Hey guys. Hope you have a great long weekend. I’ll do some posted over the weekend once the new site design is uploaded and in place. I’ll also have some new news on blueprint 2.0 and maybe an object or two while I’m at it. Seeya!

Gearing up for the weekend and a bit of a change here at blue central. I’m just revamping the site to be a little cleaner and more organized, as well as adding a few new sections and hopefully getting some of those much needed tutorials online. Whew. There are still a few graphical changes I’m working on but basically this is what it looks like. Below is a preview you can click on to get the full image. Enjoy!









Well I certainly created a chaos of mayhem yesterday with my Edith post. It all started innocent enough. Yesterday morning I sat down and found a thread on the TSR forums about the reality of releasing Edith to the world. After realizing that there were dozens of rumors and many, many untrue statements I thought I’d try to set the record straight from my POV about Edith and the book I’m working on. Unfortunately, this proved to open a bigger can of worms.

After realizing that discussions were getting out of hand with all this book talk, I decided that I would get some more info from EA about the book. I wasn’t sure if Prima was going to publish it or I would use my publisher. It wasn’t a big concern since I was planning to approach this subject in due time when I had more material ready. Anyways, I decided to contact the marketing guy I was talking to and firm things up.

Of course, he’s not employed by Maxis/EA anymore. Sigh. This I find out today and Will had found out a few days ago and was going to contact me about it. So now I have to retell the tale to a new marketing person and of course they’re swamped with releases right now so this is going to take some time. It would have been nice of him to email me saying he’s not with the company anymore. Of course, now I have my doubts about whether or not anything has been confirmed at the Maxis end. Now don’t go jumping on your high horses saying the project doesn’t exist. It certainly does, I’ve put a fair amount of effort into it already and Will (who I know won’t be leaving Maxis anytime soon) has been supportive of it. It wil become a reality one way or another. Perhaps it means I do a new dance with EA to work out the details. Who knows. We’ll see where things go from here.

I am grateful that this discussion took place now, otherwise I would have gone on merrily along writing, oblivious to the fact that the guy who arranged everything for the book isn’t there anymore. The discussion thread, as asinine as it was at times, prompted me to contact Maxis/EA to get more info

So like I said, the project is progressing and we’ll see where things go from here but I thought I’d update everyone on what’s happening so far.

Finally, last night Will Wright posted a message on the forum to try to calm the natives down. It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for since the majority of the thread was a battle between people claiming I was a liar in the release plans for Edith as well as the book project, but it was good none the less. Again, people will leave this up to interpretation and also it doesn’t mention the book project, but I’m not here to say “Nyah Nyah” to those that don’t believe it. I know it’s moving forward and will become a reality at some point so the proof will be in the pudding so to speak.



Let me try to clear up a few things here. For some time now (since before The Sims was released) I have been hoping to release Edith to the public. Internally (at Maxis) there has not been total agreement on this idea. There are many valid concerns, primarily centered around the stability of player-programmed objects (imagine corrupt skins x10) and the amount of distraction from people emailing us asking how to use it . We’ve had many (way too many) discussions internally about whether the benefits outweigh the risks. It doesn’t look like we’ll ever reach a full consensus on this so we just need to make a decision.

I think we now have a plan that will involve cleaning it up a bit and trying to make it a bit less dangerous (though not watered-down by any means). It will still take some time to achieve this (too many things happening all at once around here) but I hope to have this done before Xmas.

A few points need to be made.

1 – As Bil points out, Edith is just a code editor for the object/sim behaviors in the game. It is not used to create animations, graphics or sound effects. It can just call these assets if they already exist.

2 – Edith is not simple by any means. It is a full programming language with variables, subroutines, stack frames, etc. The objects we release go through a very thorough design-production-testing cycle. It’s very easy to make a buggy object that will crash the game with unpredictable consequences.

3 – We cannot afford to support this tool in any way. If it looks like we’re going to get hundreds of people trying to contact us for technical support or programming help then we’ll be forced to abandon the effort. (I’m hoping that you’ll bug Bil about it instead)

I know this whole thing has been rather confusing to the sims community (it has been within Maxis also). We’re somewhat in uncharted territory here. But so far it seems that every time we’ve taken a risk with our fan community we’ve been surprised (in a good way) and amazed at what they manage to create. I really do want to see how far we can take this whole player-created content idea.

