Sunday, 30 April 2017

This Island Apparance

The Story So Far

Exactly one year ago Lionhead Studios closed its doors.  Whilst a sad occasion, this set many people on journeys of opportunity, branching out, putting ideas into action, and creating new things of their own.  For me this was the chance to fully apply myself to fleshing out Apparance.  I knew that I wouldn't have time to finish a game built around it nor would I reach the point of self-sustainability, but there were several key things I could achieve during that time.  First I needed to finish proving some of the core technical premises (predominantly around detail management and scale), I wanted to build a showcase technical demonstration, and also I wanted to collect together all sorts of information about the project into a web-site.  Ten-or-so months later and I have pretty-much achieved this and it's time to take stock of the situation, get it out there, get some feedback, and decide on the next step.

Hobby Mode

It's a lofty goal to build a complete, standalone game engine, especially when there are many off-the-shelf ones available.  There was always a justification for this though in the unique approaches needed to support the various goals; entirely procedural assets, runtime generation, wide detail ranges, visual editing, etc.  Unfortunately financial pressures aren't kind to this sort of academic adventuring and it's not something I can sustain any longer full-time.  I'm now back in paid employment (contracting) so we can pay the bills, which reverts me once more to spare-time development, or 'hobby mode'.
I originally spent a long time in this state, gradually digging away at the project, so I need to adopt a very deliberate and careful route forward as before.  I found being constrained by time focusses your development effort a lot.  Any work has to be the most useful work possible to move the project forward, any detours, diversions, or misjudgements are costly.

This Island Apparance

Given the all-encompassing goals and experimental nature of the project it isn't surprising this has led to an isolated system.  Whilst this has kept dependencies low and the necessary control over the architecture high, it is costly to develop.  I have built an island paradise of procedural generation, rich with potential and enticing to others in an idealistic way.  However, the practical consequence of this is that it is a lot to ask of people to set sail towards for its fertile shores.  To encourage a community to settle around Apparance (and stretch this metaphor further), I really need to build bridges to other more established lands.

Building Bridges

There are several obvious places I could reach out to, each with their own advocates to entice, and communities to tap into.  These are:
  • Commercial engines (Unity, Unreal, …)
  • Assorted 3rd party engines and projects (Irrlicht, OGRE…)
  • Independent developers with own engines
Targeting Unity or Unreal would connect with a lot of people as these are very popular platforms for building games.  Integration into other engines or code-bases would involve similar work and allow anyone to 'bolt on' procedural generation to their project.  The more fully formed and proven game engines are attractive because they can provide the missing parts of Apparance and make it a viable procedural generation platform sooner.
I've long doubted how well 'conventional' game engines would support the novel requirements of Apparance, but over the last month or so I've been thinking about the reality of this.  Rather than just seeing the major objections and sticking points as blockers, I've been trying to consider it as just another set of technical problems that need solving.  I'm sure there are compromises that need to be made, and changes to the way some of the Apparance systems work, but I think there is still a lot of value in attempting this.  Some important opportunities include:
  • Accessibility - proc-gen tools for people within a familiar engine and tool-set
  • Exposure - an opportunity to raise the profile of the project among developers
  • Commercial viability - potentially an opportunity to generate some revenue
  • Modularisation - a useful exercise in tidying up the code-base
  • Expansion - groundwork will make it far easier to then port to other engines
  • Acceleration - This could be a good way to get my first game built more quickly

Where To Start

My personal experience with third-party engines is by far strongest with Unreal, in fact quite a lot of the time I spent building foliage tools for Fable Legends I was working in exactly the areas of the engine I would need to work to incorporate Apparance into it.  Unreal also has a liberal developer model, making all the source code easily accessible.  It makes sense then for this to be my starting point and where I should focus my efforts next.


