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Author Topic: A Cautionary Tale: My experience with Theme Park Builder 3D.  (Read 6606 times)

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Offline Akumeitakai

A Cautionary Tale: My experience with Theme Park Builder 3D.
« on: April 03, 2010, 11:33:21 PM »
Before I begin, I wonder if it would be prudent to post a story about what it was like for me working on another Open Source project like the one listed here.  May I do so or should I post such a thread elsewhere?
« Last Edit: April 04, 2010, 12:04:09 PM by Akumeitakai »
I want to mod, I want to build: I want to make the things I dream.  When I slumber, I see fantastic things that could never be built or done but are so perfectly constructed and executed.  Where is the game where the rules apply that allow me to have the experience I dream of?

Offline tomkeus

Re: A Cautionary Tale: My experience with Theme Park Builder 3D.
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2010, 05:14:59 AM »
Continue here freely. I would really like to hear.
#define TRUE FALSE /*Happy debugging suckers*/

Offline Akumeitakai

Re: A Cautionary Tale: My experience with Theme Park Builder 3D.
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2010, 01:46:23 AM »
   To start, Them Park Builder 3D is supposed to be the open source answer to Roller Coaster Tycoon 3.  The community loves the game and once they figured out how to MOD it with custom scenery, they moved on to custom tracked rides and haven't stopped.  The importation of custom material is clunky and requires several hours of tutorials, especially where normal game controls come in.  Just putting in a box isn't enough, you have to define the collision mesh, come up with a custom texture that can be color selected for; and assorted other headaches that can't be copy-pasted for.  Everything has to be generated in one go without mistake.  Even though MODing continues to successfully add content, very complex content in some cases, the thought of bypassing this system of restriction appealed early in 2007.
   The natural step was to go open source.  Themeparkbuilder3D.net was founded and two, just two, coders were brought on board to begin creating a game to succeed where Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 had only just touched upon.  A legion of dedicated fans signed up and promised to learn Blender or True Space or Sketchup just to generate all those fantastic rides remembered from collective childhoods.  The open source nature of the project meant that even copyrighted material could be included because of the lack of profit or detriment to the market value of the real things.  After all, while being a game where anybody could make their dream theme park, it was also an archive of what rides existed, where they were designed, built and what they looked and felt like to ride; especially with a decline in the number of open parks over the last half of this century.
   It was a beautiful concept, one I wanted to be a part of very badly.  After graduating from the Art Institute of Portland into a dying economy, the chance to keep my 3D skills sharp by providing content and animation was irresistible.  I joined up, hoping to model riders, guests and attendants as well as animating their actions.  Being a character animator meant that I should be working closely with this portion of the project.  I was welcomed on board and we all got to work.

   Immediately, things started to go down hill.

   I say this with reservations.  Especially because of the genuine want and desire upon all parts for this project to succeed.  They all still want this project to succeed and they are trying their best to get that accomplished.
   I was placed in a group of people that I likely shouldn't have been a part of, the Arborists.  I was in charge of generating foliage and placeable plant objects.  Suffice to say, I knew nothing then of fractals nor how to create trees that looked like anything other than intersecting cardstock on a stick.  I'd never been trained in background design because my school wanted me to learn that when I got hired by a studio (reason enough for every last one of you to avoid going to an art college of any kind!)  I dove into it and made a few 2D representations of what I wanted to do with the trees, hoping to get a more organic look like you may have seen in TES IV: Oblivion.  Still the best looking trees I have seen in a long time.  I knocked my head against a wall that I was not trained to climb over and within weeks, was burned out because of my lack of experience.  I bought books, looked through tutorials and tried my very best.  Lukewarm reception of my ideas in an echo-chamber of a thread doomed me to doing very little when free time appeared.
   Of course, that only accounts for that I was going through.  I strove to be as active a member as I could, upping the daily site post number by 3 or more regularly.  I talked with the coders and quickly became familiar with one of them.  I won't give his name out as I still want to be friendly with him, so lets call him Chef.
   Chef was one of the coders who were toiling to give us a fully 3D environment in which we could build, ride and experience our parks.  To date, all that has been created is a vaguely CAD like program which will let you place objects in world and rotate around them.  That is still an achievement and certainly took a lot of work to get there.  Having started from scratch, Chef and his colleague built a 3D world where we could begin to see what eventually lay ahead for us.  It was a shame that he too was beginning to burn out.
   Chef had the whole project on his shoulders.  He tackled the GUI first which is likely logical in the programming world.  He built up the file system, gave the game a way to save itself and load each file from previous versions; really trying to make the game work 3Dimensionally on a variety of OSs all at once.  He was literally killing himself to get it right.  I frequently shared private messages with him about his work, understanding none of it but trying to be uplifting when I could.  He was frequently frustrated about his limitations, the limitations of the project and some of the typical runabout you get being a coder.
   In the end it was no surprise that he went out and decided to do something a little different on his own.  Now his new project exists outside of the main project, leaving the last programmer to one-hand the job.  Time will tell how much longer he can hold out.
   
