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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

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EVE Online: Upgrading Planet Visuals
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 2 comments

CCP Games has posted a new developer blog describing recent updates to its sci-fi MMO, EVE Online. The post offers an in-depth look at effort required to revamp the visual look of planets and moons, including the new Plasma planet type added with the Dominion expansion.

We soon realized that the clouds are the most noticeable feature of a planet and they needed to look very good. These textures are the biggest textures used by the planets, 2048x2048 pixels when your client is set to ‘High' texture quality.

The shader starts by adding a shadow underneath the clouds to give them some depth. We have the direction to the sun in texture space so we simply make a new lookup into the cloud texture but shift it by a certain amount. We then perform a regular texture lookup into the cloud texture and add it on top.

The cloud maps each have a corresponding pole texture mapped using the pole coordinates. Where these overlap with the belly texture we combine them using a max() function.

Light Scattering
Physical accuracy was important for us to make a believable atmosphere. Scattering controls the color of the atmosphere as well as making the light terminator creep further into the dark side of the planet, since the light is bouncing inside the atmosphere. We started by calculating the atmospheric scattering in real time, but ended on a pre-baked solution. Scattering is view dependant so we created a lookup texture where the view dependant factor is on one axis and the light direction dependant factor was on the other.

The atmosphere on the horizon was treated differently. There we have separate geometry and calculate the bulk of the scattering equations in the vertex shader, but feed the result to the pixel shader and complete the calculations there. This gives us the nice effect that light behind the planet will still scatter towards the camera.

Let there be city lights
Some of the Temperate planets are inhabited and their cities can be seen from space. We use one texture covered in UV texture coordinate patches, spherical mapped, to provide surrogate texture coordinates. The texture coordinates fetched are used to look up into a texture atlas. We then mask the fringes of these patches with a separate grayscale texture. The UV patch textures were baked in Maya.

Visit the page below for the rest of the post.

EVE Online: Updating Planet Graphics
CCP Games
EVE Online

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Diablo III Previewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Hooked Gamers has posted a new preview of Diablo III, the much anticipated next installment of the popular action RPG series from Blizzard Entertainment. The preview offers an overview of what is currently known about the environments, missions, character classes, and abilities in the upcoming game.

The Witch Doctor is a brand new class and practitioner of voodoo, combining elements from previous character classes - namely the Sorceress, Necromancer, and Druid. He specializes in altering the minds of enemies, and summoning spirits and zombies. His Horrify ability calls forth a spirit that sends enemies running in fear, while Corpse Spiders creates a zombie that releases poisonous spiders which attack nearby enemies.

The Wizard is much more similar to Diablo II's Sorceress than the Witch Doctor, despite also being a new class. The Wizard focuses on elemental attacks - Electrocute and Ray of Frost deal lightning and cold damage, respectively - but can also conjure objects to aid him in battle. Spectral Blade produces airborne blades that attack enemies and Conjured Armor surrounds the Wizard with an aura that increases his chance to block an attack.

The Monk is perhaps the most original class in Diablo III. He eschews heavy weapons, armor, and overt displays of magic, instead utilizing his body and mind in some supernatural form of kung fu. Following the kung fu conventions of speed and flow, some of the Monk's abilities incorporate a combo system - each relevant ability is made up of three stages. Between each stage, the player has a little over half a second to initiate the subsequent stage. The first stage of the Way of the Hundred Fists ability is a dashing attack that deals 100% weapon damage. The second stage is six quick punches that each deals 8% damage. And the third stage is a final blast that deals 85% weapon damage to all nearby enemies.
To read more follow the link listed below.

Hooked Gamers: Diablo III Preview
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo III
Buy Diablo III

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Dragon Age: Origins Collectors Edition For Mac Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 9 comments

Digital Chumps has posted a new review of the Mac version of Dragon Age: Origins Collector's Edition. Bioware's latest fantasy role playing epic challenges players to take on the role of a Grey Warden and defend the land of Fereldin from the monstrous Darkspawn. DC gave the game a score of 9.8 out of 10.

