Friday, April 13, 2012

all signs point to yes

We're coming up on the third anniversary for Sims 3. My personal adventures in creation is nearing its second anniversary. Officially in May, but of course, I have been dabbling for a bit longer than that. I had aspirations to do more than just recolors, but I never really thought I would get to the 'next level' of creation.

While my creation skills have improved, I still don't really play the game to its fullest. I read at The Sims Daily about different games using mods to include a working university, functioning stores, the works. It's very impressive. Quite unlike my own game . . . never have I explored making a band or tried to Detective profession. I only recently went to a bar and while it was considered a 'dive' bar, it was entirely too clean and the wolf 'beer' sign was a little on the sad side.

I lived in Boston during college and many years after. It's an old city if you've never been - one that shows it's age and feels it's age in many ways. Perhaps it is landmarks like the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square that help make it feel like it will always have its foot in the past. Whatever it is - it left a profound mark on me and perhaps that explains a lot of the way I style things.

Back in March, someone at  TSD made a WCIF post asking for neon signs for a Times Square sort of feel. I had drawn up some ideas in August 2011 for what I would have loved to create for the game to improve upon my dive bar experience, save adding some passed out sims in the back alley. The problem was, I was thinking about how I wanted to create them and was stuck upon only one approach. I will confess to being rather narrow minded sometimes about a way of making something only to realize much later that I could have saved myself 40 or so steps. Live and learn. The signs, I was convinced, needed to drawn in illustrator - a program that is not the most intuitive to me - I feel like being left handed and drawing right handed with a mouse is laughable. Solution? A Wacom Bamboo tablet of course . . . or so I thought. While it's a very clever and interesting device, tracing my drawing was neither exact nor easily editable in illustrator. So, onto the back burner it went. I should mention that there are a number of ideas that I am still waiting to execute and some go back to October 2010, so this past August is really no big deal.

Hearing the request however, I realized I could simply mesh them and save myself 39 steps of the 40 I usually over take, which of course, lead to more ideas for the set. The two original drawings were of a cat and an elephant. I had wanted something like 'The Pink Pussycat' and the "Pink Elephant" The Pussycat could work for a nightclub and the Elephant a dive bar - I hadn't really sussed out uses - just had the desire for something for downtown type lots and something that spoke to a seedier side of life - a sort of anti-Sunset Valley.

The drawing is possibly more clear that the tusks are a handlebar mustache
and the cat's tail and ears are horns and a halo
I was excited to get started and after a couple of attempts (and subsequent crashes without saving) I rethought the design. Originally I was aiming for an outline and I was not entirely impressed with how it was looking. Try three, the cat was looking pretty good. I had envisioned the cat glowing, but for the sake of realism, it made more sense to make the cat a solid with backlighting - much like a vintage sign.

The elephant was definitely somewhat inspired by the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square, Boston. I wanted (within reasonable polys) neon lights across the background. I also wanted for it to have a real martini glass which again - nods back to vintage signs that were a lot more creative and fun.

The problem was that these were going to be complicated meshes and being limited to three channels for coloring would seem a little on the lame side. I couldn't really make this an overlay trick and while there are ways to add many colors using the multiplier, it would have required many multipliers and no customization to the degree I still wanted a user to have. Taking a sign from the Late Night expansion would limit who could use the sign and I realized too that while you can add a light source to nearly anything, it is still not technically a light that you can fiddle with (and yes, there is a way around that too - but it would still need Late Night to work). Sometimes creating means having a hand tied behind your back . . . or does it?

About the time I was finishing the meshes (and after already testing the Late Night method) I noticed at MTS that there were some new items that had four channels where before they were only three. How were people getting this to work? I noticed that people were thanking a program I had already tried working with - but this was a new version that allowed a fourth channel to be added to any object. TextureTweaker3 by Inge at SimsLogical is this brilliant little program that allows you to (exactly as the name would lead you to believe) tweak the patterns in a package file. Key words - PACKAGE FILE. In other words - plays well with S3PE and S3OC. Workshop would be a challenge. I asked around to the creators that I know if anyone had tinkered with the program and no one had really heard of it, so it was up to me to figure this out.

Have I ever mentioned that I am not a tech-head? Assuming that there was some way for me to use the S3PE plugin with workshop, I inquired (after mustering up all my courage to ask [have I mentioned I am painfully shy?]) how this could work with TSRW. Always helpful, it was explained by Inge how to do it and off I went to try. Worked great - or so I thought. Once in game, the description was gone as well as the title. I make the silly assumption that this was a TT3 error. I tried again and this time it worked - well, it sort of worked. I had to edit the file one more time and now only the title remained - the description disappeared. Something was clearly wrong.

Where this was a new program, and I am familiar with TSRW, I still came to the conclusion that something was wrong with TT3. I could see the description clearly when I looked at the package file in S3PE, but it wouldn't show in game. Inge disagreed and blamed Workshop. Upon reflection, I have to agree. So, I decided to try a few tests to see if I could figure out when the problem happens.

