Argh. I hate when I type a long winded news post and my browser goes belly up when it tries to post it. Anyways, changed out the 3D Studio loading in blueprint for the final release so now it should support pretty much any 3D file you can get you hands on. If not, just send me the file and I’ll take a look at it. So we’re almost there.

There is some joy in Simsville today. I’ve completed the final phase of testing/debugging/pulling my hair out with blueprint and the final test for version 1.0 goes to the testers when I get home tonight. Things are working licketly split so you’ll have the final version of the program, complete with sprite replacment capabilities in your hot little hands in a few days. Watch for some fun stuff over the weekend and I’ll be posting the new tutorials with some sample object files (both 3DS and CGS, blueprint’s internal format) available for downloading and creating your new objects with. Catcha later…

Just a quick note. I’ll be down for a few days while I do a full backup and re-install of my primary development system. I’m making some preparations for some muti-platform development and I need to redo my entire system. A real pain but a necessary evil for this chicken to get to the other side.

Sheesh. Where does the time go? Well, it’s certainly a Sim day today. I caught the Sims sequence on Drew Carey tonight and it was priceless. Would be nice if Maxis made the objects available that they used. I’m sure some DC fans out there would like to recreate his office. Also installed House Party and updating blueprint and the other programs to be compatible with it. Just looking through the goodies to see what objects are there and what features you might be able to add with blueprint. Stay tuned tommorow for some new screenshots and some exciting news! Seeya!

Thought I would post some info about how to use the sprites generated with blueprint to create an object using Tmog. I know this is a bit of a pain but until blueprint is completed injecting the sprites into the IFF file itself, this will have to do. Of course, if you’re already generating your sprites with 3D Studio or some other 3D program, please continue to do so. This is for people that don’t have access to these programs.

  1. Launch blueprint and create your object (either with the primitives or import a 3D mesh)
  2. Launch the Sprite Editor (either by clicking on Sprite Editor on the object tab or from the Object | Sprite Editor menu)
  3. Select a sprite and click on “Replace this Sprite”. Failing to do this will result in nothing being exported!
  4. Close the Sprite Editor and click on File | Export
  5. The sprites you selected in the editor to replace are created in the Sprites folder

Now onto Tmog…

  1. Launch Tmog and select the same base object you used in blueprint (you can even use the object that blueprint created if you want)
  2. Click on the “Object Export” button and export the object (this can be done prior to creating the sprites in blueprint if you prefer)
  3. Replace the bitmap files Tmog generated with the ones from the blueprint Sprites folder
  4. Re-import the XML file into Tmog. It will replace the sprites with the bitmaps generated from blueprint

That’s it! You should now have a new object made with both programs. When exporting with Tmog, the easiest setting is to export one zoom only and have Tmog generate the alpha and z-buffers for you. Like I said, this is just an interim step until blueprint is putting the sprites back into the IFF files.

Just a few words about the upcoming versions of blueprint and the timelines. The bugs are being taken care of and a new version will be out to you shortly. This will complete the object creation process and allow you to build new objects for use in the game (if you’re really anxious to get there now you can do so by using the sprites generated by blueprint now in Tmog). More refinements on object creation will be coming and of course the various needed features like multi-tile is coming. Multi-tile objects are a pain because you have to slice the image in 3D and render it that way. It’s not a simple matter of just dicing and slicing up the bitmap as you might think and each piece has to fit together with each other to make the object look seamless. In any case, that’s getting there but no idea yet on how soon. The rendering engine is constantly being updated and perhaps an interface with an external engine (like POV or something) will produce much better quality images. I think the current images are pretty good, but your expectations may be higher and of course the highest possible quality is the end goal here. As I said, new versions will be available on a regular basis so watch for weekly or bi-weekly updates soon. I’ll also enable the web checking feature of blueprint that’s there but turned off right now. This will simply check the website for a new version and download it immediately. Just working out the naming standards and how the update process will happen before I complete this portion.

Okay, nothing on the blueprint front today but I do see a need to start pumping out some new tutorials and documentation. It seems some people are having problems with some of the features of the program so I’ll start that process this week. Watch for both animated walk-thru tutorials and some static ones for those that don’t want to sit through my little blue movies.

Okay, I’m back from the semi-dead. A word to the wise. If you upgrade your Win98 box to WinME and install the internet sharing component, be warned there’s a bug outlined here (damn MS for making me do support for them, I should get residules) that will help you through it. I had to play phone tag with my ISP to get things working again. Apparently the upgrade from 98 to ME knocks out DNS resolution so you can go places (via IP address) but forget about resolving any names on the internet. Anyways, things are back to normal and my fears of having to re-install from scratch just sent shivers down my blue spine.

