Wednesday, April 5, 2017

47. Art Assets, Projects & More Updates

      Lately, I have been working on quite a bit so in this next blog post, I thought I'd share. Currently I am working on selling T-shirts and creating my online shop. Who is ready for Steel Wear?!! I've also been creating more armor pieces and helmets for character customization. . 

Buzz Lightyear
      The first three screenshots below were captured in-game. This particular set of armor is inspired from Buzz Lightyear, however it is not actually Buzz Lightyear. A simple lighting effect was applied to the light sky-blue ares of the model using the BasicEffect in XNA and MonoGame to make it appear glowing.

Back Bottom View

Desert Tank Train

Custom Indy Car Concept

Indy Car Monster Truck Concept

F1 Hot Rod Concept
      Below are some work-in-progress screenshots of my F1 Hot Rod 3D model. I drew inspiration from the Beck Kustoms F132 hot rod which is also playable in Need for Speed 2015. This model I made has my own touch to it. The spoiler is mounted to twin mini-jet engines in the back. The tires came from one of my 3D monster truck models.

Concept Moon Buggy Rover


Grave Digger
      Below are some screenshots of the monster truck Grave Digger in which I modeled just for fun as fan art. I used the rollcage of one of my earlier 3D monster truck models as the basis. The tire wheels were modeled in SketchUp. I then exported them and imported them into Autodesk Maya 2013 for further touch-up. Then I took pictures of an actual truck tire for texture reference and after creating a UV layout, I then assigned them to a material and applied them to the model. Texturing models has been a long process since I have to find free textures and take pictures for references. To speed things up, I recently acquired a program called Substance Painter. Substance Painter will allow me to paint textures directly on to the model. Its a great program and was used in games such as Horizon Zero Dawn. The textures of the vehicle's body will be removed in-game due to copyright of-course. I will either re-texture the vehicle's body or not give it any.

Bad to the bone for over 30 car is safe against Grave Digger!

MonoGame FPS Starter Kit
      Next up is a screenshot of a basic map I am working on for the first-person shooter starter kit in I am creating MonoGame. This was simply an earlier design and just a start. The map will most likely change and evolve over time.  

      This screenshot above is a work-in-progress sniper gun model. The design is inspired by a nerf gun my friends and I had. 

Race Car Starter Kit
       I've been working on a stater kit to help people jump start their race car game. Here are some work-in-progress screenshots below. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

46. Character Armor Customization Part 1

       After accomplish attaching skinned and non-skinned models to the marine, I was able to add armor customization. In the screenshot above, I added a jet-pack and armor inspired by Captain America to the marine. Now players can change the marine's helmet, chest piece, shoulder pieces, thigh pieces, knees, shins, boots, gauntlets and backpacks. Backpacks are divided into 3 categories: wings, jet-packs and capes. There will also be a section called Presets with armor put together prior. The Captain America armor along with his shield is a preset I created for fun. As much fun as character customization is, modeling and creating all the different individual pieces that players can choose from has been very time consuming. So far, I am pleased with the results. This is update is just the beginning so for Part 2, I plan on putting a video together to show the customization in-game. Also, MonoGame 3.6 released not too long ago and is available for download. It was also announced that MonoGame is coming to Nintendo Switch which is awesome! Now developers dedicated to bringing the joys of XNA 4.0 across different platforms have more options thanks to MonoGame. The first titles created in MonoGame will be Matt Thorson's Tower Fall and Celeste & Concerned Ape's Stardew Valley with multiplayer. 

       For the most part, I modeled the helmet SketchUp and then I later exported it and imported the model Autodesk Maya 2013. Next I modeled my headphones in SketchUp to use as the ear protection for the helmet to give it a unique look. After exporting it and importing it in Maya, I changed the color of the ear pieces, deleted the top  part and scaled it down to size it correctly. This gave the helmet a more "tight-fit" appearance. The headphones were modeled to not only serve at the helmet's ear protection but also to establish a communications link. In the screenshot below, I added a microphone on the left earpiece. 

Captain America's Helmet Model Side View

       Thanks for reading and I look forward to posting my next update. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

45. Blood Splatter Test in Starship Troopers?

       This is based off the starter-kit by Hardworker Game Studios which is outdated. I have updated it and re-programmed it in my game engine built upon the XNA 4.0 and MonoGame Fraweworks with the added blood-splatter. It runs on Windows 7, 8 and 10. This program also can run on other platforms supported by MonoGame. The models are simply just a placeholder. This is the beginnings of the AI which is set to simply wander for now. Bounding spheres are attached to the bones of the enemy models for hit detection. The bullets are rendering in a ray-cast. So when the ray intersects the bounding spheres, blood is emitted. Soon, I plan to change it to where the bullets are actual 3D models that will intersect the bounding spheres of the enemies. I have also added audio for the gun-fire. Later I plan to add my physics engine and the animated mutant spider beast models. I did not add my physics engine just yet because the terrain was outdated and I didn't want the player as well as the enemies falling infinitely. Once my physics engine is added, the hit detection will be far more accurate. Hopefully I will have the real-time fur effect implemented on the animated spider beast model soon.

