April 4, 2005 8:31 PM   Subscribe

Say you wanted to render a virtual environment ...

For the sake of argument, say you wanted to recreate Luna Park, a long-gone amusement park in Coney Island, New York. You have full descriptions and even color photos of many of the structures, as well as some maps of the whole place.

Your goal is to create a navigable 3-D environment using readily available -- (free or shareware?) -- software for the PC. It doesn't need to create photo-realistic renditions... the level of modern or quasi-modern FPS type graphics would be acceptable.

1. Is this even remotely possible?
2. Would it require a degree in architecture and computer-aided design to pull off?
posted by crunchland to Media & Arts (13 answers total)
VRML and its successor may be of interest to you. VRML/X3D is an API for generating 3D environments.

Here are some tools for generating VRML/X3D environments.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:25 PM on April 4, 2005

You could try modelling it in Second Life.
posted by patgas at 9:43 PM on April 4, 2005

I will second the Second Life recommendation. The building tools are easy to use and you don't need to know how to program.

Several folks have already recreated real life places in SL. You get a free 7-day trial and there are open sandboxes for building. After the trial, you can sign up for $9.95 (one time fee). If you wanted to "own" land to build your structure, there is a small monthly fee. However, for large, cool projects, many people will let you use their land for free.
posted by sciatica at 12:00 AM on April 5, 2005

FreeCAD might be of use, though I haven't tried it. I don't think it'll necessarily achieve the level of realism you're after. To do that I think you'd need to spend some money on some beefier software.

2. Would it require a degree in architecture and computer-aided design to pull off?

Definitely not, but they wouldn't do any harm. What it will require is time. Lots of.
posted by nthdegx at 4:08 AM on April 5, 2005

another possibility is croquet, which is a 3d virtual environment built on top of smalltalk (the 3d environment is like their equivalent of, say, windows). it's pretty famous for being vapourware, but there was a demo released maybe a year ago now. website.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:12 AM on April 5, 2005

Blender will allow you to do what you have in mind, both as pre-rendered animations and stills and, via it's game engine, a navigable environment. It's Open Source, free on all platforms.
posted by Gamecat at 4:28 AM on April 5, 2005

If you did it using the SDK for Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Unreal, or the current Quake, then after you built it you could shoot rockets at people in it.

If you did it with the HL2 sDK, then you could nail people to the roller-coaster with the crossbow and watch them twist in the wind.

AFAIK, the HL2 SDK is free if you own HL2. Which you should.

How hard it is to make a map in HL2, I dunno, but gangs of kids can do it pretty well.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:38 AM on April 5, 2005

Hammer (Valves version of WorldCraft) is absolutely the most adversarial CAD system I've ever worked with. I'd be inclined to agree with Xeno simply because the end result would be the most high-quality experience compared to other "cheaper" or web/based rendering methods that I've seen. UEd isn't that hard to learn, especially with the "3DBuzz" video tutorials (featured on 2nd DVD of UT2K4SE as well as online). You could snap something together very quickly (without much need for technical entity or other gameplay implementation) after 4 hours of working through well explained tutorials. I think either way you go the kicker is the 'interactive' element, and a game engine would be the most proven and stable platform that I could think of. You're looking at a pretty big investment of time either way.
posted by prostyle at 7:04 AM on April 5, 2005

Oh yeah, got a little wrapped up there - sorry. After browsing through your link for the park, I'd say that no matter what package you used to build the world geometry you'd still need another modeling program to create and animate all of the rides and other static props to populate the world. Yeesh.
posted by prostyle at 7:07 AM on April 5, 2005

adversarial? doesn't that mean it fights you?
posted by andrew cooke at 7:45 AM on April 5, 2005

adversarial? doesn't that mean it fights you?

After working with CAD programs for 10 years, I can relate to the use of Adversarial to describe them.
posted by signal at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2005

Well, I used Luna Park as an example. My idea for the project is slightly less frenetic than that -- it is an historical recreation of a place that no longer exists, though. I was considering the HL2 sdk, but wasn't sure how easy it'd be. I'm also a little concerned with how accessible the result would end up being if I used some sort of proprietary engine.

Maybe I need to hire those HL2 kid gangs to do the work for me.
posted by crunchland at 8:53 AM on April 5, 2005

Note that whatever the tool, the amount of work needed will still be related to the complexity of what you want to model. If it's all textured boxes, planes, spheres and other primitives that's OK, but modeling more detailed objects from real life ones will require more than some minimal training. The learning curves of these tools can be pretty steep.
So it really depends on what you want to model, how complex the objects are, how detailed you want them to be, how many of them you have etc.
posted by elgilito at 9:34 AM on April 5, 2005

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