Feb 28, 2008

Update O Rama

Well, after the clouds system work, we're moving on to the more mundane stuff like encryption. It's nothing too terribly interesting (because we do happen to have to work on the foundations) but it is something that is absolutely needed.

I won't go into details because that would just give hackers a reason to try and attack this thing, and the less we say about how it all works, the less they know to begin with. Suffice it to say, security for Andromeda is pretty airtight as far as this sort of thing goes. Being computer guy myself, I know better than to ever say something is "unhackable". Where there is hundreds of thousands of hackers banded together, there is always a way. Hopefully we've kept it as secured and locked down as we can, and it doesn't require too much of your CPU time in the process.

In other, more interesting news, discussions have opened concerning audio formats that Andromeda will support. On the list is the obvious OGG, WAV, etc along with possibly a Tracker format like S3M in place of MIDI.

We're not huge fans of MIDI over here because it sounds like crap and should be set ablaze in this age of high fidelity audio and broadband internet. S3M isn't super popular, but in the inner circles of audio it has it's uses for better sounding music tracking.

The jury is still out on the usage of MP3 format for various reasons, mainly the idea that there is a patent on it and the company that holds that patent wants licensing for products which use a decoder. That price is fairly steep for a format that is widely used, so we may or may not include MP3 on the list.

In the end though, it's not a big deal because Vorbis is an open source format (OGG) and has incredibly better sound over MP3. So when all is said and done, OGG is the Betamax of audio formats while MP3 is the VHS.

But.. kinda... not.. Ok that was a terrible analogy, and I apologize. OGG is lesser known and used, but it's quality is superior in a lot of ways to MP3. And while MP3 format is the distributed equivalent of VHS, they have licensing for decoder usage which gives it BetaMax qualities. Where on the other hand, OGG has a free distribution model (like VHS), but superior quality (like BetaMax). Unfortunately, like BetaMax, it is lesser known and used.

I seriously think I just wrote the world's worst analogy... *sigh*

Nope, the sky didn't open up and smite me, so I can obviously have done worse than that one.

My real question about this though is, at what point did MP3 become the new GIF format? I mean, GIF started out great and became widely adopted and used. As soon as it did, though, the company that owned the patent for the format decided to charge people for using it, by imposing a surcharge on the software which can decode and encode it (read: Photoshop, PaintShop, etc). Now years later (or maybe this has always been like this and I was unaware) the company which has the patents for MP3 format are suddenly coming out and imposing a surcharge on software which can decode MP3 format audio, but this seems just like how GIF worked out in the end because they waited till it became popular and in wide usage before saying "oh, and by the way, you all owe us money".

That is a very underhanded manner to do business.

Which is why so many places are looking into a form of Animated PNG format to replace GIF. Firefox is supporting APNG format (which is not officially supported by the PNG group) and is a Frankenstein sort of format, but the alternative was MNG format which wasn't fully adopted either by the PNG group themselves. So what the world really needs right now is an Animated PNG Standard, which is free to use, and to fully usurp the GIF format.

You'll be happy to know that Andromeda supports pretty much all major file formats for images, including Gif and Animated Gif. While we know that GIF has some screwed up license fee to be paid, like the rest of the world, we don't care.

We have plenty of alternatives for an animated image format built in, like MNG and APNG that are ridiculously superior to 256 color GIFs. So by all means, let the people who own GIF format send us a cease and desist. We'll remove them from the software overnight and not shed a tear.

As for MP3 though... I think that is just a sad, sad, tale. We'll see how that works out in the end, though after checking into OGG I've come to the conclusion it sounds just as good if not better without the hassles that MP3 would bring. So we're leaning towards excluding MP3 format altogether and sticking with OGG.

Open Source formats are seriously on the verge of slaughtering the proprietary formats. Anybody actually use ATRAC from Sony? How about those crippled DRM formats from the online stores? These companies need to wake up already... or better yet, by all means, keep it up! We need more DRM and more licensing fees!

Yeah that's the ticket! Piss off the world so much that they drop your format altogether (*cough* GIF *cough*).

Anyways, that's the update for Andromeda... and here's Bob Johnson with the weather...

- Andromeda Team -

Feb 11, 2008

Development Update

Progress is picking up as we move into the latter stages of alpha. Of recent, the focus of the progress is centered on the new clouds system, based on the Dobashi method. Current tests are showing the lowest frame rate to be 53 while the standard FPS is around 189 or higher.

Our target goal for the system overall is to achieve a constant frame rate of 30 or higher, with emphasis on a balance of looks and speed. The clouds system is highly optimized to be volumetric while looking natural and not requiring an overly large amount of CPU power to run.

The reason for this is that the clouds system does not require such things as Shaders to work, unlike the Windlight system that Second Life is currently using. This results in a clouds system that both looks good and runs at a high frame rate on older systems without Shader supported graphics cards, which turns out to be a problem when a user has a system that cannot properly support Shaders.

We at Andromeda Media Universe believe that such things as shaders should be an addition to the system but not a requirement in order for the environment to still look good. Basics such as clouds should be default, and not an option, with lighting effects on the clouds being the option should you wish to increase its' looks.

Procedural textures are coming along nicely as well with initial testing on the terrain going as planned. We have to remove part of the dark streaks from the algorithm (the shadows are too dark on the generated texture) but other than that it looks like very respectable grass with the odd flower thrown in for randomness.

As of this posting, I would like to say thank you to the 27 people who have so far sent in their pre-registration forms. Progress towards closed beta is coming along at a steady pace, but is still a few months away as we are looking to start the beta in late spring 2008. If you have any friends which you think would like to join the closed beta, by all means have them fill out a pre-registration form and we'll keep it on file for later.

Thank you from the Andromeda Media Universe Team