Reimagine Date Ariane

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Not only is a “port” of Date Ariane to Renpy not happening (see last post), but a “remake” is not in the cards either.

As I explained hover text is very difficult to do in Renpy.  I have also found that converting the javascript code to Renpy is proving too difficult even with simple menus.  The javascript implementation is split up into 5 frames each with different parts of the code, making it difficult to follow and translate into Python, which is what Renpy uses.

Bottom line: “Ports” and “remakes” are not fun to do, and the whole point of doing projects like this is to have fun.  Time to just start over before I go crazy.

So I am taking a page from TV marketers and calling the project a “reimagining” of Date Ariane.  I’m basically rewriting the game to include many of people’s favorite scenes, and hopefully some new ones, but connecting them together a little differently.

I decided that I’m not going to try and explain what I am doing, especially this early in the game development.  But two big changes I’ll say now: 1. Not one date but many, and Ariane remembers past dates, 2. Event success no longer based on Ariane’s state of inebriation, but on player reputation.

I have no idea if what I have planned will actually turn into a fun game or not, but I am looking forward to finding out.

Why a Renpy Recreation of Date Ariane Is Not Happening

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This weekend, I set myself a goal of recreating the first 10 “pages” of Date Ariane in Renpy.  I was going to call it my “Proof of Concept”.  I only got to page 3 before deciding it is way too freaking hard.

I’m not saying there won’t be a Renpy version of the Date Ariane story, I’m saying that the cool searching around the screen looking for stuff to click on aspect is simply not going to happen.  It is doable, but way too much tedious work, and not really worth it, especially considering that doing it that way will make it unplayable on touch screen tablets.

In creating just the first three pages, I learned an incredible amount about how screens work in Renpy, which is an alternative to the simple default menu system.  That is going to at least help me create a different interface than SITA, something touch screen friendly.

Since searching the screen for stuff to click on gave the game some complexity, there are other ways to make the game complex. What I am thinking about doing instead is rewriting Date Ariane, taking the “Done It All!” option in SITA as a model.  Every time you play, new dates and locations open up, and Ariane will remember what you did in the past and respond accordingly.  Something along these lines:

Date 1: Simple dinner out at the diner, followed by hanging out downtown.
Date 2: Hanging out a Ariane’s place, steak or spaghetti dinner, choice of park or swimming.
Date 3: Choice of backyard picnic (and Truth or Dare), or Romantic restaurant dinner (and trip to the lake)

After that the choices available open up wider.  Depending on choices Ariane responds with “Oh we have never done that before” or “That was fun last time, we can do that again” or maybe “Considering what happened last time, maybe we should wait before trying that again.”

I also plan to update in other ways. Disposable cameras are no longer cool, so I suspect one of the photo shoots will be done by camera phone instead.  Her portable stereo may turn into an MP3 dock.  And getting stuck without gas will mean a cell call to roadside service.  New technology has ruined so many plots.

This weekend wasn’t a total loss.  I created the first 10 Ariane re-renders, the picture above is the redo of this picture.  Now to start figuring out how to do this new plan.

What’s New With Ariane

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I thought I’d take time out from working on Something’s In The Air, to show some changes to Ariane.  If I get around to updating Date Ariane, I will be using these models.  So this is more of a preview of the prequel remake, I think.

Ariane’s looks have changed once again. This time I changed the shape of her face slightly.  Not only is she a little cuter, she looks a little more like the Date Ariane version.  She was originally supposed to look like Audrey Hepburn, but now she looks more like another British actress, though I’m not sure if it is Gemma Arterton, Michelle Dockery, or Jenna-Louise Coleman.  Dockery is probably the closest, but if you put Coleman’s eyes on Arterton’s head you would get a closer match.  (OK, you got me, Kim Kardashian’s eyes on Arterton’s head would be closer, I just happen to be a Doctor Who fan.)  If you want to see more pics, I rerendered all the portfolio pics with the new face. Eventually, the whole website will use the new look.

Anyways, enough about that, lets check out the house. Above is the living room couch, now white cloth with blue throw pillows instead of the old black vinyl and no throw pillows. Behind her is the dining area, and that orange section in back is the kitchen.

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Yes the kitchen is a bright orange, with black counters and appliances and dark brown wood cabinets. A nice change from the apricot color kitchen that looked a little too 70’s retro for me.

