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Extensive Game Design Questions

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I will give a bit of background on myself to start. I spent 4 years creating a game called Fantasy Tales Online while I was in highschool (Im 21 now). It was a 2D MMORPG written in VB5 & DX7. It started as a project to learn on, and slowly developed into a very intense project. I am well aware Visual Basics is not the language of choice when designing an online RPG :) Anyways, I am looking to get back into game design, but I have some questions pertaining to certain aspects of what I need to do, learn, and how a few things work before I start. I do not plan on starting right away, I am currently about to start learning C++ (I cry when I think about it) and I am going to start trying to learn to do 3D Modeling. 1) In regards to 3D modeling, I currently have ZBrush 2 and Maya. I know Maya is of course top of the line, however does Zbrush count as a modeling program, or is it only used for texturing, coloring, etc? So far just from reading a few tutorials ZBrush seems much easier to learn, but I am concerned im going to spend a lot of time learning it front and back, and find out much like I did with VB that its not what I should be using. 2) Many 3D games I see that are not professionally done seem to have a very bad quality look and feel to them. Is it the fact the models are made badly, the game engine cannot handle better quality models, etc? I log into WoW and everything is beautiful to look at, and all of the personal projects seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. I can imagine it has something to do with Blizzard or whatever company employing professionals, but is it just that the personal projects dont have the resources to design good models, or is it actually something within the code? 3) I am very experienced with VB, however I know very little about the more game savvy programming languages. What is the main difference between C++ and C#? What is the learning curve on C++? Would someone whose used to a very visual programming interface have an extremely difficult time learning it? 4) From reading these forums, I have seen links to 3D world creators, and so fourth. Is this what is used to create the actual worlds (levels) that are in video games? Back to professionally made games, do they just have all the resources available and thats why there worlds just look so much better, or do they use the most expensive of the world creators, etc. Now that I sit down and start typing my other few questions completely slip my mind. I am sure I will have a few more in the future, but I will leave it at this for now. If anyone out there has any responses to these questions I would greatly appreciate it.

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There's nothing wrong with VB, VB.NET especially. I'm not familiar enough with VB6 to know how much changed between VB.NET and 6, but I suspect the primary reason not to use 6 anymore is simply that it's old.

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1) In regards to 3D modeling, I currently have ZBrush 2 and Maya. I know Maya is of course top of the line, however does Zbrush count as a modeling program, or is it only used for texturing, coloring, etc? So far just from reading a few tutorials ZBrush seems much easier to learn, but I am concerned im going to spend a lot of time learning it front and back, and find out much like I did with VB that its not what I should be using.

It's really hard to learn a skillset or tool that would be actively detrimental to your progress. Just because a particular tool is or is not used in the professional industry doesn't mean much, and chances are the reason the tool is or is not used are of little consequence to you, as an amateur developer. I'm not familiar with either of those tools, but I would settle for the one you know best or like best.

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2) Many 3D games I see that are not professionally done seem to have a very bad quality look and feel to them. Is it the fact the models are made badly, the game engine cannot handle better quality models, etc? I log into WoW and everything is beautiful to look at, and all of the personal projects seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. I can imagine it has something to do with Blizzard or whatever company employing professionals, but is it just that the personal projects dont have the resources to design good models, or is it actually something within the code?

A combination of both high quality models generated by very talented professional artists and high quality code supporting high-end visual effects produced by professional programmers. People making personal projects as a hobby are not, by definition, professional, and while they doesn't necessarily mean they must obviously be less skilled, that is the case rather often. They're usually amateurs who are developing their skills, rather than professionals who are perfecting them.

Good art is required for pretty visuals. Good art can sometimes save bad code (code that does not support a lot of fancy visuals, or does not support them well), but good code cannot save bad art.

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What is the main difference between C++ and C#?

They're entirely different languages that share some minor syntax issues but have quite a few differences when it comes to underlying concepts, idioms, and practice. C# is a signifigantly more modern language.

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What is the learning curve on C++?

Steep.

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Would someone whose used to a very visual programming interface have an extremely difficult time learning it?

