Saturday, September 3, 2016

JBII Version 8.1: Journey Into Animation

Version 8.1 is now available as videos only. The playable web and download versions will be coming shortly and I'll let you know as soon as they are. This version has updates for the ride and outdoor sections only.

See the videos HERE. They are still a bit jumpy. I'm still looking for a better video capture system.

The big additions this time is a lot of animated pieces. I've also upgraded some of the textures (metal, glass, and mirrors) and lighting. Here is the full list of things that changed in this version:

- Added ability to move around in ride vehicles (which sort of works)
- Updated all scripts and sketchup model imports

- Controlled timing for jumping fountains
- Restored plants in pots in Image Works lobby
- Realtime reflections for glass and metal outside
- Mirrors in the lobby
- Updated waterfall and jumping fountain particles
- Improved the explorable boundaries outside
- Fixed geometry in pyramids

- Animated gizmos and lights on Dreamfinder vehicle
- Animated sparks moving through tubes of vehicle
- Animated Figment's appearance

- Shifting colors on Work of Art wall
- Added new props
- Animated clapping hands in chest
- Added rainbow chase on waterfall

- Add movement to “shake” and “tumble”
- Added “sway” and animated it
- Animated “surprise”
- Floating letters inside the organ and flames on top

- Rotating posters
- Added new props and sets

- Upgraded particles in star tunnel
- Animated lights above Dreamfinder
- Added rotating galaxy and Figment film
- Minor update to crystal ball in Magic

- Add Dreamfinder movie crane and chair for photo op
- Add photo flash in Star Tunnel
- Added stars on ceiling in Finale
- Added rotating film canister in Finale

Friday, November 20, 2015

JBII Version 8.0: A Brand New Show

After 11 months of struggles and upgrades and the discontinuation of the Unity WebPlayer, JBII Version 8.0 is online... in multiple formats! There are 3 versions of it available:

The Original Unity WebPlayer: This is the web viewer that I've been using all along. However, because most browsers no longer support NPAPI, this will most likely not work for most of you anymore.
The New Unity WebGL: This viewer is still in "Preview" and is not quite up to speed with the original WebPlayer. But since it is really the only available option, I am using it. In order to make it work, I had to make a lot of adjustments, the biggest being that the simulation is split back into 4 separate scenes (Outside, Ride, Theater, Image Works). This was done for memory management reasons. Also, some scripting behaves a little strangely here. So far, I've noticed that the mouse look-around does not spin a full 360, music sync is bad, and the new laser effect in the Image Works isn't quite right. Let em know if you have any issues with the WebGL viewer and I'll fix it as best I can.
The Stand-Alone Player (exe) for Windows. It is in a zip file. There is no Mac version at this time. Long story.

For all of these options CLICK HERE.
What is new in this release?

- The entire thing has been upgraded to Unity 5. That upgrade changed the way a lot of things worked and that has taken a lot of time to fix. I also attempted to convert all of the models to Maya instead of Sketchup and that broke EVERYTHING. After undoing that, I decided to keep the existing parts in Sketchup and future additions (especially organic parts) will be in Maya.

- The ride system has been completely scrapped and rebuilt from scratch. It now runs much smoother and more accurately. The new system also gives you the ability to Fast Forward (O key) or Pause (P key). The ride is also full trains of 4 cars now and using the 1 through 4 keys, you can pick which one you want to sit in. You can also choose from 2 new overhead views using the 5 and 6 keys.

- The ability to walk around in the ride (W key) is still available, but I added a flashlight (L key) because it gets dark in there. All of these new keyboard shortcuts are available using the H key to toggle the menu on and off.

- The outdoors has been re-landscaped with new trees that blow in the wind. There have also been a few minor texture fixes.

- A couple of small additions in the ride like lighting on the turntable and flowers in the Dreamport.

- New lighting everywhere, but most updated in the Captain EO Theater.

- Some new effects in the Image Works including a chasing rainbow tunnel and laser scanners in the Light Writer. I had some animation in the Kaleidoscope but had to remove it because of a bug with video. Working on fixing that now.

That's it for now. More coming soon and let me know how things are working (or not working) with the WebGL.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

JBII Version 7.3: Listen to the Landscaping

Version 7.3 is now online! Check out the web simulation HERE.

This version has only one purpose and only one change... to make the outdoor scene better. I really wanted it to feel more like it was actually a part of EPCOT Center, instead of a strange rectangular floating island. So here are the basic changes:

- Real 3D representations of Spaceship Earth, the monorail, World of Motion, Communicore, and The Land are now visible through the trees (especially upstairs in the pyramid). I put them in their real world positions and scales so they will always look correct from any viewing location.

