Thursday, 30 December 2010

The first Leviathan Mortis has been listed on eBay

Casting took considerably longer than planned, two days of fussing with new molds and adjusting vent and sprue size. I suppose it’s to be expected but it sure is frustrating.

Because of the current production rate, I have concluded that I need to move this out of house sooner than later and will be working toward that end.

Until then I had to choose a way to sell, that would allow the greatest number of people a shot at purchasing a kit... I settled on the auction format. I know it’s not ideal and bidding may go over the suggested retail but the market supply and demand will set the price and if there is extra profit, it will go straight to the contract caster to get that end rolling.

I refuse to take pre-orders because I will not sell something that is not in a box and ready to ship.... Been there, done that, and won’t do it again. There are just too many things that can go wrong, and I would prefer not to anger my customers with unreasonable wait times.

I apologize and hope you understand my decision. If the auction format drives the price too high, I would ask for your patients while I work out the production issues. How long will it take? Likely several (2-3) months for the contract caster to start production.

Have a safe and happy New Year, and happy bidding….

Item number: 230568665580 click here to be taken to listing

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Casting has started!

I will have two and possibly three Leviathan Mortis available by the 31st.

When they are packed and ready to go I will make an announcement here. I may list one of them on eBay in auction format, to allow those who may have missed the chance at the first run to purchase a kit if they feel they cannot wait until the production rate is up.

The first few models will be a Limited Release Edition, and will include the Crusader Head and a right hand Vulkan Cannon in addition to the normal Mortis head, Scythe and Claw.

The limited Edition Mortis will only be available for a short time, likely five kits. After that the Vulkan and Crusader head will be available separately.

Total Package Value: $400.00  ($350.00 Mortis/ $45.00 Vulkan/ $5.00 Crusader head)
Limited Edition Price: $375.00



Production will be rather spotty; I need to cast up two for Pat over at Senji Studios, a Mortis and when the molds are done, a Crusader, to take care of a trade for the wonderful buildings he made. Possibly two more for other obligations, and then start work on the Crusader molds for it's release.

I'm still in talks with a couple of production shops for contract casting and I will need to make production molds.... In short, there is much still to be done and casting needs to be juggled between tasks.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Updated Website

While I was waiting for the re-printed part, I took the time to hack and slash through the website. It is still not completely done, the Game page needs a lot of work and I threw together the pics for the Vulcan Cannon page.


All in all, it loads faster and is far kinder to maneuver through. You still cannot buy anything; I have the PayPal buttons set so it will not complete the transaction without stock on hand.

No rest for the wicked... I start benching the re-print tomorrow and molds to follow.

Stay tuned! I will update the Blog with a final release date when I have it... Just keep in mind there may only be a couple of kits available on the day of release.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Leviathan Mortis Instructions

Instructions for the first release are complete. That was about as much fun as a root canal, but at least its done.... Enjoy!
Just click on the images below

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Waiting on Prints

My go-to guy for prints, Moddler, is out of the office for the next couple of days and slammed with work. I will likely have the re-printed part on Friday. I will need to bench the part and make a new family mold. Unfortunately, this will slightly delay the first release. It will take approximately 10 days to get everything done once I have the item in my grubby little hands.

Rest assured, workers in my high tech production facility will be flogged daily until this problem has been resolved.


Friday, 10 December 2010

Player - Avatar Symbiosis

In a recently released paper, Jeroen D. Stout (creator of Dinner Date) proposes an interesting theory on the relashionship between player and avatar. It is related to the things that have been discussed previous post about immersion, so I felt it was relevant to bring it up. The full paper can be gotten from here. I will summarize the ideas a bit below, but I still suggest all to read the actual paper for more info!

Most modern theorists of the mind agree that it is not single thing, but a collection of processes working in unison. What this means is that there is no exact place where everything comes together, but instead the interaction between many sub-systems give rise to what we call consciousness. The most clear evidence of this is in split brain patients, where the two brain-halves pretty much form two different personalities when unable to communicate.