To create a professional grade integration with Unreal it's important to consider the workflow and user experience of a developer wanting to use procedural techniques.  I would like to consider the following scenarios:
  • Taking a few pre-made procedural assets a dropping them into your game.
  • Building game worlds from lots of pre-made and custom procedural assets.
  • Using procedural assets to create large parts of game environment.
  • Using procedural techniques to place conventional assets.
  • Creating massive continuous expanses of procedural game world.
This means quite a thorough integration is needed to play to both systems strengths.  I will look into this more in a future post.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Project Progress Report

Sorry for the lull, it's been a bit of a mixed-up month and this will be a similarly mixed up blog post.  Having reached the deadline for demo, web site, and release preparations at the end January things have changed pace and direction a little.  I've rolled an Alpha build to a few people, the web-site has gone live, and I've been out job hunting too!


The end of January was my deadline for a number of aspects of the project, and this has meant February has been a bit of a flurry of activity releasing things and talking to lots of people about the project (and work prospects).


As with most things, you never get as much done as you'd like to.  No exception with Future City, but I am mostly happy with how it looks.  It demonstrates the core premises of the project; large environments, varied content, wide-scale parameterisation, high detail, smooth blending, and powerful modelling system.
I'm pleased with how the demo "Future City" has developed
I will continue to develop the city as there are many things I'd like to do with it, but it is also going to be the basis for the first Apparance game.  It will be taking a back seat to other development for now though.

Web Site

The Apparance website, bringing together information about all aspects of the project, is now live at

The new Apparance web-site (procedurally generated too!)

I'm pleased with how it's come out, and the procedural generation aspect is proving very powerful.  A good test of this sort of thing is how easy you find maintenance on returning to it after a while away.  I've extended the site a bit, added new templates and image features with ease.  Updating content is just a question of editing the markdown documents and running the Apparance Processor.  I'm enjoying working with it this way, and looking forward to adding new pages and features as needed.


The 1st of February saw the start of the Alpha release of the project.  The first time anyone has got their hands on Apparance for a couple of years.  It's really been too long coming, but I wanted to get to a particular point and combine it with the website and the city demo.
Apparance editor, currently in (closed) Alpha
It's not a huge audience, and only some of my more technical friends, but I've been getting some solid feedback.  Plenty to go on and lots to talk about.  I've been working a bit of it back into the editor, and site, ready for the closed beta due to start in a few days.  The beta is a larger group, and taken from a wider circle of acquaintances (mostly via Twitter).  This group contains a higher concentration of people who are specifically interested in procedural generation, and should provide a deeper level of feedback.  I can't wait to hear how you folks get on.


So, where does this find us now?


The current set of goals, largely based around proving the more unique aspects of the project, has been proven (in my eyes at least).  Now I have people starting to experiment with, and explore the tools I have a source of objective information to use to potentially steer and drive the project.  I'd like to see a variety of outcomes from the project, but now is time to discuss these and investigate the options.


As an authoring tool, and one with some pretty unusual concepts to learn, support for Apparance users is going to be important at this stage.  This is especially true if I want to nurture a community and have people join me in this adventure.  Documentation, tutorials, and two-way communication are all important parts of this, and typically under provided so I need to be careful to keep feeding this.  I've been asked for a variety of support, from examples, tutorials, videos, features, and improved documentation.


Apparance is a realisation of my vision for building games, and as such needs to continue to move towards an actual game.  I need to show that this is viable, and with the ambitious technical goals too.  I have some exciting game ideas brewing at the moment (several sleepless nights spent designing game-play and story).  Unfortunately, the next step with regard to games (entities, behaviours, and interaction) is quite a hefty piece of work.  This is going to need to be spread out.


I have also begun thinking about the more practical aspects of the project, and other ways the technology could be used.  By creating additional types of product out of the engine and tools it might provide a way to broaden the potential audience (and hence market) and provide a model to generate revenue that isn't game based.  Yes, I am actually considering how Apparance could be modularised so that elements of the technology could be plugged or integrated into other engines, including Unity and Unreal.  I know I haven't been supportive of this approach, but economic pressures do make you think about your options, and there might be ways to do this without compromising the vision of the project.  Again though, this isn't an insignificant amount of work, and requiring a lot of research and ongoing development and then support.


