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.