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These Bots Are Made For Walking!

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Poo Bear


Fost - Mr. Robot Art

Cover Story Revisited

Mr. Robot: Robot Rampage!.

Quite a while back now, I was working on the DVD cover for Mr. Robot. I wasn't totally happy with the design though, so it was left by the wayside a little. So I've finished off the final cover image (above), and due to it's format, it makes a pretty nice widescreen desktop wallpaper (which ties in nicely with Mark's post below!). I can't see I've seen any sites with widescreen wallpapers, but if you are one of the very few people in the world with a 2560X1600 display, hopefully you'll appreciate it (and let me have your monitor!).

Choose your wallpaper:


We always end up going though loads of iterations of colour/layout/text/imagery. I suppose when you are forking out for a large print run it makes sense to get it right. Here's the final process, with the winning layout on top. Bar final text copy and screenshot inserts, it's now ready to go :)

Mr. Robot DVD Cover Variants.

On Designing Robots For Animation...

The bulk of this month has been spent finishing all the animations for the robots that need to be animated. The robots who help you in particular have a lot of animations as they also appear in the ghost hack mode, so need an additional set of animations: ICE breaker attack/program attack/damaged/deactivated etc. The hardest thing has been walk cycles though. I usually want to inject a bit of personality into the walk as the way someone walks says quite a lot about them. Serious weight for the heavy lifter, a slight limp for the older mysterious security droid etc. However, that pretty much went out of the window as in some cases, due to the robot's design, just getting them to move in even a vaguely believeable, physically possible, manner turned into a technical nightmare.

During the modelling/design phase, I usually test out the movement of the robots quickly to make sure there aren't going to be any spatial issues with their size and shape. Of course, spinning a model's arms and legs about isn't the same as making them work! I came across two main problems:
1: Some of the robots have limited degrees of freedom compared to a human. Samson for instance cannot move his shoulder joint in an outward motion, and Raistlin has the same issue with his hips. Normally, as the hips and shoulders become slanted in a walk, the joints compensate to keep the legs and arms straight. With fixed joints, they tend to flail out more, which is a particular problem with leg joints. When designing robots - it's best to allow as much freedom of movement as possible without compromising your design, as you'll save time later on during the animation phase!
2: Samson and in particular Orgus, have very short, and very fat legs, with massive feet! When feet are longer than the leg it's almost physically impossible to bend the leg, and swing it forward to make a walk.

Anyway, here's the keyframes (most are on 16 key frames) from the final walk set. the game smooths the animation out by calculating the inbetween frames and morphing between them.
Mr. Robot: Samson Walk TestMr. Robot: Orgus Walk Test
- click images for flash animations...
Samson and Orgus were definitely the two hardest models to animate. Samson has quite insane proportions - feet as long as his legs, arms that go past his feet, and hands as big as his body! Orgus' foot mechanism has so little room for manouvre that he pretty much shuffles along.

Mr. Robot: Raistlin Walk TestMr. Robot: Zelda Walk TestMr. Robot: Stalker Walk Test
- click images for flash animations...

Raistlin, Zelda and the enemy stalker robot. Being much more of humanoid proportions made these much easier, although the lack of feet on the stalker initially worried me, it proved not to be a problem. So there you have it - feet are a complete waste of space!

Mr. Robot: Samson rotoscope frames.

Poo Bear - Mr. Robot Programming

Mr. Robot: In SuperRoboScopeVision!

I've been looking into how we will handle widescreen aspect ratio in all future games. This is something we don't have in Starscape as switching resolutions is not so easy due to its 2D sprite based nature. Also, in the past, there have been very few people using widescreen monitors, mainly a few laptop owners who had top end systems.

With most laptop manufacturers moving toward widescreen displays now (so the laptop can double nicely as a portable DVD player), and flat-panel, widescreen desktop monitors dropping in price (I'm waiting for this 30" beast to drop to street prices :) ) now is definitely the time to be supporting widescreen.

Here's some statistics from our website:
screen resolution usage statistics

Widescreen displays highlighted in yellow showing that just shy of 7% of the people viewing our website lately have been using wide format displays. Not a huge amount, but enough to warrant supporting that kind of display. Also, this figure has doubled in a very short space of time, and I expect it to grow massively over the next few years.

Mr. Robot currently supports any resolution, but the virtual camera's aspect ratio is locked to 4:3. So I needed a way to set wider fields of view. My ideal choice would be to determine this automatically, but failing that, give the user a wide range of options so they can sort it out themselves.

The first thing that I did was to compile a list of resolutions currently in use, which ended up confusing me even more! Some laptops are actually 16:9 ratio, and some are even 16:10!

What's more, Fullscreen 1280*1024 running on a CRT monitor is squashed to 4:3, yet if you run it in a window it has square pixels, and is a different aspect ratio. Flat panel monitors always seem to have square pixels, so a flat panel monitor with a max resolution of 1280*1024 is also a different aspect ratio :(.

The useful fact there however, is that widescreen flatpanels have square pixels. In the end, I've decided that the best thing to do, is to assume square pixels (which is what Windows desktop does anyway). So, just get the desktop aspect ratio and set the camera fov to the same. The only time this will cause a slight discrepancy is with fullscreen 1280*1024 (A popular but silly resolution; it should be 1280*960) on a CRT monitor. Luckily, there's no noticeable difference between 1280*1024 squashed to 4:3 (like on a CRT monitor) and 1280*1024 with square pixels (5:4) like on a flat panel. Just a 6.25% vertical squash only affecting CRT users at that res.

Mr. Robot: Camera aspect ratio comparison of flatpanel VS CRT at 1280 by 1024.

Should be able to support that in all future games, and in an update for Mr. Robot if not at launch :) .
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In my experience, the real problem isn't about supporting widescreens within the 3D view (it's only a matter of setting up the right parameters for the camera), but with the GUI. How are you going to render your interface ? It should of course not appear stretched... it's been giving me headaches recently :)


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Yep, GUI is indeed a sticky point.

It's a load of work but I think it's worth it; we had enough people wanting widescreen support to justify some quick and dirty updates to the game to support it. Unfortunately it makes the GUI look like crap in a few noteworthy places, but oh well... there's always next time [smile]

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16:10 is pretty awesome if you can pull off the FoV properly, there's a lot of sites like Widescreen Gaming Forum that are sad about the lack of FoV-modification capability in some older game engines.

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Original post by Ysaneya
In my experience, the real problem isn't about supporting widescreens within the 3D view (it's only a matter of setting up the right parameters for the camera), but with the GUI. How are you going to render your interface ?

Yes, that's the biggest problem. Everything needs squashing to compensate for the aspect difference and then moving apart. With Mr. Robot most of this is unfortunately set up by hand so will probably be a lot of work. Luckily, much of the gui isn't aspect ratio sensitive, so can probably be left stretched. I'll have to see. This is the main reason I doubt this will be in from the start and will be something I look at post-release.

I certainly will be looking into a more elegant solution for future games as Widescreen monitor owners are definitely a growing group of customers.

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If you hadn't told me, I wouldn't have noticed the 6% vertical squash.

Anyway, just put black bars on the side of the screen to compensate for really wide screens, and then fill 'em with Google ads :)

Your game is officially the best looking game in the universe.

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