This image of a self is a not fixed thing though and it is possible to change. When using a tool for a while it often begins to feel like an extension of ourself, thus changing ones body image. We go from being "just me" to be being "me with hammer". When the hammer is put down, we return to the old previous body image of just being "me". I have described an even clearer example of this in a previous post, where a subject perceives a sense of touch as located at a rubber hand. Research have shown that this sort of connection can get quite strong. If one threatens to drop a heavy weight or similar on the artificial body part (eg the rubber hand), then the body reacts just like it would to any actual body part.

What this means for games is that it is theoretically possible for the player form a very strong bond with the avatar, and in a sense become the avatar. I discuss something similar in this blog post. What Jeroen now purposes is that one can go one step further and make the avatar autonomously behave in a way that the players will interpret has their own will. This is what he calls symbiosis. Instead of just extending the body-image, it is the extension of the mind. Quite literally, a high level of symbiosis means that part of your mind will reside in the avatar.

A simple example would be that if player pushes a button, making the avatar jump, players feel as if they did the jumping themselves. I believe that this sort of symbiosis already happens in some games, especially noticeable when the avatar does not directly jump but has some kind of animation first. When the player-avatar symbiosis is strong this sort of animation does not feel like some kind of cut scene, but as a willed action. Symbiosis does not have to be just about simple actions like jumping though, but can be more complex actions, eg. assembling something, and actions that are not even initiated by the player, eg. picking up an object as the player pass by it. If symbiosis is strong then the player should feel that "I did that" and not "the avatar did that" in the previous examples. The big question is now how far we can go with this, and Jeroen suggests some directions on how to research this further.

Having more knowledge on symbiosis would be very useful to make the player feel immersed in games. It can also help solving the problem of inaccurate input. Instead of doing it the Trespasser way and add fine-control for every needed body joint, focus can lie on increasing the symbiosis and thus allowing simply (or even no!) input be seen by players as their own actions. This would make players feel as part of a virtual world without resorting to full-body exo-skeletons or similar for input. Another interesting aspect of exploring this further is that it can perhaps tell us something about our own mind. Using games to dig deeper into subjects like free will and consciousness is something I feel is incredibly exciting.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Leviathan Mortis First Build

It has been quite the journey getting here, but it is very satisfying to hold the final model.

Please accept my apologies about the website, I know it's broken... I just have not had time to get to it. It's on the to-do list. I keep the blog up to date so this is where you can find all updates until I can sort out the website.

As expected, it has been many long days to prep the molds for production. I had really hoped to show a nicely painted model on Pat's wonderful diorama but time will not allow that right now, I’ll have to come back to it when the Crusader is ready for the build. I wanted to make sure my customers could see a real world model and not just a CAD render, so primer will have to do for now.
 Although I prefer to take my time on a build, I assembled this kit in just a few hours, skimping on much of the pre prep work and clean up so I could get cracking on the instructions. I did find one part that will need to be re-printed and new molds made so there may be a slight delay on the December 15th release date. This is still my goal and I am working hard to stick with it.
I will take what I have learned from this build and make notes in the instructions, there are a few components that need to be assembled in a specific order or you will be cussing up a storm. I will also include notes on how to build a resin kit and what tools and glues work best. I dislike pinning resin models and was happy to find that the only part that needs the reinforcement was the spine. As you can glue the spine in place and then drill from the bottom of the pelvis and from the top of the chest right into the spine area it was a fast and easy pinning job.  For a 136 part model, I am happy to say it was a fairly simple build.
Still sooo much still to do; Complete the instructions, new molds and prep of the re-printed component, web site (I doubt I will get this done before the 15th, so expect the first few sales to be on Ebay) and all the other items I am sure I have overlooked.

Ultimately I need the casting contracted out, sooooo...

**If you are a contract caster or garage kit producer of resin models and looking for long term work, contact me at mark@dreamforge-games.com for details.**

Quick recap:

Release date... shooting for the 15th, depends on the re printed part turn around time. This will likely be on Ebay as I doubt I will have time to fix the broken website before then.

Retail $350.00 (Kit will come with the Crusader head as well as the Mortis head)
Optional Vulkan Cannon $45.00
For now, enjoy the pics!
Here is a shot for scale, using a 30-32mm MERCS Mini.
Here is a shot for fun ;)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Tech feature: Light Masking

So just wanted to give a quick info on a brand new feature: light box masks.

