Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Less of an update and more of an apology. It's been two, two months since I last posted something...and I said that I'd post a design journal type post. And hence, I apologize. I don't have one to post yet, and I have so very little free time...which either gets devoted to building or game development (or game playing >.>).

So, this blog will probably go dark for a while. I'll try to do something neat every once-in-a-while...and I'll try to make that more often than two months at a time, but I can't make any promises.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I'm Baaack....

...not that I really ever left. I have kinda let this blog fall to the wayside however. So, as a heads up, I will be putting up a rather lengthy dissertation on my entire thought process when building a frame. Not tonight, but soon.

Monday, April 1, 2013

This post is also not about lego...but...

So, I'm splitting off my game development and gaming posts over to Black Unicorn Games. Take a look and follow along if you like!

And, to further clarify, that means this blog will be dedicated to Lego, Mechs, and Mobile Frame Zero from now on >.>

Monday, March 25, 2013

This Post Is Not About Lego

So, I'm finally getting off my butt and working on a game. Side note: Yes, the LDraw renderer is still in the works, but it's been beating me down lately, so it's going on a further back burner for a while.

Some info: it will be using Boxmen as the characters...for which I now have some good base meshes. (Stay tuned for more on Boxmen in a later post). The title of the game? "Boxmen: A Low-Poly Adventure." Genre? JRPG. The fact that I'm actually excited about it, and want to work on it after work means that I'll actually finish this project...even if it takes the next X months (X being any number larger than 3 >.>).

So that's all for now, back to texturing the lead character!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Of Simpler Times and Giant Robots

So, a new thread over at the hangar has proved rather interesting. User darksyntax has taken the C6 system and recreated two of the iconic MF0 frames, the Chub and Commisar. Seriously check it out!

I'll go on a bit to say that this thread, and the C6 system in general, is of particular interest to me as I have effectively forsworn all video game and Lego purchases for the rest of the year (Gasp!). Combine that with the fact that I've decided that my two latest XVM-17 frames are staying put together, and you get me looking for ways to build more with less. (Seriously, the XVM-17's are massively clip intensive.)

Here's the gallery for the C6 system. I'd show some images, but Micah's photos are not set up to let me do that.

So, for some eyecandy >.>

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Placeholder

As I have a proposal to be submitted Monday, I really don't have a whole lot to say today. Hopefully I'll come up with something useful this weekend ;)

That being said, I'm feeling a bit depressed as I realize that I probably won't be able to purchase a PS4 (due to life, and not being able to get health insurance through work), and with my lack of an XBox Live Gold subscription, I probably won't be able to play Bungie's Destiny when it comes out :( (As it's coming out on XBox 360, PS3, and PS4 at least)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Skinned Alive!

WARNING: Long post ahead! Also, take everything I say with a grain of salt...preferably sugar cube-sized >.>

What I'd like to take a look at in this post is the idea of having a standard core for frame designs. In particular, I'm going to take a look at Malcolm's MgN-3xx, Zizy's lates VM series, Soren's iconic Chub and my own (I'd be remiss if I didn't) XVM-17's. This isn't meant to be an in-depth look at the frames themselves, it's more to illustrate the point being made.

So, I will make the point first and show the frames after, as it makes a wee bit more sense to me to do it that way. And by no means do I claim to be an expert, I'll leave that to the actual experts ;)

So what do I have to say about core frame designs? Well, for starters, by "core" I mean a build that can be easily re-skinned while still being recognizable as the "core" frame. And this, is the benefit of using a core design.

As you can see from the frames below, each one looks rather different from the others. But, frames within the same core framework have a similar look that creates an overall cohesive feel. Take the two MgNs for example, while completely different in appearance you know by looking at them that they belong in the same family.

Using a core frame as a base has a few other benefits as well. For starters, it frees you up to mess around with the fiddly bits, and to see how different pieces can change a silhouette. It's also kinda relaxing to just slap a core frame together and start skinning it. And yet another benefit is that it gives you a pet project to continually improve on...while maintaining a similar feel over different generations. Finally, there's the feeling you get when you realize "this is it, this is my core".

I know that may not be entirely helpful, but the idea of a core frame is something that's kinda stuck with me and been a guiding principle of late.

MgN-311 by Malcolm Craig
MgN-333 by Malcolm Craig
So here I'm looking at Malcolm's MgN-3xx series of frames. An impressive frame design of which there have been many, many renditions. The core is defined as a rotated travis brick with 4 taps coming out of it. The design lends itself to all sorts of wonderful variations.