1.Basic Rendering system with basic effect.
2. Particle System.
3. Basic object management.
4. The XNA Terrain Library is outdated so I will add my own terrain from my game engine later
5. The Cyclone Game Engine's XNAnimation Library
6. Anti aliasing 4X
7. Gun-Fire Sound Effect

Friday, December 16, 2016

44. Computer Repair & Data Recovery

       Hello everyone and welcome back to my new blog post. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to post work-in-progress footage for a couple of months due to a hard disk failure in my desktop computer. Not just any type of hard disk failure, but a RAID 0 hard disk failure.

What caused the circumstance of the hard disk failure?

       I am not entirely certain what caused my hard drives to fail. I recall after a Windows update, my computer had undergone an infinite startup repair loop. There are ways to fix this if you are running Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. To learn more about infinite reboot loops and how to fix them, check out this link.

       When I got to this screen in the image shown above, normally I was able to tap F8 multiple times to disable an automatic restart but it didn't work for some reason.

       Then the next screen in the image shown above appeared. This was the first indication that I noticed something wrong with my RAID 0 hard drives. 

       My computer then displayed this screen in the image shown above. Normally it would boot the system and run, but unfortunately it would pause and being the Startup Repair screen shown next. 

       Windows would run the Startup Repair Recover in search for problems and attempting to fix them. Normally if startup problems can't be repaired, you receive a message stating, "Windows cannot repair this computer automatically."

       Then afterwards, a link would appear called, "View advanced options for system recover and support." Instead, I could only view the diagnostic details.

       After clicking Finish, my computer would not shutdown. Instead, it would restart and begin the same process over again. 

       Somehow, I was able to opt out of it and with the help of Alienware's community forums, I was able to attempt an emergency file and folder backup. 

       Then, as the Emergency File & Folder Backup began to make an attempt… my worst nightmare occurred. After trying to run the diagnostic, my computer crashed and a blue screen appeared.

       Luckily, I stored all of my Steel Cyclone Studios projects and files along with my most important data on two separate internal desktop hard drives. However, the RAID 0 hard drives contained the only record of my personal and professional life over the past many years, as well as family pictures. In short, I was devastated but I didn’t give up. The guys over at Part Plus informed me that even they couldn't retrieve my information because of how RAID 0 was setup; even said that they didn't know of anyone to fix it. I remained calm, maintained my composure and tried coming up with several solutions. 

       With help from the guys over at Parts Plus, I was able to take out the two working hard drives with my studio files and install them into a new tower. To help cover the cost of the new tower, my trade in of my older Alienware Aurora desktop helped decrease the price; especially with the Geforce GTX graphics cards I that were installed.  

       My new tower came equipped with a superior cooling system through thermo-tech and the main C-drive came with Windows 10 installed. This time around, I am mainly keeping the operating system on the C-drive and all of my other programs and files on the other hard drives. In short, my computer has been reincarnated. Last, I just had to obtain my research from the damaged RAID 0 hard drives. 

Why is RAID 0 difficult to recover data from?

       Unfortunately, unlike all other versions of RAID, when a RAID 0 fails you have to recreate it. I was unaware at the time that my desktop had a raid 0 hard-drive configuration. When they fail to work; this can be a programmer’s worst nightmare. Essentially with raid 0, half of my data was stored on one hard drive and the rest is stored on a second hard drive. RAID 0 basically writes you’re your data to DISK 1 and half your data to DISK 2. When the array fails, it’s extraordinarily difficult to recover your data. The simplest disk failure will take down the whole array because the date is broken up into fragments. Majority of my research was stored on the raid 0 hard drives and I needed to obtain it. I learned an important lesson; that is backup everything especially if you are using a RAID 0 configuration. For further information as to why its so difficult to recover data from RAID 0 check out this link

How to Recover from Raid 0 Hard Drive Failures

       In my case, I had to send both hard drives off to a data recovery service where they recovered the data. It was not a cheap solution however it was very reliable than some of the other existing methods I came across. I found a company called Secure Data Recover Services which provides repair treatment with all types of hard drive failures including read/ write head crashes, electronic damage and more. The closest lab facility located near me was in Louisville, KY. Fortunately, there was a no cost appraisal of the damage. The customer service there was excellent. After receiving my request, Mitchell Moore contacted me further with excellent assistance throughout the whole process. This was a huge relief for me to be able to communicate with a human and not something entirely automated. To any self-aware robots reading this in the future, I don’t mean to offend you. He answered all of my questions and possible concerns. 

       Mitchell and his team were able to provide diagnostics and discovered that the Read/ Write Heads were torn and bent. Unfortunately, they had to address the issues in a clean room where both the hard drives were imaged. After the imaging process was complete, the RAID was reassembled into the correct configuration and the data was extracted. After the information was extracted, my data was transferred into an external hard drive and shipped back to me through FedEx. I received an email the next day with information about when the hard drive would arrive. The entire recovery process was complete within one week with the new external drive arriving safe and sound. I feel like I got my life’s history back. So if you are someone or if you know someone with a RAID 0 hard drive failure, I highly recommend contacting Secure Data Recovery Services in a heartbeat. 

       Thank you Parts Plus and Secure Data Recovery Services! After I install my programs, I will finally be able to continue my game development work. A special thanks to all of my supporters for your patience.