I've really enjoyed the luxury of working full-time on Apparance for (nearly) the past year, but financial pressures are starting to rear their head.  I don't believe I am in a position to pitch what I have technology-wise, and certainly not game-wise, to a third party for funding.  There is too much still to do and I don't have the resources to continue full-time.  As a result I am in the process of negotiating a more traditional source of income so I can continue to support my family properly.
Apparance is most definitely up and running and I'm pleased with what I have achieved so far.  I will continue to support the alpha/beta, blog about the project, work on updates, and start on some of the bigger features over the coming months, but in my spare time (again).
Thank-you for sailing with me through this exciting year of Apparance development.  I look forward to seeing where the wind blows us over the next year.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Future City: Update 11 - Block Interfacing

Progress on Future City has been slowed by web-site and release preparation work at the moment.  I've split my time about 2:2:1 between Web site, Future City, and Alpha Release preparations.
January push towards Web Site, City demo, and Alpha Release.
This split in attention as well as the pressure of the approaching alpha release means blog posts have been slower forming.  Let's just squeeze out a quick update on the Future City progress...

Future City

At the moment I've been focusing on the support of variable elevation across the city, with each city block having its own height.
Example of blocks with shared connectivity but height discontinuities
This feature results in rather complicated requirements at the interfaces between blocks as well as complicating the process of sub-dividing up the space within them.  As such, it's been quite slow progress working out (a) exactly what is required, (b) how to perform this, and (c) how to implement this.


Based on the previous connectivity work which sub-divided the city up into districts/zones and finally blocks, we have already decided on what the connectivity between each block looks like.
Now we need to decide on what the content of the block should be such that it is possible to guarantee that adjacent, separately generated content aligns properly, functions as a seamless transition, and looks plausible.


We have the following information about each block boundary:
  • Block location/bounds/size.
  • Access along each side (left/right of opening within any barrier present).
  • Follow the underlying landscape shape, or both share flat ground level at a given height.
  • Connectivity via each side (to the outer most city sides).
  • Variation seed to drive arbitrary design decisions.


From this we need to populate the block with rectangular sub regions.  The main problem we are trying to solve here is to transition from a boundary with zero, one, or two accessibility transitions along each side into spaces for content to go that all have single accessibility along each side, these being simpler requirements to satisfy.  Thus the outputs are of the form of Content Spaces with the following properties:
  • Bounds size, orientation and location
  • Surface height within the space (or if we are to follow the landscape)
  • Is it an interfacing piece, i.e. responsible for handling transition to neighbouring block interface? (Edge - one interface along block boundary, Corner - two interfaces along block boundary, Side - three interfaces along block boundary)
  • If not an interface, then an interior piece, with same type all round (flat or landscape)
  • For each boundary interface: Specific flat elevation or landscape following. Do we 'own' this side (are responsible for interfacing geometry). Is this a barrier, i.e. will access be blocked? Is there a barrier to the left/right that we may need to provide transition geometry for?

Test Rig

Since there are a lot of combinations to test in forming this system it is worth generating a set of 'unit tests' with clear visualisation of the inputs and outputs.  By creating a hierarchy of test procedures we can quickly generate tests for all the major side and access combinations.
  • Ownership - all, none, adjacent, opposite
  • Surfaces - all landscape, all flat, mixture
  • Access - Closed corners, all open, all closed (bar one), some on left, some narrow, mixture
Unit tests for a lot of the block interfacing cases
For cases where a specific issue is being resolved there is the option to switch out all but one test scenario.
Example test rig showing corner results produced


I spent a lot of time in Excel playing with block boundary examples and possible approaches.
Playing with block algorithm ideas in Excel
From this I've come up with a lot of ideas, but they seem to be heading towards this sequence of calculations:
First pass at the content space and interfacing algorithm
There are bound to be some changes as implementation proceeds, but this is a good starting point.


