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Taming Project Cerberus: Anatomy of a VOX

Taming Project Cerberus: Anatomy of a VOX

Greetings, Ladies and Gentlemen! Allow me to properly introduce myself. I’m Pixelworth, your servant for all matters VOX.

If I may, I would like to share with you the most formidable obstacle with which the VOX team has grappled. The integration of 35,552 uniquely crafted VOX into our game, each as playable as the next, has proven my creators’ most formidable challenge. In customary gaming designs, one might find a modest selection of playable characters, or perhaps a complex system that allows for the meticulous crafting of features like a character’s stature, skeletal structure, cosmetics, and more.

But VOX, I must confess, are quite extraordinary creatures. Indeed, while each has bones and an .FBX model, they are not prepared for the rigors of a robust game universe… yet. I shall elaborate on this matter shortly.

Furthermore, my creators have encountered a rather peculiar conundrum: If our game’s universe is tailored to accommodate beings of human proportions, what is to be done with the likes of dragons, quadrupeds, cranes, and serpents? In a more traditional setting, such entities would scarcely be given a second thought for active participation. Nevertheless, we have given our word, and by jove, we shall uphold it! The VOX shall take their rightful place in the game, come what may. 

Thank you for that introduction Pixelworth. Well spoken, and I hope we pass the audition. 

An Original VOX 

Our little friends are created in a magical laboratory. I’m sticking with that as the absolute truth. It’s what Future Boy told me. The problem with that lab was the original VOX were not created with games in mind. This is a bummer since we all know the VOX want to play. They need to play. But, to get there we had some issues to solve:

  • Poly counts for each VOX were astonishingly high
  • The skeleton structure was very basic
  • Size and shape
  • Wrong format 

These main issues made grabbing a VOX and throwing it in a game engine a suboptimal solution. To be fair, you can grab a VOX FBX, throw it into Unity and get it to work just fine, but the problems start when there are ten VOX on a screen. And if ten are a problem, what about twenty? One hundred? And this goes with all the VOX objects created in the ‘before times’. 

Taking a VOX Through the Process

The fundamental problem is this: In a game engine if I make a cube, it will have six sides only with nothing inside. The game engine only cares about the outside of the cube. So it’s eight vertices that need attention, practically free from a rendering point of view in any modern game engine. Well, with VOX and the way they were created, a cube is not just a cube. It’s made up of a bunch of little cubes, and all through the model. So eight vertices, right? No, thousands, and with materials on each of those individual cubes, you can see how quickly things become non-performant in a game. 

So we needed a way to fix this. Cull all unnecessary data from each VOX to reduce file size and at the same time regenerate the geometry so that it looks like the original. 

I’ll let BigMonet explain how the GeoProcessor Tool works. 

  1. Ingest an existing VOX .fbx file
  2. Scale input geometry to a specific scale.
    1. This ended up being a big deal because of the way the VOX were made. The more detail the bigger they get. We needed our VOX friends to follow rigid sizing for game reasons. 
  3. Delete unnecessary attributes inside the imported geometry file
    1. This step greatly reduces the file size of the exported .fbx file
    2. This step also reduces the time the tool takes to cook the outputs
  4. Clean up bad geometry
    1. Remove faces and edges with 0 length
    2. Fix overlapping geometry 
    3. Repair non-manifold geometry
    4. Fuse together unwelded verts
    5. Remove points not connected to any adjacent faces
    6. Flip all normal vectors outwards
  5. Target polygon reduction of 95%
    1. The target reduction is very aggressive.
    2. Constraints are used to ensure border edges are never changed.
    3. The aggressive target reduction + constraints ensure the geometry reduces as much as possible without changing the shape of the original model. Thus, the model will appear unchanged! 
  6. Layouts non-overlapping UVs
    1. UV coverage is greatly influenced by the padding of the UV shells.
    2. Larger padding might be required for smaller textures to prevent textures bleeding from one shell to adjacent shells.
  7. Cleanup of attributes
    1. Attributes created for the GeoProcessor tool are removed from the final output..
    2. Normals are applied to geometry faces.
  8. Texture Baking + Outputs
    1. The materials colors on the original VOX are baked into a texture and applied to the optimized mesh.
    2. Texture outputs are saved to disk.
    3. Optimized geometry is saved to disk.

