Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

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Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Robert The Rebuilder » Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:13 am

[EDIT 14 April: There is a newer prototype available that does not use the sliding doors described below. Please see this post for details.]

Using the suggestions provided in this thread, I created a prototype version of Ahra Pahts with a "portal" mechanism.

When crossing between districts, you approach a closed door that slides up, revealing a small room. Once you reach the far side of the room, the door closes and the scene fades to black. During this time, the old district is paged out and the new district is paged in. The scene fades in, and the other door slides up, revealing the next district.

You can download this prototype and try it yourself:

LinkTest01.zip

Or, if you prefer, you can just watch this movie instead:

PahtsPortal.wmv

If this mechanism is acceptable to everyone, I can work with Aloys to finalize it. Initially, this will be used for crossing between districts (see the orange "inter-district portals" in Figure 1 below). Later on, as people finish their shells, we can use them when going between subdistricts (the purple "intra-district portals").
Figure 1 Show Spoiler


Caveats:
  • The door animations are done with Python. As soon as animated objects are implemented in the plugin, this horrible code will be disposed of.
  • It is not multiplayer safe at the moment.
  • The artwork is preliminary. The final artwork will be more decorative.
Last edited by Robert The Rebuilder on Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Aloys » Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:32 am

It is great that you got it this system to work. :) Even if we don't implement it right away for Ahra it will surely be useful for other large Ages (Zephyr, Abyssos, Yinfara etc)

As I just mentionned to you in a PM the performance of the Age is getting quite ugly, and as much as I wanted to avoid developping some optimization for version 1 (because that would delay it some more), I fear it might be necessary..

I have been thinkinhg about these 'buffer' zones for a while now (pretty much since the beginning of the project) and although I never shared much of it (because I just didn't think it would be needed so 'quickly') I have some pretty precise idea of the potential design.. The first thing I had in mind was to avoid any moving or mechanical part. There are several reasons for that, but mostly it is because that's not something we'd see in a real city, at worst that's the kind of things you see when entering underground parking areas, but not so much for pedestrian streets. Large revolving doors might be an option, but even than would look silghtly odd IMO. So I was going for a more 'twisty corridor with view-blocking walls' approach. Not only does it not use mechnical parts; but by not physically separating the districts it makes for a more seamless experience going from one area to the other.
Also a source of concern for me is the possible use in the far future of boats.. Those would have to go through the buffer zones too but they would be much bigger than avatars and would need more room to move, so the twisty corridor option might be problematic here.. and honnestly I have no idea how to handle that yet.. :? If worst come to worst we can go with a mechanical solution here (canal locks, giant watermill wheels etc)

Questions:
-Right now because there is not much to load the process is essentially instantaneous, but with much more data to load I guess the game would freeze or slow down for a couple seconds is that right? (I know that can't be avoided, I just trying to get a clear picture of the whole process)
And does that take place as soon as you enter the Static area (or after a slight manually-set delay), or would it be possible to specify a region that triggers where the loading happens?

Also: I suggest that we keep the giant monkey heads :P
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Robert The Rebuilder » Thu Apr 03, 2008 12:22 pm

Glad you like the monkey heads! :D I just wanted something different in each district that provided a visual cue. Otherwise, you might believe that you were simply turned 180 degrees while in the chamber.

So, the main issue is: what to do in the game while Plasma pages in the other districts? The fade-to-black and subsequent blackout period is an in-game way of hiding this pause; you can pretend that the sliding doors make it pitch black, and that it takes a while for the other door to open. Initially, the pause will be 2-5 seconds, but it will grow as more shells are added.

If you replace this door mechanism (and the blackout) with a corridor that you're running in between districts, your avatar (and viewpoint) will freeze while it pages in the other districts. There won't be any moving parts, but it may break the immersiveness of the experience.

To answer your second question: the paging is triggered once you reach the far wall of the inner chamber. This is done by having an object-in-volume sensor region inside the chamber; entering this region triggers the door animation, blackout and paging mechanism.

Regarding boats: luckily, this same mechanism (with the sliding doors) can accomodate boats as well. I simplified the city geometry in this prototype, but I can add the canals to it to demonstrate. The passengers in the boats would still trigger the doors to open upon approach, then trigger the paging when they enter the volume sensor (once the boat is completely inside the chamber). In the next prototype, I can add a means to get down into the canal, and (walking on the ice) you can experience the same thing.
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby D'Lanor » Thu Apr 03, 2008 1:11 pm

I haven't looked at the files but I assume this is a Python animation again. So what is the verdict? Have these become acceptable since the earlier "not done" condemnation? And what about the lag in potential multiplayer situations? Especially in a supposedly crowded area like Pahts.

Any estimates how far away true animations are?
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Ehren » Thu Apr 03, 2008 3:07 pm

Aloys wrote:As I just mentionned to you in a PM the performance of the Age is getting quite ugly, and as much as I wanted to avoid developping some optimization for version 1 (because that would delay it some more), I fear it might be necessary..


The performance is getting ugly? Wow, how many filled shells are there now? Performance certainly is fine with the pre-version 1 that we have now.

Hope it isn't delayed too much, will be fun to see.
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Aloys » Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:05 pm

Robert The Rebuilder wrote:So, the main issue is: what to do in the game while Plasma pages in the other districts? The fade-to-black and subsequent blackout period is an in-game way of hiding this pause; you can pretend that the sliding doors make it pitch black, and that it takes a while for the other door to open. Initially, the pause will be 2-5 seconds, but it will grow as more shells are added.
If the loading triggers an actual pause of the game rather than a simple slow down or stutter, then yes it would be good to try and hide it somehow.