Near as I can tell (and this is not foolproof) it comes down to timing and how 'fresh' the program is feeling. If you open and clone a new object in Workshop, change the description and title initially, export to TT3, delete the contents of the file in workshop, import the file back post tweak, save and close the file only to reopen it and make all of your edits - the chances are greater (read, not great, just greater) that you'll end up getting the description and title to save to the file. If you change just the title or description first (not both) whichever you've changed has a great chance of remaining, but the other will probably not show up. If you make all of the changes including importing your mesh, changing textures and settings and then tweaking the file, there is a 50% chance (that's a guess mind you) that your file will be borked. In fact - you may not even have the mesh still attached to the file correctly. Near as I can tell, Workshop (at least for me - though so many people talk about opening a file, making corrections and exporting it as a new file and having it supposedly work) simply does not like copies of copies. To export the file you are sending out a clone (a copy). You then import this copy back into workshop and it can either love it or hate it - Workshop is borderline personality. Then to make all sorts of changes like adding groups and changing light settings - if it doesn't crash between getting it back into workshop, saving, closing, opening and editing and then exporting (a new copy of an already copied file) - then there is only a chance that it will work correctly.

Now - as if it is not hard enough to judge scale and height, guess light and neon intensity, gauge pattern scale, to then add new groups, adjust all those settings and THEN export the damned thing - to have all that work be undone by a stupid glitch that cannot be fixed (even when it is clearly visible when looking at the file in S3PE) or even to find its source to correct it - all for the sake of a sim3pack that no one will let die gracefully and continue to cling to with a death-rattle grip? Aside from the obvious need for a sim3pack from EA official items (which can also be bypassed and made a package file) and countertops (that I have in my own game in great moderation due to my hatred for the sim3pack) - there is simply no need for a sim3pack for this game. NONE. (Don't even begin to tell me about CAP patterns)

Did I mention too that half the time, something about the footprint borks and the signs won't snap to a wall? That's an entirely different problem and one that I simply don't understand being a non-tech-head.I am assuming it has to do with the bounding box so as along as I either don't update the footprint or use a preprogrammed size like 1x3 or 1x1 it appears to clear up the problem.

So now I am left with a few options. Make these items Late Night compatible as I originally thought I would need to, lessen the number of channels to three and screw it all, or continue to try to export these files over and over again until one works correctly. Being a masochist, I have been attempting option three. I like having things be base game compatible and I like having all the channels open on these signs. However, I am at a point that I simply want to give up on this foolish set.

The amount of times that one has to load these things in game to see if anything needs to be adjusted (and about 99% of the time, something does) is just tiresome - to have all these additional problem that apparently cannot be solved all for the sake of a sim3pack seems, well, cray-cray. Never have I claimed to be not crazy, so blindly I will probably continue to try.

So the set started with the cat and elephant. I wanted to do a large magnifying glass and a fortune teller sign - I knew I wanted some sort of boutique sign that could be simple/clean - I also wanted some sort of marquee overhang and I really wanted some sort of tall three story type sign, but it was suggested to me a few signs that I had not considered - tattoo parlor, a salon, possibly something for the paranormal career (which I am calling the fortune teller sign - I hated the paranormal career and did not want to make a ghost buster-esque sign). A few pictures have been posted to twitter already, but here are just a few sneak peeks:

Based on the coffee shop down the street from my home in EAV
A salon sign - this will also include a non-neon version
The magnifying glass, the tattoo sign, the Holy Hellcat sign
From the other angle
The overhead marquee with extension side panels (one tile) to be as small or large as you want
The not as tall as I originally thought building marquee sign
While there are a few more, I don't want to give away all the set just yet. More problems - you can clearly see that the lighting is limited to the first floor. A major upset - I attempted to program in a light source well above the signs and sadly - it just made the first floor brighter. This is a problem with EA lights too so I am not too concerned about that. There are the buydebug lights that allow for wall lighting and room lighting and become invisible in 'live' mode. While it would be nice to have a shift-capable orb light that could be placed at any height - no one has made one and I doubt EA gives a rats ass about that.

Here you can see the buydebug wall light on the left, on the right no light on the top,
but the light is being used at the bottom.
Getting the settings on the buydebug lights to be equal to the light settings is nearly impossible. While it is often close - that horrible line is still visible on some level. Part of the problem is that when programming a light it gets dimmer towards the 'floor' so even if you could set them exactly the same - the level of light is not the same at all heights on the floor you're lighting.

