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Should I write a 3D animation program for filmakers?

Should I write a 3D animation program for filmakers?

Yes95%[ 40 ]
No5%[ 2 ]

Total Votes : 42

Posted: Mon, 13th Jun 2005, 2:09am

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Roozer

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Hello guys!

I am working on a film which requires quite a bit of green-screening onto computer-animated/generated background scenes.

I'm planning on using a game-engine to generate the animations and was wondering if you all thought it a good idea to put a front-end onto my scripted engine.

If there's already a program out there which does this or your have comments/suggestions, please tell me... And no promises! smile

Here's what I envision:

A point-and-click modeling program which allows users to easily layout a scene from a library pre-fabricated objects (or objects which they create.) Think of The Sims re-written for movie-making. The program would be set up similar to EfectsLab where object animation/effects/position could be "keyed". (This includes the camera.) Once all the animation is completed, the user could export it to a movie file which they could then use with Chromanator, etc.

I know I've been very frustrated with 3D modeling programs before, so my main focus would be to make it easy to use. I'm thinking about setting the editor up similar to The Sims but still allow the user to move things without being bound to floors, walls, etc.

As far as the game engine goes, I'm thinking of using the Acknex game engine. (http://www.conitec.net/a4info.htm) Ideally, I would use Torque game engine (used for Tribes) because of the stunning graphics (especially for outdoor scenes), but Acknex is easy to use.

So, please vote in my pole, and if you have any suggestions, please inform me. Also, if anyone has any experience with the Acknex engine, I could really use some help for this project. I've written a game in this engine, and even though it's easy to use compared to the other ones out there, it's still very time-consuming.

Thanks!

Last edited Tue, 18th Apr 2006, 1:53pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Mon, 13th Jun 2005, 2:45am

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The Artur

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I think that would be awesome
Posted: Mon, 13th Jun 2005, 2:56am

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Hybrid-Halo

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It sounds like a good idea, although with some fundamental problems. Ontop of this I'd have to say it'd be a huge, huge amount of work. Have you looked into camera matching programs like those available at www.thepixelfarm.co.uk to look into methods of using film motion detecting to ease the implementation of 3d?

Also, what about variety? Surely lots of people would just use the same models. Who's going to animate and create these models for you? And does this infringe copyright?

As I said, it's a great idea but a large, large project. Right now I'd say what you're doing is similiar to someone saying "I've found a way to ensure world peace" as in you're promising what may well be impossible.

Good luck though wink
Posted: Tue, 14th Jun 2005, 3:28am

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Roozer

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Thank you for your reply!

Yes, I have addressed these issues. First, I think I gave a wrong impression of what this program is for. This program is intended to create backgrounds such as a starship in Star Wars. Animated objects would include items such as doors, elevators, etc. I am not trying to animate people, animals, etc.

Second, that's a really good point with the models. As it turns out, there is a huge community of 3D modelers who make models to be used for free -- no license requirements. On top of that, professional 3D modelers sell packs of 100 or so models for quite an affordable price. So, I feel quite sure that there could be a huge variety for no or little cost. (I would probably just include a small library of models and then allow people to buy/download additional models from independent developers.)

If you have anything else to say, I'd love to hear it. So far, I haven't really gotten too much of a response from the FXHome community, so I suspect this is not really something that people want. Well, we'll see.

Really, though. I want to know if this is something people want. I'm a professional programmer/developer and have had some game programming experience, so I think I know how big this project is. (It always is harder than you think, though smile If this IS something people want, I was thinking of developing it and possibly donating it to FXHome (If they want it) (I don't know for sure about that yet. It really would be nice to be able to pay for my development license smile

Thanks!
Posted: Fri, 17th Jun 2005, 5:25am

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foleypro

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I personally think I would like it...


I dabble in 2D/3D and it would be nice to be able to get my Characters and Creatures into the Movie in full 3D...
Posted: Fri, 17th Jun 2005, 1:15pm

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Bryan M Block

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I think that this could be a great idea.
The problem I always have with 3D is that it is just so complicated and mind numbing. I've played with more basic packages like COOL 3d (I was always disapointed with it to a degree but the newest version Cool 3D STUDIO actually looks like it could be a great halfway point)
Generally I still fire up my old Micrografx Simply 3D. IMO it was very, very, very easy to use and understand oveerall. It just lacks the ability to export 32bit AVI's with alpha channels.

This one also is under the radar and might be worth a look:
http://www.aist.com/CMS/index.php?movie3d

But honestly I wish there was a way to design things more simply and then "dimensionalize" them. I suppose there may be, but maybe I'm just missing it, it's almost as if you need a "wizard" type of "design studio" to help take you through the process.

i.e: Here is a sketchpad to make a 2D sketch of your 3D model using basic shapes and tools.