Depends on the person. There's little reason to learn C++ if you know other languages unless you really want to. It is by no means the "best" language or the only one you can write top-quality games in. Although if you intend to pursue a career as a professional game developer, you'll probably need to learn C++ eventually. Given your age you'd likely be pursuing that goal sooner rather than later, so it might be worth starting to learn now even though it's a sad little language hampered by its nebulous focus and backwards compatibility.

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4) From reading these forums, I have seen links to 3D world creators, and so fourth. Is this what is used to create the actual worlds (levels) that are in video games? Back to professionally made games, do they just have all the resources available and thats why there worlds just look so much better, or do they use the most expensive of the world creators, etc.

Depends. If you're talking about game construction toolkits like 3D Game Studio or Game Maker, then no, they do not see much professional use outside the bargain or casual markets. Most AAA professional games use proprietary technology and toolchains to construct their assets, or toolchains that come with the engine they licensed. Sometimes dedicated level authoring tools are built (such as Valve's tools, or the Quake mapping tools) and sometimes off-the-shelf tools such as 3D modellers are used, and exporters or converters are written to cook the data into the appropriate format suitable for efficient parsing by the engine.

[Edited by - jpetrie on June 6, 2007 10:18:19 AM]

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I also have ZBrush and have to say that it's main purpose is nothing more than creating pretty pictures and models. It's easy and fun to create models in due to its free hand modeling capability, but don't intend to use it for creating models that you can then import into a game.

As you said, Maya is pretty much the industry standard for character models so I'd reccomend that you stick with it. I dont have it (still looking for a good torrent) but that is my insight.

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Original post by CrimsonGT
1) In regards to 3D modeling, I currently have ZBrush 2 and Maya. I know Maya is of course top of the line, however does Zbrush count as a modeling program, or is it only used for texturing, coloring, etc? So far just from reading a few tutorials ZBrush seems much easier to learn, but I am concerned im going to spend a lot of time learning it front and back, and find out much like I did with VB that its not what I should be using.
IIRC, Zbrush seems to be used for texturing only. But I'm not an artist, and I've never used either tool.

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2) Many 3D games I see that are not professionally done seem to have a very bad quality look and feel to them. Is it the fact the models are made badly, the game engine cannot handle better quality models, etc? I log into WoW and everything is beautiful to look at, and all of the personal projects seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. I can imagine it has something to do with Blizzard or whatever company employing professionals, but is it just that the personal projects dont have the resources to design good models, or is it actually something within the code?
Most personal projects are done by people who can get things done. This means they're done by programmers. Most programmers are terrible at art and can't find any modellers to work for them. QED.

Of course, it's entirely possible to write a bad engine which prevents you from rendering high quality stuff at a decent speed, but by and large the problem is the lack of content.

The time investment required to make even crappy-looking 3D models is monstrous.
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3) I am very experienced with VB, however I know very little about the more game savvy programming languages. What is the main difference between C++ and C#?
C++ is unmanaged, C# is managed. That means C# runs in a virtual machine, takes care of a lot of silly stuff (like garbage collection, pointers, type conversion) and is potentially slower.
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What is the learning curve on C++?
Ludicrously steep.

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Would someone whose used to a very visual programming interface have an extremely difficult time learning it?
Is VB all that visual? I remember writing more code than pulling together clicky-buttons when I was employed working on VB.

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4) From reading these forums, I have seen links to 3D world creators, and so fourth. Is this what is used to create the actual worlds (levels) that are in video games?
Yes, you could use an existing level editor, write your own, etc. It all depends on what your game reads in and can handle.

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Back to professionally made games, do they just have all the resources available and thats why there worlds just look so much better, or do they use the most expensive of the world creators, etc.
They usually write their own tools, which are rather slapdash in my experience. The difference is that they pay a team of professionals to work 40+ hour weeks on the game content whereas independent projects generally have like 1-2 guys working on it after work.

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As you said, Maya is pretty much the industry standard for character models so I'd reccomend that you stick with it. I dont have it (still looking for a good torrent) but that is my insight.
We don't tolerate advocating piracy on this forum. Read the forum FAQ for details.

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Regarding ZBrush:
In addition to texturing, ZBrush is often used for adding high resolution details to the geometry. While game engines can't support the details produced like this, the complex model can be used to generate normal maps, which can be used in games to fake the high resolution geometry.

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