Next Gen Client
A new massive client upgrade is currently being developed. While is is still currently in the early stages of development some details have been released to so far.
The system generates weather procedurally based on a set of parameters provided by a script, it allows control over every aspect of the atmosphere and can simulate a full day/night cycle. The effects shown in the video only touch the surface of what is possible with this engine.
It can simulate anything from a peaceful summer night to a stormy day including some truly alien skies. Fancy a region that mimics Titan with fuzzy orange clouds and an atmosphere made hazy by yellow fog? No problem.
In the current client, users were given the ability to prop edit their regions to make their personal or business space that much more unique. Next, we brought out the World Texture Editor, which was an exciting project for me because of the increased flexibility and creativity it gave the users as well as increasing the program's overall performance now that people would no longer have to "wallpaper" their regions through the prop editor to change the look and feel. You may be wondering why I bought up all that old stuff when this is a blog on the new client. Well here's why:
With the amount of time and effort many of you have spent on your regions, it was must that all your hard work would be directly transferable to the new client with no additional work on your side. (This is where that converter from the earlier blog came into play.) So now you are in your Zaby and everything looks just as it did in the old client. Wouldn't it be nice though to make your region even more unique? Why does your couch have to look exactly like everybody else's couch? Why does that concrete have to be in pristine condition? These are two basic examples of the features I am currently working on; Texture layering, material manipulation and decals.
With these new features you will be able to customize your props by replacing and/or layering textures, painting, as well as changing material properties, like making the prop look smooth and shiny. Decals will allow you to add details like cracks in that oh so perfect concrete wall, or add oil stains to a road to give it a more weathered look. Decals help hide the repetitive look of the base textures on objects as well as make those objects look less like they are straight off the factory line.
Right now, any time you as a user want a new way to interact with a room (let's say a door that swings open), you need to rely on us at Utherverse to create it and make it available to you. Not only does that mean it might be shelved for a while, but even when finally make it has to go through a whole patch cycle (which means even more waiting time). Worse, many of the scripts don't really line up right between different users (I'm looking at you "Move Within Bounded Box").
So let's put the tools to make these scripts in the hands of the people who want to see it happen the most. Let's give you the tools to make a door that swings open, a pet that follows people around the room, a maze with moving walls, or a bot that can greet people when they come into the room. And if you want to make something complicated, you should be able to benefit from it by having it available on the marketplace for others to use - at the price you set.
But it's bigger than just moving objects in a room. Sure, those are a few nice simple ways you can make your regions more lively than they are right now. We want to give you more tools than just that. You walk into a room and the room has the ability to give you new pieces of interface to fiddle with. It might show you a listing of the DJ's library or it might show you a chess board. Scripts in rooms will be able to give the people who visit the room the interfaces they need to interact. Let's take a quick example:
As a user, you might run a matchmaking room where people can come and hook up. When someone arrives in the room, they get a small survey to fill out about their taste in other people. They complete it, click a button to send it back to the room, and now the server's script can compare their results to who else is in the room and suggest matches for them. It could even remember who else has been there today and let you know about possible missed connections. It could soon be the sexiest little hookup spot online - and it'd be all in the hands of the users to create it, maintain it, and (ahem) service it.
Note from Brian: I have reviewed this post and before you read it, I want to clarify some things; namely: this post contains materials that are being worked on or planned to be worked on. Although we do intend to release these features at some point, many of the features will NOT be released with the launch of the new system, and in fact, some features discussed in this post many not be released until the new system has gone through several major updates over the course of months or even years. We may even choose not to complete or release some of these features at all if we find that it will impact our plans to create and enforce protections of intellectual property rights of designers.
With that disclaimer, here are some of the cool features that the art team has in store!!!
So I've been working hard testing out all of the features that we'd like to have in the new Utherverse closet and Avatar Customization system. And there's a LOT of very cool things that we've been working on.
Before I go into what's coming, let me assure everyone that we're planning on transferring over ALL of your old outfits, clothing, etc, as part of a big "legacy" system, where everything from the previous client version will be available to you. However it would be silly of us not to take advantage of the superior capabilities of the new engine by re-doing the whole clothing system, and doing it RIGHT this time. We're going to take everything that we've learned through the years of building our current system, and implement it correctly from the start, along with a host of new features. So while we're keep the old system as a legacy to the beginnings of Utherverse, we hope that people will begin to migrate over to the newer, much more robust system.