So here’s the scoop. I have a new version that is going to testing shortly and perhaps another public release to handle some various bug fixes and image compatibility. There’s also a few issues like the fact that exporting the sprites doesn’t set the filename correctly and doesn’t export the small zooms (duh). So watch for that shortly. Testing with injecting the sprites back into the IFF continues and it’s still coming but there are a couple of problems. Every image program known to man says the medium and small zooms are indeed 24bit images (which they have to be to get into the IFF file) but the Windows API says they’re 16. Go figure. Stupid stuff like that I have to deal with. For the curious, it took me a few days just to produce the stupid T-Rex object, having to stop the debugger in the middle of the program, opening up Paint Shop Pro, loading the image files, re-saving them as 24bit colour images then continuing on with the debugger to finish the import. Unfortunately you guys don’t have the environment for that and I’m not going to make having Visual Studio installed a requirement for running blueprint so we’ll fix that as soon as I can 🙂

Hi guys. Sorry for no news yesterday. My DNS server is acting up and I’m a little cut-off from the net for a bit while I figure things out. Actually, things starting going awry after I installed Windows ME. I am happy to say that blueprint runs fine under Windows ME so there are no problems there. Should have some new news for you shortly so hang in there.

Greetings! Okay, so this news post is going to be a little long. I wanted to post basically everything you wanted to know about animations but were afraid to ask. I’ll discuss the different type of object animations in The Sims, how blueprint creates them and how you can create your own animations. Some of this I’ve discussed before, but it seems like a good time to really get into the details so you can create new animations with blueprint. Okay, you can’t actually create new animations without altering the DrawGroups in the object. What’s a drawgroup? Read on.

First a little setup about how the Sims objects are put together and some terminology. Each object contains something called DrawGroups. These DrawGroups visually represent the state that an object is in. For example, the aquarium object contains 25 different states. These range from just the aquarium itself, various live fish states, feeding states and dead states (as well as each of those having a dirty counterpart state when the tank is dirty. Fish still swim, eat and die even if the tank is filled with crud). You can imagine that having 25 different images of this wouldn’t be a big deal with handle but multiply that by 100 objects and managing this becomes a bit of a nightmare. So a DrawGroup represents a graphical state of the object, but is really composed of various Sprites. When you breakdown the aquarium object you only have 14 Sprites. These are combined to form the various DrawGroups. For example, there is a sprite for the aquarium itself and this is re-used for each of the 25 drawgroups. So there’s only 14 images you have to deal with right? Not quite. You still need to deal with the fact that you have 3 zoom levels in the game. As well, some objects have various rotations that are pre-rendered (anywhere from 1-4). So each Sprite contains a number of SpriteFrames. How does this part relate to blueprint? In blueprint, you tell the program to replace the individual Sprites. It in turn, figures out how many frames (zooms/rotations) it needs to generate and builds the individual SpriteFrames and inserts them into the IFF file. blueprint doesn’t do anything to the DrawGroups so animation sequences are maintained. A future version will however, so the ability to add new animations or alter existing ones is just around the corner. In the meantime, you have to make due with the existing animations but you can replace the Sprites that are used to create those animations. Confused? Read on.

Now that we know how things work, there are actually two types of animations going on in objects. I call them static animations and kinetic animations (my terms). Static animations are where the objects generally doesn’t move around and things usually appear or disappear to simulate animation. An example of this would be the food preparation object. It doesn’t really do much, but as your Sim continues to prepare food, various things appear or disappar (and there might be some moving around but very little). The other type of animation is kinetic animation. This is where the Sprite (or Sprites) in the object are moved about the screen to simulate animation. An example of this is the rocket object, where the rocket itself zooms up into the sky. blueprint allows you to replace the Sprites in an object and since each Sprite is used for a frame of animation, you can create new animations with blueprint and a little ingenuity. For static objects, this is something that can be accomplished with the current version. The process would be to select the Sprite you want to replace, click on the “Replace this Sprite” checkbox and then select the meshes that will be used to visibly replace the selected Sprite. This allows you to have meshes in your scene that will not be visible in the final Sprite during export. For example you could create a psuedo-wall using the Plane primitive and use that for reference in creating a new painting. Then in the Sprite Editor, you just uncheck the wall so it doesn’t appear in the final output. This works fine for static animations and you could even use it for some kinetic animations. If you wanted to replace the rocket with a remote-control airplane (I’ve seen someone working on a toy plane that gave me this idea) you could import a mesh of an airplane, scale it down to the right size, duplicate it a few times and in each sprite for the various stages of the rocket, set a different copy of the plane to be visible (each copy would be in a different position simulating flight as well). This is very inefficient and troublesome however, since you need a fairly powerful machine to handle so many polygons and if you wanted to replace the texture on the wing of the plane, you would have to do it on each copy. Not a fun job.

There is hope however. On the horizon is object animation capabilities in blueprint that will allow you to have as many frames of animation as you want (in the 3D side of things). Then it’s a matter of creating one object, changing the frame number in blueprint and repositiong it and using the different frames as well as the visible list to generate your new Sprites. This is currently in testing and should be availble in a few weeks. At that time, we’ll take something like the aquarium object and turn it into a kinetic sculpture that revolves all day long (I choose the aquarium because it’s autonomous and doesn’t require the Sim to interact with it in order to make it animate).

I hope that explains some things about objects, animations and where things are going. There are also other great things happening with blueprint. I’ve taken on a new developer to handle some new functionality and there are plans for new editors and various other tools that will truely make creating and editing content for The Sims a fun thing. Stay tuned!