Zizy VM Frame
Zizy VM Frame
Zizy's current VM series of frames characterize a stockier, Wanzer-ish style and are quite imposing. The core of Zizy's builds are largely characterized as being composed of relatively easy to find bricks used to impressive effect.

ST-09A Rumble Monkey by Soren
Chub Flamethrower by Soren
Ah, the iconic Chub. Poster boy of MF0, the chub has seen many, many, many renditions by just as many builders. It's a wonderful frame with tons of character. The core of this frame, in my opinion, is the torso. It's kinda the defining feature of a chub.

[XVM-17] Stalm by yours truly
[XVM-17] Chimar by yours truly
Ok, so I'm tooting my own horn a bit. But the XVM-17 frame was directly inspired by Zizy's VM series. The core torso area is very similar, but rest tends to be rather different, with the legs being the same core build across all XVM-17's.

Friday, February 15, 2013

It's Friday....Friday...yes, I'm that evil.

So, I got the chest put together. And I've got an idea for the knees. The tricky thing about this build is that I'm making the legs Digitigrade...which presents some interesting problems when it comes to making the thing stand on it's own.

The issue is that the weight from the waist up will get transferred downward through the thighs...then laterally through to the hocks, and then downward again to the feet. It's that lateral transfer that gets tricky. If the joints aren't strong enough the whole thing buckles down. If the joints have a limited range of motion, which is one solution to the issue, then it's not very pose-able. I think I've got a happy medium between the two, by identifying the range of motion required for each joint in the legs and then placing hard limits and using new pieces for the move-able bits.

Two other things to note about this build:

  1. It will be a good test of the Unity LDraw renderer for speed and internal geometry when finished.
  2. I will be releasing the LDraw file, along with all the steps I've put in to help me remember how it goes together, when I get it physically built.
That being said, here's an image of what I have so far (colors are not indicative of the finished product and WILL change):

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mid-week update?!

Thought I'd let folks know, I'm taking a "slow-down" on the Unity LDraw renderer. Between work and midterms coming up, spare time is becoming scarce...and programming isn't always relaxing (but building with legos is :D ). So for a while, work on it will be infrequent. But fear not! I have made progress on it...just not of the end-user visible sort -.-

In the meantime, as I build to unwind after work or class, I'm planning out a large mech build (~7-10"). Again, don't worry, I'm still going to be doing work on the renderer (and eventually after that, the client). This build will be interesting, as it's the first one I'm planning out in CAD first and then purchasing pieces over Bricklink. I never have purchased anything over it yet.

That being said, here's a shot of the head!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Where does the time go?

I've decided that Fridays will be my regular update day. So I'll be trying to keep up with regular, weekly blog posts. That being said...

Today is, well, Friday. And the time has flown this week. To be honest, I haven't really gotten any work done on the LDraw renderer. I will be installing Unity 4.x this weekend sometime, and going through and making sure what I've been working on still works >.>

However, I loathe not having something to show you guys, so (partially at the request of Thunderclam over on the Hangar) I have created both LDraw file and PDF instructions of my XVM-17 core that I've been using recently. Have fun with it!

LDraw File
PDF Instructions

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Critical Mass

Okay, I have GREAT news...at least for me. And for you, by extension.

You see, I've been playing with MLCad, in order to get a feel for what can be done, and to get some "standard" LDraw files for experimentation. After messing with it some (making a Makkar with instructions), I opened up the file in Notepad++. And this is where it gets good...oh so very good.

The lovely thing about LDraw files, at least the "standard" ones, is that all the polygon and line rendering definitions are stored in the parts definitions...not the model file itself. This makes making the renderer oh so much simpler, and more importantly allows for dynamic explosions of parts. See, I can deal with smaller units much easier than dealing with the finished model...'cause let's face it, they can and will get complex. And, here's the best part, the parts are referenced by a position and rotation...thus making assembly in the game sooooooooo much simpler. (Was that enough "o"s? I'm not certain, I think I need more >.>)

The other good part? By having the user install the official LDraw library like everywhere else, as long as they keep it updated, the game will allow the use of any new part added to the library...because the part definition will be used by the renderer, and not need to be included in the game distribution.