Structured Data

The amount of structured information and variability in generated output finally became too much and I had to stop to add some functionality to help support this.  Previously where several properties about a single thing needed to be conveyed through several procedures it had to be passed individually, and explicitly.  This leads to this specific flavour of spaghetti:
A specific flavour of spaghetti: arrays of connections
The algorithms that were forming to perform the interfacing and content-space generation were heading towards an awful lot of this.  From the requirement analysis above we can see each block has at least seven properties that go together, and each potential output content space has at least six.
Traditionally these would be encapsulated in structures, where a single type is used to express an explicit collection of typed data.  This is something that Apparance will natively support in the future, but it's quite a lot of work, especially on the tooling side where composition/decomposition of structures needs to be handled elegantly.

Variable Quantities

Another aspect of the block interfacing implementation problem is that there are several places where we need to pass a variable number of structures.  At the moment there is no concept of this and we would have to pass a fixed (maximum) number of structures (as individual properties) along with an additional flag expressing whether it was in use.  This forms a very, very unwieldy situation where all sorts of operations, such as combining two variable sized collections, become incredibly complicated, expensive and error prone.  We really need some form of list or array to handle this.


Both these prospects are really going to cause too much of a headache to work on the already complex problem, so we need support to help this.
Looking at other language for inspiration, we find that both these problems can be addressed by using lists of dynamically typed objects.  If a list happens to contain all the same type, then it is effectively a traditional list or array, i.e. a variable sized collection.  If a list happens to contain a fixed number, of different typed elements then it can be used as a structure.  Adding support for lists as just another base data-type to Apparance is fairly straight-forward and then means we can have lists of lists, or put another way, lists of structures.


The List data type was added along with an initial set of basic operators to support what we would need, as follows:
  • Append - take a list and add another element (any type).
  • Get - index a list, returning the element value (any type).
  • Set - replace a value at a specific index with a new value (any type).
  • Count - query how many elements are in the list.
Part of the implementation that took a bit of effort was that I wanted type information to be maintained with them as the lists are constructed.  With this, a lot of validation can be performed during synthesis that would catch problems that would otherwise be very difficult to diagnose and have potential to crash the engine.
Whilst a bit tricky to implement, lists are proving very useful so far and make a lot of the block interfacing problem much more pleasant to work with.
Passing structures and collections around as lists
I am even now using them in the web site building procedures for all sorts of things.


I'm about half way through the Block Boundary -to- Content Space processing system and have promising results so far.
Some of the content space generation results so far

I'll post more results as I progress.  In the mean-time I have an Alpha Release to get out!

Monday, 16 January 2017

Procedural Website? - Part 2


In Part 1 we proposed using Apparance as a text processor and tool automation controller to build our web-site.  So, how exactly would we go building about this?
The Apparance web site prototype.

Page Structure

Browsing a few basic web tutorials on how to set up a fairly standard CSS styled HTML page we are looking at this:
  1. Title banner and logo
  2. Site navigation bar
  3. Page content, different for each page
  4. Footer with a few common links and note.
We can encapsulate the shared and custom element construction in a top-level page procedure.  This wraps a procedure for emitting the standard HTML page sections and any extra bits all pages need (metadata, etc).  This is the point that the CSS for the page and the body HTML are passed in as parameters.
The top-level page generation procedures.
This provides a single procedure that can be re-used on each site page, with the page specifics and customisations passed in as parameters.  For example, here it is used on the homepage.
All that is needed for a top level, text content based page.
All that is needed for a page like this is the content source and a couple of constant values.