For each vox, this process took about 15-30 seconds and for all 35,552 VOX the total time to process them using this tool took about 72 hours. 

The geometry and materials are all figured out. But these bones. For our intrepid animator these bones didn’t allow him to do cool stuff. We also wanted the ability to resize large or small sized humanoids to use the same rig for animation without looking whacky. 

This is where the ‘Skeletorr’ tool made by Reynarzz for Maya comes in.

This tool not only takes the VOX with the old bones and updates them to the skeletons we can use, but also takes an animation in .FBX format and converts it for the small, medium and large VOX. This saves a lot of time for our animators, since they’ll only have to do the animation once and the tool will make it compatible with the other types of skeletons.

Here is a step by step:

Rigging:

  • Load the T-pose of a model we want to use as a target and export this information as a .TPR file (we are using three types of models: Small, medium, and large, but we can use more if we want).
  • Use the information from the loaded T-pose (.TPR) to apply this pose to models that meet parameters such as size and body proportions.

Animation retarget:

  • Select the animations in .FBX format that we want to retarget and choose which T-pose they belong to by loading the .TPR file. This will convert the .FBX animations into intermediate .ANR format (animation reference), which will be used to retarget others types of skeletons (small, medium or large).
  • Go to the “Retarget Animations” window, select the target skeletons on which we want the animations to work. We select the animations in .ANR format and the tool will take care of the process of calculating where each bone of the target skeleton goes, depending on each frame of the animation.

The End result is…

Quadrupeds, Dragons and Snakes… Oh My!  

The last part we needed to figure out is the around 200+ non-standard VOX out there (quadrupeds and dragons for example). 

For this example we will use CraneBot. Obviously a Crane is huge, so fitting through doors and doing things like other VOX becomes either impossible, or very time consuming development-wise. Figuring out a full rig and a full gameplay-ready set of animation is all about figuring out the size. But we have a promise to keep. All VOX are playable.

We tried to do a resize, but that didn’t solve the problem of unique bones and animations for almost 300 VOX– too many for our team to upkeep as new playables complete with animations.

We considered that maybe these VOX were just “pets,” or useless the same way as the Gonk Droid was in the Lego Star Wars games. We didn’t like that either. 

Look at that useless Gonk!

So we made biped versions for all the problematic VOX… 

This is our solution to CraneBot 

Now in Project Cerberus (and any VOX game going forward), we can look at a wallet, make a call to the api and pull the correct owned VOX. For a problem that started with a few of us crying under our desks, to the elegant wizardry of our Tech Art and Engineering teams pulling off this miracle is frankly quite impressive.

Going forward we know the technical specs we want for VOX and VOX assets, so anything new we make shouldn’t need to go through all these processes to be game ready. It’s also pretty awesome that we have the VOX in a place where using them all across the Gala ecosystem should be much easier. You can bet that VOX will show up in another Gala experience real soon.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you again soon for more exciting angular updates from Project Cerberus, VOX and beyond!

GALAthon: Post-Hackathon Recap

GALAthon: Post-Hackathon Recap

Last week’s hackathon brought a wave of new innovation to GalaChain! We saw new tools and platforms come to life before our very eyes. Thank you to everyone who participated and to everyone who followed along with the development frenzy!

We’re already starting to think about future developments on GalaChain based on some of the major innovations from this event! Before we leave the GalaChain Hackathon in the past, however, we wanted to just recap some of the biggest developments from the event!

Big Names, Big Prizes

As you may have noticed over the past few weeks, we had some big names show up to help judge entries from the Hackathon!

Judge’s carousel

While our chain team and the judges are still deliberating over category prizes for the entire hackathon, the Judge’s Choice Awards for in-person participants has already made some GalaChain hackers into big winners!

Caption: (Left to Right): Jason Brink, Team NFTD, Team NoREST, Team Corgi AI3D Forever (+ data dog)

The winners of the in-person Judges’ Choice Awards took home a combined $450,000 prize pool! The awards are far from over though, as more than $500k of prizes will soon be awarded for the rest of the general category winners!