One more request at TSD was for Lunar Lakes which I have not actually opened to look at. I have only observed pictures of it - I will need to take photos in LL when I release the portal marker that was requested. I need to reclone it and add some additional markers for the equestrian center, subways, the movie lot, and the sky diving center.

the 'neon' can be made to be any color - one blank just in case
This portal marker hopefully helps those who don't appreciate the 20(?) unmarked portals that came with Lunar Lakes. I thought this was 'space age' enough that it would work nicely within that world. This will probably be recompiled and released on its own. While I wanted to release it at both MTS and TSR given that my little corner of the web is not especially popular with the entire sims community - I didn't want to take the chance that it would not be accepted at one over the other and appear to have chosen 'sides' in the community war of us vs. them. It's bad enough that there is even 'sides' to begin with but to appear to be on one of them was simply an unbearable thought. I need to thank Megativity from TSD/LS/BPS for locating the community lot icons. I was clueless and even though Inge tried to tell me where they were located, upon opening the UI.package, I couldn't find them? She tried. I am hopeless. I will continue to make pretty things and leave the programming to the pros.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The evolution of a design

You probably are already aware that I have been looking for a new job. After a while of searching for another frame job (and dreading it) I came to the conclusion that I need to simply step away from that field. Not only have a significant amount of shops closed their doors during this extended economic decline, I am competing for  greatly lowered waged jobs against all the displaced framers. While one would hope that talent really gets you the work, it's honestly is a personality contest and most of us see ourselves a little different than we actually project. While I consider myself 'precise' and 'detailed' these traits can be read on my face as 'aloof' and 'distant' - 'detailed' can further be broken down to 'OCD' and 'byzantine' depending on who's doing the reading. I think we're all a little layered - what is on our surface isn't exactly what lies within, but you have a short amount of time to expose yourself to a prospective employer and sweet and jovial usually get the job. For the record, 'sweet' translates to me as 'uneducated' or 'inexperienced' and 'jovial' translates to 'slacker' - see - we all judge each other. Kudos.

I had a great interview yesterday with a company I am very hopeful to join in some capacity, but I allowed the people around me to help me with some decisions. This is a job I really, really wanted and wanted to do it right. Every decision I made was questioned and I will stop here to say - I listened because I haven't actually had anyone call me back in such a long time it is staggering - I needed feedback. I ended up bringing very little from my portfolio because so much of the actual graphic work I have done gets laser copied (or worse - photocopied) onto maybe nice paper and that's that. All my hard work that I was badgered to do gets cheaply produced and often I don't even get a hard copy - my one stipulation for my often greatly discounted rates. The other items that did not come with me were from a number of years ago and I regret not bringing them. While this position is for mostly web work, I think seeing a wide range of style would have been a good thing.

One of the items I did bring a printout of one card that was done and I was very proud of (I think knowing that this was such a massive struggle to get the client to see it was a good design and 'won' that argument finally in the end). This was with a long standing client and his new venture (which, sadly, as quickly as his idea seemed to swell in interest, it deflated as quickly). I explained the evolution of the designs, but none of this was presented - I actually didn't have print copies of all the changes from beginning to end. Kind of stupid on my part, but it wouldn't even occur to me to post declined concepts - they are the things that people simply don't ever get to see so in my head that was one hell of a big job, but the results come down to one post card. In fact - the amount of work that went into this particular job went almost completely unrewarded because 'it was just a postcard' that ended up being printed. There was a banner (that was cheaply printed by Kinkos [still waiting on that photograph]) but all the variations that were tested and declined - all solid work - has never been seen.

Designing a logo is in my opinion one of the hardest things to do for someone (think of Coke and then think about when they changed their logo and people were utterly pissed - this might live with you for the rest of your businesses life, so a logo has to be solid), it has to start somewhere. Taking the name and typing it out in different typefaces is usually what I end up doing. I am trying to see what catches my eye and where patterns start to form. The company name was Coco Creamery. All natural coconut frozen dessert. For those of you who are also lactose intolerant, this stuff was so much like ice cream you'd cry (and I did) trying it for the first time. So even the name had a good sound to it and the Coco in my head being a set of redundant letters formed a pattern immediately.

The very first designs for the company - I even thought I would include a 'cap' design that could also be adapted for the front of the container. Not the most creative idea, but still - something in the direction of where it could go - an idea that could be built upon. Logo great!  Label - hate it. What is that - it looks like a turd.

Okay. It was just some image I found off the internet of a coconut, clearly we'd need to photograph something but you get the idea, right? No . . . I still hate it.

They can't all be winners and clearly there was nothing to build upon for the client so back to the drawing board. What would the flavors be - that might inspire me some.

Take two. So much of the stuff being presented to me was tropical sounding, so I decided to go with palm trees. Being a white boy from New England - if you said 'tropical' I think Palm Tree. Call me stupid, but I go there.
Okay - we're a little closer - this wasn't such a venomous response this time. Looks a little weird but we're getting there. Looking at it today - I think it's a lot weird and I still like the first one better, but perhaps I am desensitized to turds being a dog owner. So, back to the drawing board.
Now - this . . . this was solid. Not only was the design liked, we went through and designed every flavor. There were I think six flavors at this point - soon to be nine. While universally, everyone liked the designs, there was a new problem. There was a new rum on the market and they had a logo that was sort of the same. In researching it, I did find something that would put you to mind of it, but this was so different that it should not have been too big of a concern. No, no - let's scrap all this and go with something else. Let's start with a new logo.