From the review:

Taking a chapter from KOTOR, Bioware took a system that certainly wasn't broken and widened it to fit the needs of a knight/mage/ranger/etc. system. In Dragon Age: Origins, you'll find yourself crafting individuals in an almost specific manner. For example, in my game I started off as a warrior class character. As I progressed through the game I was able to upgrade my warrior's skills as a talker, fighter and trustworthy ally. Talker represents how you can talk to people and persuade them to help you or intimidate them to submit. Along side how you carry yourself and your weight with people; you have other options in this category that can include how you carry yourself in battle. As a fighter you can upgrade things like handling dual-weapons, using shields in an offensive way or how you use two-handed weaponry (like a large ax, hammer, etc.). With each category in all of these upgradable features, each one goes about six deep. So, there are six different power-ups for a two-handed weapon handler; there are four-to-six different ways to use a two-handed power-up. Hopefully, I haven't thoroughly confused you with this banter, but in short you've got different ways to craft your character. This is the same system that was intact with Knights of the Old Republic, but just slightly deeper in choices. Also available are the typical categories included with a Dungeons and Dragons-esque game. These include: Cunning, Dexterity, Strength, Magic, etc. Simple categories that help you better your character's actions.

There's a great chance that the character you make is going to be incredibly different from the one your friend makes; even if you all are both warriors. Making this system even deeper is the fact that you can modify and adjust your weapons. Along the way in the game you are able to pick up different forms of elements that you can meld to your weaponry. Add lightening, fire or whatever if you can find to make your weapons more powerful. The possibilities are nothing short of amazing and incredibly entertaining.

Speaking of weapons, the amount of weapons that Bioware included in this title is simply incredible. Swords, bows, hammers, axes, staffs, a variety of arrows laced with different elements; it's simply nuts. Each character class has different weapons it can use, but the amount of weapons available for each character class is enormous. It has been a while since I haven't seen a wall for weapon limitations, but Dragon Age provides the limitless view now. My character sported a Diamond Hammer that I carried through most of the game. This weapon worked extremely well through three different missions and eight boss fights. Remarkably, and thankfully, the game doesn't sport that annoying Fallout 3 degrading weapon feature. I'm not sure you should really call it a feature; it's just plain annoying.
Click over to the link below for more.

Digital Chumps: Dragon Age CE Mac Review
Dragon Age: Origins

The Rise Of Blizzard Entertainment
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

GamesIndustry.bizM has published a new interview with Blizzard Entertainment CEO Paul Sams and Executive Producer Rob Pardo about the company's rise to dominance in the gaming industry. The two Blizzard veterans discuss the company's early history, design philosophies, finding talented employees, and focus on long term goals.

"You'll always find with Blizzard that we have the long-term view on everything," says Sams. "Sometimes, when we sit in meeting rooms and talk about certain things, it's a very common conversation point when we talk about going down a particular road as a short-term decision - and why is it that we think making a short-term decision is the right one for the company, the employees, or the gamers?

"Traditionally what happens is that if we're looking to make a short-term decision it's oftentimes overruled before we do it, because we always have the view that doing the thing that's going to have a mid- or long-term investment for the company, employees and gamers is going to be the right one.

"While it might not bring us the most revenue or benefit immediately, we always take the position that if you do the right thing, that in the mid- or long-term that's always going to be the better answer - the thing that's going to deliver the best results and make people the most delighted... the gamers, the employees, and ultimately because we're a public company, I believe making those decisions is in the best interest of the shareholders as well because they'll see a lot more value creation.

"Short-term target shooting is, in my opinion, not the right answer - it's making sure that the company is built to last, and delivers year-in, year-out on its promises, both on a financial perspective but also on a quality and product experience perspective, which is a key foundation. Blizzard's all about making the best games in the world. All the other stuff comes along with it."
Check out the full interview at the page listed below. Paul Sams, Rob Pardo Interview
Blizzard Entertainment

Mac Games News for Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rome: Total War Gold Coming To Macs February 57:55 AM
The Sims 3: Design & High-Tech Stuff Screenshots6:00 AM
The Story Behind The Protoss Mothership6:00 AM
Two Worlds II Previewed6:00 AM
Wiz Solitaire 1.45 Released6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Tuesday, January 19, 2010 on one page

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