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 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.