Congratulations to the winners of The Judges’ Choice awards… and a special thanks to all the judges who joined us for this major development event!

Caption: Check out the presentation for the first place Judges’ Choice – NFTD!

Innovation on Chain

Each of the three teams picked by the judges contributed massively to GalaChain, but that only scratches the surface of what came out of this hackathon!

Those in-person represented just a portion of total participants, and there were projects that we haven’t even touched on yet diligently coding away through the 24-hours. We want to give each of those projects a chance to get the attention they deserve. Expect us to be talking more about individual efforts in the near future after our chain team has had time to appreciate the nuance of each project.

Open source development isn’t just a sprint and then done. Everything that is crafted on chain creates more tools and opens the floodgates for better and better innovations. 

Those gates are open on GalaChain, and this is just the first trickle of the torrent to come.

Thanks for Joining Us!

Whether you were laboriously swatting bugs and troubleshooting code all night along with us or you were at home just following along on Discord or our livestreams… thank you!
The GalaChain Hackathon is about creating a better ecosystem for our community, and not only the techies among us benefit from that. Your comments, suggestions, support and excitement are a vital part of this process. Even if you’re not actively building on GalaChain, GalaChain is building for you!

GALAthon: Revealing the Judges’ Favorites

GALAthon: Revealing the Judges’ Favorites

GALAthon has finally come to its close, but the innovations it spawned will continue to incubate and grow in the minds of their creators. For the past 24 hours, this event was the talk of the cryptosphere, presenting GalaChain to the world as a petri dish of innovation, collaboration, and groundbreaking developments in the blockchain world.

Before we all rest for a long nap, it’s time to ease the anticipation of the entire web3 ecosystem with the eagerly awaited announcement of our “Judges’ Favorites” winners.

A Showcase of Pioneering Talent

GALAthon brought together some of the brightest minds in the industry, giving hackers a chance to demonstrate their web3 prowess, game development and digital artistry. The diversity of projects submitted has been nothing short of remarkable, reflecting the vast potential and dynamic nature of the web.

The Role of Our Esteemed Judges

Our panel of judges has had the challenging task of evaluating these innovative projects. Their expertise and insights have been instrumental in identifying entries that not only showcase technical excellence but also embody the spirit of innovation and community engagement.

The Judges’ Favorites

The “Judges’ Favorites” segment of the GalaChain Hackathon is a much-anticipated moment, where each judge selects a project that resonates with them on a personal or professional level. These picks are not just endorsements of the projects’ current achievements but also a nod to their potential impact on the future of gaming, entertainment, and blockchain utility.

Without further preamble, let’s get into the Judges’ Favorites.

Left to right: Jason Brink, NFTD team, Team NoRest, Team Corgi AI3D Forever

3) Corgi AI3D Forever

With generative AI hot in the news, we were extraordinarily pleased to see an onsite entry with such promise that focused on generative AI using GalaChain.

This team successfully created the world’s first AI3D x LLM “AI Virtual Human” to be minted on a blockchain, and GalaChain is proud to have been that blockchain.

Basically, AI3D is a plan for a system that allows users to create and configure a 3D person that will “live forever on GalaChain.” Primary characteristics and programming for your AI can actually be stored on GalaChain with UUID (Universally Unique Identifiers), ensuring the permanence (immortality) of your AI companion.

AI3D essentially bridges the gap between Large Language Models and the blockchain ledger, allowing users to input commands and iterations for their AI that are digested and remembered by the blockchain.

While we don’t have much to share, hopefully we will see a lot more from this San Francisco based development team, pushing the limits and possibilities of generative AI in blockchain tech. Well done!

2) Team NoRest: RESTful API for GalaChain

Team NoRest clinches second place by introducing a transformative RESTful API for GalaChain. This open-source project simplifies interactions with GalaChain, offering functionalities like token balance checks, token grants and automatic minting on startup. Designed to make blockchain more accessible, Team NoRest’s API lowers barriers for developers eager to explore GalaChain’s capabilities.