Here is a "dimensionalizer" which will convert those shapes into 3D objects. Then if you double click on one component of that model it will open a window and let you modify just that one object with 3D lathing and stretching tools, etc. Then when you finish, it goes back to the primitives model with that one component component in the SAME PLACE.

For example: MODE I is "blueprint mode":
I sketch out, using basic 2D shapes and things a TOP view of a spaceship. All of this is snapped to a grid (toggle on/off for freeform, or change scale of the grid) I tell the program it is a TOP view. Then I sketch out a profile view. I tell the program it is a profile view. THen a back and or front view. I specify points on these drawings that correspond to each other so that the program understands how to "dimensionalize" the model based on the grid. It is easier for me to conceptualize in 2D and let the computer deal with the spatial issues.
The computer makes a good guess and renders my complete primitive model.

OK, Now I can select any ONE of those primitive shapes and go into
SCULPTING MODE. I double click on, say the cylinder that is where my spaceship engine is. It opens a traditional 3D wireframe mode with various tools for scaling, rotation, skewing, stretching, lathing, etc.. Check out the excellent way this is done in SIMPLY 3D.
Here is the catch! I spin the thing around, add to it, sculpt it, etc, but when I'm done and I hit OK it returns to the primitive model with the new cmponent already in place because it still sees the reference points of where that primitive was. I do the same thing to the body, etc.

You can even have a "replace" feature where it saves each primitive and each sculpted primitive as an object in a set. Like the way you made one engine? save it as "spaceship engine" and then click on the other cylinder representing the second engine and click the "replace" button. It asks you what you want to replace it with and you click the pic of the saved object "spaceship engine". BAM. It's replaced.

I know all of this is probably all do-able in more advanced packages, but it's the WORKFLOW that kills me.

NEXT MODE is BODY SHOP for textures and painting.

then the world generator and atmosphere generator, cameras and lights, animation timeline, export, etc.

Whatever can make it the most simple to generate:

3D spaceships and vehicles
3D cloudscapes, buildings, and flythroughs.

It would be fantastic to be able to specify alpha channels with masks. (make this part transparent) and export in 32 bit avi format. NO KEYING!

Import of existing 3D model formats would be a given and exporting the same as well as using any bitmap or jpeg for textures, materials, etc..

I don't know. Food for thought , it sounds way to complicated.
Posted: Fri, 17th Jun 2005, 1:15pm

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The video machine

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You were frustrated with 3d modelling programs, but you still have to use those programs to get the models/scenes into the game engine, slight problem there surely. And even if you were to do it do it you would still need to have a 3d app and shedding out money to build a diferent program.

But on the other hand i think it sounds like a bloody brilliant idea, and I hope it all goes well for you.
Posted: Wed, 22nd Jun 2005, 2:33am

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Roozer

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Thanks for your great suggestions!

I'll try to post updates. So far, I haven't gotten much done and I may never make the program.

If I do, I'll probably move this post to the general chat forums and post updates. (I'll post a link here if I do move it.)

Thanks again, guys!

Ben
Posted: Wed, 22nd Jun 2005, 2:18pm

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Lithium Kraft

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WOW. This sounds great.

In fact, it sounds to good to be free. Is this going to be a FREE program!?

I mean, if it is, I'd gladly donate some extra cash to fund it's development...but seriously. You should charge at least a little money for this kind of program if you're really going to make it.

Kind regards,
Lithium Kraft.
Posted: Wed, 22nd Jun 2005, 4:03pm

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Sniped

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you asked if there was a program like this already, i remember back when i was really young i had a program called Windows 3d movie make (obviously it could not compete with any REAL 3d programs) but the idea of the program was it had 3d characters, and objects to chose from, you could then use preset animations to give the characters motion, and it came with multiple backrounds to choose from, is that the type of idea you are planning on doing? (except more professional looking as opposed to a kids game)
Posted: Wed, 22nd Jun 2005, 4:34pm

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Lithium Kraft

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I still own that game.
Posted: Sat, 25th Jun 2005, 11:03pm

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Roozer

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I wanted that game so bad... Unfortunately, it required a 100MHz processor and we only had a 66 sad

Yes, I guess the program would be similar to 3D movie maker, though a little more sophisticated.

I really like "Bryan M Block"'s suggestion for modeling... Right now, I think I'll just have a program similar to 3D movie maker. All models have to be made in other programs (I.E. 3D studio max, Myia, Acknex 3D modeling package, Blender, etc.) and then imported into this program.

