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 Post subject: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:15 am 
RPtools is Open source, using an open-sourced developing environment, language and libraries. It is also (yaay!) cross-platform.
All for that.

Now, there is the Irrlicht engine.

It does have a Java wrapper.

(Holding his breath) Could we go 3D? I don't know whether people even like the idea, or how it would be performance-wise. But such a thing as VBL becomes irrelevant in 3D as it is built-in.

Just dropping this casually into the conversation...


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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:41 am 
3D has been brought up in the past for quite some time now.

While 3D sounds exciting and all, it comes with a lot of work on the DM side and Artwork side.

So yeah, you could make your walls 3D but then what? Windows, doorways, small holes in the walls -- all those things now need to be represented in 3D. Now, find 3D doors, tables, chairs, treasure piles. Don't forget underwater mapping.

When we look at design ideas, we sort of have the following prerequisits in the back of our minds while reviewing them:

1. Can the GM build something quickly on the fly - as fast as a rubber battle mat?
2. Can the GM keep the game moving quickly during session?

When I think of 3D, I think that things will only become slower. It will take a large amount of effort to build a map and it will most likely slow down a game (like when tokens are under water and flying, or when the players interact with the 3D environment and it needs to be modified on the spot).

If you think I am totally nuts, let me throw out this challenge: Draw me out a 3 room dungeon with 2 doors, two stairs leading up to center platform, and put a pile of treasure on that platform. I want you to do it in Google Sketchup: http://sketchup.google.com/download/

Tell me how long it took to create the scene. I can tell you now already that I can create that scene in 2D Maptool withing one minute, two minutes with VBL.

So while 3D sounds all fun and such, to me, it sounds like a total nightmare.

Now, that doesn't mean that we can't use the high tech 3D technologies in our expensive video cards to help render special effects and such, like lighting, area spells, auras, shadowing, etc. That is in our radar, but building 3D walls and such, I don't think it is a good idea.

There is my take on things :)

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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:11 pm 
I very much agree on a good deal of what you said: If the environment is not conducive to on-the-fly game mastering it is a failure.
Having said that, right now I use MapTools mostly for pre-design: that is, I use it to play the maps I made in MapTool but actually creating maps while I am playing with the players is still something I do rarely (though it is possible). Which is to say: In most cases, maps are made before the actual gaming session. Having said that, even when we do things on the fly, we do not create the actual door et c. in a 2D graphiocs program, then upload the token; instead, we pick it from an existing token library and tell our players: "Here, that's a door" (even if it doesn't look like one).

If we had a 3D program in which we (as GMs) can quickly throw in a door, a bridge, a hut, a sword on the ground or a tree from an existing object library, it would be the same.

I don't mind pre-creating the map as a GM, I have to do that anyway. The question is: How good is the program in saving me as GM time? Is it as fast as in pen-and-paper times when I could draw a line on a piece of paper and say: "That is a 10.000 foot long city wall." Right now, drawing that on MapTool means: Make a new map, pick background, draw line, and then draw the VBL for it. It is a lot more work.

In a 3D environment, at least I would not have to draw the VBL. It is built-in. Not to mention that it can look a lot more spectacular. But you are right in that the focus would have to be on manageability for the GM. It wouldn't work without. I'm dreaming though of the day my players walk around in a 3D world of my design and I can, with two clicks, drop in an orc in their midst, jumping out of very realistic looking fog...


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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:30 pm 
Let me ask you this then if I may:
How much time do you put into making a good map now?

I agree, that in many cases, a GM doesn't have to build on the fly, but in my case, it can still take me 4 hours to make a map in Maptool. That is designing it, drawing it out, and most importantly, finding the objects to populate it. I mean a map isn't a map unless it has substance, right? :)

I find that most of my time lost is searching for the substance - the art - the stuff that makes my map come alive.

Now, let's pretend that everything on the map is 2D but only the walls are the only thing 3D. Let's also pretend that we take a 2D token, flip it on edge, and always have it face the camera (like doom did with their monster sprites). That could be possible, but I still see the whole 3D structure becoming a challenge to create - time consuming. Not so much square rooms connected to halls and connected to square rooms - that is easy, I am talking about that 2 story building where the way up is through an attic door (and players are outside flying and wanting to attack through upstairs windows or stand onthe roof), or a room with a 30' deep pool in it and an underwater passage within that leads into a sewer -- think about the scenes other than square rooms -- after a while your head will spin when it comes to the amount of 3D design that would have to take place. Again, try using Sktchup and you will quickly see what I mean.

As far as automatic VBL on walls - there is no reason why we can't do that in 2D. We just don't have it on the 1.3 radar but I would expect to see that in 1.4+. Draw a wall and VBL is already there.