At the time I was kind of fascinated with the periodical chart. Solid simple design. Efficient. So - I proposed I be allowed to just go a little coocoo for coco and present a completely different idea - no tropics involved - just the science.
I first presented the new logo idea and it was a passable design for the moment contingent on the whole look. I liked this new concept - it added the coconut as a subliminal in the O's and it felt contained and like a brand.
The concept was actually that the containers be completely white with this narrow little label on the front and a similar nutritional breakdown label for the back - possibly even smaller - we never got that far. This . . . now THIS was exciting. This is definitely what we are going to do. Went through the whole process of photographing everything for the business plan - bowls of icy goodness and the pints with labels.
Nearly everyone was on the same page - everyone was excited and then the little voice of doubt stepped in. Is this a chocolate product? Coco - most people think of cacao when they see coco. Maybe this isn't the best name for a company after all.

Back to the drawing board.

By this time this was actually being produced here in Atlanta at a known ice creamery. Won't get into the politics of this at all - I will never quite understand it, but that company said that they wanted their logo on it if they were going to serve it. Their logo was a train wreck that attempted to have the same sort of carefree nature of Ben and Jerry's - a stupid airplane that made no sense when it comes to frozen dessert. We're changing the name to NiceCream and it needs to use this truck full of ugly incorporated into the look.

I was frustrated and the client has a friend who does really big name designs (like a Kill Bill website et cetera - highly sought after) and he liked the name and started trying different typefaces and suggested a few but really expressed an interest in one particular typeface. He also added three dots above the 'I' in Nice - so see - even a big name wanted a subliminal towards the coconut - I am not a dunce after all.

Version 5 comes along. Back to a round label for the lid of a pint.
I decided the name needed movement to mimic the foolish banner the airplane was carrying and then a new slogan was added. I decided to create a lemniscate (the infinity symbol) to continue that motion. Not a great layout, but it was getting there - I was feeling a little refreshed.

Version six and seven was a play on this. I also softened the horrible airplane design by removing the black outline and making the outlines a deeper shade of the shape they were containing.
I added the enjoy forever myself - I thought why have a subliminal when you can just point it out - enjoy this product forever - it's better for you. So, with seven being the tightest of the designs we moved forward with that look in concept. There were so many upsets behind the scenes and each step needed to be approved for logo trade marking, name trade marking - the works. Each step needed these graphics for the approval process. So many steps were rushed just to get an idea into the appropriate offices. 

Jumping forward a bit - we were going to have a social to official introduce the product. Now a person involved in inviting the right people needed to be called in. We're sending out a postcard - I just need something by tomorrow - just make this text look good.
The text was the least of everyones problem. WTF? What is this? Powerpoint stock art? Ug! And, when someone says just throw something together it's deflating. I am not a copy editor - I don't write jingles - I make pretty things. So making this painfully dry text look interesting is not always the easiest thing, but magic can happen and I try to do my best. Something happens while I am working on it. I come up with a new way to present the logo - as though it's being dragged by the plane too. So in playing with the logo for the bowl photograph, the text just takes a back seat for version one
 The client loves the bowl idea. Now to work on the text.
So now the design has become completely different. The colors are easily acquired from the mandatory logo and THIS is eye catching. (as an aside, it was suggested that I could get work doing this sort of thing by the promoter who cringed when I she heard by hourly rate wasn't minimum wage). While I could barely afford the suggested donation, I even attended the event and people were gobsmacked at how good this stuff was and how fun.

Business cards are designed and while the cursive text was a major sticking point with the client as being 'too feminine' everyone loved it so it stuck. We also needed labels for the case and each needed some sort of slogan.
address/names blurred for this

So things were looking really up from here, until - there is another company with a similar name. Nice Creme out of somewhere on the west coast. I say - it's a completely different name. Not only is it two words, but the spelling is completely different. Nope - we have to change it. We're going with Bella Creme now (sounds like crem, not cream). Really. Great. Let's keep this feel though.  

There comes a point when you just don't feel something anymore. I tried to find a nice way of saying I'm done, but I also wanted to help - I was promised that for the ride, when this took off I would be rewarded - but I was kind of done at this point.

New logos. New Labels. I will quickly say too, Bella is the name of the clients dog, so I had an idea for a label, but I am not an illustrator by trade and I need to take time to get my drawings to a place where I want them. At the time of this I was very much influenced by japanese anime. Not that I watch a lot of it, but when someone is excited or sad, the animation style changes significantly to a very caricaturist style and eye highlights can become a little whacky looking. This has now become quite a popular style on shows like Adventure Time and Gumball on the Cartoon Network - so excuse the crappy drawing - we probably would have hired someone if this idea was a hit (instead of 'this is absolutely scary - I hate it).
little Bella just wants some Passion
Going for that farm stand look - another direction
trying to bring back the magic of the post card as instructed
Further downward spiral with the postcard ideals
Then playing with the logo a bit . . . .
Lord and Taylor anyone? Gah!
OH! This one looks promising!
I felt very strongly about the last one. I wasn't saying this was the best idea or the correct typeface, but my gut told me that a play on the B and the C would be the best design - it was just a matter of finding the correct typeface and this was sort of close, but not really. It severed the ideas from the past and moved forward in another direction for a fresh start. No - he couldn't see the scoops of ice cream or the bowl - no - go with the first one. The second one was hard to read and the third one I guess looked like a turd.