1. Customization of Body-shape and Facial Features
It's standard in character editors for games these days to have a large number of sliders to adjust each and every part of your character, to give it the look that you chose. We're going to be including a set of sliders to modify the body and face of your Avatar. For the body the sliders will include the avatar's weight, musculature, hip side, waist size, chest size, and more. For the face the goal is to be able to replicate ANY face using just a set of sliders. You'll be able to change the shape and size of the nose, eyes, mouth, cheeks, brow, jaw, chin and more.
2. Age, Musculature and More
Since our new client contains the ability to use Normal Maps (a technique used by 3D artists to give the illusion of depth to flat surfaces in games) we'll be able to add a set of customization sliders for things such as age, muscle definition, dimples, scars, and more. By moving a slider, these normal maps will be "ramped up", allowing your Avatar to have more defined wrinkles and muscles. This way you'll be able to customize an avatar of any age and appearance.
3. Better Transparency in Hair and Clothing
There are many techniques widely being used in 3D engines these days that were not possible to implement in the current Utherverse Client. Our new client supports MUCH greater sorting of alphas and transparencies in meshes. This means that the amount and quality of hair-styles that are possible will greatly increase.
4. Dynamic Clothing and Hair
The new engine allows for dynamic movement of clothing and hair. This means that as you run and move, your clothing and hair will be able to move realistically along with your avatar, bouncing and flowing. This is, however, a processing intensive feature, and so will be able to be turned on and off for those running on a variety of machines.
5. Customization of Clothing Colours and Textures
When the new clothing system launches, it will launch with a closet of clothing designed to take full advantage of the closet's possible features. Users will be able to select a "base mesh" for their clothing (e.g. a jacket, or a shirt, or coat, or a pair of pants), and customize the textures, colours, and designs on that piece of clothing. Want a red shirt with a blue polkadot pattern? No problem. Want to change the stripes on a shirt to a darker shade of green? Not a problem either. Have a specific design that you want emblazoned on the front of a T-Shirt? Just upload it and place it on the avatar, all in the client. The goal is to allow everyone, even those without any artistic experience, a full suite of customization tools.
6. Advanced tools and options for those with 3D and 2D experience
Perhaps the most exciting new feature is the planned ability for ANYONE with suitable 3D modeling experience to upload their own clothing meshes for use and sale. While the default closet will launch with a wide range of basic clothing to be customized, the most stylish and fashionable outfits will undoubtedly come from our skilled user base. While the ability to upload a custom texture onto an existing clothing mesh will of course still exist, users will now be able to upload and entire mesh itself for personal use and distribution. This won't be something that just anybody can do, but we will be providing a set of tools and scripts for use in 3D modeling programs to streamline the process of getting your custom mesh integrated with our avatar system.
7. Custom Animations
As well as uploading custom meshes for clothing and accessories, we will also be opening up the ability to upload your own custom animations. Don't like the style in which your character is walking? Upload a new walk cycle to override your default. Users with animation experience will be able to animate our avatars and upload their animations for use and sale in whatever way they can dream.
So hopefully you can all be as excited as I am to see all these new features. The goal is to allow complete user customizability, so that a user can have his or her avatar look any way that they want it to be. We want to include as much as possible for a basic user to customize his avatar using our closet, but then to allow more artistic and entrepreneuring users to custom design their avatar any way they can imagine. If you want to add giant wings, tails, elaborate gowns, extra limbs, anything can be done.
The 3D Art Team has been working with Client Dev on creating a tool that will convert our old client regions into the new Client Graphics Engine. Below are a few screen shots that compare the region in the current client with the exported region as it appears in the new client graphics engine. There is also a zip file with many more comparison screenshots of the old client regions converted to the New Client.
The tool essentially converted the old maps, duplicated the lights and created collision. The lighting for all the old maps needed adjustments so we went in to the new editor and started to modify the lights brightness so you can see region. Lighting in the new client is far superior and we haven't even put on Reflection, Bump Maps/Normal Maps, directional lights and dynamic shadows. In the Zaby Lobby photos you can see the new floor has a normal map/bump map attached to it which creates that bump in the texture to pop out.