Now, can you use the word “cooking” and the name of one of the most feature-rich game engines out there, CryEngine 3, in the same sentence? Maybe… At least it is used in the title of a valuable resource I have dove into reading. The book, written by Dan and Sean Tracy, is The CryEngine 3 Cookbook. No, it is not a book about actual cooking (as in food) or even about crying! It is about how to use this great Game Engine Platform! The authors write it in a way that conveys the info in the form of recipes of how to do your work, hence the name, “Cookbook.”

CryEngine 3 Cookbook

CryEngine 3 Cookbook

Incidentally, for you gamers reading this, you are correct about the image on the cover of the book. Those are indeed Battlemechs. The upcoming Mechwarrior Online game is being developed with CrEngine 3. Next to Star Wars and Final Fantasy, I am too an all-time fan of Battletech and Mechwarrior!

I picked the book up as an eBook from Packt Publishing since I wanted to look at it in PDF while I worked in the Sandbox or to read it on my nookColor. It has been a pretty good read so far. Now why am I reading it and learning about CryEngine 3?

There is a need for me to build a demo of Planet Postmoderna so I can show something of worth to potential investors. Illustrating scenes and features from Entropia, are only going so far. When I show those Entropia shots (as seen below) I get mixed reviews. Some people say, “Hey that looks like a neat game. Maybe I should invest in Entropia!” I just shake my head and ask, “What am I missing?” 😀 Others, well, they just have a blank look on their face no matter how many times I explain how money is made as an Entropia Universe Planet Partner.

Scene from Planet Arkadia in Entropia Universe

Unfortunately with regards to building the demo, using my able-to-work talent comes at a premium. I find it interesting that I have no trouble finding skilled volunteers outside the USA that will volunteer time in trade for recognition but that is not so much in the US. So, until I get funding for the project and can pay people, the work falls upon me and what talent I can find to put in the time.

Now back to the CryEngine 3 Cookbook! I really had to start learning a bit more about the fundamentals of building a scene in CryEngine. The Game Engine is what Mindark uses for Entropia Universe. We will have to ultimately build and develop Postmoderna within that very Entropia Sandbox (with all its game features and tools) at some point. Up until now, the option of building in that Sandbox or in CryEngine for that matter (because of the high licensing costs) was not there.

I had a great conversation with Mindark a few weeks ago about building the demo and what options are available to us on the project. Since we have to show funding for the project for at least 18-24 months in order to bind a contract with them and start to development with them, using their CryEngine Sandbox and all the Entropia tools was out of the question. I really have no choice but to build a few scenes on my own. Read my past posts to learn more about the long and twisted journey I, we, the project, took. Now, enter CryEngine 3!

Did you know that since Crytek, the developers of CryEngine, made the CryEngine 3 Sandbox available for download and use for free (for non-commercial use), there have been over 10,000 downloads of the SDK? For you non-techies out there, that means Software Development Kit (SDK). 🙂 I can see why too! The Sandbox SDK is awesome! Of course, as I have said before and in different ways, if I was doing this 4 years ago I would have looked at the CryEngine 3 Sandbox and my eyes would have glassed over. Of course, 4 years ago, it was just CryEngine 1 and 2. But now, after going at this for over 4 years, I can almost say that 80% of the time, I know what I am reading and what I am talking about. Haha, actually, I say that about most things. Seriously though…

I have another of my team members learning CryEngine 3 alongside me and he is also the person I found out about the CryEngine 3 Cookbook from. We’ll see who learns faster and finishes sooner. I am already all the way through Chapter 6 now! 🙂

The first few chapters were about setting up a realistic environment. I spent a lot of time immersed in that and learned a lot. I used the assets (trees, grass and rock models and textures) that came with the Sandbox to build a sample scene. Of course, I had made several attempts at it and then when I finally got everything to work, I had to take it one extra step further. I could not resist playing with the texture settings. I loved playing with the effects and getting the scene to look “just right.” I did get a little frustrated though when I tried to import my own textures using the CryEngine PhotoShop Plugin. For some reason, I just couldn’t get those ones to import and then work (render and appear). They just showed up as dark color. I’ll figure it out though; I promise you. Right now, I will just use the pre-packaged assets and learn how to use the tool.

Cliff Terrain Test

Cliff Terrain Test

CryEngine Sandbox Interface

CryEngine Sandbox Interface

Imagine climbing that cliff-face!!

So far, the first 6 chapters have taken me through setting realistic Time of Day and Light/Fog Effects, creating place-holder objects (for planning the size and shape for an area you plan to put the final object in), creating and exporting layer objects so that artists can work on them, setting up artificial intelligence and mobs, creating custom materials (textures and how they appear and act), and exporting a model created in Autodesk 3dsMax. I even made a really cool night-time scene. Sorry, I didn’t take a picture of that. 🙂 And, that is just up to Chapter 6!

Sunset Test

Near Sunset

In any case, I am going to keep plugging through the book. I believe I am half-way through now. When I am done with it, I can use what I learn from the book and the CryEngine Manual, to jump into building the Base Camp Zone of the Planet Postmoderna demo. With the help with my team, we will have something up soon that will really show off our concept. When that day comes, I’ll have to write a post that shows screens from when we first started and from where we end up. I bet that will be something to look at!

More Forest Scene

More of the forest scene

I can’t wait to get finish this book and get started–no, cooking with CryEngine 3–on the Base Camp Zone scenes (for the sixth time)!