In regrouping, so much of this was starting to change - even the names of the flavors (notice it's now Dave's Chocolate).I just wasn't feeling this anymore and while I felt attached, I needed to be unattached from it. I asked that a new designer be brought in to carry out the rest of this project. I knew that by leaving it, I would be giving up my rights to any sort of end reward, but taking a project from its humble beginning and adding in so many upsets - it's hard to re-conceptualize that which has already been completed. 

Ironically, things really fell apart and a great idea simply never got off the ground with the company either. So many good ideas out there simply get steamrolled. As of now - you can find a coconut milk ice cream at Whole Foods that tastes a little bit like wall paper paste. Perhaps some day this product will have new interest, but until then, it seems frozen desserts will continue to try to be something they are not.

Back to design - and you can apply this to most of the things that end up being seen - there are so many steps to getting that final look correct that can often make one job seem like you've done so much work when everyone only gets to see the one printed item. It's kind of sad actually. 

Speaking of graphics, I am working on a slew of items for a new shop opening in Hapeville by my friends Jim and Carter. I'll probably mention more - grand opening is slated for Monday - after a series of (go figure) upsets that have pushed the date back from November to March to April. Fingers crossed - it's a beautiful shop and I think it will be wildly successful. 

As for sim stuff. I have a post that I have been editing together now for a month on the trials and tribulations of the Community Sign set. What an utter nightmare it's been. So much for my foray into the world programming.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Inspiration Blog Outtakes . . .

Just a couple of photos from the set that won't make the final post, but I liked enough to share:

Blog Inspired Set

I follow an exhaustive amount of blogs looking at all sorts of things from decor, to art, to food, to gardening. Everyone posts these amazing photos that I can't help but save to an inspiration folder. During the holidays (or daze as it was more accurately lived) I was able to devote a good deal of time to organizing the mess of things that I was following and consider some of the items that I was eying. The set that has been pulled together is sort of odd. Last post I showed the bed, the bunny chair, the ghost stool and the chicken mirror. This picks up with those items again and the unexpected results, plus the rest of the set.

I'm going to tech talk for each item, so if you find yourself getting dry in the mouth or your heart is slowing down to a dangerous pace, please feel free to move forward or just look at the pretty pictures.

It had been some time since I opened the tools necessary to create - that includes the game. Pets opened this whole arena of actions that I am still not very familiar with. I put a call (a kind way of saying 'begged') for help at The Sims Daily - the set needed more than my eyes to examine it. This was especially important now that I am no longer as versed with what the game is offering. My short foray into sim pet ownership was far more frustrating than owning two dogs and a cat in real life. Worse - most CC is not designed to work with pets (for instance, the height of a couch or the length of a coffee table) specifically and is often off. So testers who are familiar with the game - have an active game - or know what they are looking for would catch things that I might not be looking for.

Testers rock my world, let me tell you. Every set I learn completely new things so these are a few notes on the objects.

Did you wet the bed . . . again??
The bed: While easy in its construct, proved to be a massive challenge. Assigning the bones correctly is not easy if you don't know the way to do it. It seems like it would be easy enough as really you are only concerned with one of about 80 bones, but it can be tricky if you've never done it before. It appeared normally - they slept well - the animations were okay with pets, but if a sim relaxed on the bed, a 'puddle' of mattress appeared. Sandy, at ATS3, and I tried to make sense of it. Heidi, at Exotic Elements, didn't seem to have the problems we were having. She wrote a tutorial and Sandy was able to figure it out pretty quickly - me? No so quick. A second tutorial from Heidi and finally, I was able to eat at the grown ups table. This has three preset styles which have each been tiled differently at 4, 6, and 8.

Lowered or raised, the sim would move with the mirror (photos: Dee and Laure)
The mirror: First, a suggestion was made for an additional size and perhaps a distressed version like the venetian mirror from the Reflections set. I was concerned for poly counts but this is surprisingly low for the shape. While I thought this was a simple enough piece, there was a lot learned from this object. Mirrors, simply enough, should never be made shift-enabled. There is a reason for this: the sim interacts with a real mirror at a specific height. Therefore - the sim moves through the floor or hovers above the floor to meet this specific height for the interactions. This brought to my attention that I really don't use a mirror in game as it was intended - for me they are decor only, and really, there are two types of mirror. The object/group and the program/base. I can make any flat surface a mirror, but what makes a mirror an actual mirror is the base that is used. You've seen things like microphones or podiums applied to a mirror base so that you have the animations for the appearance of the sim talking into something or at something. A table front as a mirror is just decor. So while it would be handy to have a mirror that moved up and down it cannot be a technical mirror but only appear as one. In other words - no interaction. I am thinking that I might need to re-release all of my mirrors as decor items so they may be raised and lowered like any painting. These two, sadly, cannot be made shiftable. I do not wish to be the reason for someones game crashing! Both sizes (the small one facing the opposite direction) have a distressed and clean version.

