3D WORKSHOP: Infinite Skies

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Introduction "How about developing our own video game?" This is probably one of the ways your best buddy would try to convince you to spend all of your spare time with a never seen, endless, giant game development project called Azure: Infinite Skies. So yeah .. why not? It has almost been an year since we started working on this and we've won a few members who occasion- ally helped us, mainly with coding. Currently we're 3 people working in our spare time on Azure and a few external helping out here and there. In the be- ginning we had to fight endless verbal battles about what the game should look like or what the game- play should be about. Some wanted a fantasy, others an action arcade game, but after a month or so we finally came to the decision to make an open source action flight simulator with elements of role-play games. The ma- jor part of the game should consist of flying around within the isles of Azure, an endless sandbox fantasy world, styled similar to our world during the 1940's - 1950's. Because we didn't want to create another boring World War II shooter game and because just flying around would be annoying in long term, we added some special fantasy features like levitating Isles driven by a special mineral which makes things levi- tate. This mineral is also used for military and civil- ian purposes like giant flying ships, carriers or even man-made stations in the sky. Maybe some of you remember the huge carriers from the movie "Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow" - well, that's what we're aiming at. Also, inspired by Crimson Skies, all our aircraft are extraordinary, while staying authentic. Here we're looking pretty much into WW2 concept designs and experimental aviation. Besides all that technology fun, our motivation is led by the goal of creating a sad story and an unfamiliar atmosphere, where you question your own choices sometimes. This makes the game something special because it gives the player not only a yet not seen world to explore, but also a lecture of self-experi- ence. The second step was to choose the right tool-chain and libraries. Gimp was what we all knew for 2D and because it's free and cross-platform - -which is important as we all use different OSes- the choice was clear. For modelling we've chosen Blender, of course, as we had some positive experiences with it before already. Currently we're using it for almost everything visual in the game like aircraft, carriers, islands and so on. While staying open to other pref- erences of external modellers, our pipeline has been optimized mainly for Blender. As game engine, we've chosen Panda3D after a long time of comparing, and it gave us everything we needed for the development. Unfortunately the BGE was, and still, is lacking a few things we felt were important. Panda3D is mature, free (BSD) and has many nice features, not to mention the great com- munity. Same as Blender it's cross-plattform, written in C/C++ and allowing control through Python bind- ings. So yes, we code our game all in Python, and it has worked out very well thus far. At the moment we're finishing ODE-based physics and collision detection, so the backend shouldn't need too long now. After that we'll focus on adding more assets like planes and scenery. The story first needs some love before we think about implemen- tation - we have some ideas all written down on our forums, but we're looking for a skilled storywriter to combine it all. As probably every ambitious open source project we're always open for new, skilled mem- bers, but we're also progressing on our own quite well. That said we'll probably release a first tech demo in the next few months where you can fly a plane around and see some nice effects. For those interested in more info, we have a forum and wiki both hosted at SourceForge. All further info, like contact information and more, to the whole concept are written down there. If you have questions, you're very welcome to our IRC channel - info on the wiki. Have a nice day, Azure Development Team

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