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If you turn around and look back towards the living room, you will see that the bay windows have moved to the side. In its place is a TV and a bookshelf filled with great works of literature.  OK, the first shelf are great works of literature the rest are trashy romance novels.  The old “boom box” is still there, because there is an area in front for dancing.

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Last but not least is the bedroom.  Goodbye pink painted stucco, hello beige yellow wallpaper.  I moved my computer in here.  I have some gymnastics memorabilia on the shelves, and a print of Monet’s Water Lillys at Sunset.  Behind you unseen are some glass doors opening to the patio and pool area.

And that’s the five cent tour. There is also a gray colored bathroom and a second bedroom you will probably never see, as well as a garage.  Now back to work.

If Date Ariane were redone with the new model, this is what it would look like.

As I have mentioned numerous times before, the “sequel” to Date Ariane, known as Something’s In The Air features an updated model of Ariane, that took quite a bit of work to get right.  Redoing over 1000 pictures from Date Ariane is out of the question for the foreseeable future (but I’m not saying never).  But if I ever got around to it, this is what it would look like.  The old hairstyle was not designed to work with V4 models, so I found something close.

I now have a decent sized wardrobe I could use, but the reason I am doing these pictures is because there is a “flashback” scene in the sequel where I used around 20 old pics.  The problem is that the old model and new model are too different and the flashback is a little disconcerting.  But if I make it too different from the original, that would be too disconcerting for those who are very familiar with the old model.  So I found V4 wardrobe that is a close approximation to the wardrobe used in Date Ariane to recreate the scenes I am flashing back to.  It is not perfect, the black dress in the original is strapless.  But it is a good stand in and it looks great.  The restaurant in the sequel has a different decor than the first game (they now use table cloths!), the pic at the top is sort of a hybrid of the two decors.

“Replacing” the old V3 model with the new V4 model is sometimes as easy as a few clicks, but the pose that the V3 was using will get messed up every time.  Many pictures it is not important, I can just load another pose that is comparable, but many others where Ariane is interacting with other objects, that gets messy.

Sometimes it is not just a new model.  There is new technology.  I posted once about my work around for water issues, but I have found others that have solved it.  Water can now be manipulated, and renders can both refract underwater items, and reflect above water items.  Water turbulence is also controllable.

Ok, I have shown you new Ariane in a red shirt, in a black dress, in a blue bikini.  What’s left?  Oh yeah…

On the Madness of Crowds

I thought I’d post about a common problem in 3D art, and what I have done to solve it.  It is called the “crowd problem” and has been a difficulty with all 3D animation.  The first 3D animated movie Toy Story solved it by never having any crowd scenes.  AntZ, the second 3D animated movie had hundreds of ants doing the exact same thing which is easier than in A Bugs Life which had dozens of identical ants doing completely different things.

The above picture has 35 3D people in it. It serves as the background picture for about 4 or 5 pictures where things are happening in the foreground.  Here is what I did to solve the “crowd problem”:

In the Date Ariane game, this was the biggest crowd scene in the game, consisting of 8 high resolution characters.  The giant gap in the middle was filled in with Ariane, and that creepy guy who tries to fondle Ariane on the dance floor.  The absolute maximum of high res characters I can produce at one time is five, and I have already posted a few pics from Something in the Air with five people in it.  The above pic was produced by rendering the four people on the left and the four people on the right seperately, then combining the picture.  This is a very time consuming process however.

Date Ariane supposedly takes place on a weekday when places are not so busy, SITA takes place on a Saturday, and every place is crowded. I need ways to shortcut.

The solution is a tool that generates generic crowds for you called M.O.M Crowd Generator.  It throws in flat panel images of people walking or standing which can fill in a background crowd fairly easily.  The primary issue I have using it is that all the people have a white outline around them like older movies when they did green screen effects.  A little blurring makes the outline less noticeable, and since they are background characters, I can hide them with high res foreground characters.  Notice that the front characters I’m using are the exact same I used in Date Ariane (even the exact same poses).  Much of this crowd will be hidden by 4 to 5 characters in the immediate foreground.

One of the places you can take a date in SITA is the amusement park.  The same amusement park in Date Ariane.  If you compare this picture with the Date Ariane one, you will find the main difference (besides the obvious different character in the foreground) is the M.O.M generated crowd in the background to make the place look a lot busier. The props and the high res characters are identical in both.