When placing lights in some rooms, it is common that light bleeds through walls, and show up in other rooms close by. The obvious way to fix this is to add shadows, but shadows can be pretty expensive (especially for point lights), so it is not often a viable solution. In Amnesia we solved this through careful placement, yet bleeding can be seen in some places.

To fix this I added a new feature that is able to limit the lights range with a box. This way the light can cast light as normal but is cut off before reaching an adjacent area. This pretty much does the job of shadows, but is much cheaper.

It turned out to be pretty simple to implement as well. In the renderer, different geometrical shapes are used to render lights (spheres for point lights and pyramids for spots) which make sure the light only affects needed pixels. To implement the masking, these shapes where simply exchanged for a box and then with some small shader changes it all worked.

Without masking:

With mask:

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Bye, bye Pre-Pass lighting

I have an announcement to make.

I am dumping pre-pass lighting.

A couple of weeks ago I started to remaking the renderer from a deferred shader to a pre-pass lighting one. Directly after implementing it, I wrote this post. At first, pre-pass lighting sounded great: faster light rendering and more variation in materials. Having seen that companies such as Crytek and Insomniac Games used it, I thought it would be the next logical step to take.

However, even as implemented it, the problems began. The first one was that specular lighting has to be made through hacks or something that makes it closer to deferred lighting. The next was that implementation become more messy. I suddenly needed to redraw all objects in two separate passes and this made the material and shader code harder to maintain. Normal deferred shading has this nice design where all material info is rendered in one pass to one buffer. But in pre-pass lighting, this spread out and makes more annoying to add new stuff and to update existing.

Still, I stuck to it, because I was sure that the speed and material variety would make up for it. One of the features I was looking forward to was making more interesting decals, with normals and such. Since only the light data is written to an accumulation buffer I thought this would allow me to easily put more effects to the decals. However, I quickly realized that I had been quite foolish and not considered that pretty much every interesting part of a materials is added when lighting it. The surface normals, specular, etc are all baked into the light data. So I ended up doing tricks that I could actually work with normal deferred shading.

So what ended up with was lighting of worse quality, compared deferred shading, and with no more room for special effects. Still, this rendering is much faster right? Well, I did some checks which I collected in this post. It turns out that pre-pass is actually slower unless in very specific situations. None of the improvements I was hoping for turned out to be true.

Still, I stuck to it. I am not sure why, but I guess I did not want to face the truth after having put so much time and effort into it. Going back to the old renderer was something I did not want to consider.

Then last week, as I was starting making undergrowth for the terrain, it suddenly happened. I realized that I had to render the vegetation twice, creating more overdraw and making it a lot more cumbersome to implement. At this point I decided that I should seriously consider going back to the old deferred renderer. What I was most worried about about was that it would exclude us from consoles, but I found out that games like Burnout Paradise used a deferred shader too, and assuring me that consoles would still be possible to do.

This post by Adrian Stone, with an in-depth discussion on the subject, sealed the deal for me and I got to work with going back to deferred shading. I had actually come across Adrian's post before when implemented pre-pass lighting, but never read it carefully. I guess it would not had made me stop then since I wanted to check it out myself, but it is interesting to see how one can convince oneself that something is correct, to the point of avoid contradictory sources. This is a very important lesson to learn and one should always be prepared to reconsider and "kill your darlings".

Right now I have fully implemented the deferred shader again and even updated it a bit too. For one thing, I fixed so the decals support all the feature I had in the pre-pass lighting shader. Since we are aiming for a little higher specs (shader model 3 or 4) for our next game, I took that into account and was able to add some other fun stuff. Examples are colored specular and saving the emission in the g-buffer (allowing to cheaply to a variety of effects).

I am really happy to back to the old renderer and now that I am adding new features things are going a lot smoother. The pre-pass renderer was not all in vain though. I cleaned up the rendering code a lot and it also made me rethink how some features could be added. Last but not least, it also reminded me that I should never get too attached to an idea.