Creating custom fish species

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Creating custom fish species

Postby paul » Sat Nov 03, 2007 5:00 pm

Several people who are working with the Outing Creation Kit want to add new fish species as well. It's entirely possible, but I'll have some work to do to make that more straightforward. Here's the basics of how fish species are created for RWFF:

In the "fish" folder, each species has a subfolder. Suppose we were adding coho salmon. We'd create a folder called CohoSalmon. In it we'd need a fish.def file (different from those used in outings) that tells the game what the fish are called and what images to use to represent them. The game normally uses 36 prerendered 3D images of each species to show them facing any direction to within 10 degrees. The fish.def file includes parameters that say what images represent the fish facing each angle. The fish are also posed with a curve, so they can be animated finning their tails from side to side. If the fish are capable of jumping then there's a similar set of images with the fish in a jumping pose, seen from various angles.

Also the file contains a list of pictures to show when someone catches a fish, and the size of the fish in each picture. Suppose you catch a 25 inch coho salmon. The game would find the picture showing a coho closest to 25 inches. If there's more than one that are equally appropriate, it picks one at random. Of course it helps to have lots of photos of each species so you don't see the same ones too often. For brown trout there are over 100 photos of caught fish.

Coming up with the images of caught fish can be a challenge. Even if I'm fishing for fun and not really out to shoot pictures, I carry a decent quality pocket sized digital camera and take several close-ups of almost everything I catch. I'm not above asking other fisherman to let me photograph their catches either. For a different game I spent days on the water having arranged with the state's fish survey crews to follow them around and photograph what they catch by electrofishing and netting. They took their measurements, passed the fish in a bucket from their boat to mine, I photographed them and then released them. I forced my boat into places it was never intended to go in order to follow the fish survey crew.

Of course with a worldwide community of contributors, we should be able to come up with lots of photos of any fish you can think of. 8)

Then there's the process of building the 3D images of the fish that you see while you're fishing in the game. I wrote a custom 3D modeling and rendering program just for creating those images. User friendly? Couldn't be less so. Various keys add points to the frame defining a fin, or zoom or rotate the image or toggle other tools or options. Hit the wrong key and you can corrupt your model. But then the outing tool was a collection of several command line programs and scripts until recently, and there's no reason I couldn't make the fish modeler a whole lot easier to use. In fact I think it will be pretty simple to use once the user interface is overhauled, and a few of the more tricky steps are automated. It will take at least a couple of days work, but there's clearly enough interest in adding new fish to make it worthwhile.

Just as I'm really excited to see all the outings all of you can come up with, from all over the world, the ability to add new species will be really exciting. Maybe in the coming year we'll be fishing for bonefish in saltwater flats, grayling in Austria, king salmon in Oregon, you name it.

Stay tuned for updates...

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Postby Cutch » Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:51 pm

Man, I can hardly wait! Stripers are really a challenge on a fly too, especially big ones. :wink:
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