- Better trees! I did my best to make the trees match reference photos nearest the pavilion. In the distances, there are extra trees to mask the edges of the landscape.

- More accurate pathways and planters! I love those cool circular planters and did my best to get all of them in the right places. I think it makes a lot more sense now. You can also explore a little bit further out than you could before. "This area is temporarily closed" signs will let you know when you can't go further.

- The water feature now extends halfway through this half of Future World. It feels so peaceful now.

- There are now other plants in some of the planters in the courtyard and upstairs in the pyramid. Just looks nicer.

- One major glitch so far. I know the background music is resetting on its own from time to time. I'm going to change the scripts that run the music in version 7.4. 

That's it for now. Enjoy!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

JBII Version 7.2: Journey Into Renovation

Version 7.2 is online! See the web simulation HERE or download a Windows stand-alone HERE. What happened to Version 7.1, you might ask. I don't know. I lost count. Who cares? Version 7.2 is ready at last!

What's new in this version:


- A bunch of bug fixes. Rest assured, there are still plenty in there though. The work continues...

- A brand new GUI menu. There is now a menu overlay on your screen that gives you all the keyboard shortcut keys. If you don't want to see it, just press "h". That key will toggle the menu on and off as you like. And remember, there are different options in every scene so this menu will change for each of them.

- Better scene changes. The simulation is still divided into 4 parts: outside, the ride, Captain EO, and the Image Works. You start outside while the other 3 scenes are "streamed" to your web browser in the background. Now, you will get pop-up messages when each of these scenes is ready. No more guessing.

- I fixed your perspective. You're an adult now and are taller than the trashcans.


- I've added a bunch of the signs that were appropriate to 1986 (mostly EO-related) as well as missing handrails, telephones, water fountains, etc. Also, better trees everywhere.

- I also discovered that I had some of the building architecture wrong, because it had changed a bit over the years. I added back missing parts of the building entrance, a planter, and the extension of the long curved blue barrier to the left of the entrance.

- I also added the ability to walk inside the restrooms on the far right side of the building. There's nothing in there, but go crazy.


- The "Work of Art" is no longer a blank white wall. I used a photo to create a mural that gives the feel of the original. I am still looking for a proper shot of the whole thing.

- I added the lightning effect to the end of The Arts scene. However, it isn't working in the web version, only the stand-alone. Working on that.

- There are a few new pieces in the Literature scene now. It is a lot less black space now.

- The posters are up in the Showbiz scene now (but the marquee vanished).

- There is a glitch when you first enter the Science tunnel and it will appear to be missing. Hold on, it will come back as you move into it.

- I've updated the ride photo (which is me and my family in the backseat, by the way) and unload areas. It makes much more sense now and isn't so dark.

- The lighting has been tweaked all over the place, hopefully for the better.


- I changed nothing! You hear me? Nothing!


- Like the restrooms outside, you can now wander around in the "backstage" rooms behind Electronic Philharmonic. Also like the restrooms, there is nothing in there. Enjoy.

- The Rainbow Corridor has chasing neon colors now. It's not perfect, but it is getting there. I'm still learning how this works.

- The signs and details for Kaleidoscope and Magic Palette are in. They look much more finished now.

So that's all I can remember for now. Have fun!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Version 7: Upgraded!!!

Version 7.0 is, at long last, online!!!!

And the downloadble version is ready too.  Get it HERE.

I am painfully aware that it has taken almost 15 months for this update to finally arrive.  And I'm prepared for some of you to see it and say, "THIS took over a year?"  The reality is that only 1 scene has been updated and that is the outdoors scene.  The short story about why this took so long is:

1.  My professional and personal life got about 150% busier in this past year.  This project was much easier to make progress on when I had little or no life and a job with tons of downtime / boredom.  That is no longer the case (which is good for me).

2.  This update represents a change from Unity Free version 3.x to Unity Pro 4.x.  I was not prepared for what a massive change in how everything works this would be.  Nearly every band-aid or sloppy "new guy" modeling mistake I made in the previous 2 years of work was suddenly exposed in all sorts of horrible ways.  Almost nothing worked right anymore and everything got WAY uglier.  And for every fix I made, at least 2 other things broke.  I had to rebuild a whole lot of things from scratch just to get them back to where they started.

3.  In the past year, this kind of simulation and technology has actually become a part of my real job.  Most of my "R&D" time has been spent doing this on real projects that I can probably show you in about 2 to 5 years.  :-)

The longer story of what has been happening can be found HERE.

So what's new?

- A lot of clean-up, bug fixes, performance upgrades, and do-overs.  Many of these are invisible.

- Lighting!  The lighting and shadows are so much better now.  And there is actual lighting in the lobbies now instead of sunlight just pouring in through the walls.

