Just a quick update. Work progressess and all that jazz. Just getting the new interface ready for unveiling hopefully this weekend. A lot of changes and a lot of improvements happening so stay tuned. As for that other utility I’m working on, it was a simple little project but turned out that it’s gobbling up some time handling large numbers of files. Oh well, I’ll get to it as soon as I can. That’s it for tonight.

It just keeps getting more interesting each day. Okay, something I have to take back. A while ago I said that importing 3D meshes wouldn’t import the cameras or lights because blueprint sets those up for you. While this is true, it’s not entirely accurate (as in Area 51 accurate). I’ve found that a default light setup just doesn’t work for all objects. I was duped into thinking Maxis used a default setup, but upon dissecting more files, I found that in some (most?) cases, there are dozens of lights that the artists have manually put in and they’re different for each object. Duh. Okay, so call me stupid. This of course nessecitated in adding some new functionality to bp so now it allows you to create what you want as far as lights go (8 max, sorry, that’s the limit of the graphics engine and you should be able to pull off some great stuff with 8 lights). You can create omni lights (lights that give off light in no particular direction and go off into infinity) and spotlights (where you can postion the spot, rotate it, etc.). This again may be too much for some users, but hey, it’s there. Go nuts. So more changes and more updates to the program and the importers. If you file format doesn’t support lighting then the default lights will be used and it’ll be up to you to add whatever lights you find necessary.

There have been a few concerns about blueprint in general and what it does in the sense that the output looks like garbage. Well this is partically true with the current release but then I said way back when that the lighting and texture setup will be corrected for a future release. Hey, it was an alpha right? Within a week I’d say that blueprint will be importing scenes perfectly (including lights, materials, textures and meshes). Your files are still valid, they’ll just look a whole lot better. So basically what you see in any 3D package is what you’ll see in blueprint. I’ll post the proverbial eye candy later for you to drool over. Note, I say that within a week it’ll be doing this, but this doesnt’ mean they’ll be a release in a week. This is just internally what’s going on. There are a LOT of changes happening for the next release based on functionaility (you’re going to love it!) and user suggestions thus far. Thanks and keep it coming. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh yeah, BTW, happy 100,000 hits. Two months and we rolled the odometer on this place. Wonder how long before we hit the million mark?

Some pretty exciting news, but the result is still a ways off so sorry if this gets you all hot and bothered. The big announcement is that the next public release of blueprint will contain the much anticipated object exporting. Now when this will happen is a secret so I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag just yet. In addition to importing 3D meshes to create your objects, there will be some simple primitive editing. When I say simple I really mean it. You’ll be able to create blocks, spheres, cylinders, that sort of thing. No complicated surfaces or curves yet. While you may turn you nose up at that, I’ve seen what people have made with the previous version of blueprint (that had similar functionality) and it was pretty impressive. You’ll never know what you can do when you put your mind to it. So what exactly does this mean? Well, let’s say you find a nifty vase out on the Internet and want to put it in the game. So you import it, texture it, etc. but there’s nothing for it to sit on. So you go scouring the bowels of the net for a pedastle but don’t find anything you like. With the next release you’ll be able to create a box (or several), clump them together, sit your vase on top of them and export it. Easy as pie. Watch for new screenshots, info and other goodies in the coming weeks.

There are some people (mainly those with ATI and Matrox cards) that are having problems running blueprint. This is due to the fact that your OpenGL drivers for the card is not up to date. Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Hardware vendors are always trying to catch up to the latest technology. Luckily there’s an easy solution:

  1. Go to GLSetup
  2. Download the latest version of the program
  3. Run the file you just downloaded and follow the instructions

GLSetup is a freeware program that will keep you up to date with the latest, full, OpenGL drivers for your video card. Hope that helps (thanks to those who suggested this in the forums).

Okay, I’ve fixed the file links. It seems SimFreaks did some moving around of servers on me (how dare they! 🙂 and some people are still pointing to the old one. I have a fix, but since they can’t see this page there’s not much need to tell you about it. Oh well. The downloads should be working fine now. I should have the CMX utility later tonight. Decided to put together a bit of a GUI for it and make it worth your downloading efforts. I’ve also added an “Other” page to the software. Just a catch-all for minor programs or fixes. Back at ‘cha later.

Okay, Simplorer 1.1.1 is released. Go get it from the Simplorer page here. Also, I’ve moved all the files into a separate folder on the web server (just an organization thing) so you may have to reload the page to download files. As well, I’ve removed older versions from the pages. I don’t see a need for an older version. If you have a problem with the current one, email me and I’ll fix it instead of you regressing back to a previous version of anything, and as a result, missing out on features.

Back from the world of reality (just saw Unbreakable at the theater, pretty good flick). Thanks to everyone who’s had an opinion on the whole piracy thing lately. A lot of good, well thought out responses and the occasional “You’re a moron” messages (I do enjoy getting those before my morning coffee). There are a few million reasons for and against it and It’s something that can be discussed ad nauseum so we’ll put that to bed. I’ll put together a release for later tonight or early tommorow that should make everyone happy. A few small minor enhancements like bypassing the confirm dialog on Delete and fixing the focus in the file list when you delete an object will make some people stop going batty.

