2002-04-05: Update on 3D Avatars from Alai

Update on 3D Avatars from Alai

Apr 5 2002 4:51PM

I wanted to write to let everyone know the status of the wearables overhaul for the Ultima Online 3D client, as well as other matters. Things are progressing well for both the technology implementation, to use the new garb, as well as the new models and textures themselves. So well, in fact, that the technology is complete, as is the first pass of the new art. Now that we have the client executable changes finalized, we’re spending our time doing touch-ups. We’re making good time, and things look extremely promising. Along with this post are some renderings of one of the new armor types taken from in-game which should spell out our excitement.

Greyburn and the client staff have engineered a system for managing and displaying avatars and their clothes that is brand new and completely different. We pretty much ripped all the old stuff out and replaced it with a new system designed specifically for what we needed it to do. The result is a more expandable and infinitely more flexible wearables engine. Initial indications are that 3D client users will even see a frame rate increase due to the increased efficiency of the new wearables system. Chief amongst our new abilities are ways to render fewer obscured polygons then before. This frees us up to use more polygons in our models without increasing the overall number of polygons rendered on screen. The outcome is better looking avatars and the previously mentioned performance improvement. I should warn you though – since we won’t be continuing to draw layers that aren’t visible, your underwear won’t be drawn underneath your robes; I hope you’re not too shy.

Our new methodologies also let us create better looking avatars. Clothes are now more form-fitting because we can avoid having to layer wearables on top of each other so much. Robes no longer make you look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man; dresses are more flattering, and armor shows off your studliness better. We can also swap one version of a shirt with another that is shaped a little different to look better worn under a vest. The art staff is working hard to make sure all the wearables look terrific. They are applying rigorous standards of quality to everything and are working with a high attention to detail. We are checking how every wearable interacts with every other wearable and making sure they all look as good as possible together. We intend to bring the graphical appeal of Ultima Online’s avatars to a better than competitive level with the other available MMORPGs.

The team on this project is working diligently to get this out in a timely manner. We’re close to a point where we have wearables we *could* ship, but we are making sure these are the wearables we *should* ship – even if a little late. That said, we’re moving back their release date. I’ll tentatively speculate that the wearables may make it out sometime in April – but if we need more time, we are going to take it. We plan to make a significant positive impact on the appearance of UO:3D - and we don’t intend to disappoint. I think you’ll appreciate that we took the time.

The 3D client will also be getting various other new features. A system to tweak animation speeds has been added and is being used to vastly improve the appearance of many 3D animations. On that note, many other little annoyances with the 3D animation engine have also been addressed. The shadows in the 3D engine have been rewritten to be simple outlines of the model, and look much better. We’ve also added an option to use simple "blob" shadows that are easier on the CPU. Another addition to the 3D client is a system that tweaks settings in the client to try to keep your frame rate up when it drops at the bank.

Don’t fret - the 2D client isn’t being left behind. Both clients are still getting optimizations and bug fixes on an ongoing basis. Greyburn is back at squishing every party system related bug he can find (we’ll be attacking other systems in a similar fashion in the near future). Additionally, we are finally adding skill icons to the clients that you can drag right off the skill interface and put on your desktop like spell icons. And yes - an option is being added to disable the menu bar for those of you who loathe it.

As you can see, we’re staying busy. We are still continuing on our ongoing quest to improve the Ultima Online client, and we won’t be stopping soon.

-- Alai

Lead Client Programmer, Ultima Online