Again, I don't promise anything, but I think it could sure help people out. Yea, I like the idea of charging $10 or so a license... Still almost free but it would hopefully give me enough money to pay for all the money I've spent on my programming licenses.

I still haven't started it, but I've been thinking about the framework. I'm thinking more and more that it will only take about 40 hours of development time to get a "Preview version" out... Things always take about 3x as long, so count on 120hours. As I rarely program more than 8 hours/week, that's almost 4 months. So, count on a year, and it might be here.

I'm really liking all the feedback I've been getting here... If anyone wants updates on this project, send me your email as a private message and I'll try to keep you guys updated.

Ben
Posted: Sun, 11th Dec 2005, 8:11pm

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foleypro

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foleypro@comcast.net

or for sending attachments...

dremehk@hotmail.com

3D programming in the header Please or I will delete it by mistake.
Posted: Sun, 11th Dec 2005, 9:06pm

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Gnome326

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I dunno what you just said, but if its free/cheap and powerful at the same time, go for it! smile
Posted: Mon, 12th Dec 2005, 8:03pm

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Roozer

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Well, it looks like there's still interest in this program... I'm going to start some major development on it pretty soon. As the other software I suggested here didn't get too much interest, all my development efforts can go into this program

For those of you who are interested, here's the latest news:
The editor will (in the first version) allow users to add walls, doors, 3d models to the project with a point-and-click interface. (Outside scenes should also be supported, but they probably wouldn't look as good as something like Terragen.)

Each wall, door, etc. should support a variety of textures... I'm hoping to make this part so simple that someone who doesn't know anything about 3D modeling can figure it out, yet powerful enough that advanced users won't be disappointed.

Each object and the camera can be animated using key frames.

The program should support models with embedded animations (like walking).

As far as money goes, I’ve bought everything to make what I've suggested. For those people who need to do more than the program supports would need to buy a $50 software package. (If I can get $800, I could buy the Professional license which would allow me to distribute the editor for free.)

Still, no promises, but as far as projected release time... The first version should be available for testing around May 1st, 2006.

There is one thing I need help with: Does anyone know of a free, command-line program which turns stills (images) into a video file? Better yet, does someone have source code for how to do this? If worst comes to worst, I’ll buy a $100 ActiveX which does everything I need it to. (At least, I think it does smile

Thanks, guys!
Posted: Tue, 13th Dec 2005, 6:49am

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foleypro

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Maybe we can Pool our Resources and I can do the Graphics and such then we could Sell the Program for little money and still pay for our next Program updates...?
Posted: Tue, 14th Mar 2006, 12:27am

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Roozer

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Just to let you all know, I'm still planning on May 1st for the beta release. Most likely, some of the following features will not be available in the beta. Also, animated backgrounds will not be available in the beta.

Starter:
- This is a small application which allows one to start a new project and manage textures, objects, etc.

Editor:
- This program allows one to edit their world. Right now, I'm just going to support indoor scenes, but later, outdoor scenes may be available, but they won't look nearly as good as Terragen. Here's kind of how this editor works so far:

Floors - Just a tile-based texture. Not too much to say.

Walls - There are three types of walls -- standard, special, and sprite. (maybe I'll come up with better names.)

Standard walls are much like walls you might expect. You can select a texture and that's about it. (I'm planning on making these walls variable-height too.)

Special walls are actually models. (Castle wall, pillars, etc.) It should support "skins". (The designer could include multiple textures designed for the wall.)

Sprite walls are textures which stand up like regular walls. Kind of strange, hu? You could use them for fences, etc. assuming you only need to see them from a side, not the top or bottom.

Models - The engine should support models in the Acknex format. Free plug-in for 3Dmax, Blender, Brice, etc. are available. The models eventually should support animations.

Editor interface:
Currently, there are three camera modes which can be used for modeling:

1. Overhead Cam - This camera is fixed for an overhead shot. I'm hoping this will be convenient for working on a floor plan.

2. Edit Cam - This camera is very similar to the camera used on the Sims.

3. Fly-through Cam - This camera allows you to "fly through" your world.
Posted: Tue, 14th Mar 2006, 3:32am

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Landon

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Just to let you know, this is a huge and definate NO from me.

"Why?" you ask? The answer is very incredibly simple: 3D art is just as any other art, it takes time, patience, ect. to learn, master, and create each one of your compositions artisticly accordinlgy. As a result, and as a veteren user of Blender, if this program really does work as you say it will, than I believe I will soon see people showing off these cool scenes that they "made" whilst all the models, textures, ect. were completely done for them, so in other words, they do zero work for what should take hours, days, or even months. I guess the point I'm trying to make here is this: just imagine you have taken several years to master a 3D program and host your work on the net, just to find out that some kid "made" something just as good without any work. This is just one of the many reasons why I do not agree with the making of this program.