I’m also in the throes of doing a big blueprint update. Please refrain from asking me when it will be ready. It’ll be done when it’s done. That’s all I’ll ever say on it but some people keep insisting on sending me ICQ messages about it (with the response of nothing but deep silence, unless I can create a macro to auto-respond with the above statement). The big update will be resolving a ton of issues like lighting and texturing objects, introduce a few new special features and above all improve the user interface 1000%. When will blueprint be ready for prime time with exporting? Not sure yet. There’s still a lot of testing in the way of multi-tile support and making sure I’m creating all the nasty z-buffers and alpha channels correctly (after all, blueprint has to create everything from scratch for you including animations so it’s got a lot to do). Hang in there, it’s gonig to be really cool release. Trust me.

And lastly, I’m putting together a quickie application for a friend that will convert the binary versions of skn/cmx files to their text counterparts. There is a bmf->skn out there but nobody has created a cmx one. If you don’t know, the cmx files that glue the character meshes together are stored, in binary format, inside the Animations.far file in your game directory. If you’re a character mesh creator or want to see a billion options in SimShow then you’d do well to extract this entire file into your SimShow directory (careful about where you put the files) and convert the whack of them to text format. They’re very useful to study. I guess I should have done this a long time ago, but never thought of it. It’s a simple little thing but I’m just tossing on a quick GUI front-end. So you can grab that later from the software page.

Okay, I’ve read the responses here and various emails and ICQ messages and there’s mixed feelings about this. Of course there is. There’s never one solution.

On one hand, some people feel that the verification should be there and not allow running my software without a valid copy of The Sims installed. Others feel it’s a bothersome since they run the no-CD crack on the game (and thus the verification fails) because of convenience, speed, etc. Still there is the Mac users who have perfectly valid copies of the program and use a PC emulator to run Simplorer (which fails the validation because it’s looking for the PC version of the game).

Tough decision. So taking everything into account, I’ve decided to release a new version that does not do the game checking (you will still have to provide a directory to start from which should be where the Sims is installed). I’ll release a new version sometime this weekend if possible. Perhaps I was hasty in putting in the game checking into the software so I apologize for the inconvenience.

Now to get on my soapbox. Here’s the part where dozens of people email me with the ammunition I’m about to give you, telling me how much of a jerk I am. While I can’t say that everyone using the no-CD patch has actually bought a copy of the game, I can say that I don’t see a problem with running a game the way it was intended to be. I run a PII400 system for games and The Sims only takes a couple of mintues to load. This is part and parcel to the size of what’s being loaded. Would I like to have it load faster? Sure, but not at the expense of having to hunt down user made patches everytime Maxis decides to update their software (Maxis patches will not work against a cracked version of the game). I’ve heard that on some peoples systems it takes 10 minutes to load the game which while true, the only system I’ve seen this happen on was my P133 laptop with a crappy video card and 64mb of memory. Not exactly a “game” machine. Okay, I’ll get blasted for that one. I can see the emails now about how I should buy peoples machines for them because they’re sub-standard. I don’t know the minimum requirements for The Sims offhand, but perhaps gaming companies need to up the minimum even if it is sufficient to run a program? Anyways. The argument that you have to hunt down a CD everytime you want to play doesn’t hold a lot of water with me. I have close to 1000 CDs of games, utilties and libraries. I keep 10-15 of them in a handy dispenser on top of the computer when I want to hop on for a few rounds of Unreal Tournament or check something in The Sims. The ones I use the most. Surely not everyone out there has 100 games they play all the time and thus need 100 CDs on hand at a moments notice. Sure, it would be great to have everything at my fingertips, and it takes me a good half hour to find anything that’s not readily available, but having everything instantly is just not possible. Having a CD for a game you play daily lying in a pile that takes you 15 minutes to find whenever you want to play is just lack of organization, not a problem with the way computers work. Maxis has gone to fairly great extents to prevent piracy with their software. Of course no software is crack-free and they’ll always be someone who comes up with a piece of software that can negate the efforts of another. The question isn’t can you use it, but should you?

Okay, some people just don’t get it. If you’ve downloaded the new Simplorer and see this:

then Simplorer cannot find a valid copy of The Sims installed and will not continue to run. See the text that says “non-retail or corrupted”?? It’s not there for cosmetic looks or to piss you off. It means it cannot find a valid copy of The Sims and seems to be the point of controversy these days. Writing messages to me saying that you’re running a cracked version of the game or the no CD patch will not make me jump over tall buildings and remove this checking. Some people are still scratching their heads when this error comes up and are wondering what they’re doing wrong.

Now there is some validity in people that are running Simplorer under Virtual PC for the Mac (or other emulators) since they don’t want to install two versions of the game (PC and Mac) so this throws a new wrench into the works. However, if you did not buy the game from a store, install it from the CD and enter your serial number then you’ll probably be seeing this message.

Sigh. The screaming has already begun.

With the latest release of Simplorer (and future releases of other software), I’ve added checking to make sure a valid copy of The Sims is installed. When I say valid, I mean a retail copy installed from the CD. You know what I mean. Simplorer will refuse to run if you don’t have the game installed. Anyways, the purpose of my utilties is to enhance the game so without the game installed what’s the point? If you have a valid install of the game, you’ll never see any warning messages and never have a problem. If however you have a non-retail version of the game installed, or not installed at all, you’ll have some problems. This has always been in the software (looking for The Sims directory) but has been stepped up to included validation of the game files. Some people argue they want to build websites and use Simplorer to take screenshots of objects or whatever to do so. Perhaps a valid point but I’m not convinced enough to remove the checking. So I open the discussion to you. What valid points would you have to use the software from here on a system without the game installed? Hop on over to the forums here and voice your opinion for or against this. I’ll let you know how things turn out.