Key Features and Future Vision: Beyond its current offerings, Team NoRest outlines future enhancements including user registration for custodial wallets and extended token contract functionalities. Their focus on ease of use, with a “Plug n’ Play” approach, promises a user-friendly ecosystem that invites more developers to innovate on GalaChain.

Team NoRest’s project is a notable step towards bridging traditional web technologies with the blockchain, significantly expanding GalaChain’s potential applications. Congratulations to Team NoRest for their pioneering work and for setting new standards in blockchain accessibility and developer engagement!

1) NFTD

The overall Judges’ Favorite winner is a gaming project built by well-known members of the Gala community, collectors of Gala Games NFTs from way back.

Beautifully demonstrating interoperability with existing GalaChain NFTs, the team created a fully playable alpha playtest build for their aptly named game, Non-Fungible Tower Defence.

In addition to designing and GalaChain integrating a well planned and brilliantly executed playable project, this team presented a comprehensive and transparent slideshow presentation, complete with animated slides and aesthetic appeal. To learn more about Non-Fungible Tower Defence, check out their presentation HERE.

Incredible job to Deadily, Timboslice and Cryptograham for an extraordinary effort at GALAthon. Thanks for participating, and we hope the prize will empower your team to greater heights and innovations in web3 than you imagined!

After closing this important chapter of Gala history, we reflect on the incredible journey of discovery, growth and innovation that this event represents. GALAthon may be over, but the ripple effects of the projects showcased and the connections formed will be felt long into the future. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to all participants and a special word of thanks to our judges, whose contributions have been invaluable.

Announcements about additional winners as outlined in this blog will come within the next couple weeks, as the GalaChain team has time to examine and evaluate the multitude of remote entries.

Thanks for your participation! Let’s do it again soon.

A New VOX Era | Announcing Project Cerberus

A New VOX Era | Announcing Project Cerberus

We have seen some things in the past 6 months.

With all the GalaChain excitement, there was a moment to reevaluate the franchise.

The concept of building a giant Metaverse MMO was just not realistic for the team size or experience, so in the interest of delivering something the community can enjoy sooner than later, we decided to go smaller. Our journey to the VOXVerse will now begin with a mobile title. A ton of the same systems that we were planning for the MMO over time will still exist, such as resource gathering, crafting and world creation with self-expression.  Most importantly, VOX will still involve the crucial social interactive elements our community craves.

VOX Populi

We love hanging out with the VOX. They just have great game presence. Every time we put them in the engine, their movement and personality just comes out easily (It might just be that our animator is super talented, but I like to think they are alive—like Tron). Be it The Walking Dead VOX, Mirandus VOX or any others, they all work inside the framework we are building for them to live and explore. What we have discovered in pre-production as we played around with 1000 ideas is that VOX can do anything. They fit in every game genre that we could think of, bringing their own flavor and flair.

Project Cerberus

A mysterious thing of beauty awaits…

Our first game doesn’t even have an official name yet. StuckPixel, our Engineering Director, likes to go with Greek mythology names. We canceled Project Plutus at the end of last year, and now the vision has morphed into Cerberus, the giant 3 headed dog. While our Cerberus isn’t guarding the entrance to the underworld, it does have three “heads”: Collecting, Crafting and Social.

Version 0 is almost ready for release, bringing to life the first of these three heads. What is in V0, you ask?

  • Every player will get a Frontier on which to gather resources.
  • Every player will get a ProtoVOX who will gather those resources.
  • For players who own NFT VOX land (received as a prize or purchased on the secondary market), those pieces of land will count as Frontiers; they will be fully usable in your account. Initially for V0, only 5 Frontiers can be active at a time. This will change as the game grows.
  • All your VOX will be usable as resource collecting workers on your Frontiers.
  • VOX that were leveled up and for whom resources were collected in the preliminary VOX Idle game, VOX Odyssey, will retain their levels from that game. Additionally, all resources collected in VOX Odyssey will join your VOX in Project Cerberus.
  • VOX will continue to gain XP by collecting resources—and in later updates by other actions.
  •  And more…
Behold the breathtaking beauty and spinning glory of VOX Frontiers!

