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Rasterman

managing large scale sprite generation

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I am working on a project which will require probably around 3000 - 6000 frames of animation, almost all of which will be generated from 3d models in 3dsmax. My last project (a finished 2d platform game) contained around 4200 frames with about 150 animations. On this previous game each object was a seperate .max file, that I loaded up and rendered out sequences of animations as sprites. This worked well but has a few drawbacks. I was wondering what major projects like Red Alert and Age of Empires 2 used for their sprite generation? And if you are working on a major sprite based game what is your process?

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Sometimes its as simple as .gif files when in 2d art (like Civilization 3).

But 3d art animation - I just started less few months ago. Don't you use .X (DirectX) files to store animation?

Good luck with your project.

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Yes you can store 3d animation in .x files.

My question is how do you manage a large number of animations and then render them as sprites, do you use maxscript, some kind of command line batch file, or perhaps a custom written utility? Currently I just load the animation and render them by hand, I was wondering what other people do though.

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Unless your engine handles 3d graphics, you can't do it via the engine (such as what RTW does). It'd also be a real big project to do it via a custom utility that would render the frames.
Its probably possible to do it via maxscript (I'd say definately possible).
What I'd recommend is you render each animation sequence into seperate tga files, then create a utility/script/photoshop action that places the animations into the correct sequence into the master sprite file for that animation.

This is a common problem in sprite-based games that use 3d renders... My suggestion is to find people that have done it before, and ask how.

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Many projects such as Diablo (I and II), Civ, Starcraft, Warcraft, and others developed their own tools to do this. Basically the artist will create the models and export them to a readable format. The tool is then responsible for loading the models, posing them, snapshot scene, crop, merge/paste, rinse and repeat. Oddly enough with all of the game engines out there, its almost impossible to find an application that will do this for you. Indee's seem happy with letting the graphics artist do this utilizing a script in Max or some other application.

Take a look around and find a good set of 3D controls for your language of choice, find out what model and animation formats it supports and have at writing your own. Never done it myself (though its in the plans once I get my engine ready), but it should pay off big time in the end.

- Jeremy

[EDIT]
You might also try asking this in the ISO forum as I know that EDI bases their stuff on 3D models as well. Ray or one of the others may have a better answer :)

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Quote:
Original post by jdarling
Many projects such as Diablo (I and II), Civ, Starcraft, Warcraft, and others developed their own tools to do this.


Well Cilization and Starcraft use 2d sprites drawn in programs like Ms Paint & photoshop. I wasn't aware of them uing 3d models. Are you sure?

Apologize for spelling. Brokn keyboard; using "on-screen keyboard for the disabled" and its irritating ;).

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