Hello there, let me introduce myself.
My name is Leonid Gaev and I am working on developing the Alternativa3D 8 engine. We already have some accomplishments to show you and that is what my post today is going to cover.
Just recently, Media Pillar LLC, a company from the Russian city of Perm, released Combat Sector, an online game developed on the Alternativa3D 8 engine. Even though the developers say that the game is in alpha testing, it is already interesting to play. The players have access to a wide range of options: they can build up their character, upgrade armor, weapons and devices, and buy boosters. They also can access different gameplay modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Domination. But what is really cool is that these guys have no intention of stopping there. Even more modes are in the pipeline.
The game drew me in because I can rather quickly evolve and progress as a player, even as I’m loving the weapons-blazin’ action (which is why the game was created in the first place).
I should warn you that this post is written for game developers and those who want to get ahead in the gaming industry. I will describe how Media Pillar achieved its success, more specifically: which capabilities of our engine fuelled their successful efforts to make their project.
This is one of the key features in the engine. The benefit of shadows is that they automatically make the picture more appealing and three-dimensional. This 3D-ness is achieved because with shadows, the eyes can more easily evaluate the distance between an object and the surface on which that object is located. In other words, if you look at a character without shadows, it looks like it is floating in the air. But with shadows, your eyes can definitely see that the character is standing on the ground.
This is the cornerstone of the engine. Some games pass up lighting. Those games use one of the most simple types of materials, what we call TextureMaterial. Objects made from that material don’t react to light. Combat Sector uses dynamic lighting and StandardMaterial, one of the main types of light-reactive materials. Light sources contribute to the intensity and color of each pixel in the object. In practice, the intensity depends on the angle at which the light from the source hits the object. Glare is an intense reflection of light from the object on the camera. In shaders, it is calculated as a separate component of lighting.
Lightmaps are the light “baked into” textures. This is a way of displaying static lighting and saving CPU cycles. Lightmaps are also good because they don’t require high-resolution textures. They are frequently used on ground surfaces and other objects with tiled textures, when a single texture is repeated over the object. Lightmaps were originally designed in order to save CPU time.
Media Pillar didn’t spare efforts to create animated vegetation, either. Even though it doesn’t impact gameplay, earth vegetation creates the pleasant feeling of a live picture. What is really cool is that this vegetation interacts with the characters when they run on it.
These are low-poly models with transparent textures. This approach is often used for implementing vegetation objects. They appear as highly detailed objects, but this is actually thanks to using transparent textures and alpha testing.
By using a relatively inexpensive technology (animated sprites), you can achieve good results in making pictures interactive and lively. In essence, sprites represent a flat object that is always facing the camera. If you remember such standard-bearers as Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and Doom (1993), they were the first to implement characters by using sprites. Remarkably, such old technology is still effective and is used to create various effects. For example, in Combat Sector, these are effects for fire, bullet holes, lighting (emphasis) around first aid kits and armor, sparks of electricity, and more…
Alternativa3D allows displaying objects with skeletal animation. Most frequently, this technology is used to animate characters. This type of animation is efficient because instead of animating the vertex of the object, you can animate only the bones, and vertexes will become animated because in the bones you specify the impact on the vertex of the object. In Alternativa3D, this is done by the Skin class. Cheap and with good results: just what is needed for browser games.
Animation With Blending
A couple of words about this technique. In addition to skeletal animation, Alternativa3D includes animation of objects with blending. By applying it to Skins, you can make smooth transitions between any pair of animations. Blending is used a great deal in slashers so that players don’t notice any jerks between blows. Cool way to switch between animations.
This is a mechanism for creating sophisticated special effects. For those who remember the demo of the Tank i 2.0 prototype, it used a particle system for gunfire, fire, and smoke. Media Pillar used a particle system to implement smoke from fire and fumes from lava.
With Combat Sector, Media Pillar set out to create a dynamic game. The core of gameplay is hacking-and-slashing action between gladiators in arenas of the future. That’s why Media Pillar was looking for a high-performance engine. And for us, performance is one of the foremost product requirements. We use simple and efficient algorithms where they are necessary. For historical reasons, the performance of browser games is lower than desktop games. So we try to squeeze out the max.
Media Pillar achieved excellent results, I think. They took advantage of almost everything available in AlternativaPlatform products. In addition to Alternativa3D, this was AlternativaGUI, AlternativaCore, and AlternativaPhysics.
I also want to congratulate the users of our engine: the browser game industry has now come out with full-fledged projects. Today we can proudly recommend the top five projects created with our engine to you. Many of them will soon approach the release version stage. I will write about them in due course.