I wanted the title to use the Apparance logo, and have a background that hinted at both what you can make with Apparance, and how you make it.  This is a combination of background image banner and centred logo.
Title banner background (transparency shown as checker-board)
Title logo (transparency shown as checker-board)
Both of these are images that are prepared by hand (at the moment) and just need to be copied across if they are updated or missing, this is handled by the Image Fetch procedure (see below).
Header background (CSS) and logo (HTML) generating procedures
There is a bit of styling to apply the background, and the logo is an image HTML element over the top.


The navigation bar should be a simple row of buttons with hover highlighting and current page indication.  These provide the top-level site choices, the leftmost one being the main homepage and site entry-point.
The main navigation bar.  Current tab and hover highlighting shown.
To do this properly, the idea is to have the items expressed in a simple a way as possible in the HTML and leave the funky appearance to the CSS.  The best of conventional wisdom points at using an un-ordered list (UL tag) with list items (LI tag) for each menu option.  With the appropriate tagging, this can then be 'skinned' into a row of buttons using only CSS.
Again, this can be a single procedure that gets re-used on each page.  In fact, some of the pages will require a second row of buttons to navigate sub-pages (too many pages to have them all in one row).  We can build this procedure (and the CSS) to support this.
The bar and button creation procedures.
The CSS generation procedure for the navigation bar and buttons.
The procedure to generate the CSS is designed to be applied twice, with the menu level as a parameter.  This allows the styling to be slightly different and provide a raked appearance to the menus as they transition into each other and the page content.
Example of a double level navigation bar.
To get the to show the correct selected page in each place it's used, the page it is on is passed as a parameter which causes that button to have the selection highlight styling applied.


The page footer is very simple, just a few links and some text.
Simple page footer
It is included in the general page procedure as it appears at the foot of every page.
Common footer procedure and where it fits in.
We may need to include some customisation later so that when on pages it actually links to, those links are disabled (for neatness).  There are other cool things we could do with the footer later I'm sure.



The main part of every page is the content and comes, for most of them, from external markdown files.  This allows the content to be written in a form that can be transformed into HTML as well as other forms if we need (see later).  Here is an example of what the content looks like in raw markdown and on the actual page.
Markdown source document compared to resulting HTML page output.


Some pages warrant custom generation and rely on special procedures to generate their content.  A good example of this is with the online user documentation pages I want to include.  Here, instead of hand-writing simple textual descriptions to appear on the Operators manual page, we can build it automatically from the operator definitions that the editor already dumps out on start-up (a simple form of user doc that was added ages ago).  This is in the following form:
Source operator description format generated by the editor
By loading this in with the file read operator, applying some recursive scanning of the content (using find and split operators to parse each section), we can generate web page content for it.  With some HTML table and a sprinkle of CSS magic we can generate fairly good facsimiles of the actual operators in the editor.
Resulting operator documentation example
These have hover-tips for extra detail where available, such as the internal operator name and the IO connection descriptions.  There is also a summary section that appears at the top of the page with links to each section.
Summary section for the operator documentation

Code Generation

The page construction process is broken down into various modular parts, split between the HTML generation and the CSS generation as well as being split into generic (re-usable) operations and ones specific to our site or page.
I've found that by wrapping even the simplest tags with procedures, it keeps the graphs readable, and also allows for site-wide fixes and additions to any of the HTML or CSS constructs.
It's even worth wrapping the simplest of tags.
Most code output (CSS or HTML) is actually just text string concatenation, for example, the heading tag just prepends the opening tag and appends the closing tag:
The heading procedure, parameterised by level (and ID)


A library of HTML element procedures and CSS constructs have been accumulated as the site constructed.
Reusable HTML and CSS procedures
The HTML ones are mainly for the tag types that can be used, with a few attribute types to help build them.  The CSS ones are containers for the styling of each section, and a load of property helpers.  Here you can see them in use on the common content styling:
CSS property helpers in use 


Some of the re-usable building blocks, specifically for handling files are described in more detail here.

