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:

OVERALL

- 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.

OUTSIDE

- 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 RIDE

- 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.

CAPTAIN EO

- I changed nothing! You hear me? Nothing!


IMAGE WORKS

- 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,
Mike

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.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Version 6.5: The White Room


At long last... the Arts Scene (or White Room) is in the simulation version 6.5 (web and download).  Like everything else, it is not complete, but it is no longer the furthest behind in development.

This room has been a brick wall because of its complexity for some time.  Thousands of flowers were bogging down the processing.  And then a nice man by the name of Deadstar on Facebook gave me the elegantly simple solution to the problem - transparency!  (Witness the epic moment here).  Remember, I have no idea what I'm doing and am learning all of this as I go so tips and tricks from all of you make a HUGE difference sometimes.

Anyway, another major reason why this took so long is that I tore apart every single scene of the ride and reassembled the parts according to textures and colors.  This has made organizing a lot easier, geometry cleaner, and the Unity 3D engine likes it a lot better.  You may not notice any difference, but it was a ton of work and it makes this project better for me and your computer.  The next technical step will be using my newly learned transparency trick in other places to simplify more complex geometry without losing quality.

I think that's all I really did in this update.  It may not seem like much but it was a huge step.  Updates should come a little faster in the future.  Unless I get lazy...

 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

1.2 Million Lines Later...

I'm a techie by trade and a numbers nerd by nature, so I'm going to post some statistics about this project.  This is mostly for my amusement, but maybe some of you will find it interesting too.

As part of the same nerdy need, I have posted a bunch of "behind the scenes" pictures of the models that make up JBII over on the Facebook page.  See that HERE.

And now, the stats (as of Aug 11, 2012)...  

The 4 main Sketchup models for JBII (outside, ride, theater, image works) consist of the following:

  • 1,242,274  lines
  • 510,694  faces (individual flat surfaces)
  • 185  components (how the models are exported in pieces)
  • 378  colors or textures

The actual numbers are a lot higher because this doesn't account for repeated (or instanced) components or any of the parts that are directly created in Unity 3D instead of Sketchup.

  • 1 year, 5 months, and 22 days of progress
But of course, I didn't work on it every day.  :-)

The actual simulation is built in a program called Unity 3D.  This project currently consists of:
  • 20,892  files (many of these are support files that you never see)
  • 1,153  folders

My research, reference and archive materials consist of an additional:

  • 3,549  files (which still don't include good blueprints of the ride scenes)
  • 873  folders (I'm a little obsessive about documentation)
The entire project is just a little under 9 GB with everything included.

Yep, I'm that kind of nerd...