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Building the LEGO MMO 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the brick-by-brick dept.
Gamasutra has a lengthy interview with NetDevil's Ryan Seabury, creative director for LEGO Universe, which is due to launch next month. He talks about some of the difficulties in graphically optimizing a game with so many discrete, interactive objects, and mentions that they'll be keeping an eye out for inappropriate contructs to avoid problems similar to those that cropped up with Spore. "One thing we can say is when you build models you have your own property, and you can share that if you want to. If you share something publicly, it will be monitored by a human before it's seen by other people." Seabury also explains their desire to keep the game simple, using players' creativity as a driving force, as well as NetDevil's decision to stay away from a micro-transaction business model.
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Building the LEGO MMO

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  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:45AM (#33720284) Homepage Journal

    As all parents know, anything made of Lego works as a caltrop. A guided caltrop that homes in on bare feet.

  • by zoward (188110) <email.me.at.zoward.at.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:58AM (#33720324) Homepage

    "Giant lego penises": while it seems like a foregone conclusion that this will eventually happen, I played pretty extensively in the beta for over two months and never saw anything offensive. The areas where you can free build are human-checked before they are open to the general public. Chat is limited to a pre-defined dictionary list. Every name you type in for either yourself or your pets is human-checked for offensiveness or trademark violation before it is approved. Hopefully I'm not overstepping the bounds of their NDA by saying all this - my point is that I had no qualms about letting my 7-year-old play unattended. And that's saying a lot for an MMO.

  • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @05:17AM (#33720594)

    Actually, I think the "Chat is limited to a pre-defined dictionary list" will be the most obvious and annoying restriction. Because each typo means you have technically entered a word that is not in the dictionary and your message will be blocked. Maybe a few common typos will be allowed for convenience, but I don't think that will really solve the problem.

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @06:12AM (#33720746) Journal

    WoW Avatars (without equipment) are not really complex model wise, so i can imagine that to be true. If you take an WoW character with some fanc gear equipt i'm sure the equation is moot. (As each piece probably has more polygons then the Avatar itself :o)

    1. As someone who's dabbled into 3D modelling, you'd be surprised how fast the polygons go into something that actually doesn't look all that detailed. Especially if you make it for 1920x1200 screens, not for ye olde 320x200 VGA mode. You can sink a few hundreds into a face alone just so it doesn't look offensive, much less look good.

    Then comes even the basic equipment a WoW character has. I'm not even talking about epic equipment. Just your basic curved blade can east up anywhere between a hundred and a couple hundred polygons just so it doesn't look like it's made of abrupt angles. Etc.

    And generally, while the WoW characters do look cartoonish, they're not particularly low detail by my guess. Sure, they're not Doom 4 class, but they're not Quake 1 either, if you get my drift. At a wild guess, I'm guessing even a newbie avatar would have a couple thousand triangles.

    Which brings me to the point:

    2. How do you actually reach twice that with a freaking basic lego brick, other than sheer incompetence? I mean, Jesus Haploid Christ, I was feeling like a noob because my detailed weapons were in the several hundreds range, and these guys are talking several thousands for a freaking lego brick. How does one _do_ that?

    I mean, let's do some maths. The bulk probably goes into the nubs on the brick. Let's make the cylinder actually a 16 sided prism, which from my experience looks smoothly round even for a gun barrel or polearm shaft you're seeing in first person. That's 32 triangles for the cylinder. The top is 16 triangles (think dividing by lines from the centre to the corners.) Let's round the transition nicely from sides to top, for which actually three steps of increasing slope is more than enough. (Heck, at the size of those even one is enough, but let's be generous.) That's 3x32 more triangles for that. Grand total: 80 triangles.

    But wait, we have to do the hole on the other side too, and let's do it at the same level of detail. (Although here that rounded transition is really overkill with 3 segments, but ok.) So it's another 80, for a total of 160 per nub.

    A two by eight brick is 16 such nubs, for a total of 16, which needs 2560 triangles. Add a few more for the plate and you're still under 3000.

    Note that so far it's just assuming the most basic 3d rendering engine. With normal maps you can make things look equally round with half that number of polygons. You just model it in this high polycount, generate the normal map, then reduce the count of the actual model.

    So, really, how does one reach twice the polycount of a WoW avatar other than sheer cluelessness? It reminds me of the daikatana story where a newbie artist was asked to draw an arrow for the crossbow, and painted an IIRC 2048 pixel wide bitmap for it.

    3. And, really, anyone who's played WoW or any other MMO can tell you that things can get really annoying when you have 1000 characters on your screen. Think the old Ironforge, back when it had the only auction house. There were people who had a slideshow there or their computer crashed. Or I remember an event on Anarchy Online, waay back, when they actually told people to look at the ground to avoid a crash because of too many people. (Yeah, smart idea to have a major event where everyone only sees their own feet.)

    The prospect of having several creations made of thousands of bricks, each of which has several thousand triangles, on the screen should make anyone who has a clue wonder if they're doing it right.

  • by dangitman (862676) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @06:25AM (#33720792)

    Actually, I think the "Chat is limited to a pre-defined dictionary list" will be the most obvious and annoying restriction. Because each typo means you have technically entered a word that is not in the dictionary and your message will be blocked.

    I've found the opposite. Words that are in an English dictionary are usually banned. Words that are misspelled or not in the dictionary have a much higher chance of passing the filter.

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