Then there's this factor: IT WON'T WORK

You can't seriously expect a simple drag and drop system to enable you not only to create scene's to your exact specifications with no work involved, and get just as good work as the 3D artist who spent weeks on that scene. I've seen programs on the internet that brag about that, and not a single one worked.

There are several potential problems with this type of program:

1) Just for a second, imagine all the possible models possible to be made (including textures). The room your sitting in alone probably has an abnormally huge amount if you think about it. Just think: in cars alone we have model T to whatever the newest model is out now. And just think how vast and incomprehensively numerous the various particular models the average filmaker needs for his/her movie with CG. A lot huh? Espically when you add all that stuff together. Bottom line is this: There are so many hundreds of billions of likely moviemaking objects out there to be moddeled that you couldn't hope to cover the most common ones within twenty years. It can't be done, and it won't/

2) Now I want you to imagine the exact lighting conditions ect. that will be needed for blending with live action. How many possibilities are there? So many it needs manual tweaking and even more importantly, you need to have a decently deep understanding about the many shaders, lights, rendering engines, and raytracers used.

......just to name a few

At the same time I definately know where these supporters of your program are coming from. I remember several years back when I was working to find a way to add CG into my films, which was when I tried the before mentioned programs and it was then that I realized that there is only one way to do 3D: the right way. There are some easy drag-and-drops you can get away with, and terrains like terragen is one of them, but even that requires mastering and some good skill to get photorealistic results. I remember Blender was the first program I downloaded when trying to find my solution, and I remember quickly conlcluding, "who the heck can learn this stuff anyway?!" and spending another two months looking. I hadn't delted blender from my computer at the end of those two months, and I reluctantly opened it and thought, "what the heck, I'll give it a whirl. I can at least learn to append models and stuff and then all I have to do is animate them." Well I learned how to animate fairly quickly, though it took a good while to grip the interface, but as I learned once again, that is simply not enough. Wihin a day I wasy making my downloaded models swirl around the world, but that didn't make the cut: all I could do with my tiny restricted 3D world was so limited that I couldn't do much more than, well, get downloaded chunky unresized mode and whatnot. I slowly began to learn, and the more I worked, the more I came to realize that I needed to learn this program, and that it was useless, stupid, and almost depressingly obnoxious to call myself a blender user with my current knowledge. Almost by accident I began to learn. I discarded my old models and learned to make my own, craft them, model them, manipulate like clay, detail them, texture them, map them.

Thats my story, I learned it the hard way, but shortly and simply: there is no easy way out.

So in a conclusive statement, while I don't support the program, I do see where the people here are coming from, and while I think this program will not perform as advertised, I will leave that to the future users.

I want to close with a note to Roozer: this is in no way a criticism to you, your ideas, programming skills, ect. This is merely my informed opinion on the nature of this program itself. I am eagerly following the progress of your saber tracker and am very exited about the end result of that.

Thank you for reading this monsterously lengthy post.

Regards,

-Landon
Posted: Tue, 14th Mar 2006, 3:30pm

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Roozer

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Hey, thanks for your reply! I love to hear feedback whether it’s positive or negative.

I can see where you’re coming from and I agree with you. (I’m a novice at 3D modeling… I’ve learned how to use Blender, but in my opinion, people either have the talent for 3D modeling or they don’t. I don’t. I could probably create a mine train ride, but it wouldn’t come out very good.)

So, I agree with just about everything you’ve stated.

I hope I haven’t given people the wrong impression... I know good and well that this program will not be able to create scenes to exact specifications. There’s obvious limitations like you’ve mentioned. On top of that, I’m using a game engine, not a ray-tracer. Therefore, the graphics are optimized for speed, not looks. Although the engine supports lights/etc., it simply doesn’t approach something like what Blender can do. Here’s a scene I rendered not too long ago in this game engine:

http://www.streamload.com/Roozer/GameEngine.jpg

See? It looks terrible and this scene uses more features then would be available in my software.

Here’s my goal with this program: To create a program which can generate simple backgrounds for people without time and/or experience.

So, if you want to easily create simple backgrounds which don’t look good, here you go! (I wanted software like this. That's why I'm writing it.)
Posted: Thu, 16th Mar 2006, 4:44am

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Bryan M Block

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Great!
I'm glad to see that you have continued with this project.
I can't wait to see it.