The rabbit chair: Tested fine for animations, but the height was a bit off. The original reference mesh I used was not a wood dining chair, but a wood dining chair with cushion. Why is that important? Well my bentwood bunny chair is wafer thin, so a cat was seriously sliced in half when it rested on the seat. Disturbing. Normally, said cat would look all nice and cozy on that cushion. Very quick correction to make, but my test game has no animals in the household (so when I take pictures I don't have distractions in the shot). This was also released with three different tiling rates to allow for better pattern placement.

Version 2 (photo by Laure)
The ghost stool: Lordy this thing was a bloody nightmare. Basically I am not sure what to learn from this - I don't know that I would approach it any differently than I did. When one creates a mesh, there is an order to how it is mapped. Create the shapes, map the shapes, amend the shapes, amend the map. Meaning - you map a cylinder first - don't bend it into shape and then try to map it - you'll end up with a big mess. You can however select by vertices and amend the map so the pattern is stretched correctly. This isn't 100% correct for every object, but this is the best method for a good many objects. Okay - the stool. The legs bend away from the stool so the foot rest is wider than the top. The legs themselves are wider at the top than the base and they are also narrower at the front edge than the back edge. So you end up with a sort of trapezoid looking down through the leg. Being that it was going to be set as glass - the first version needed areas removed from the seat and the footrest so they did not appear to be going 'through' but rather abutted. Being that I am looking at dots and lines, it was difficult to tell if things were intersecting or even meeting each other. Version 2 of the stool the footrest didn't even meet the leg. Version three met the leg, but the stool itself was too tall where it was see through - the sim seemed to sit right inside it. Version 4 corrected the height (a sim still goes 'through' it, but too low and they look to be hovering above it), but it didn't appear smooth in game. Version 5 was smooth and seemed done. Nope - the footrest was too high. Version 6 and two styles later (clear and translucent) and you have the "Spirit Stool" . . . may you be haunted as I have been by it.

Right . . . onward and upward. The rest of the set.

The radio:
Sometimes simple things are the hardest to get. There is glass over the dial of the radio and while I exported it five times from Milkshape, each time I neglected to include the glass in the bones, so in game - it wouldn't show up. I asked Sandy if she had any ideas and she suggested this as the solution and I thought - oh, one time maybe, but I've done it five times already. Right. Five times wrong. Live an learn. Two versions are being released, but only one can be installed. I hate the animations that cover the object - the sonic 'boom-boom' & music note animation. Sandy at ATS3 told me how to remove these animations, so I decided to offer it in either/or. Same for the record player.

The recordplayer:
Okay - I have done a record player before. What can I say - I love vintage pieces. This is based on an etsy artists repurposed record player turn clock. I loved the shape of it and wanted something a little more 50s/60s. I have learned over time that hard edges sometimes look strange in game so I went about this all wrong initially. In softening the edges it looked shockingly like the first one. I was absolutely disgusted with it when I finished and hated it in game. It seriously looked like I opened the one I made, took off the lid and replaced the arm with a new one . . . not recreated the whole thing point by point. So this needed an overhaul. The inspiration piece was definitely boxy, so the body needed to be reshaped. This probably has more polys than it really needs, but it finally looks like I wanted. There are three records and a fourth style that hides that part of the mesh. I could have applied the record as an overlay only, but I wanted it to have depth. After finishing it up, Chris looks over my shoulder and says "Why is it so angular?" meaning: the record. I probably should have just done an overlay, but I am a detail freak and felt the depth of the record would be perceived. Perhaps the next one I will do a really round record.

The coffee table:
Almost didn't make this. I felt it was derivative of the trolley table I made for the Green set. Heidi convinced me that this was actually a different enough piece that I should attempt it. I am glad I did. I was able to play with the mask a bit to make a craggy looking painted metal surface. I also included a modified stencil in simlish. This has two masks for a clean and dirty version - as well as each style having the stencil option.

The floor lamp: While I love this, I have to admit that it's a few too many polys. This runs about 1400 - 200 above the suggested limits. That said, this covers more than a square technically - so really, I didn't think it was worth fussing over. Initially the channels were the shade and feet, the post and legs, and the actual switch on the shade - we're talking minutia detail. This was lost on all that used it, so three new masks were made for coloring options. No, the switch is no longer on its own channel!!

The wall sconce:
I love this piece and it came together very fluidly. While there were no technical problems with it, a few notes were submitted that if a pattern was to be used on the shade, the arm looked a bit strange. Further, one person was familiar with this lamp but the colors were reversed. So this lamp also received three masks to allow for coloration options. This is also available in both directions.