-Will Wright

So with the creation of the book as a reference, I am in agreement that you can barrage me with technical support questions on Edith. True, I’m not a Maxis employee and there are some (many) at Maxis that know far more than I do because they’ve been working with it daily for years but I have a good handle on how it works, what can or can’t be done with it and how to solve problems. It’s a learning process though and I learn new things everyday when looking at objects in the editor. However, the 99% of the people that will be using the tool I’m confident I can guide you through it.

Stick around. It’s going to be a fun ride.

Edith, The Sims Book and quelching the rumors

Argh. You know, I find it somewhat amusing that the wheels of the internet slowly grind away while you’re sleeping, working and whatnot. Little rumblings gyrate behind the scenes without your supervision and all the time people making up fancy tales that are based on speculation, having no real resemblance to truth. Like I’ve said before, the crutch of the matter is that you can’t ever proove anything on the internet. You stand at the top of a mountain proclaiming something grand, and everyone hollers and dances then pulls back the covers wanting proof. And how does one proove ones claims in this anonymous ether we call the net?

Okay, enough of the pathetic attempt at literature. I’m rather irked by all the rumblings going on regarding Edith, The Sims book and whatnot. I thought I’d do this post to try to set the record straight, but thinking about it, it really doesn’t matter because even if Will Wright himself sent everyone a personal email saying “Everything Bil Simser says is true”, some still wouldn’t believe. In any case, I’ll take a stab at some of the major issues here.

Some claim that the whole Edith thing is a farce. To what end, they can’t say, so why would Maxis say they’re going to release it only to yank that hope away from you sometime in the future? It does them no good. True, eons ago someone from Maxis claimed that Edith would never be released to the public and it would be kept privately. Times change. When the book idea came about, the concept of releasing a version of Edith came with it (not sure how this really manifested itself as I can’t find the exact thread in my emails with Will). In any case, here’s an email from Will regarding Edith:



Bil,

I talked to Jamie D. last night (he was the creator of Edith and is now living in Barcelona, Spain). We’re going to put him under contract to modify Edith into the player version. I’m still collecting suggestions from the internal programmers about what we want to change (if you have any ideas please send them). I’ll know more in a week when I present the ideas to him.

We’re still a go.

-Will

So yes, they are putting the original author of Edith under contract to build a watered down version of Edith. Don’t get your panties in an uproar right now though. It will still let you do tons of cool things, they’re just removing a few of the more nastier primitives and making it a little easier to use.

Now onto the book itself. There’s no official announcement on Maxis’ site simply because a) we haven’t thought about it yet (the book is still in draft form and far from completion) and b) it’s still undecided who the publisher will be. This is a message from Maxis regarding the publishing:



Hi Bill,

Good news. The folks who published our Sims strategy guide (Prima) have given their verbal consent for your proposed book. Our legal and OEM people are drawing up an addendum for Prima to sign to make it official. We should be seeing this sometime next week. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s a “done deal”. Let me know if you have questions or concerns and thanks for your patience with this matter.

Sam

Later, I got the “official” word from EA/Maxis in this email:



Hi Bill. Well, we’ve finally received the official go ahead for you to proceed with your Sims book. Consider this e-mail official approval from EA. Thanks again for all your patience with this process.

Sam

So it’s up in the air right now about who is publishing it. I’m talking to Maxis/EA now to figure that out. It might be Prima, it might be someone else. Hence no announcement on Amazon.com or other book dealers. At some point (hopefully in the near future) I’ll send off a few drafts to people, everyone will sing and dance and perhaps Maxis will make an announcement on their site. I just haven’t got that far yet.

Now there’s the question of the whole deal itself. A lot of people seem to have it out for me, no matter how well liked I am (okay, maybe I’m not THAT liked). In any case, Maxis did NOT approach me on this, I did, and it was the result of an inquiry from a fan. It started with this email (edited for length):



Hello Bil,

My name is Lisa Herschbach (Arctic Frost) and I couldn’t help but notice who you

are in the Sim’s community.

I would like you to consider writing a book on object creation for The Sims. I

have resources that could help you get the book published, although I haven’t

published any books myself. I have only been part of interviews for books

written on online communities.