So this:

0 Untitled
0 Name: XVM17.ldr
0 Author: XG5 Systems
0 Unofficial Model
0 ROTATION CENTER 0 0 0 1 "Custom"
1 0 -10 -0.006 -21.829 0 0 -1 0.5 0.866025 0 0.866025 -0.5 0 2555.dat
1 0 -10 11.921 -17.17 -1 0 0 0 0.866025 -0.5 0 -0.5 -0.866025 4595.dat
1 0 -10 9.993 -4.509 -1 0 0 0 0.866025 -0.5 0 -0.5 -0.866025 3024.dat
1 0 -10 9.993 -4.509 1 0 0 0 0.866025 0.5 0 -0.5 0.866025 50746.dat
1 0 -10 25.778 -25.17 0 0 1 -0.5 0.866025 0 -0.866025 -0.5 0 3794b.dat
1 0 -10 15.242 -51.418 0 0 -1 -0.866025 0.5 0 0.5 0.866025 0 3023.dat
1 72 -10 23.902 -56.418 1 0 0 0 0.5 -0.866025 0 0.866025 0.5 54200.dat
1 72 -10 2.582 -53.346 0 0 -1 -0.866025 0.5 0 0.5 0.866025 0 2555.dat
1 0 -10 -7 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2540.dat
1 0 -10 -15 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3023.dat
1 0 -10 -23 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3023.dat
1 0 -20 -31 -8 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 2540.dat
1 0 0 -31 -8 0 0 -1 0 1 0 1 0 0 2540.dat
1 0 -10 -23 -28 0 0 -1 0 1 0 1 0 0 3022.dat
1 0 -10 -31 -38 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 3023.dat
1 71 -10 -39 -38 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 99781.dat
1 71 -10 -39 2 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 44728.dat
1 71 -10 -39 -18 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 3023.dat

Equals This:

Note: Hoses, Ropes and Chains may be a severe pain in the arse...but I'll deal with that when I get to it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

MFZ in 3D!

Whilst I'm not working on the Unity LDraw renderer:

So, one of my passions is 3D. I love watching movies in 3D. I mean, I really, really like 3D movies. A lot. Did I mention I like 3D?

Now, I'm not a fan of gimmicky 3d. The occasional arrow, rocket, what-have-you, that I can deal with...as long as it makes sense. No, what I really love about 3D is the sense of depth. And one thing that I'd really like to do, eventually, is take things like family portraits in 3D and make lenticular prints of them. You know how you read in sci-fi about so-and-so having a hologram of their family or whatnot? That's what I'm shooting for :)

Anywho, that all being said, I think it'd be freaking awesome to take 3D pictures of frames for Mobile Frame Zero. And with that in mind, I present you with this. And the results of my simple test with my wife's hand mirror: (for cross-eyed viewing)

Friday, January 25, 2013

And so it begins

Heads up: As I have an extended weekend, I plan to start work on the LDR parser/importer for Unity. If I get it working, I'll upload a web demo. It'll just be showing off a pre-loaded LDR file, but an LDR file nonetheless.

EDIT: Okay, looking into the file format some more...this could turn out to be a massive pain the arse -.- Turns out, at least as I read it, that there are not actual models, per se, of the parts that are then referenced...nope, it's a pure CAD file format. Which on the one hand is great...but on the other hand means I get to deal with procedural geometry.

No biggie though. I've got some snippets somewhere that create procedural geometry in Unity. Probably won't get finished this weekend (I have a date with Red vs Blue Season 9 and Borderlands 2 while my wife is out of town), but work will progress.

The other method, referenced model files, would have made life oh-so-simple. "Place such-and-such a model at point XYZ with rotation/scale matrix A." But this will let me, IFF needed, to optimize mesh creation and keep vertices at a minimum. (Note the IFF. Seriously, take note of it, this will only happen if things slow way the kark down in-game)

Friday, January 18, 2013

MFZ, a better way to play?

So, I've been involved in the Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack community for quite a while under the nick XGundam05. And It. Is. Awesome.

I've seen some folks talking about using Maptool to play games over the internet, and I thought to myself "that's neat, but there's got to be a better way." Well, there isn't. At least...not yet.

I'm going to try to work on something. Something wonderful. Something that will quite possibly melt my brain. I'm going to try to create a multi-player client for playing MFZ over the internet...with actual custom models, in 3D.

How you ask? The core of this is going to be creating a loader for LDraw files within Unity3d. This *should* be somewhat straight-forward-ish, as it will mostly be a parser and component creator. The parts library will either be included, or a required download. Probably part of it.

The other core bit of it will be a company management system...but I already have the DB schema for that setup. It'll just require a few changes.

I'm not going to promise anything, but I will try to post regular updates* on my progress.

Wish me luck as I try to bring "I DO TO YOU KNOW ENORMOUS HURT!" into beautiful, network-enabled 3D.

* I'm still (sadly at the age of 24) finishing out my degree and working full time as a software developer, so free time is a prime commodity.