Finally, the art for this set might seem as disjointed as the set itself. In my head it makes sense and is actually paired off to a degree for themes so one could hang in groupings. A couple of the pieces in particular are in direct relation to the idea of  the animal related objects. I love art and while this particular set was difficult to pull together for me (meaning, I was not sure how to limit myself to 12), I love each of the pieces and have covered a number of styles/techniques. You'll have to judge for yourself. This is based on the 'floater' frame mesh that has been released in both vertical and horizontal orientations. While I love 'big' art and this frame is based on a real frame (both in oversized scale and depth), this particular version is much less deep and a more modest scale. The thing that is a major drag about this art is not only is some of it not even credited on the sites they were found, but also I have no idea what sites they were found on. While I feel it is a disservice to leave these as unnamed/attributed, it is also a big shame to not share such exciting pieces. If the artists/originators of the art work are made known, I will gladly credit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

News and new

Been a while since I have had the urge to create. I credit my new found desire (read: kick in the pants)  to an article that Sandy at ATS3 scanned for (and translated too! Muy gracias mucho! [did I mention I can't speak another language??]) me from a French Magazine that named my site as Site of the Month. Humbling honestly, as I have this sort of fear that while I hear good things about my creations, it's the amazing lack of downloads that keeps my paranoia that 'none of it is good enough' or 'everyone is just being nice' active.

Bau's creations, born artist
Layed out as a blog, B5Studio is one of the good URLs of the Web. Its content is diversified, from rugs to lightings, paintings. If it's one of the reference sites, it's because of its realism and diversity of creations that visitors can download. From the smallest decorative item to the massive pieces of furniture, Bau, the blog administrator, does his best to create a content that is and useful and original. You find your Sims' living-room a bit empty? Download the rug "Back to basics", then choose one of the many available textures, and your room will be as new. You're looking for accessories for a photograph studio? Choose then the set Mementoes and become the most famous photographer of the town. B5Studio offers as well many industrial items, that will fit anyone who wants to decorate an artist workshop or mad scientist... To visit without waiting!"
Well, it was just enough of a kick in the panties to get me started again . . . well - a week later, but I started. Oddly, almost every creator that I am in contact with has lost the urge to create. Some, for personal reasons, needed to back away and some of us lost interest or desire to actually sit and mesh. It's curious. There are a few things I think that attributed to my lack of interest - of course - needing a break being one of them, but I am honestly a bit angry with the franchise at the moment.

[If you want to bypass the rant, jump ahead two paragraphs] After the Pets fiasco (where every slot was broken), it wore me out - I had been looking forward to that EP for such a long time and when it arrived and everything 'broke' - the community pulled together to fix everything - but I think it also destroyed a lot. I don't think it was EAs role to 'fix' everything - but it would have been nice to have been prepared for this RIG change (the root of the broken slots). It wasn't the fact that things broke or it was a lot of work to fix everything - but it is sort of a root problem. No one knew this was going to happen. I think this says a lot about the people who make the game and their parent company. I've been slowly building up steam about many things with the franchise. Over the summer they released Town Living - basically a handful of buildings. It seemed kind of small and honestly - boring, but okay - it's just an SP. Well, then they released the Goth Library with exclusive content. Another $$. Oh and a new world. $$$. The SP was $20. That's a lot of $$$$ for items that should have been (if not all, in part) in the SP. Then they give the SP away with pre-order of the next EP. Then you have the Sim Store. They keep releasing stuff only a blind child might have interest in. Then they have the nerve to charge $34 for a compilation set. What's more insulting? They then say "You asked for it!" Who asked for it?? Where is this person and why has no one knocked the crack pipe out of their hand? Intervention!! Worse - that set you just paid full price for? Free on facebook or 75% off on the Daily Discount. Lesson? Don't buy it - they'll eventually give it away. EA: Reward those who paid first.

The final straw that made me even stop reading forums was the announced release of Showtime. Not only am I completely uninterested in the expansion - I am insulted that they are trying to pull in social networking: Facebook. I abhor Facebook. I liken it to the worlds largest security risk. Before this turns into a tirade about that big mess, suffice it to say - while it is an optional feature - that the company insists that "You asked for it!" - seeing 'social networking' as about 15th on a list of 'wants' from the community doesn't strike me as a high priority. I also filled out a survey for the company and it's clear they have no idea what their fans want and why people buy this game. Task oriented worlds? While it might be fun to have a post apocalyptic Sunset Valley, my sims are still going to need to eat and be happy and well adjusted. This simply does not change the basic premise of the game . . . . they don't react to their surroundings, they don't take joy from building their home brick by brick. They can't even tell what the wallpaper is like on their walls. Perhaps it is me that is having this disconnect - I never did understand why people would want a Silent Hill, Anime, or Alice in Wonderland type world/game - the premise of the game is always the same. Fill their basic needs. I can turn off their age so even watching them get old is not a factor. How is the world going to change this basic programming? Even going to Egypt/China/France - they just get cranky if you don't meet these needs - tasks are a massive chore if they haven't eaten/slept/bathed.

