Archive for September, 2009

Another Photography Tutorial

Here’s  yet another close-up or macro photography tutorial.


The Amazing Amit

I’m not entirely sure who Amit is, but he maintains THE best one-stop game programming site I’ve come across. He has links to massive amounts of concise, straightforward information, as well as his own tutorials, on a broad set of topics related to game programming, especially tile-based engines. Definitely a place to bookmark if you are looking for help in this area.


So I’ve been working on this hex-based, 3D battlefield view, tactical turn based computer game which I’ve creatively named BattleHex. I have had ideas for creating a game like this for years, but what prompted me to get busy with it was buying HeroScape for my wife over Christmas. It’s essentially the same concept, only as a boardgame with pre-painted plastic figurines with pretty nice build quality. The rules and the terrain are simple in concept but very nicely implemented, so that the whole game has a very natural and cozy feel to it. So I stole the “stacked hexes for terrain” idea shamelessly and used that as a basis for my wargame’s battlefield.

Here were my first tentative attempts at rendering 3D hexes:


Then came stacking the hexes:


Next came creating a map of hexes based on an input file:


Everything good so far! Now, to get some nice textures on the hexes instead of the bland solid colors:


Hmm, ok, that didn’t turn out so good. I wasn’t accounting for the hex shape properly when applying the texture file to my shape. A few tweaks, and, success!


Now to try something bigger. I had previously designed a full-up HeroScape map using a beautiful tool called VirtualScape, which I entitled “Confrontation”. I translated the map into my input file format, and behold:


Now, all this terrain is ok, but rather boring. I had essentially completed my goals for the initial milestone of my project, but I wanted to see what it would look like with actual, you know, people inhabiting the battlefield. Now, I’m no artist unless you can settle for geometric shapes, so I opted for a simple fix: insert pictures of my minis as art assets!


But here I’m just programming their positions arbitrarily. What we really want is to be able to place them on a specific hex, and move them to new hexes based upon their movement allowance for that turn, taking terrain into consideration. First things first, I need a way to select a hex:


The purple hex is a hex I clicked on, and for now it just highlights surrounding hexes as potential movement areas. And that’s pretty much where I’ve left the project. I can place and move characters, but I haven’t limited movement to take terrain and height into consideration yet.

The other big problem comes back to the characters. For a 3D game, it makes sense to use 3D models. However, I lack the knowledge and talent required to make a wide variety of models needed, and looking around at what was freely available I was dismayed. Not much out there. Someone in this thread over at Gamers With Jobs where I was asking questions suggested using 2D art in the 3D engine, in a way similar to how people cut out and use paper miniatures for pen and paper RPGs. Great idea! Now all I have to do is find some good 2D art. I found a slew of good art at Dark City Games, free to download, by Dario Corallo. I did the work necessary to transform 2 of the character art assets into a front and back view, put them on a little black base, and hey! It looks pretty decent (to me anyway)! It may not have the pizazz of fully 3D models done by a great 3D modeler, but it does definitely evoke an old-school board/wargame vibe, which is fine by me.

BattleHex with Character Art Example

I asked the kind folks over at Dark City Games for permission to use their art in my game, and as long as I give them credit and am not making money off the use of it, they will let me use their art. This is amazing, because Dario’s work includes about 150+ unique characters in the collection. There are a huge variety for humans, several elves, dwarves, and gnomes, whole armies of orcs, kobolds, and goblins, and a good assortment of other monstrous types (giants, trolls, warg-riders, etc). To have all of this pre-made art available is amazing, and now I can focus on just moving on with the engine and game rules.

Current Projects

Working on a lot of different things. I say working, but actually the fact is that I’m not doing a lot of work on any of them. Between time spent with family, and newly begun graduate classes in computer science, there’s not a lot of time. But, when I do have time these are the things I’m working on:

  • Still painting that slew of wood elves. I actually finished the Elven Warlord, with his magical horn, and have another horse painted and have begun on its rider, the Wood-Elf Herald, but to be honest I haven’t painted much in the past, oh, 8 months. Actually I was painting an old pewter mini I have of Smaug to coincide with reading the Hobbit for the first time to my girls, but that stalled a little, too. Need to get pictures of the Warlord up on the site.
  • Started work on not 1, but 2 different games. I have all these potential game design idea scribbled in several different notebooks, going back several years, and I finally decided to start making them a reality. My first is a turn-based tactical wargame, not unlike Heroscape, which I decided to code up using Java 3D. I call it BattleHex (for now), and I have the map generation working and placement of a couple prototype art assets. I’ve kind of stalled on it because the lack of support and community for Java 3D kind of bummed me out, which lead to…
  • RetroHack! I wanted to learn XNA, which is Microsoft’s freely distributed game development environment targeting Windows, XBox, and Zune platforms. So I picked a very simple, 2D, old school abstract dungeon hack type game to learn the language with. Got kind of bummed out when I realized there was no way to include any kind of UI elements, unless you code them up completely from scratch yourself. Ugh.

I may continue down the XNA path in the future, but for the time being, I think I’ll pick BattleHex back up in Java 3D and continue.

Current project:

A slew of Wood Elves


September 2009
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