Thank you for your time,

Lisa Herschbach

Thus it began and a flurry of emails to Will started:



Hi Will,

Just wondering about something. A few people have read some excerpts from my game programming book that I’m having published right now and asked me if I would create a book on object creation for The Sims. It sounds like a neat idea (I’m not sure if there’s enough there to spread it out to an entire book though so I might have to cover other Sims creation topics). Just wondering what you think about it, what legal ramifications there might be for an “outsider” writing about this and what kind of support I might get from Maxis on it? Thanks!

liB

And the initial response:



Bill,

I just read this (I’ve been out-of-town for a while. I’m forwarding it around to see if there are any problems and I’ll get back to you soon about it. (I like the idea myself)

-Will

After a couple of months of emails, the official word (above) was given and work began on it. Now the immediate question is how can a guy like me pull off making money from a product from Maxis? The answer is simple. Go visit your local bookstore and look at all the non-Microsoft books written about Microsoft products. Or the game books not written by the game companies. It’s just typical of the market. Maxis has the resources to focus on games, not books. Perhaps there were some people at Maxis that contributed to the strategy guides you can see as there will be certainly people contributing to the product, but the effort comes from me. How can I profit from such a thing? Devoting hundreds of hours of working on it should have some payback. Writing a book is nowhere near the effort of reading one. Just because you can tear through a book in a weekend sitting doesn’t mean it can be put together that quickly. So I’m looking for some payback, but the money isn’t the important fixation here. It’s the content. I know how complex The Sims is from a programming aspect and I know that Maixs would like to get this information out to the public. They just are too wrapped up in writing the games instead of documenting them. Look at any game company and ask them for internal documentation on how games work. Most of them have nothing except a few skeleton text files and the rest you learn if you’re involved in the project. In any case, the situation here is that given the complexities of The Sims and Edith, I saw a need for a book and decided to give it a shot. Also note that the book isn’t just Edith. It covers all aspects of the Sims including file formats, reading and writing game content, how files work and interact with the game, third party tools (gotta toot my own horn sometime) and of course, Edith.

Well, hopefully that wraps up some questions you had about this. I’m sure there are hundreds more. Sorry, there is no X-Files conspiracy here. No hidden agendas and no magic bullet. Rather than spend countless hours spreading rumors and mistruths, just fire off an email and ask. I’d be glad to answer whatever question you have. I’d rather people know what’s going on from the horses mouth instead of other peoples opinion (some that have nothing to do with the project). Even with the emails I’ve posted here, there will still be some that will not be convinced until they have it in their hot little hands (and even then, they’re still not convinced) so for you types, I’m sorry you don’t have a more open mind about things but ce la vie.

Hey there. Just getting some more debugging done and trying to tie up some loose ends with blueprint and the other programs. Someone suggested something interesting with the Far Edit program today. “there are somany files I cant open and see.. and want to be able to see the heads and skins that come with all the sims games and expansions so I can delete the ones I wont use and dont want.. is there a way you can open those head and skin files that come with the game and arent in a bmp format so we can view them and delete ones we dont want please?”. Actually, you basically can. You just delete the cmf and other files from Textures.far. However, you can’t tell what files to delete since they’re all in binary format. Now grant you, I don’t agree to deleting content from the base Sim files, but if that’s your wish then so be it. The next update for the Far Editor will including a decyption process to view the files in text format and allow you to piece things together and see what files make up what. You should be able to remove whatever content you wish easily once this is done.

Greets! A couple of things to take care of today.

First off, I know the texture support in blueprint sucks (especially with imported 3D files, with blueprint primitives it’s not so bad) and even the texture packs available here sometimes don’t load. Trust me. I know! 🙂 So the one thing that is highest priority on my list was to get textures of any shape, size and format working. This is done for the next release. So that, combined with the powerful 3D editing capabilities should make blueprint a well rounded tool.

