Particle systems can make some amazing explosion, trails, shield, weapon effects, etc. There are a few systems like DPSF or Mercury Particle Engine that are already complete. I'm looking into Mercury's first because it has a nice GUI editor already attached to it where you can create and use your own particles in the game I wish to create. It is also open source, so I plan to add on to it to create a more specific particle engine towards our game.
You can check out a quick working on the Mercury Particle Engine GUI Editor here. Note that this is at 30FPS, so it's a bit laggy when recording, it's actually very smooth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plEIu2pIxjc
Here is one someone else did: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E4WYS6sIMs
You can add images/textures, and create some funky particles, so you aren't limited to what is in the effects system. You then simply export it to a XML file, and then you can load it into our game and use it as you please. I believe we will be using this for the primary of weapon effects rather then using generic textures (though you can still simply load a generic texture in the particle engine and use that if you want.). For trails however, I'd love to figure out how to design a sort of 'thrust' rather then using a missile trail type trail... Something like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBBMgM3oLcw .. Might require some modifications to the particle engine, but I think it should be possible as is, just need to play with it more.
XNA is pretty robust with how it handles particles, and do think it's a good idea.
If you want to check out the current project it is located here: http://mpe.codeplex.com/releases Download For XNA 4.0 and play around, let me know your says on it. Please note, this isn't the full release, there has been user contributions for the past two years in the source code area, so if you know coding, grab that first. There is alot more supported/changed in the new source code branching, and it should support more things needed for this game.
Modding will be a big part of the game, and we need ideas on how to structure this!
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