- Special FX!  New reflective water is probably the most obvious.  I'm continuing to tweak this and the fountain fx so I expect these will get really nice looking as time goes on.

- Occlusion culling.  Look it up if you care, but this should improve performance greatly.

- New textures in many places.  Thanks to the wonders of bump maps, the concrete surfaces look more like concrete now.

- It's been over a year, I can't remember what else.

There are a couple of new bugs in there, so watch out.  The walking part of the ride scene may be turned sideways sometimes and if you try to enter the Image Works before the scene loads, you'll fall into oblivion.  Sorry.  Will fix these shortly.  

Hope it is and continues to be worth the wait.  Thanks for your patience and support!  :-)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What's taking so damn long?

For those of you still patiently waiting on me, thank you.  I thought I'd give you a quick run-down of what is happening that is making the next release take so long.  Firstly...

- Work.
- Personal life (for good reasons).

But here are the technical reasons:

- The upgrade from 3.5 to version 4.0 and now 4.2 as well as the switch from Free to Pro has introduced roughly a million new options and changed the way a lot of stuff works.  I'm sifting through these options and fixing things that got weird in the transitions as quick as I can.  I literally did everything as tricks and work-arounds for the Free version that work against me in Pro.  It is a lot of mess to clean up spread across 4 very complicated "scenes".  Work is really happening though.

- Lighting, shadows, lighting, and lighting.  The advent of Pro shadows has dramatically altered the way everything looks and that requires a bit of tweaking.  In the outdoor scene, the sunlight no longer floods the interior spaces, so I am having to add all that missing lighting in the lobby now.

- I've been changing the way the water effects work in the outside scene.  That is mostly done now.  And it looks pretty cool.

- Glass, transparency, and reflections.  Kill me.

- I attempted to switch from the modeled terrain to Unity's internal terrain builder.  That was disastrous so I am back where I started for now.  Will try again in a later version.  Part of that effort was to get access to trees that will respond to wind.

Terrain disaster in progress...
- An aborted attempt to animate the escalators turned into a big mess in the lobby during the conversion.  Cleaning that up is not going smoothly.

- The upgrade of textures and bump maps in conjunction with the new lighting is easy but very time-consuming.  I am literally retexturing entire sections of the model just to make it look like it did before or better.

- Pro has real occlusion culling and some tools designed to help reduce the load on the processor and graphics card.  Now that I can see what I was doing wrong before, I'm trying to fix it, but 2 years of blind work has made this a big mountain to climb.  I have also removed the fake occlusion system that was in there, which is good because it was frustrating to make work right.

- 2 things that I have been experimenting with (eating up time as well) are better scripting methods that I've recently learned and a new engine for the ride system that will hopefully be less buggy.  These will probably not be in the next release.

And that is this week's list of excuses.  Hopefully, that gives you an idea of just how much this upgrade has kind of blown up in my face.  I'll get it straightened out and released as soon as possible.  I just want it to be pretty again (prettier even) before I release it again.

Thanks everyone,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cool Things Are Coming

It's been a while since I've done much work on this.  But, I really have done some work.  I just haven't finished enough to upload it.  Anyway, I thought I'd take a moment to share some news that will hopefully affect this project for the better (and more frequently) soon.

For those who don't know, I work as a Technical Designer at a theme park design company called Thinkwell in Burbank, CA.  In the past year, a new program has been started at work where employees are given time and resources to study a topic of interest (to the employee and the company) in an effort to become an expert in that topic.  We call them "Gurus".  The first round of Gurus just finished the program and the 2nd round has begun.  I applied for the 2nd round and was selected.  I'm very excited and happy about this.  By the way, this isn't secret and I did get permission to talk about it.
At Thinkwell with the co-workers.  I'm 2nd from the left.
Anyway, what does this have to do with the JBII project?  My topic of interest is Real Time Attraction Simulation.  In other words, the same thing that I've been trying to do with the JBII simulation all this time will be a part of my job.  I'm going to learn how to make our park and attraction designs into playable simulations so we can see how our designs are working in a virtual environment before we build them for real.  I'm going to explore many different options, but the Unity 3D game engine that I use for JBII is high on the list of those options.  My hope is that as I take classes, go to conventions, and interview other professionals, my skills will sharpen and I'll get much better (and faster) at doing this.  

And though it is not the primary focus of my Guru-ship, I hope that lessons learned will make JBII a better project as well.  In fact, because I already have this fairly large and complicated simulation at my disposal, I can test out new techniques on it as I go.  

This round has already begun and my research starts now.  If any of you have resources, contacts, tips or tricks that might help me out, I definitely want to hear about it.  And of course, feedback is always helpful and welcome.

So, I'm still here and there is more coming soon.