Anyway - I could ramble on for hours about this sort of thing. We all make of this game what we want - whether that is adding in MODS to allow us to go to college or sell things in shops OR simply opening the game to decorate a room or style a sim. I think that is the beauty of the game IN SPITE of the greed and cluelessness of EA. 

So on to the new items. I have spoken with Heidi and we were on a bit of the same wavelength for our upcoming sets (not sure how long either of us will actually BE mind you) - sort of a mix and match. I wasn't interested in just doing a bedroom or living room. I wanted certain items that I was inspired by when I go to the design blogs I follow on Google Reader. Truth be told a lot of sets start out this way - no real direction but there is a sort of theme that comes together (like the Reflections set) but I can't see one right now for what I am interested in meshing.

This all started with a bed. After the whole pets thing where we all needed to either wait for a fix or fix it ourselves - I decided - who needs all those beds anyway? - reduced my clutter and fixed the remaining on my own - regardless of whether the creator released their own. It allowed me to reset the patterns to ones I would use anyway - fix the tiling for a lot of the beds (you'd be surprised how many were off when using a checkerboard pattern). That took away my fear of beds - Heidi also helped quell that 'I could NEVER do one of THOSE!' fear that I was irrationally having. Beds are not especially interesting to me - you enjoy them with your eyes closed in real life and my own bed is nothing exciting - well anymore. I used to have a beautiful antique bed but now I have a queen size and for those not in the know - Queen/King are modern sizes. Full was the largest bed for a while and if you're really in the know - they you are familiar with what is called a 3/4 - the size between twin and full. My mother is also an antique collector and she owns on of these in her guest room. I guess it is a relatively recent thing that we like to sleep with someone - just not near to them. The idea of space and heat are 'new' when you consider the history of the world. So getting back to the bed - I loved this bed when I saw it and while it seems painfully simple - it was a fun project to get myself back into the swing of things.

Not entirely sure what the real one is called. I remember it being from Japan and I thought it was hysterical. I love bentwood chairs and this was just a really interesting take on one. Chris is drawn to (I jokingly refer to it as his spirit animal) the rabbit - in image - not in real life (he thought it was odd to have a rabbit as a household pet). Can't be any old rabbit - but still - when I see rabbit stuff (like I think of him. Often modern can appear cold and chilly - this was a warmed up approach to an often utilitarian object.

I am a big admirer of Phillipe Starck and while I was inspired by this stool (the ghost chair has been done by a number of people) I am aware of the limitations of attempting to accurately make it. While I have not been able to get in game to examine this, I am pleased with the shape. Glass anything in game is tricky - you can't just arbitrarily make things glass and expect them to look right. With the Reflections set, I was able to learn a lot about how to make it appear more real for the game, but every object holds it's own set of rules - we'll see if this needs alterations.

I don't have any new photos of Jaxon and Laika - I did post a couple of quick movies at YouTube sort of demonstrating Laika the speed freak vs. Jaxon the reserved and how to play with a ball. Jaxon is really starting to fit in - there are milestone moments such as after his first bath Laika stopped attacking him every time he tried to get on the couch (we use a particular shampoo called Stinky Hippie that smells like lavender/patchouli and I think she recognized him as 'ours' when he smelled like her) - his first day at the dog park - his first trip to doggy daycare. Each time there is a noticeable difference in his personality as if he's realizing he is finally 'home' which really is nice. Even at bedtime he's found his space on the bed (this took surprisingly long to do) so now I am flanked by each on either side of me effectively trapping me in the bed. I no longer clutch to the edge of the bed when they both were on one side of me.

He can't wear that harness anymore (Laika is a dragger so she must wear it) because it's causing bald spots on him. While we were told that this harness would prevent her from pulling us everywhere - she is one strong little girl and has figured out how to position her body so she still has the upper hand. She also knows to get the leash on either side of her depending on what side she's walking so she has even greater control. Jaxon needs to be walked - otherwise he won't 'go' and walk time can be very frustrating with the amount of squirrels and (you'd be surprised how piggy people are) chicken bones left by the curb by clumsy/lazy neighbors on trash day. This small bone of contention aside, they're an absolute joy.  We are giving them supplements to assist in digestion and their immune system - I knew they were working well on Laika and Kaite, but it was a very rapid change for Jaxon - his coat went from a dull brown to an almost iridescent shine. He also had a strong doggy odor and bad breath and that subsided too. He's still the stronger smelling of the two of them - I think his coat is just completely different (hence the worn spots from the harness) but they're all happy and healthy!

I'll have more as I mesh it . . . working on a chicken mirror today - while I love the look from the front - the edge is proving to be a drag to smooth correctly using smoothing groups mostly due to the irregular shape.

[EDIT] - Just a quick update - the chicken mirror is edited together but I am seeing a small texture problem that is showing up only in workshop at the moment. I need to check it in game to see if it translates to the complete file.