If you replace this door mechanism (and the blackout) with a corridor that you're running in between districts, your avatar (and viewpoint) will freeze while it pages in the other districts. There won't be any moving parts, but it may break the immersiveness of the experience.
Personally I dislike any kind of interface that is shoehorned on top of the screen, I find that very dis-immersive (yay I just made a new word!). So in any random game I'd rather have my avatar freeze but still see the game world than have a large 'loading' GUI pop up or a fade to black.. That's why I suggested the twisty corridor solution. I agree automatic mechanical solutions are very handy (for instance in Garrison), but I really feel this doesn't suit the city style. I'd have no problem with this in a shell, but I'd like to maintain the city at a more medieval level of technology, if that makes sense.
In the end this kind of thing tends to come down more to personnal preference than anything else. Should we vote? :)

Regarding boats: luckily, this same mechanism (with the sliding doors) can accomodate boats as well. I simplified the city geometry in this prototype, but I can add the canals to it to demonstrate.
That's what I guessed. In the end my problem is that it would be best to decide how to design this before we start implementing anything, because regardless of what we do for the pedestrian part of those zone the canal design may (and most likely will) influence the full shape of those buffer zones.. So if we ignore it for now latter on we might be stuck.. Designing streets is less of a problem because avatars can move around easily, so we can have twisty paths, stairs, bridges etc. Boats are much more limited, so they really are the determining factor here..

This whole issue annoys me..I had been avoiding it so far, thinking that I would only have to deal with it much latter, unfortunately that isn't the case. I will think about it seriously over the week end and come up with various solutions. If you have any more ideas they will be welcome. :)

Ehren wrote:The performance is getting ugly? Wow, how many filled shells are there now? Performance certainly is fine with the pre-version 1 that we have now.
Yes in the released version it is decent, but in the version I am putting together many things have been added and it starts to hurt performance quite a bit.. Also right now we only have 3 shells, but as soon we will have more performance will decrease again.

Hope it isn't delayed too much, will be fun to see.
Thanks. I had to walk away from it quite a bit lately, but now I'm working again full time. I'd rather not commit to a release date though. ;)
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Nadnerb » Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:51 pm

I would Greatly Prefer having a no-moving-parts system, even if it meant inexplicably freezing while walking through the inter-district corridors. This would of course require that two districts be paged in at any given time. This would put the actual "switch" regions inside the districts themselves, so that as you approach a inter district portal, it would page out the district which is farther away, and in the one you are approaching. Then the switching would not happen inside the actual portal, but it would simply act as a visibility block from a distance.
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Robert The Rebuilder » Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:11 pm

Well, we could also use imposters at the far end of the corridor. For a good definition of what that is, see this abstract from a SIGGRAPH 05 paper.

The imposter would be part of the previous district's page. When the new district is paged in, the imposter is replaced by the real thing. We wouldn't have to have long twisty corridors, either - which is good considering the limited space in between districts.

I agree the door mechanism is ugly. If you all don't mind the pause, then let's use the imposters instead. I'll get to work on another prototype that uses the imposters, so you can know what I'm talking about.

One in-game example of an imposter is in Ae'gura. If you are walking from Tokota Alley down the stairs to the Canyon, look up to the broken bridge. As you get closer to the bridge, you can see the switch from an impostor to 3-D geometry - but only if you're looking for it.
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Aloys » Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:47 pm

Something I forgot to underline: we may have two potentially different systems (big emphasive on the 'potentially' part):
The buffer zones between the districts (and the Hub area, which for all intend and purpose is a district on its own) and those around the central courtyards (separating the district in subdistricts).
The difference is that there is much potentially more space in the buffers zones between the district. Let me explain: the 3 peripheral districts are all linked by the central (white) districts. But if we look at the map Robert posted you can see that the 'junction' points in the white district (the Orange dots) happen in courtyards. That's quite a bit of space right here, and I think we could (should?) use it.. Along the same line the passages to the Hub area can be expanded inward in the Hub area itself. But at the opposite the zones surrounding the central courtyards are much smaller and can't be changed much.
The sliding door system is very economic because it uses almost no space, but anything else (especially a corridor) will use some, and we may be short on space if we don't expand the current zones.
So we may have to use two different systems..That's not mandatory, but that's an option to keep in mind.
(I'm not sure why I did not put more space between the districts, but I did a mistake here and it comes back bitting us in the butt today. :/ )

we could also use imposters at the far end of the corridor

The idea is interesting, but I fear it would be difficult to pull out because the line of sight is quite large when you enter a district, you see a courtyard, and the shell around it etc.. You have pretty much 90° of FOv to cover. So in order to do something believable we'd have to use a pretty large image, and that's a lot to stuff to put in memory which kind of defeat the purpose. I'm afraid using some kind of view blocking geometry is unavoidable.

Whatever we end up choosing the zones should be clearly recognizable as such, and people should be able to opt out of it at any time (something for instance that is not possible with the Garrison TC entrance door: once the avatar steps in he plays his automatic animation and you have to wait for it to end to regain control). Loosing control of the avatar is quite annoying. (although it is sometimes necessary)
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Re: Portal Mechanism For Ahra Pahts

Postby Paradox » Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:49 pm

Imposters are possible now using the latest PyPRP with VisRegions.

I'm rather against the idea of an actual physical barrier between districts, but I can't think of any other way to make this work. I also haven't found a way to replicate the Minkata effect where a progress bar is shown during the black out.
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