   Leaving and learning.

   I left the project in the end of December of last year.  I was sad to go but just didn't have any more energy to commit.  I know more about fractals now and concentrate more on the one aspect of my 3D skills that needs the most work: physical drawing skill.  When at last I have complete control of the pencil, I can pick the mouse back up again and get back to work on something I still love, no matter how difficult it becomes.  Chef goes about his work alone and doesn't answer many emails.  I hope sincerely that he gets on with his solo project and finds happiness and success with it.  The site always felt vacant, missing a lot of support from the community and generally being incapable of doing much save for scattered models and content suggestions.  Common sense shows that it will be several years more before anything approaching what the community wants will begin showing up in a Beta that functions.
   To condense the thoughts down, there were a couple of glaring problems that were apparent from the get-go:

   - No project head or manager.
   - Too few coders who are not on the same page as each other.
   - Poor management of creative resources.
   - The game world never once reflected what the finished product would look like.
   - Very little support from the community other than demands.
   - No showing of appreciation to the coders
   - Unrealistic expectations by the community.
   - Coders killing themselves for deadlines/goals that don't exist.
   - Many unskilled individuals trying to make up the work achievable by one person with actual ability.

   It sounds harsh and unkind towards people with their hearts in the right place.  I feel for these guys and still wish I could amount to half a damn and have been helpful in my own right.  What I ended up learning from the project was bittersweet: I don't know enough and have never known enough.  It hurts but it teaches the right lesson.  Luckily, somebody pointed out where I was personally going wrong.  Hence, I strive to correct that deficiency before starting back up with 3D.  What I hope to have provided here are some indicators that let projects know they are going in the wrong direction or need to stop and get cranial about what they are doing and where they are.  It's not exactly help but it is what I can give for now.  Please accept it.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2010, 01:48:14 AM by Akumeitakai »
I want to mod, I want to build: I want to make the things I dream.  When I slumber, I see fantastic things that could never be built or done but are so perfectly constructed and executed.  Where is the game where the rules apply that allow me to have the experience I dream of?

Offline daeley

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Re: A Cautionary Tale: My experience with Theme Park Builder 3D.
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2010, 04:36:05 AM »
   
   - No project head or manager.
   - Too few coders who are not on the same page as each other.
   - Poor management of creative resources.
   - The game world never once reflected what the finished product would look like.
   - Very little support from the community other than demands.
   - No showing of appreciation to the coders
   - Unrealistic expectations by the community.
   - Coders killing themselves for deadlines/goals that don't exist.
   - Many unskilled individuals trying to make up the work achievable by one person with actual ability.


hmm... looks familiar. Urbs Urbis, anyone?
1. Install SC4+RH
2. Install LEX (CD&DVD helps) and latest NAM + updates
3. Play the game
4. ? ? ? ?
5. Profit!

Offline tomkeus

Re: A Cautionary Tale: My experience with Theme Park Builder 3D.
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2010, 07:25:26 AM »
hmm... looks familiar. Urbs Urbis, anyone?

Some of those things apply here also, although, me and croxis don't plan to involve anyone until needed and basic framework will be done the way we think it should. Later features will be added only if they can fit into the framework.

And, yeah, we are not in hurry to meet any deadlines, although some minimal pace should be maintained to keep crowd interested.
#define TRUE FALSE /*Happy debugging suckers*/

Offline croxis

Re: A Cautionary Tale: My experience with Theme Park Builder 3D.
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2010, 09:50:14 AM »
That being said I wouldn't object if someone wished to join the programming team :)