Archive | May 2012

A Shaky Take Off!

I’ve been trying to set up the OGRE 3D engine for the last couple of days (you can read more about it here:, and finally, after failing to build it from source, and install the Eclipse SDK, had some luck with Visual Studio 2008 – the default solution!

I might actually write most of it in Eclipse because I loved the features such as clever highlighting, version compare when I was writing Python scripts in Maya using it. I guess I’ll have to get used to Visual Studio though, because it is painful going through the Ogre installation process. I don’t want to try it again if I don’t have to!

It was the best feeling getting the sample browser file to compile after hours of failure on many fronts. I spent an hour absorbed in the samples in the engine, which demonstrate all kinds of pretty new features that the best games today have, and some that I’ve never seen (Real-time Julia fractal 3D volumetric textures?). It’s nice that you can switch in-game between OpenGL and DirectX as well.Image

It’s great being able to see the FPS impact for every feature and effect – I never knew bloom would halve the frame rate. The whole demo has given me the confidence that it’s possible to create a really spectacular game using the engine, so I’m excited. The thing now is putting in the time and effort! I have a lot to learn; as well as the book I mentioned in the first blog post, there’s a brilliant website that feels like exactly what I need:

I’ll try and update again soon with some programming tests.

Rendered 3D Ships

Here are a few prototype ships for the game. I tried to keep everything quads (for unwrapping and zbrush sculpting mainly), and each object as few separate elements as possible. The poly flow is a bit awkward in places, so they may need to be scrapped completely in future. Each ship is between 300 and 700 polys – obviously future iterations might be higher detail, but I’m thinking it might be possible to optimise this game for mobile devices – assuming I finish it before phones come with graphics cards.

I’m not sure on the limitations of the engine because I still haven’t decided on an engine. I’m looking strongly into Ogre 3D, because it’s free and open source, and shouldn’t take too long to get to grips with the workings of the useful features (unlike something like Unity I presume).

Render done in 3DS Max/ Mental Ray, with generic ceramic material from autodesk. The distances between ships aren’t equal, so shadows look a bit weird. I think the ships should be roughly around this relative scale. The bottom row is just the ships above, rotated 180 degrees around vertical axis so as to get a good view.


Spaceship concepts

Well it’s been a few days since my exams finished, and despite a hectic new lifestyle of sunbathing on the beach, I’ve had time for some drawing. I came to it a bit scared – you can see my progress from never having designed a spaceship up to having drawn 80 or so ships. Drawing and design has never been my strong point though, from perspective/ drawing a straight line, up to anything more advanced!

There are a couple of stations and things in there as well. I found it tricky to think of novel designs, and I’m sure some of these will seem derivative from films, games etc. I initially thought I’d do about 10, so I surprised myself with how many unique concepts I could come up with. I will probably need to visually unify the various ship factions, such as giving the enemies a distinct style so as to be easily recognisable, so more design may be inevitable.

I’ve started modelling a few of them in 3dsmax for importing into the game engine, so expect an update with renders soon! I’d love to know which ships you think are the better ones.

Game design document

Here’s an imaginary path for each iteration of the game that I’m making. If you have any ideas that you would love to see in a game like this, I would love to know! I enjoy keeping the ideas quite freely moving and changing until I have to actually make that version.

Version 0.1

  • A couple of planets, with gravity forces.
  • A rudimentary ship with a thrust and mouse-controlled turning, that can collide with the planets
  • In deep space, thrust is needed to accelerate or decelerate; thrust is also needed to land on planets else you die.
Version 0.2
  • Static enemy turrets, that can fire lasers at the smuggler ship
  • Smugglable resources and fuel on planets; cost money
  • Multiple solar systems
  • An exponential thrust system for the smuggler ship to quickly cover large distances
  • Fuel supply and damage amount for smuggler ship
Version 0.3
  • Other solar entities such as asteroids/ asteroid fields, stars, non-inhabitable planets – all cause damage to ship.
  • large-scale enemy ships with AI to avoid asteroids and planets, and fire at the smuggler
  • improved graphics 🙂 sound effects.
  • Trade/ smuggling screens for each planet’s resources
  • save/ load games
Version 0.4
  • Guns on the smuggler’s ship
  • Physics collisions with parts of smuggler’s ship breaking off
  • Modular repairs/ upgrades for smuggler’s ship, with per-module damage amount.
  • Small enemy ships with AI to chase the smuggler quickly and shoot at it.
  • Directional boosters (left right up down) for smaller ships.
Version 0.5
  • Ability to call for ally backup a limited number of times.
  • Galactic map…
  • Distinction between options of trading legal substances for less money or illegal substances with higher risks
  • Nefarious pirate ships
Version 0.6
  • Shady repairs, and occasionally vendors of ‘legal’ goods/ supplies, can screw you over.
  • Shields/ cloaking devices that fail if you take damage
  • Fuel stations and repair stations as well as planets
  • Non -smuggling ‘missions’ – take down satellites, get bounty hunters/ assassins trying to kill you, team up with other smugglers and protect them from incoming fire, kill off other smugglers taking your business, low-level flying and bombing planets.
Version 0.7
  • Ground level chases from tipped off police ships when loading/ unloading cargo
  • Given option to switch sides if your ship crashes on a habitable planet – you start taking out other smugglers and shutting down illicit substance manufacturers.
  • Buy planets to gain a steady income from illegal substances grown/ mined/ purified, but with high risk
  • Possibly combat mechanics like slow motion, different weapon types

I’m trying to think of a catchier name for this project than “smuggler game”. Do you have any ideas for a unique and interesting-sounding name? Thanks!

The first step in a long journey!


This blog is an account of developing a 3D PC game. I intend to work on it (the blog and the game) over the summer, which for me starts in 3 weeks when my exams finish. Blog posts will probably not be regular – hopefully that will be due to my addiction to developing the game rather than a lack of progress!

The game is a smuggling in space simulation. The majority of the game will be flying a spaceship in 3rd person. The controls will be keyboard and mouse based, and intricate enough to be enjoyable to fly and fight. Visual design will be semi-realistic futuristic (like mass effect, star wars, sins of a solar empire) but as I am only one person, the 3d art quality may have to be sacrificed to allow me to concentrate on programming.

The programming will take up the majority of this blog and my time. I would like to use C++, but regarding game engines/ APIs, I haven’t made a choice yet. I am tempted to write systems implementing OpenGL, but this may be too much work, so I will look at other engines as well. I don’t have much experience at all, and am trying to get to grips with this book, which is fantastic but a slow read for me:

Please get in touch if you have anything to say, including ideas for features, opinions, or just telling me I’m doing it wrong! Thanks for checking this out,