cards (the neon lights and the rockets), as well as a few minor other touches at the ground zero.

What was a side track for me a few months ago is now to be a part of AW history, and daily gaming in the Active Worlds Universe.

The rest of the place was made by Keith Thomas (Planet Radio VR), King Tex (Ground Texture) and a few others for models.

So what exactly did I contribute to Space Station Bingo (AWBingo3)?

Neon Lighting on the Cards
Rocket Jet Effects under each card
The Traffic in the sky (Space Highway)

There was something else too but I can't remember off hand. In any event, after all of the hard work by many people (not just me), the place looks great. I hope it becomes a long term center of Bingo gaming in the AW Universe for years to come.

In Other News

Made a new Caustics Particle Effect by making a custom 32 frame animation as a WMV file at 126k in size and using it as an asset in a particle. What does this mean? It means that while AW as a technology doesn't use Shaders or HDR Lighting (but I can wish, right?) a semi-realistic caustics lighting animation can be used for underwater and placed over textured ground.

Looks ten times better than the old school JPG animation for water, plus as a Particle it can be resized at will, as well as colorized and variable opacity for effect. Darian FTW!

Also donated it to AWFX world for download and use freely. Talked with Tunablues and Dreamer2 who will prolly be using some of my effects for the new Cy Awards this year - Particle Lighting and Caustics for Water. I look forward to seeing that in action :)

So look for some new additions to the AW community coming soon at a popular world near you.

Also - I take no personal responsibility for what the VR5 World has become. I know there are a number of people who have been telling me how it was better before, and all I have to say is thus:

The world is no longer under VR5 ownership or control. If you would like the place to look better, then by all means tell Neocube and maybe it will encourage him to strive for better. Thanks :)

I Has A Flavor - William Burns

Jul 24, 2007

Something I've been working on :)

Hey, just another day here at VR5 Online... drink so
me Coca Cola, watch some TV, play some video games, and make some custom photo realistic heads for use in the AW browser.

Oh wait.. that last one isn't so normal. Well, anyway - that is something that has been occupying my time along with the Prometheus project. I was set out on the task of figuring out how to make realistic avatar heads. So my inspiration to start were the heads used in Active Worlds and Second Life shown below (respectively).

The first is obviously the best example of a Second Life avatar face I could find off hand (though there are undoubtedly others). The next in line is the latest incarnation of avatar style from Active Worlds Inc (though there are working on avs that at least look as good as Second Life). And last but not least is my entry into this forum of 3D Modeling, as taken from the Active Worlds environment (all snapshots of my head are taken live from the AW environment).

Here are a few more pictures at different angles so you can get a better look, click each for the full size image:

The head itself is using a 512x512 texture map custom made by me, and the actual 3D model of the head is also custom made using specialized software which I will leave unnamed for the time being. The total number of polygons for the head itself is about 3,000 - although I am sure it could be optimized a bit more if needed.

The obvious lack of hair on the head (other than the texture map) is due to a lack of a separate layer added over top the head for hair to blend into the underlying texture map on the skull. Remember, this is a base head and not the finished deal.

Ambient is set to 0.5 on the head in order to give it a nice self shadowing effect in the light. Also, turned the culling on in the model itself so the inside would not display (which prolly ups the frame rate a bit in light of the 3,000 polygons). All in all, I believe that the face of an avatar is what people are paying attention to most of the time, so why not focus most of the detail there and skimp on the rest of the body if you need to?

There are two ways I'm thinking I could go for the hair, but I believe I will be testing out the usage of Shader 2.0 effects for dynamic and flowing hair on these heads (yes I made more than one, I'm just showing you this one) and yes I am really enjoying these HDR Lighting and Shaders lately... too bad neither AW nor Second Life have HDRI or Shaders... oh well.

Well, thats about it for now -

In Other News

Will be starting a project with Digitell Incorporated in New York State in the next few weeks. Working on a new Galaxy server with them for Expos and Conferences. I think I am the BASF guy involved (meaning I don't make a lot of the things you use, I make them better). Or in other words, I'm technical consultant, designer and all around creative solutions guy.

Hence the Photo heads, by the way. Clients of Digitell Inc will more than likely want the ability to have their avatars look exactly like them in real life - so I figured I would start with a test using my own face. The head was made using 2 photos and roughly 3 hours of modeling (which is why it's not *exactly* right).

Anyway, aside from Prometheus (which is coming along nice, by the way), this is what will be occupying most of my time here at VR5 Online. So busy, busy, busy....

Well, back to work :)

Looking for LOLCats - William Burns

Jul 13, 2007

Sneak Peak

Quick demo reel I put together to show off the various effects of Shader 2.0 and High Dynamic Range Lighting. Shader 2.0 support is native to Prometheus so these types of effects are easily implemented and put to use with little to no hassle.

Jul 4, 2007

VR5 Gets a Mention on Indy Gamer :)

Recently, Jamie Sanders of vNES fame was asked to write a short history of Virtual NES for a small gaming blog called Indy Gamer. It pines through the original creation as well as some of the more memorable moments in the history of his now world famous Virtual NES emulator. In it, there is a blurb about how Dreamhost went on a Digital Millenium Copyright Act rampage against him and shut the servers down (although he was getting over 1 million hits a day), and how VR5 was one of the entities that gladly came to his defense (quite successfully).

If you do not already know, Jamie is the genius who graciously paired up with us here in VR5 world to create a version of his emulator that would work within the confines of the Active Worlds universe, and is the backbone of our Nidus Arcade (across from the ground zero). Currently undergoing upgrades to both the server and the code, the Nidus Arcade is currently non-functioning until some server bugs are worked out, though he hopes to get the glitches taken care of in the near future.

If you have a chance, by all means take a minute or two and read the full article here.

In Other News

If you haven't already heard the news, the VR5 World is now under new management (the 3D world, not the company). The new world owner Neocube (Paul Sybrandy) has graciously renewed the world in order to preserve it's historical value as well as remain open to the public as both a home to those who have dug their roots and also for builder inspiration.

As generally noted, the VR5 world was a research project by VR5 Online for the past two years, of which it has won a couple of awards and has been nominated numerous times. It raises the benchmark in many areas for builders new and old to aspire to. As of June 24th the research part of our project has come to an end and we have moved on to the secondary phase which does not include the use of Active Worlds technology.

Paul Sybrandy (Neocube) has stated that he intended to renew the world with the goal of keeping it as a historical landmark and inspiration to other builders in the community, but that being said, does not exclude that the world be some day wiped clean and used for other purposes. The world is no longer in the hands of it's parent company VR5 Online, and as such our involvement will diminish over time.

We would like to thank everyone who has been involved with the VR5 research project over the past two years, and here's to whatever the future holds under the new world owner.

Working on something nifty - Darian Knight (William Burns: CTO VR5 Online)