I recently returned from Austin, Texas from Unite 2017 one of several conferences Unity holds annually to discuss upcoming features about the Unity3D game engine.
I usually write long posts about my experience at these conferences, but this year was a bit, not a letdown per se, but I just didn’t feel I got as much out of it as I have in previous years. I didn’t leave feeling inspired and invigorated.
First, there weren’t a ton of sessions like in previous years, in fact, the first day of the conference, only the expo hall was open. It was a nice expo, but also felt lacking in ways. Last year Unite was held in a difference convention center, so it’s possible that the larger expo floor made it feel smaller, but regardless, having no sessions the first day just felt odd and had myself and others question “What’s the point?”
Overall, none of my sessions blew me away nor did the keynote. Most of them were great overviews. There was a talk about different network architectures from Exit Games that I liked as well as one that went over the character building techniques of the Rick & Morty VR game. There was also a decent discussion and demonstration about future AR features coming to Unity3D in the coming years.
I think that would be my next biggest complaint. A LOT of AR and VR, almost too much. I understand they are exciting technologies, but I wish, like last year, there were a few more talks about design itself or just more variety in general. I always feel that no matter how good your engine or tools are, if your games aren’t designed well, it won’t matter. Maybe there were, and I just missed them.
Overall, I think it was worth the price of admission but am definitely on the fence if I’ll go next year or go to a different conference such as GDC instead.
So in 2016, I wrote a maxscript to constrain humanoid characters to 3ds Max bipeds for easier animation. Every once and awhile, I get someone asking me for the script and some questions regarding it, so I decided to write a post about it for the future.
Here are two videos demonstrating how it works and its setup:
A quick summary:
What this script does:
Builds a biped, sizing it to fit a specified character
Uses Orientation Constraints to drive the original rig’s bones to the biped
What this script does NOT do:
Require new reskinning or transfer of the original rig’s skinning, which often causes issues.
Transfer .fbx animations — or any kinds for that matter — to the biped. This is JUST for the rig itself.
Why write a script like this? Well, for one I’m old-fashioned. I’ve always liked the 3ds Max’s biped. It’s not perfect, a little buggy; however, I’ve felt it gets the job done and has a lot of extra features — saving poses, postures, animations, etc. — that writing on my own would be rather time-consuming. Additionally, exporting just the biped itself can be rather problematic as it sometimes moves bone objects, which causes issues with animation retargeting since that is focused more on rotation. Since this original rig is preserved and only driven by Orientation Constraints from the biped, this is less of a problem.
Then, despite the fact other character creator tools such as Mixamo supplied rig to biped scripts, though scripts never quite worked as well as I would want, often deforming the original mesh or rig and causing unforeseen issues.
Firstly, you can download the script here. Note, this script was written for 3ds Max 2016 but has also been tested in 2017.
Unzip the downloaded file and run the .ms file. You should then see the following window:
There are two columns. The left column, Biped Bones, is for all of the biped bones that’ll be created; the right column, Character Bones, is for the bones in the original rig. Note, there are 2 neck bones and 3 spines in the left column; however, the 2nd neck joint and 3rd spine joint do not need to be defined and are prefaced with [IGNORE]. When this was written, it was for one specific rig that used 3 spine joints and 2 neck joints; however, since this caused issues with Unity, I decided to remove those; thus enabling it to work on more humanoid rigs. Unity can now handle a 3rd spinal joint, but still doesn’t use a 2nd neck joint in its default, humanoid rigs.
To start populating the right column, click the row you want to define and then click the bone / node you’d like to associate with the biped bone. It’s a bit tedious. There are two buttons for saving and loading, Save Selection Set and Load Selection Set, respectively, that can help a bit. If you know the names or they are named in a way that can be populated quickly through copy-and-paste, this can be done by saving a text file, updating it, and then reloading it. In the .zip, there are two examples of these files; they are setup for use with iClone Character Creator 1 rigs.
Once the right column has been populated properly, the Validate Bones button will check to make sure the bone slots are all assigned. This will also show a pop-up for any bones that are missing. Warning: This’ll generate a pop-up for every missing bone.
If all bones have been signed, click the Build Biped button. This will generate a biped that’ll match the size of the original rig. You do not need to, but it is suggested to then rotate the biped as closely to the original rig.
Then, the Build Helper Rig button will create a new rig that is identical to the original rig except it’s bone orientation will match the biped’s, meaning the up, forward, and right axes will match the biped’s. This is important for the next step. Essentially, an early thought for this experiment was to:
Build a biped
Align the original rig to the biped
However, one of the big issues is that rigs and their bone rotations can come in a variety of orientations. If you use 3ds Max’s default align too, arms will sometimes be rotated in strange positions. The helper rig solves this by standing as the middleman between your original rig and the biped. It’ll be the same size as your original rig but the bone’s will match the orientation of the biped.
Next there is the Align To Biped button. This aligns the helper rig to the biped and then the original rig to the helper. This is why aligning the biped to the original rig helps; otherwise the changes can look rather broken. They are easy to fix because, again, this is just affecting rotation and not placement of the original rig.