B
Posted: Thu, 16th Mar 2006, 5:08am

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brennanmceachran

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I vote yes. I think it would be a ton of work, but if your up to it i'll cheer you on.
Posted: Thu, 16th Mar 2006, 12:42pm

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CurtinParloe

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If you could make the interface so you could quickly and easily set up a representation of your shooting space, with the position and temperature of the lights you've used, so you could export that into a 3D app, then that would be useful. Otherwise I think you'd have problems with quality in the game engine...

Actually, if you get any extra time, could you write a scriptwriting application for PalmOS? Thanks wink
Posted: Sat, 18th Mar 2006, 4:16am

Post 23 of 27

rogolo

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I was recently reading a thread here ( http://fxhome.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=22946 ), which has to do with storyboarding. Maybe in the future, you could mod this program a bit to make it a 3D storyboard creator. It would be ideal, because for storyboards, you don't need anything graphically amazing, and you don't want it to take forever to render out one shot. Your quick'n'dirty game engine method would be awesome for this.

Also, I would probably pay up to $30 for one of these types of programs, and some people may pay more.
Posted: Wed, 22nd Mar 2006, 3:15pm

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VisualFXGuy

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You mentioned you wanted this engine to read many animation program files, such as 3D studio max, Maya, Acknex 3D modeling package, Blender, etc.. I assume you'd be writing an interface to work with all those different files. I hope you realize that every animation program codes their information differently, and that each is different from the other.

I work for a video game/entertainment company, and deal with game engines on a daily basis. Right now, we're using Irrlicht, and have encountered a world of hurt when it comes to conversion time.

I'm curious as to how your going to get around this issue. As it seems to be the most common and first step you need to address in writing a 3D program.

Also, if your intergrating a game engine into this, arn't you cutting out many non-real time rendering solutions, as game engines do their rendering at low resolution in real time?

What game engine are you using?

What are it's limits to polys?

I could ask more questions, but I think i'll settle for these for now. biggrin
Posted: Wed, 22nd Mar 2006, 8:40pm

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sk8npirate

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Whats the point of making 3d movies with a crappy game engine?
Posted: Thu, 23rd Mar 2006, 11:37pm

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Roozer

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Hey, thanks for the reply!

This program isn't for making 3D movies. This program is for making backgrounds. From what I've found, you really don't notice the background too much if real people are green-screened into the scene. (Focus is on people, not background.)

I just simply wanted something which would allow me to create quick and easy backgrounds.

Answers to questions:
Model conversion: There are plug-ins available for 3DSM, Maya, Blender, and I think some others. People have already written these. I don't know if they work or not. My program would only support the Acknex standard. It would be up to other people to convert their models. But, there are already 100's of models out there in Acknex format. I've found several websites with tons of free models.

Reason for using game engine: I don't have enough time to write a non-real time engine. The thing is, I wanted a friendly, 3D editing interface. (not like Blender where you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you're looking at). I want to make big things fast, not a detailed mixer in the middle of a kitchen in 5 hours. Think of the Sims editor. Very simple and easy to use. True, it's hugely limited, but for what I want, it's almost there. (I want to add some additional functionality, though) So, a game engine is what I ended up with.

Game engine: I'm using the Acknex game engine (Called 3D Game Studio) (http://www.acknex.com) Unlike many game engines (I.E. Dark Basic, Torque, etc.) it's a complete 3D game writing package. (Comes with modeler, model editor, script writer, and engine.) In my opinion, the script support is far superior to something like Dark Basic. It has built-in functions for collision detection, mouse to 3D coordinates, physics engine, etc. Not only that, it supports dll plug-ins, so if it doesn't do what you want, you can write your own functions in another language such as C++ and use them in your script. Overall, I'm quite pleased with it. (I've tried some other engines and have found Acknex to be about the best. True, Torque or something like that looks better, but for ease of use, Acknex is the best I've found.) Plus, Acknex doesn't require so much work. You just say "entity move to this point." or "accelerate object with this vector" or "camera.tilt = mouse.force_y;".

Hey, VisualFXGuy, do you know of a better solution? I would absolutely love one! So much of what I'm doing would be easier to do in something like VisualBasic. Game engines are not setup for modeling. I would love to write all my code in VB, but I don't want to start at the DirectX level or have to learn a huge API for some game engine. (I've done that before and don't want to go back smile ) After being spoiled with Acknex... Maybe I should just write and ask support becasue the manual makes it sound like you can either control the Ackenx engine from another language or write a plugin for the engine.
Posted: Thu, 13th Apr 2006, 11:09pm

Post 27 of 27

Roozer

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Hi guys!

I have a movie I'm working on with a deadline of May 1st and I think I'll have to postpone work on this project until then.

So, the beta is no longer scheduled for May 1st.

Sorry!