I don't want to come across as bullish, that is not my tone here - I am just throwing out the enless years of thoughts (and concerns) that the team and a large number of the members have hashed out. It is a pretty interesting but scary place - 3D.

OK, I am done now :)

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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:26 pm 
Again I would have to agree with everything you say. And I certainly do not want to downplay the enormous efforts you and the team have put into MapTool, in particular.
And I didn't read this as bullying at all, by the way.

The rise and fall of any 3D program is with the user-friendliness and intuitiveness of its editing tools.
I also spend hours designing maps (3-4 on one is usual). In the old pen and paper games I spend hours drawing beautiful maps with ink and feather to give them a medieval feeling, and I think the players always loved that. In MapTool, it takes me at least as long as using the ink. The result is only half as charming, but it does allow us to play decently online.

Now, if you do have a great, easy-to-use 3D design toolbox where you could by point-click-and-drag create a 3D wall, size it, fit a door in, and the tool would automatically do that, it would first and foremost force us game masters to relearn some tools of the trade - but it wouldn't have to be slower. It would indeed be awkward, however, if the tool wasn't designed and programmed well. The success or fail of a MapTool 3D would all be in the user interface: If it sucks, people wouldn't use it, and the work would be for naught. I can see that as a definite risk for such a project. But the potential rewards... doesn't that tempt you at all?


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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:56 pm 
LeopoldVonRanke wrote:
But the potential rewards... doesn't that tempt you at all?

I did, a long while ago, but when I saw others (like WoTC for example) make those promises and then break them once they saw the complexity, I now focus on more important things. I would rather have development efforts go to stuff like Javascript, layer management when drawing, real handouts, a better system to display conditions (with descriptions (and timers) of each), official warp points, token management (edit token in one place instead of each copy of your token), lighting that looks like lighting instead of softfog, etc.

A 3D system, like you said, is a HUGE risk that will take a lot of effort with uncertain results. Heck, it is hard enough to find the man power to finish up 1.3 so finding the resources to do 3D seems out of reach to me.

But I am the voice of one - and not the final voice so please, feel free to drum up followers. We tend to implement the stuff users want so who knows? :)

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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:20 pm 
Well, you could use the Neverwinter Nights data as the games are dirt cheap. This would solve alot of the chicken and egg dilemma. I however am perfectly fine with 2d.

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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:44 am 
I must admit I am still not impressed by the "3D revolution". I am, as neofax put it, perfectly fine with 2d. For MapTool to put time effort and resources into being 3D would be like Porsche setting up a new assembly line of economy class cars (Tata anyone?).

I'm not trying to say 3D wouldn't be a nice feature to have for people who want it, but unless lots of people want it, it'd be a bad use of resources and the coder's time.

This has probably all been said, though I just wanted to add my opinion. It's not a crazy idea, just one that has more cons than pros in my opinion.

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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:40 pm 
I've played with SketchUp. While I haven't spent hours with it, I still find it difficult to do 3D designs that I think should be easy.

If the UI for a completely 3D app is still not simple enough, how could MT be better? (We certainly don't have the resources of Google behind us on this one. ;))

We need a complete re-thinking of 2D interfaces to make it easier to build 3D environments. Or we need some revolutionary new hardware that will make 3D development much simpler. I don't see either of those happening in the near term (although it's difficult to predict a "discovery"!).

Still, I'd love it if MT could do 3D. I just don't think it's practical at this point.


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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:19 pm 
I loved the way duke nukem did maps. It was very simple. Some things could only be done in 3D mode rather than the top down 2D mode. But basically, in 3D mode you would point at an area and use hotkeys to set textures, adjust angles, raise or lower surfaces. I once made a sports car that went around a track and played music. If you stepped in front of the path, it would run you down. I recently saw a link on MapTool that had some portal like mechanics where you can get really funky with a 3 dimensional space, but I don't recall the name of that engine.

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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:20 pm 
Reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Homer goes 3D... :lol:

But seriously, isometric 3D alone would be awesome. In isometric view it should be easier to edit things - and players could see it through first-person view (or 3rd, as desired). Anyways. This is just a dream thread, but the open source tools are all there... I know I brought this up before, then about the Unity engine, since it basically takes and compiles JavaScript and does everything you want neatly; but Unity is not open source.

Anyways, I was just trying to gauge the mood. I do see that a major advantage of 2D is that players still keep using their own imagination. When you do 3D, your graphics take over completely. And that means, if it ain't awesome graphics, your game can never be quite that good in 3D. Pen and paper always was as good or bad as the imagination of its players, and this is at least partially still true for playing with MapTool.


