Writing Tips

General debates and discussion about the Guild of Writers and Age creation

Writing Tips

Postby Justintime9 » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:58 am

I've been spending more time in the Cavern than usual of late - with the main purpose of observing how Cyan makes ages. Trying to be mindful of the subtleties in what makes their design great. So I had an idea. Since I'm down there making observations, perhaps I/we could create a list of tips on making ages good. None of the major stuff, just tiny things that make a difference. Here's a few things I've noticed so far:

1. It's not necessary to make every texture super detailed. Many of the textures in the city are quite stretched, and often blurry up close. Everything doesn't have to be MipMapped.

2. Camera regions are important. They make things more cinematic. Even the most well put together fan age, without good camera regions, can appear to be missing something.

Those are just a couple of things. I'll continue to post things as I notice them. But feel free to make additions. Eventually I'll put it in one big list. And if it's good enough, perhaps it could be put on the Wiki(?)
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby Tweek » Mon Sep 01, 2014 11:26 am

Justintime9 wrote:1. It's not necessary to make every texture super detailed. Many of the textures in the city are quite stretched, and often blurry up close. Everything doesn't have to be MipMapped.

I'd argue the opposite of this one...in part. Many of the textures in Cyan's stuff is stretched and blurry and doesn't help with the game looking dated. I'd actually like to replace a lot of the textures for higher resolution ones. True, if your avatar is looking at a cliff that is miles away and you're never going to see up close you can definitely use lower res textures. But if you're in an area where you are almost face to face with a texture, it needs to look good.

Uru is now over a decade in age, I think it's time to introduce higher poly models and higher res textures into the game to bring it more up to date with what computers can handle.
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby Sirius » Mon Sep 01, 2014 1:42 pm

Tweek wrote:Uru is now over a decade in age, I think it's time to introduce higher poly models and higher res textures into the game to bring it more up to date with what computers can handle.
I am of a mind with you. However what I'd love most is to upgrade Cyan's Ages (instead of making entirely new stuff), but making new models means losing some light informations most of the time. Re-detailing meshes isn't really complicated though.
As for textures, it's relatively easy to replace Cyan's ones - however I don't know much about creating textures.

Back to topic...

- Make it look like there is ambient occlusion everywhere (especially in interior rooms). You can use a lightmap, but Cyan have awesome results just by using vertex painting and making a shadow object.
- Put light. Even a single sun, and a basic vertex color map generated by Blender looks good, and is really easy to do.
- When doing a big Age, try to avoid an endless plane as a terrain (such as the Cleft) - try to put as many details as you can in this terrain, such as ravines, mountains, passageways, etc. Think of the city, it's just a big rock, but full of paths, caverns, bridges, etc. Gira is a good example too. This might be more of a personal taste, but I think Ages are much more attractive when there is so much to see you never can see the whole of it at once. I recall Elodea was quite good at this.
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby Lord Chaos » Mon Sep 01, 2014 1:45 pm

I'm with Tweek on this one. One of the things I don't like about Uru is how any surface blurs as I approach it; there is no increase in detail as there is when I approach a wall in the real world.

What has always annoyed me even more than that, though, is repetition. The floor in a 'hood is the same texture as the Ferry Landing. Within the textures there is too much tiling that repeats after a short distance. Every game has these, and I hope someone comes up with a better way. I don't know how it would be done; can anyone really take the time to craft each individual window or door in a 'hood? Or place each stone in the floor as if it were truly being built?

Guild Wars 2 has some interesting differences. Stone structures often have a lot of tiling and stretching, but ground surfaces are somehow randomized very convincingly. Only if you get down and look at the surface closely can you see that what looks like relief and shadow in the snowy surface is actually just painted trompe l'oeil. I still find myself expecting to stumble on some of these surfaces.

So, yes, more detail, please. And variation. I want reality in my unreality! :)
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby Justintime9 » Tue Sep 02, 2014 10:30 am

Well, I stand corrected. Then I guess the question is, HOW do we make textures more interesting and not blurry? I've mipmapped many of the walls in Tsoidahl Prad, and I feel like it's almost too much. Sure, it's detailed close up, but too repetitive.

- I agree there needs to be more variety in textures though. The trick is getting it to look like D'ni without using that "classic" cobblestone texture. I think ages like Fehnir House and Vothol Gallery showcase this pretty well.

And would someone mind defining ambient occlusion?
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby Luna » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:45 pm

I'm afraid I can't help you on the textures, except that I agree with the others that the blurry textures are because the game is aged. When studying Cyan ages keep in mind that most of them were made around 2003-2005 and the game was expected to run on a Geforce 2. Technology has moved on :)

On camera regions, make sure to test your age in both first and third person.
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby Nev'yn » Wed Sep 03, 2014 11:29 pm

I can agree with Luna's last comment, we were able to find many of the kinks in the Pub. Doobes tends to play in 1st person, while I tend to stay in 3rd. There were several times one/other of us would notice something the other didn't because of this.
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby Rhee » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:44 pm

I thought the best way to achieve a non-blurry-up-close-while-not-tiled-looking-at-a-distance texture was to use two of them; one that is high-res for when you're up close and then a semi-transparent one that's larger and lower-res layered overtop for at a distance... and somehow you magically set them to work that way but I don't know/recall how... and im no expert but I just feel like I remember reading/hearing that in a tutorial from some time ago (want to say that it waa one of andy legate's but really not sure?)
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby jmp12 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:14 pm

I agree with Lord Chaos on the repetitiveness of texturing. The sky in the day version of the cleft has a repeating texture. That's been bugging me ever since I first noticed it.

Procedural generation comes immediately to my mind as the obvious solution, but I don't have any idea how to go about actually coding any sort of procedural texture generation into uru. Nor do I know how feasible it would be to accomplish in theory.

I do think Cyan did an excellent job on the shape of many of the ages they created. For example, think of Teledahn, you start in one location, and have a continuous progression of opening up more and more of the world until you get through the bahro door, but the age is shaped in such a way that it makes it feel much less linear than it really is. Part of that is having lots of details that sort of branch off of the main path, which you don't have to investigate or find the first time through the age.

But part of it is also just structuring the age so that you see places that look like places you can get to, but that you can't reach yet. The age starts off by dropping you next to a locked trapdoor, then shows you an elevator you can't use yet, then shows you a path that connects to the back part of the age that you won't be able to reach until near the end, etc. That's all before you even get to work on the first puzzle. Gahreesen shows you a glimpse of the outside sky long before you get outside the first fortress, then shows you windows looking in on the rooms you're going to be going through, and the elevator connecting to the outside. D'ni itself has plenty of doors we still can't get through. Cyan's worlds tempt you, they draw you in by giving you lots of questions and only slowly doling out some of the answers. One always has something to be curious about. I like that.
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Re: Writing Tips

Postby belford » Tue Sep 16, 2014 7:40 am

Cyan's usual trick is to have a detailed repeating texture with semitransparent detail layered over it at irregular intervals. Minkata is the obvious example, but you also see it in Aegura floors -- lots of flagstones, with darker scars and a few fallen rocks to add variation.

Also (as I browse through screenshot...) look at the ground in Tsogal here: http://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/m ... Id,216348/ There are three main textures on the ground in front (dirt, stone, and deep engraving). But notice how a sort of mossy stone is overlaid onto all three of them with a gradient of transparency. It's not particularly realistic (what are we looking at?) but it does a great job of knocking out the flat-texture problem. (The grass bits are the finishing touch.)
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