With V0, our main effort is to make sure the big promises of VOX were covered. VOX has utility. Check.

The team is hard at work building one of the main pillars, and the one with some of our biggest technological hurdles: How to make 33k unique VOX NFTs available to use in a game? That was a pretty huge one–We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Development is tough but adorable.

Vision for V1–VOX and GalaChain

Our whole game is on GalaChain. Going into V1, we will tap into expansive resources like the storefront and GalaSwap to further empower VOX owners and players to get the most of their pixelated companions within Project Cerberus. Have too much wood but need some stone? GalaSwap. Need a new ProtoVOX or land? It’s on the chain. Want to sell your VOX…it’s on the chain.

In simple terms, V1 will bring the ability to trade (to varying degrees) the following on GalaChain:

  • Resources
  • Land
  • Protovox
  • VOX
  • Souls

The Future

Moving forward we will continue to update the community on what’s coming next on our road.

For the latest community and team updates tune in to ChatterVOX, every Wednesday at 5pm PT in the VOX Discord community.

The VOXverse will grow, and we’ll continue adding new features, from building your VOXverse and hanging out with friends, to minigames, adventures for your VOX and more! The team is excited to start realizing the true potential of the VOX and where they can lead us! Once more into the VOXVerse!!

GalaChain Hackathon: Meet the Judges – Moshe Shen, Navigating the Future of Digital Markets

GalaChain Hackathon: Meet the Judges – Moshe Shen, Navigating the Future of Digital Markets

As we continue to unveil the panel of judges for the GalaChain Hackathon at GDC 2024, we are honored to introduce Moshe Shen – the Business Development and Partnership Director at Wintermute!

Wintermute is a leading global algorithmic trading firm and liquidity provider in digital assets. Moshe is in charge of expanding Wintermute’s footprint in Asia, where the demand for digital assets is rapidly increasing. We’re thrilled to have him as part of the judging team for the GalaChain Hackathon!

Moshe Shen: A Decade of Experience in Capital Markets with a Focus on Growth

With a solid decade of experience in financial markets and derivatives, Moshe has a deep understanding of the cryptocurrency ecosystem and the specific needs of its various participants. At Wintermute, Moshe focuses on regional growth across liquidity provision, OTC trading, and venture investments in Web3 projects, leveraging his expertise in both centralized and decentralized finance. 

A Unique Lens on Innovation

Moshe’s expertise in liquidity provision and digital asset market structure offers a unique perspective on the potential applications of any new blockchain technology. His role requires a keen understanding of market dynamics, market sociology and the technological underpinnings that facilitate efficient digital transactions. This background makes him an ideal judge to view GalaChain Hackathon entries through a unique lens – one that values technical sophistication, market impact, and innovation in digital finance.

What Moshe Looks for in a Winning Entry

Given Moshe’s focus on market efficiency and liquidity, it’s likely that he’s looking out for projects that:

Enhance Market Infrastructure: Projects that aim to improve the underlying infrastructure of digital markets will stand out. Innovations that improve trading efficiency, or present effective liquidity solutions are all very close to home for Moshe.

Offer scalable infrastructure: Moshe is likely to be drawn to projects demonstrating the ability to grow and adapt to the changing needs of the market, ensuring consistent and equitable access for all participants.

Innovate in Financial Technologies: Moshe will potentially gravitate toward projects that push the boundaries of financial technology – especially those that leverage GalaChain to introduce new financial instruments or trading mechanisms.

The Future of Digital Markets with Moshe Shen

Moshe’s participation as a judge underscores the GalaChain Hackathon’s commitment to pioneering advancements in web3 and digital markets. His deep understanding of financial markets and technical aspects of algorithmic trading should guide participants toward creating projects that are not just innovative but also pragmatic and impactful to the future of digital assets.

As we gear up for this groundbreaking event, let Moshe’s contributions to the world of digital finance inspire you to envision new possibilities for blockchain technology. 

This hackathon is not just a competition… it can easily be a launchpad for the next generation of financial technologies that harness the power of GalaChain! What will you build?