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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:46 am 
LeopoldVonRanke wrote:
Reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Homer goes 3D... :lol:

But seriously, isometric 3D alone would be awesome. In isometric view it should be easier to edit things - and players could see it through first-person view (or 3rd, as desired). Anyways. This is just a dream thread, but the open source tools are all there...
Not trying to be mean here, but it seems your stuck more on the "it's possible, let's do it!" aspect as opposed to the fundamental issue(well... probably the primary issue at least) which is "with our very limited development resources(umm how long has 1.3 been near "final" for? 11 months...) what should be do with the limited dev time to provide the most benefit to the most RPG players".

Think of it this way, why are no other VTT's, especially those that are commercial and have one or more full time programmers developing the application not using 3D? As you can attest, I am sure there "is" some demand for it, but I really expect that the answer is that the demand really so low that those VTT creators just can't justify the cost required to go to a true 3D solution. Also, it could be that there just is not enough available content(artwork) to satisfy their customers.

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Get your Dropbox 2GB via my referral link, and as a bonus, I get an extra 250 MB of space. Even if you don't don't use my link, I still enthusiastically recommend Dropbox..


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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2011 6:31 pm 
Just to throw fuel on the fire: I think 2.5D is the way to go - use a 3D engine to render a 2D top down view, like we currently have. Could use layers to set a wall height, then paint with a texture; proper shadows from any lights get rendered from any light sources interfering with walls (maybe just have a drop shadow setting if you want something simple).


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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 03, 2011 4:09 am 
I see the mystique of Maptool 3D especially since rumor has it that Telarus has a 3D world map for Earthdawn ;) but i can see that the real issue here is risk vs. reward. As it stands there are some great tricks for creating a '3D like' environment in 2D- such as RecklessEnthusiasm's canopy trick. Also the use of columns with VBL gives a 2D the illusion of depth, and setting some trees as objects over a weather overly on the background layer gives the illusion that the trees are higher than the fog. The addition of animated token movement, doors and traps adds much to the feel of the game and artful use of teleport pads allows you to give the illusion of traversing buildings with different levels.
There are a lot of things that can be done to improve the production value of our games without going full 3D. My feeling is that the more we can make those slick elements accessible to the uninitiated- the more popular maptool is likely to become.


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 Post subject: Re: [Crazy?] Going 3D?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:21 pm 
I've been holding off commenting on this thread in order to get my Alpha out the door, but as some-one who has training in this area, yeah... manpower is going to be your first issue (I was explaining to my neighbor that it takes at least 4 people just to animate a simple "character busts out window with his elbow" animation... the character modeler, the rigger/animator, the environment/texture artist, and the effects artist).

2nd would be achieving a consistent "look & feel" including scale standards, texture size standards, poly-count for objects and characters, color-schemes, etc, etc. For example, World of Warcraft had the look & feel of warcraft to drive it, then spent a few years in Concept Design with artists refining the style. This is so, when the team finally got to designing 3d models and textures, they weren't wasting a bunch of time going back to the art department, then back to the modelers "cause it just doesn't look like it will fit with the rest of the world").

We mostly have this for the 2d maptool images... primarily because of a core group of pretty killer 2d artists which have setup a... non-verbalized 'style guide'... things like the downloadable art-packs give maptool it's own style. So far it's developed rather haphazardly (as a Discordian, I appreciate that an 'almost-coherent' style has emerged :twisted: ).


But a doc laying it out for new users would be helpful. That might be something I'd be in to helping with.

Having said that, there are a few very interesting possibilities for 3D. I think the best interface with maptool would be (as mentioned) rendering things from a 3d engine into a 2d image for use with maptool.

I have a few years of 3d lighting experience, and it can be intimidating for some-one who is just starting to think in 2d photoshop-style space to have to think about light rays bouncing all over a 3d space, and what the intensity of the source means for the ambient shadows :shock: much less how the reflective surfaces behave, or getting into what Normal Maps are.

I do plan on making some landscapes, etc, etc. The tools I use turn out some really realistic stuff. I'll be releasing some of them to the community. I also plan on using UDK (the Unreal Dev Kit) to build environments, and then taking a top-down screenshot for use w/ maptool, which will allow me to easily do day vs night scenes, setup environmental effects or water reflections, and tweak lights and shadows pretty much at will. Oh, and "Point of View" stills that you could then attach to an info token on your map. :twisted:

I would recommend anyone interested in this line of art to take a look at the 3D forum over at the Cartographer's Guild (where you'll find a peak at one of my 3d landscape concepts for Earthdawn). They've got a few members doing some interesting city experiments, and some other stuff.


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