NOBLE APE MAILOUT - SEPTEMBER 2004
VOXEL ANIMATION and the GPI
VOXEL ANIMATION and the GPI
Most of this month has been spent implementing and testing a voxel animation utility for adding units and characters to Noble Warfare. As with a lot of the Noble Warfare development, the primary operating system interface has come through the Generic Platform Interface, or GPI. I have written about improvements to the GPI but the past month has put these improvements into practice.
For the uninitiated, a voxel animator creates a block of 4d space (ie 3d + time) where you can turn on or off volume-pixels or voxels. This creates volume animated characters.
The earlier part of the month dealt with a voxel-animator with a resolution of about 20 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm (roughly 8 inches). This proved too coarse for most of the Noble Warfare applications and the source was modified to allow for 10cm x 10 cm x 10 cm voxels.
With this low-level development, the new GPI 2 beta spec was put through its paces. There isn't a lot different with the new GPI, only about 15% of the GPI source has changed, but the methodology of the GPI usage has changed quite a bit. Rather than the single event model, the new GPI introduces time events as well as user events. This, colour and a program level exit from inside the platform independent code, makes the new GPI more flexible.
NARRATIVE ART IN NOBLE APE
It's easy, even as the primary developer of Noble Ape, to forget how much text relating to the development is online and how difficult it is to navigate this information some times. Looking through the online usage logs, there are sections of the site that are only visited through Google searches.
Part of building the Noble Ape site, as something people will return to and explore, is improving the look of the site. Through the past couple of months, I have been writing extensively online about creating mythology or creating worlds based on detailed stories. This is only improved by good coherent artwork.
To-date there have only been a couple of art pieces used in the Noble Ape development. Most of the images on the Noble Ape website come from the software. They are screenshots of various vintages of the Simulation running. This produces a highly mechanical site which is very heavy on the text and typically relies on a single screenshot per page.
The solution, I believe, is commissioning half a dozen pieces of artwork from a single artist with potentially 2-4 additional works per year to add to the developments art cache. As my narrative online shows, finding a suitable artist has been a challenge.
Many on this Mailout may remember the brief use of an external PR agent to boost the development's visibility. This gave a successful interview on BBC Radio 4 and the IEEE article published earlier this year. Finding the right artist may be more time consuming than finding a PR agent for the development. If any on the mailing list know any artists who would be interested in commissioned artwork, please get in contact with me. I will pay industry standard rates plus bonuses for the right artwork.
My interest is to commission continuing narrative art for the development to break up the monotony of the site and to re-energise a lot of the old, somewhat dry, but important text on the site.
One of the benefits in the breadth of the Noble Ape code base is that there are programs I put down, leave for a year or two, and return to for a dust off and an update. The iON source code is a good example of this. Whilst the code itself is relatively simple, it is the ideal candidate for a GPI port.
The original iON code was based around the precursor of the GPI that enabled transparent porting between Palm and Mac. This proved an ideal prototyping tool for Palm development as the interface was relatively simple and easily replicated through a simple Mac interface.
Porting the iON code to the GPI has been hampered by a lack of time events in the GPI. As discussed earlier in this mailout, this is no longer a problem.
NOBLE WARFARE ONLINE
Over the month, I went back through my online logs to see how long I had been developing Noble Warfare. I was pretty sure it was coming up to a year of development. Looking through the logs I found that I started real development of Noble Warfare around Christmas time 2003. Not quite a year yet.
Thinking about the amount of time and discovery that has gone into the Noble Warfare development, I thought it would be important to put the initial engine online whilst the graphical interface was honed and updated. The working source has a section of the new GPI, the voxel animator and the basic engine. This seems like the ideal candidate for release online.
Moving from prototype source code to something that can be release Open Source is an interesting process. Open Source is ultimately about code scrutiny. It is a warts-and-all exposure. With this in mind, I like to improve source a little before I release it Open Source. The Noble Warfare source code has always been developed with release in mind. The code won't need much work before it is released.
The GPI has been released Open Source for a couple of years. The question of a documentation update for both the GPI and Noble Warfare is a valid one. In addition to this, the voxel animator has no documentation. A small text file on this should be enough.
I'm hoping to have these three elements online within the next month. The next mailout will no doubt explain more.
Hope all is well with you all,
Tom Barbalet, 29 September 2004.