Thursday, July 20, 2017

Going Three-dimensional, Don't Care the Poly Count!

In the future, replaying a Turbo Sliders race will be much more exciting than before! (Image: Mike Nike)
Originally, this would be a post dedicated to one tool that sparked my new way of interest on Turbo Sliders after a long time: the 3D TSR Replayer created by Mike Nike. But with doing 3D model on the fly as well for use with that tool once it's released, I delved deep to there.

Actually, the low poly-style art in the 3D TSR Replayer triggered me for a couple of things; within the Eid al-Fitr festivity after observing a full month fasting of Ramadan, Steam Summer Sale commenced, and it ran until the 5th of July. Among the games sold with a nice discount, two got my attention, namely Mini Motor Racing EVO, which I bought first a couple of days after Eid while servicing my motorcycle, and Little Racers Street the next couple of days later. Both games were sold within the IDR 10,000 region (which is about three-quarter a buck in USD) and were the reason I had to buy Steam Wallet credits. I bought the former for the fact that it has a track editor which can be used to create stuffs you can think of, and the latter's reason was because of the art direction, but at the same time it started a fire in me to create some low-poly cars on Blender, the start of it all.


(Video by Mike Nike)
But before going to the Blender chapter, I'll start off with the TSR Replayer, the main tool in question on this entry. Basically, the TSR Replayer is exactly what it says on the tin, but it does more than just replaying TSRs: it visualizes replays in 3D form. The track's pattern file and image, as the tool's author Mike Nike showcased in its thread, were used as the Replayer's plane surface overlaying each other, with the car's movements throughout the recorded race visualized by its 3D model that represents the car in question. Easy as that.

"Target locked"
The TSR Replayer was one of the tools developed during the TS F1 Championship's run. The first video showcased its core features by showing a single-car run with the model of the F1 car used as the car's 3D form, and in later videos it showcased color changes to the model according to the players' colors, and most recently the additional models that represent trackside tiles such as trees, houses, and even the start lights were shown. In addition, changing between 3D views as seen in most racing games are also possible, even cockpit view is one of them. In addition, this tool is also developed in conjunction with another tool in the same thread: Race Highlights Auto Videocutter, the main project, though it is in its early development phase with nothing to preview. Some of the other videos of the Replayer can be seen on Mike Nike's YouTube channel here.

Features were confirmed on the tool's thread thanks to several questions asked. From there, it is confirmed that it will automatically read the player's colors although implementing stripes would take a long time, especially with colortypes which have two to three colors inside. Another feature will be assigning different 3D models for different players, and a low-poly car creator is also under construction as well, and things like custom skins are in works as well. Last but not least, smoke and maybe skidmarks would be possible as well, though with an expense of frame rate drops.

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Although the car editor looks nice, but I had this thought of whether importing existing 3D models to the Replayer is possible, while waiting for the car editor to happen. So, in that case, I've started what I could call a "future investment": creating random car models for use in the Replayer, while hoping that models created on Blender can be imported.


Simple, but with some racing modification!
One random thought about the Replayer's ability to import 3D models created on 3D applications and a purchase of Little Racers Street (see above) later, there came a time where I tried to make low-poly cars on Blender. In short, everything I've seen about low-poly art styles applied in various things cultivated to this. I even haven't touched Blender in like two years since one subject at college taught me the bits and bobs of the 3D creation.

The low-poly car video tutorial was where I started. I strayed a bit from the video's cartoonish style on his car in favor of a more sporty one. The result was not only a low-poly car that looks good, but skinnable as well thanks to the UV Map function, and it's as shown as the above picture. From the side, it's got that Mazda Carol vibe, but a more modern one. The front fascia has a sporty look though I don't base it on a particular car, and finally the rear taillights were made a la Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 (but I didn't take the rear view render sadly). Other than that, the wheels are taken from the Sports Car GT's JGTC mod, particularly the FTO's wheel, so credits to the original author for the wheels.

Whiplash's LMP car in its TSR 3D Replayer form, coming soon.
After three days of modeling my first car, I proceeded to the take 2: Le Mans Prototype. More precisely, something that represents Whiplash's LMP car whenever I get my hands on the TSR Replayer. Again, "low-poly" is the keyword here, and alas the model finished after days of trial and error. It might not look like it's a low-poly, but I guess it's natural for an LMP car, and considering that this has a simple design with less details apart from the roof scoop. Again, this is not based on any model in particular although there might be some hints to Lola B12/80 or any other current LMP2 cars, and the wheels are from SCGT again, but this time the wheel lips are done by its own mapping so it's not part of the wheel, and some easter egg: Michonne tires, a play on Michelin which is basically one of the LMP tire suppliers alongside Dunlop. It might not be a full-on replica since there's another logo beside Michelin's on the tire's sidewall, but it's getting there. Finally, this is far from finished (about 70% completion here) since the UV mapping is not fully done yet. Also note the lack of intended coloring on the front diffuser part as well.

Once the Replayer is finished, I'd like to experiment on whether the color changes would apply to the UV Map textures as well, starting with a simple Le Mans-styled numberplate, perhaps safety stickers and the P1 signs, as well as the position lights visible on the sides of the car. But then again, due to the LMP1's nature of using the red color, perhaps I shall wait until whether the Replayer would enable player color changes with a green color (changecolor 2 in the game).

Also a fun fact: The first car and this LMP were the first models I posted on the social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (only the LMP). Whiplash commented the album to recommend another 3D software and then I replied with explaining the whole thing. Mike Nike later replied that the tool can import *.x, *.3ds, and *.b3d models, yet he could manually code to import another set of formats as well. This should confirm the ability of importing 3D models made in another software to the Replayer, so rest assured all the models created on Blender should suffice and ready to be used.

Probably the most ambitious work of all during my Blender days.
Last but not least is one of my ambitious works in car modelling: the Nissan Skyline GTR R32, in a low-poly fashion and following Little Racers Street's aesthetics. Since my last two cars above were somehow "too big" for me, I decided to make something that fits the small white box as seen beside the Skyline, which is actually a reference object for the model in question. I tried to make the shape as close as possible to the real-life counterpart, and the colors you are seeing here are in fact not by the UV Maps, but with single-color materials instead as a placeholder. Since the model is pretty much done for, all I had to do now is to assign the UV Map right away, but I guess I decided to halt this one up in favor of going back to my final paper business, and I don't think this would be used for the Replayer tool unless I finally get my hands on that, unlike the LMP above. It's been nice modeling cars, really.

And I guess that's about it for now. Apart from trying to get these models to the Replayer, there's not much I can do for now. Porting these models for games could be an option, but unless I base the physics on the existing car for that particular game, I've got no knowledge on car physics right now, though that's because I'm focusing on my final paper so I try to not overwhelm myself here which could lead to even longer procrastination. Meanwhile getting my hands on the Replayer would wait a long time since Mike Nike is currently busy with his works at the moment, but I promise that once I finally get it, I'll be doing some demonstrations although it might not be video demonstrations as everyone would expect, but I might see whether I could record videos on another computer since I no longer have big enough space on my laptop.

As for the Steam games I bought earlier, I'll try to make a post about them in the near future. But for now, I have no plans for them at the moment.


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