Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Blender Ambitions With rFactor

John Marine | 3/06/2012 12:35:00 PM | |
Recently, I have developed interest in making tracks for rFactor. While I don't have 3D Studio Max, I do have Blender. Sad story about me- I've always wanted to be in the field of computer animation and 3D art. Sadly, my modeling experience is extremely limited. My confidence in making anything is extremely low. So to try to give myself a vote of confidence, I am basically trying to learn on my own how to make tracks for rFactor. Let me explain more about this possible new bit of involvement and why I am choosing to go down this route.

This blog post is somewhat about Blender, but it is not meant to be a review.





--- Blender Ambitions with rFactor ---

Time to answer some questions never asked:

Why Blender?

...because I haven't the money to get 3D Studio Max (which is much better preferred despite its exorbitant price tag). Blender has been seen as a great free alternative to 3D Studio Max.

Why rFactor?

...because it is the finest and most mod-friendly racing game on the market today. With so many mods and customization options, this sim racer is great.

Why Tracks (rather than cars, etc.) for rFactor?

I am someone who believes that while having loads of cars (or other racing machines) is fun, they all mean nothing without tracks to race on. I feel I would have better luck designing tracks than I would making cars or liveries for cars.


Now, you have some background on my new ambition/challenge. Time to go into further detail.



--- The Track Creation Challenges I Face ---

I have never modeled anything in my time. Each time I've tried previously, I have ended up struggling to really make anything quality. I even thought about mostly doing 3D modeling with voxels.

Track Inspiration and Musings.

So where is the inspiration for making tracks coming from? Duke Nukem 3D. I probably know what you're thinking- why am I drawing inspiration from a first-person shooter? Well, I designed levels for Duke Nukem 3D using the Build editor. While these weren't real races, I set up Fake Multiplayer to have bots in Deathmatch (or Dukematch as its namesake). The races were basically deathmatches while I was the only one really racing around the track. I designed the courses to be realistic, so there are no arcade-style thrills. These were tracks designed as much as realistic of race tracks as possible. These tracks even include things like curbing, pit stops, and things like that.

The international clientele of tracks encompass a whole world of locations. These include tracks I've created based in places such as the United States, Mexico, Chile, Wales, Spain, France, Italy, South Africa, India, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Japan, and Australia. I didn't exactly care about realistic courses in the sense of geographically-accurate or super-realistic in designing these courses. That is one plus to doing original fictional courses- everything is limited to your imagination.


The Transition from Duke Nukem to rFactor.

Basically, I am creating these tracks from scratch based on maps from my Duke Nukem 3D race track levels. I am actually in the process of mapping out layouts based on some of my tracks. I am using these layouts as guidelines. Since I am re-creating these tracks in a new environment, it gives me a chance to model these courses to be more realistic and cleaner than I've ever done in Duke Nukem 3D. The tracks were created primarily for racing in addition to avoiding fire from deathmatch opponents. I blocked off the action from going into the grass or over barriers. So with rFactor, I obviously can allow for cars to go off-course or smash into guardrails. I also have to think about making the tracks even more like real racing venues. It means I have to properly put in things like gravel traps and tire barriers in strategic locations. I may have to completely re-work my DN3D designs to better suit rFactor. A BIG difference between my DN3D experiences and rFactor? In Duke Nukem 3D, there was a setting to set the run speed for your character. I set the run speed to a high number to obviously simulate being in a race car.

As an experiment, I took another game in my collection of PC games- Redneck Rampage Rides Again- and took some of my DN3D levels to be played in RRRA. The advantage to RRRA (both games use the Build Editor, but RRRA's version is different) is that you could ride in vehicles like a swamp boat and (more importantly) a motorcycle. You still set the run speed to determine how fast your character goes. The character goes marginally faster on a motorcycle. I used the motorcycle in RRRA to simulate being in not only a proper vehicle, but also to imagine what it would be like if I had a proper car (or some other vehicle) to go around a track. So where does rFactor play in all of this? Well, rFactor is a racing game with real driving physics. So I have to think about how a real car would perform around any of my fictional tracks as opposed to (essentially) running around a track in a virtual space. Also, I have to think about the behavior of other racing machines around a track. Every racing machine is different. What may be fun for Formula 1 cars may not be so fun with stock cars or touring cars. I have to consider this as I'm building courses and thinking about what cars will run on my courses.

Because this is rFactor, I can afford to give tracks their own unique character by coming up with many more unique structures for each course. Each course has about the same style garages. Many of the courses I created for DN3D have garage access on pit road (like on most Formula 1 circuits and various international racing circuits). DN3D is also very limited on what kinds of structures and designs you can create. I could make more realistic pedestrian bridges, more unique buildings, covered grandstands, and more through actual 3D modeling. I could even add certain items and structures to make the experience even more fun.

My experience building levels for Duke Nukem 3D dates back at least ten years. Through this time, I have built over 30 original tracks. Some even have different variations. Making each course versatile is a plus for racing any track, and it adds replay value and diversity when racing them. It is something I hope to exploit when I can really create something to be proud of.


Other Challenges in Track Making.

Each bullet features a certain talking point.


• Car Count
When I created tracks for Duke Nukem 3D, they were all designed so that there can be eight to a track; but the courses were designed so they can fit 24 cars to a track. I always considered 20 to be a great number of opponents to feature on a track. Most racing series have about this many number of cars at least to start a race. I haven't been too successful running much more than 24 cars to a track, so any tracks I do create will mostly be capped to 24.