Image Fetch

Using the new file operators, the paths can be prepared, the timestamps checked, and the copy performed if required.  On success we pass out the relative path to the image file, ready for use in the HTML or CSS code.
Image fetching procedures.

Document Read

The markdown documents are read in by invoking Pandoc with the source file as a parameter and accumulating the text output by it to the console stream.  If the return value indicates an error we report a suitable error message.
Document reading and processing procedures.
Some additional document processing is done here to achieve two things:
  1. Image tags are parsed and used to drive image thumbnail generation, propagate the main file, and replace the image element with the thumbnail and a link to the full image.
  2. Lists have a little bit of formatting added to turn "Title - Description…" into "Title - Description…" to make the headings stand out a bit more.  This is styled and can be updated globally.

Thumbnail Generation

Where image tags are included in any content the processing step applied on load (if enabled) generates the thumbnail automatically.  There are a number of things going on here.
Processing of all image tags in the document using recursion
  1. The document is searched (using recursion) for all image tags.
  2. The tag is parsed and broken open into its constituants.
  3. The image file is located and propagated to the output folder.
  4. A name for the thumbnail is generated based on the image name.
  5. A thumbnail version of the image is generated in the output folder (using Image Magick).
  6. A new image tag is constructed (around the thumbnail file).
  7. The image tag is wrapped in a hyperlink tag pointing at the full image.
  8. The document around the image tag is re-combined.

There is a lot going on here, but it can all be laid out nicely and the flow of information is clear from the procedure construction.

Viewing the Results

Now we have this all up and running, as changes are made to the procedures the top-level page procedure we are 'viewing' is re-built for us.  This is an HTML page with the required images nearby that can readily be viewed in a browser.

Live Page

One additional requirement to be able to see changes in real-time is for us to get the browser to refresh as pages change.  This could be done with the auto-refresh timer you can add to a web page, but this is rather crude as it will a) be updating all the time, and b) have to be doing so rapidly to get a decent response time to changes.
A bit of digging turned up a lovely little Chrome extension called LivePage.  After setting a few options up, you can click on the icon alongside any page and have it watch the source file for changes.  On detecting one the page is reloaded.
LivePage browser extension in Chrome
It is proving really good for working interactively and has options to track changes to HTML, embedded CSS, and even source image files (experimental, but seems good).


By adding a quick directory watcher feature into the editor I was able to also have generation happen when the source content (markdown) documents or source images changed.  This nicely rounded off the editing experience.

Interaction Examples

The best way to see all this working together is a video, so here you are.

So far this has been a really fun way to develop the web site, and I'm certainly going to continue along this vein.  I hope you liked this slightly tangential application of the technology, I expect there will be more of this sort of thing in the future.


Next time I should be ready to give you an update on height work on Future City and a long overdue engine feature I added to help support it.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Procedural Website? - Part 1

Web Site Needed

Apparance is at the stage now where it needs a proper web-site to bring together all the information accumulating around the project and provide a hub for people to find out all about it.  It's going to need all the usual stuff; summary pages, a gallery, detailed project information, feature lists, technical information, contact information, blog, documentation, and contact information.  Something like this:
A prototype Apparance homepage.
There are many ways to approach creating a web site.  It could be out-sourced, built using an online web-site maker, using offline tools, crafting from the many kits and examples available, or writing it all by hand in notepad.
Not having huge resources available and having hand crafted a few pages in my time I figured it would be best, at least in the short term to code it up myself.  So, given that I'm 'living and breathing procedural' right now, is there any reason not to try and do this procedurally, with Apparance?
I can't see anyone else making websites procedurally!  Am I crazy?


I'm not familiar with all that is trendy in web development and I'd like to keep things simple so I'm thinking static HTML pages with CSS styling.  I'd like to be able to author page content in some sort of simple format and not have to be editing html or using any web design tools to make changes.  Any image manipulation should preferably be handled automatically or with little interaction. Given this, some process will be needed to effectively compile the content, images, structure, and styling together into each page.