There are still (and will continue to be) people that just scratch their heads at blueprint and claim Tmog is much easier to use. Well sure. What do you have to do in Tmog? Not much. Press a few buttons and import bitmaps. Besides going into the editor and shifting the tiles around to make sure they match, there’s really nothing much to do. I’m not knocking Tmog. It’s a great program and does what it was meant to. However, when you start mentioning zbuffers and editing palettes, people get the same deer-in-the-headlights look as they do with blueprint. And if you don’t edit your bitmaps with anything but Microsoft Paint (and who does that really?) then where is the simplicity in this? I’m just trying to debunk the idea that blueprint is complicated. Yes, it’s a 3D editor and you have to deal with 3 axes, fractional numbers and all that jazz but compared to any alternative, I think it’s pretty good. I’m still waiting for someone to show me a powerful 3D editor with all the bells and whistles which is easy to use. Sorry, I don’t mean to rant but my emails fill up daily with messages like “I ran blueprint and don’t know what to do”. I can’t help you there. There is no special “Create me a fantastic object” button that you can press and get art. I am lacking on tutorials and for that I’m guilty. There are a few around the net but they seem to be a little thin. Claw made an excellent tutorial for Tmog which weighed in a 20 pages or something (but that covered everything!) so something like that is needed for blueprint.

I’m just in the midst of changing the layout to the site. I’m bored with it and wanted to jazz it up a bit. I know, why mess with a good thing (is it a good thing?). Anyways, when I get time I’ll be doing that but in the meantime I have three goals to get completed with the site. First, a new Edith section. This will be a fairly full featured section that has screenshots and descriptions of the various things you can do in Edith. Second, blueprint tutorials. I keep putting these off until I get to the new version, but that’s still a ways off so I’ll probably hunker down and get the tutorials done toot sweet. I think this would be a good thing. Third is to beef up the developer section. Some new formats need to be discussed so I’ll be filling this area in with stuff I know and can expose. I think with the book coming, which will basically expose almost everything, I should be safe to start dumping out information. And don’t go jumping on my throat by holding all this stuff back. I spent months of working with Maxis and signing NDAs to get where I was. I wasn’t being selfish (or at least I hope I wasn’t), I just simply couldn’t say too much since I was learning all of that stuff myself. Before you get all giddy though, I won’t be dumping out the source code to blueprint or something. There is still a lot of things that I had to do to make things work. Anyways, I’ll update things as I go along and try to get you whatever information you need.

That’s about it. Off to work-by-day land. Seeya soon!

Hey there. No post for yesterday, I was relaxing and trying to catch up on a few things. A few questions were posed in the forums, one about animation which is a big part of The Sims, new objects and whatnot. I thought I’d just post the reply here for those that might be a little in the dark. There are two types of animations that Maxis creates.

The first is object animations. These are the sprite frames that make up animating an object (just the object). For example when a fridge door opens. There are separate sprite frames for each frame of animation. A drawgroup tells The Sims how to play the animation (what frames to use, speed, etc.). Maxis creates these by animating them in 3D Studio MAX and exporting the frames using a custom utility.

The second type of animation is character animation. This is how the Sim characters (both your character, neighbors and NPCs) move around the world. This also includes how they interact with objects (i.e. how they reach out to open a fridge door or move around to sit in a chair). These animations are created again with 3D Studio and an add-on called Character Studio. The animations are created and then exported as ascii/binary files that are read by The Sims to perform the animation.

Also, I’m going to put together an Edith page and add it here. This will contain some screenshots and information on using the program and how it works. Just a pre-cursor to the Sims book I’m working on. Watch for this shortly.

Hi ho. While in the midst of getting the new blue to you, I’m revamping SimExplorer and the other tools. SimExplorer, which is surprisingly popular, is getting a bit of a facelift and overhaul. It’s adopting the blueprint UI with all the customization that has as well as a few other features. It’s also being updated to support viewing inside FAR files, supports all bitmap files so you can use it as a skin browser (and convert the bitmaps to various other forms) and it’ll support some other Sim files like FAM files and looking at strings inside IFF files (like Careers).

I’ll also have an announcement and screenshot of a new tool that should revolutionize your house building. Watch for that later this week. Seeya!

Hey guys. Hope you had the pleasure of dropping by the TSR chat today. Will Wright was there with info about The Sims Online, subscriptions and some insight into why things happen at Maxis the way they do. Anyways, a fun time was had by all. TSR will have the transcripts of all the chats this weekend (myself, Claw and Will Wright) so drop by if you missed it.

Morning! Just a quick note that I’m heading over to the TSR chat now so join in for the next hour as we explore the wacky world of The Sims and chat about whatever ails you. See you there!