The Create Constraint button is the final step. All other steps should be completed first — including making backups in case there is an issue. This will create Orientation Constraints between your original rig to the helper rig and from the helper rig to the biped.
Once this is done, the rig should now be driven by the biped.
Other Buttons & Tips
As you may note, there are two buttons I’ve yet to discuss, Quick Parent and Quick Child. Quick Parent create a parent bone the selected bone’s parent and itself. This would be used for something like a rig with only one spine. This will create the second spine automatically that can be used in the rig. Then, Quick Child, creates a joint at the end of a joint. The biped rig requires 5 fingers as well say finger nubs, for example, and this button will create these quickly.
Another tip is that if you create a child, for something like the head nub, make sure that they are aligned perfectly vertically; otherwise, the head will be tilted when aligned to the biped. The toes have a similar problem I haven’t quiet figured out, but again, aligning the created biped as closely to the original rig as possible will help resolve some misalignment issues. Another tip is that instead of rotating the biped once it’s created, rotated the bones of the original rig to match the newly created biped as closely as possible.
After completing the steps, you can now animate just the biped as your would except you should NOT rotate the pelvis bone; this causes the hip and spine bones to translate slightly, causing issues upon export. They will export fine, but your animations won’t match perfectly and when importing to Unity, you’ll get errors about how those bones have translation data and that said data will be ignored if it’s part of a humanoid avatar.
Also, don’t export everything; use the export selection and select only the original rig’s joints and/or any meshes you’d like to export.
Last year I wrote a Unity3D editor script for combining textures as well as swapping and combining their different color channels.
Someone on YouTube recently commented, asking for more details. Since I haven’t touched the script in over a year, I decided to just make the script public. It’s not perfect and some of my comments don’t make sense. I’ll probably clean it up in the future, or at least add better documentation. I sound very professional right now.
So I decided to “start over” with my blog. Blogger or Blogspot or whatever was becoming irritating to use and felt dated. The biggest issue is that writing code samples like this —
public class MyClass
Debug.Log("Hello wor-, I mean planet.");
— was a real pain.
Anyway, since this is the first blog that’ll appear on the official Mattrified Games website, I decided to do a quick retrospective of 2017 thus far.
MAGFest & Battle High 2 A+
In January, I went to my first MAGFest. I went to show off Battle High 2 A+ as part of their independent games areas. It was a great learning and motivating — to a degree — experience. It was fun seeing people play the game and enjoying it. There was even a Battle High 2 A+ tournament, which was awesome as well! I could have definitely done a few things better; for example, not having an attract screen was probably not the best idea. Also, I was at the booth so much, that it was hard to enjoy the festival itself; fortunately, it was 24 hour, so it wasn’t like it was impossible, but fatigue did set in a bit.
I did start a mailing list for Battle High 2 A+ and took it to another smaller and local Retro Games Festival. There was also another tournament at ReplayFX. Like I said, however, showing the game off was only motivating to a degree. As much as I love the Battle High series, I’ve been working on it for a long time. I’m not going to stop working on it entirely, but at this time, I’m pursuing different games and ideas. There is still at least one Battle High 2 A+ character I would like to release, and there is still plenty of time to release said character before 2018, but I’m not going to promise it at this time.
The Aquatic Tactics Fighter
One game I’ve been developing off and on for awhile is a merfolk-themed tactics fighting game. After MAGFest, I took a break from Battle High to work on this idea. I really enjoy developing fighting games, but I wanted to develop something with more emphasis on story and single-player interactions. So, for a bit, I was working on this a game that combined elements of a tactics RPG with those of a fighting game. The problem, however, was that frakensteining the two genres together made me come to a few revelations. One, it’s WAY too monumental of a task for a solo developer such as myself to take on. Though hard, I don’t believe solo development is impossible, but for this game, trying to combine two large genres into one solid idea was intimidating. At the same time, I was discovering that there are parts of tactics games I just don’t enjoy trying to develop or at least don’t feel inspired by. So, due to these two issues, I decided to pause the idea indefinitely.
A New and True Fighting Game
I think one of my biggest regrets with Battle High is that I never took the time to try and develop a online multiplayer solution. I felt very conflicted about the idea, ultimately deciding that the amount of time it would take to implement would be too much. I’d probably would have never released. So around the time I began losing passion for the Tactics Fighter, I discovered TrueSync by Exit Games. This rollback netcode solution was made for Unity and though it’s still in beta, it’s giving me rather promising results.
Now, I’ve yet to really develop anything solid with it, but I’m confident that I can get something sooner than the Tactics Fighter. In fact, I even signed up to give a talk at Unite 2017. I really feel that TrueSync does a great job democratizing one of the more challenging aspects of online multiplayer for action games in a clear, easy-to-understand approach.
Anyway, my year so far started with Battle High, continued with the Tactics Fighter, and will probably end with a TrueSync fighter. I’m hoping to release an alpha of some kind before 2018, before the fall actually. I also plan to write more blogs here in the future; again, I hadn’t been keeping up to date with it because writing code samples, managing images, headings, and more was just a pain. Hopefully in this new format, keeping my game work in one official place will be more manageable — again, hopefully.