Content Processing

Simple format text files with basic formatting information you say?  Sounds like mark-down to me.  A bit of digging found a rather impressive command line utility called Pandoc which actually will convert a plethora of document formats.  By default though passing in simple markdown text it will spit out an HTML fragment.
Pandoc, by default converts markdown into HTML
Perfect for injecting into the structure needed around it to form a complete page.

Image Processing

The most common need for image preparation on a web page has to be scaling to generate thumbnail previews, something we're going to need to show off all the visual goodness of Apparance.  A well know tool that handles this adequately is Image Magick.  Again a command line tools with a huge number of features and functions, it comes with an command specifically designed for generating thumbnails.
Image Magick, great for quickly handling thumbnail generation
Perfect to add to the arsenal of tools for building my pages.


Now to the question of automation; how best to take all this and build pages out of it?  Let's look at the requirements.
  1. Generate the common page HTML and CSS according to the page design.
  2. Launch Pandoc to turn the page content into HTML.
  3. Launch Image Magick to generate thumbnails for the images.
  4. Combine the HTML into pages.
  5. Assemble it all in a suitable file/folder structure for serving as a web-site.

Doing it wrong

There are existing static web page compilers available (e.g. Hugo) I could use.  I could write a program to do it, or come up with something in python or similar scripting languages.  But thinking about Apparance and some of the philosophies behind it I realised that these approaches went against it on several levels.
First, there was the baking process, the page needed to be compiled before it could be viewed.  Now, whilst any process of assembling a page requires time to complete, with scripts and command line tools there are still several steps involved in getting from making a change to seeing the results.  You lose the immediacy of a truly interactive editing experience.
Second, committing anything to script or code goes against the data-driven approach, and again, you lose the direct connection between your design and the results.

We've seen this before

Having already worked on interactive editing and text based processing with the material and shader system in Apparance it seemed like a similar approach could be applied here.  Why not use procedures in Apparance to handle the HTML composition, the control of command line utilities, and the manipulation of files and the directory structure?  It would mean any part of the web-site could be editing and you would get to see the results in real-time!  This was clearly the path to follow.

And So; To Procedural

A few things would be needed to be added to Apparance's capabilities for us to be able to support this though:
  1. Extra string handling functions - we are going to be doing more fancy things than we did with shader building.
  2. File handling operations - we are actually going outside the application, to work with files.
  3. An operator for spawning processes and collecting their output - to allow us to use other tools to do our bidding.
With all this in place, we are in a position to start building the site by creating procedures and letting Apparance do the work.  Next time we'll have a look at how this went and what it's like to work with.  Here's a sneak peek at the editor with the procedure for writing out the HTML pages.
Procedure to write out an HTML page

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Future City: Update 10 - Progress Gallery

Not many words today, just a quick rundown of the new and improved aspects of the city.


A quick space-port/airport cobbled together from other city parts to just get rid of the last placeholder zones.
First pass aerospace district, the black will be landing areas for ships.


Time for some low level detailing, quickly knocked up and assembled a variety of simple small-scale park features; benches, bins, flowerbeds, huts, and a stepped plinth.  I even added a simple tree model that can be refined later.
Parks and recreation, now with 'furniture'
More green space in our cities

City Green Spaces

Plugging the park 'furniture' into the business district open spaces instantly improved the sense of scale.
Business district park areas, a nice spot for lunch
Adding a sense of scale to the large skyscrapers


My multi-celled apartment complexes and various street/terrace configurations lends to a nice residential area feel.
Residential areas, lots of apartments, terraces, and streets
Example street layout, with variable back-yard spaces

Detail Boost

Some time spent tweaking parameters and diagnosing detail problems has seen a nice boost in detail levels, meaning we can start to see the promise of the system even more.
Overview of various city zone types, now in even more detail
10 kilometres of city in view from on high


Now I'm finally going to get on to height variation and simple terrain modelling for the surroundings and green areas of the city…