• Lighting
Obviously with rFactor, I have to consider night racing. Some of the courses I have created have different time versions as well as being under different weather conditions. Some tracks are run in the evening time, at twilight, and at night. I have to think realistically about where exactly to illuminate parts of a track when it gets dark. Not every track is lit up all around like on ovals or with the F1 Grand Prix of Singapore. None of my night courses are brutally dark, though.


• Weather?
Some modders make wet versions of tracks. Some tracks I've created have been under wet conditions, and I use animated sprites to simulate falling rain and even falling snow. I haven't thought this far ahead in making tracks. This would be a challenge especially if I entertained the thought of making these tracks also available for GTR. However, my only GTR experience has been with the very first title, which I've blogged about in the past.


• Endurance Racing
Here is another bit of info on the race tracks I've created. Some of these courses have endurance races. There are two main endurance events- All-Night endurances and 24-Hour endurances. An All-Night endurance runs from the evening of the first day (usually 5:00 PM or 17:00) to morning of the second day (usually 7:30 AM, but I usually have it made to go to Noon the second day). A 24-Hour race runs from Noon of the first day to Noon of the second day. The way I did it in Duke Nukem 3D is that I have a set of frames to set the sky. Each "phase" of the day has four frames, except the Night phase, which has five. The four phases are Afternoon, Evening, Night, and Morning. To help me keep track of when one phase will change to another, I have these gauges I've placed around tracks. When the gauge is full, that means the next frame or phase will come along.

Most endurances usually have one event that is the biggest of them all. For me, the greatest endurance is a venue I've created that is a temporary street course in Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom. It plays host to a 24-hour race which could be thought of as the Le Mans of my courses.

Modding communities will likely find ways to make endurances fun. So with this, I'm sure people will find many ways to incorporate different endurance races.


• Replay Angles
At once, I had planned on making replay angles with cameras in my DN3D tracks. However, the game would crash at certain points because I set up the camera angles. So I have a chance to try different angles using rFactor.


These are among many different challenges I face making courses for rFactor. I am not releasing any details of courses I am working on because I want to keep that sort of element of surprise. Plus, I haven't really made anything yet. I also fear showing pictures of anything I don't own. Some of the textures I've used in DN3D are from other games, mostly used as placeholders. That, too is a barrier in me creating unique courses in rFactor.



--- The Most Obvious Challenge... ---

Perhaps the most obvious challenge in my track-making adventures is my poor experience with modeling anything. I am basically learning from the start on how to do 3D modeling. I have no inspiration in building courses and how to build courses. So my experience will stem from a combination of Blender tutorials and various other tutorials I find online to help me to build courses.

I have kept certain lines from my DN3D tracks to help define elevation changes and other important points of courses. I have to take into account what elevation changes are possible and what aren't. I have to consider what I could turn into things like signs and pedestrian bridges at race tracks. I also have to look into grabbing textures to make each track come alive.

In addition to no modeling experience, I also have no experience in the internals of track design. You know what I am talking about if you have made tracks for rFactor- the AIW, SCN, MAS, GMT, and other files associated with rFactor tracks. And since I am using Blender, I'd have to convert everything to 3DS and put into that to make tracks. One thing about me is that I can be very cheap. I try to make the best things possible without using anything that costs money. That even includes things like Bob's Track Builder and 3DSimEd- both of which cost money to use beyond their trial periods. So I tend to be very cheap sometimes.


All of these barriers will hinder me in my attempts to try to make a race track for rFactor. Not only to make one, but make a quality track for rFactor that will be as respected as most other courses by dedicated track makers.





Is it possible to create a track using Blender, even though the preferred modeller is 3D Studio Max? The answer is yes! One track was made using Blender while also being touched up and applied with other 3D programs. It is a fictional race track called One Way International Raceway made by a creator named Owi. I couldn't find a good enough video to preview One Way International Raceway for you in rFactor, so I found this video instead. I am only providing this just to show you a track made in Blender and designed for rFactor:



I just wanted to give you Blender modelers hope in making quality tracks for rFactor. :) Learn more about this track by going to rfactorcentral.com and by looking up One Way International Raceway on rfactorcentral.com.





I needed a proper place to discuss all of this, so I thank you for visiting John's Blog Space to read this post. Now you know what new challenge I am considering. Thank you for reading my blog post here!


Cross-Promotion

Here are some more readings for you in case you are interested...

"rFactor" - John's Blog Space
^ This is a very old blog post where I talk about rFactor. What do I think about rFactor? Read this post and find out!

"GTR FIA GT Game" - John's Blog Space
^ The critically-acclaimed racing game from SimBin is reviewed in this blog post. GTR uses the rFactor engine, and there is discouragement in seeing SimBin material be made for rFactor. This blog post is a review of the very first GTR. It remains the only SimBin racing title I've ever owned (I've always wanted to get RACE 07, but it has long not been sold in stores unless you go online).

"Duke Nukem 3D" - John's Blog Space
^ I talk about Duke Nukem 3D in this very old blog post. Find out what I think about this classic first-person shooter by checking this post out. It was in using Duke Nukem 3D that I began making my various race tracks which I hope to bring into the realm of rFactor.


Thank you for reading!

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