Another crowd scene is the above mentioned house party scene.  This requires a better crowd than the M.O.M tool can produce.  Especially since I wanted most of the crowd to be holding the traditional red Dixie cups you see at all of these house parties.

I also wanted a dance crowd where everyone is actually dancing.  The solution is to use low rez male and female characters.  While I can only manage 5 high res characters in a scene at a time, I can easily manage 30 low res characters in a scene at a time.  They can do pretty much everything that high res characters can do except look good close up, so I throw some high res people into the foreground to make the crowd look better.  There are some major flaws with these low res characters, especially the females.  Someone decided to add ambient lighting to the skin to make them look better in daytime, but my crowd scenes are set at night, and it took a bit of effort to get rid of that ambient lighting (hint: pp2 files which tell how to texture and light characters are just text files that you can manipulate in Notepad using find and replace.)

I still have two more big crowd scenes to create, one on a beach during daytime, and one in a ComicCon type setting with a lot of costumed characters.  So back to work.

Date Ariane aka Date Simulator 7.2 The Final Update

I knew after doing the 7.1 update that I would do one more update to Ariane’s Dating Simulator, or as I am now dubbing it Date Ariane.  This update consists of three or four minor changes, mostly updates of the home store and the dress shop.  Also the “Date Experience” code shows up at the end of the date.  The date experience is a 1 to 5 digit hexadecimal code that you can enter into the Something’s In The Air sequel game (when it finally gets released) to unlock some custom content related to the first date you had. I explain more here.

You can get the full 79MB new version via links here, or if you already have a stand alone 7.1, you can download the 1MB update file here.

This is a screenshot of the new dress shop.  It is designed to match the one in the sequel.  The old dress shop was made from a screen shot of The Sims 2.  Above is a picture of the new “Home Place” store, an IKEA like box store, the old pic was a screen shot from a furniture store in Second Life,  the new is a bunch of assorted furniture and picture props I have thrown together, which looks a lot nicer.  The two photos over her left shoulder are the options to choose from for Ariane’s living room wall.  The painting over her right shoulder is the one hanging in my real living room wall (the real one is hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York).  The “New Poster” section are posters that show up in SITA.

With these updates, I have now eliminated all video game screenshot backgrounds from Date Ariane, with the exception of one location: the grass and trees from the park scenes come from Second Life.  It’s all freebie library grass and trees and all the park foreground is 3D models so I don’t feel obligated to update.

This will be the final version in HTML format.  The 800 x 500 graphics are too small to bother with better graphics, and making larger pictures would use up too much bandwidth.  One of these days I may release a stand alone version with HD quality graphics, maybe for the 10th anniversary which isn’t for a couple of years yet.  Meanwhile, I still have the sequel to finish.

Two New SITA Sets

I’ve been doing lots of cool stuff for the sequel game Something’s In The Air (SITA), but I don’t want to show it all because that would spoil the game.  But a few teaser renders wouldn’t hurt.  Back in October 2010, I was showing off sets I built for downtown locations.  Those sets will show up in SITA as well, but so will a few others.

Heidi’s Salon

The above picture is Heidi, one of the datable characters in the game, but the salon shows up in three different stories, so I had to build a set for it.  After searching every 3D source I could find, no one has ever built a “hair salon”, not even a barber shop.  I found a few pieces scattered here and there, and found a tanning salon that I could convert.  Basically it took a while to come up with something resembling a beauty parlor.

For you sticklers of continuity, Heidi’s Salon does make a brief appearance in the Date Ariane game:

And if you are really a stickler of continuity and still upset about Ariane’s change of hair style.  She does shows up at the salon for a change of hair style:

Looks, like Heidi has her work cut out for her.

The Dress Shop

The second set I’ll share with you is the new Dress Shop.  The dress shop is of course very familiar to players of Date Ariane, and was built using props from The Sims 2.  In fact it is the last thing in the Date Ariane game that uses stuff “borrowed” from other games (earlier versions were mostly made from video game screenshots).

Well I had much better luck finding a pre-made boutique set I could exploit. So dress shopping in SITA looks like this:

Maybe if I have time, I’ll redo the dress shop in the first game to match.  I’ll add it to the bottom of a very long “to do” list.  Hope you enjoy the preview.  Next on my list to do is a giant crowd scene at the night club. What was I thinking when I wrote that scene?