Autodesk can never get anything 100% right

Here’s a version rundown of 3ds Max.

3ds Max 2011 is cool. In fact, left unpatched, it was actually fairly reliable and trouble-free. But if you’re running Windows 8, you’ll get strange random freezes and crashes. Completely at random. It can happen even when the program is left idle. This does not happen if you patch it to SP1 or SP2. But if you do that, you start having weird problems with CAT. The service packs actually introduce terrible bugs, such as shoulder objects disappearing if you move them.

3ds Max 2012 is by far the most crash-happy version I’ve encountered. CAT is unusable. The viewport performance isn’t very fast. Patch it to the latest SP and it actually becomes decent, but there are still a few issues with CAT. It needs to be run as administrator or you get registry error pop-ups.

3ds Max 2013 is better, but the plugin interface has changed, so old plugins made for 2012 and below won’t work. The viewport performance is a little better. As usual it’s better to wait for the service packs to do anything. The same little problems with CAT remain.

3ds Max 2014, once again, makes CAT unusable when not patched to SP1. It took until Service Pack 3 for a really stupid modeling bug to be fixed. Service Pack 4 was so bad that they pulled it off the website because it was corrupting installations. Service Pack 5 is fine except there’s a huge performance regression with high-poly models. It’s basically impossible to interact with models above 400k polygons, and very hard around that threshold, because you’ll be waiting several seconds for each of your operations.

So I regret upgrading to SP5, because 2014 SP3 was pretty much the best version so far for my uses (modeling and animating using CAT).

The most puzzling question of all is: how does this happen? Every year, bugs that were squashed with service packs resurface. Issues that were patched 3 years ago come back again. Is the 3ds Max code base so old and mangled and tentacular that it’s basically unmaintainable, or are the programmers working for Autodesk incompetent? Is it both?

Hiding large-scale tiling with detail textures

Here’s a neat little trick you can do if you have access to detail textures in your game engine; in this case, Source.

Usually, detail textures are used to add fine detail to materials when viewed up close. Here’s an example from Garry’s Mod:

You can harness this feature to do the exact opposite: adding large-scale detail. It’s a trick I’ve been using in my terrain materials for a few months now.

I made a 1024×1024 texture in Photoshop, which consists of both low-frequency and high-frequency noise (a mixture of clouds, noise, upsampled blurred noise, a bit of perlin). I saved it as I8 since it’s grayscale. The mipmaps are not post-processed (no filters, none of the slight sharpening that will happen by default), and the downscaling filter is set to Hamming. You could probably get away with no mipmaps at all.

Here’s an area of Onett where the tiling is really obvious.

I add this to my terrain material(s):


"$detail" "MaxOfS2D/terrain_detail"
"$detailscale" "0.04"
"$detailblendfactor" "0.4"
"$detailblendmode" "0"

For reference, the scale is set to 0.04 here, which means this 1024×1024 detail texture will fit within 25 1024×1024 “squares” of the terrain. It’s the scale I’ve found best for this map; smaller and you can start seeing the detail texture itself tiling (and it gets too noisy).

Here’s the result:

This works well and has the added benefit of enhancing the volume of your terrain where lighting is flat. It doesn’t hide the tiling in some cases, though.

If you’re using several VMTs across your terrain, for blendtextures, detailprop management etc. you want to make sure that they are all at the same scale, rotation, and X/Y offsets. Or seams will appear.

Advanced title formatting with Winamp

I listen to way too much music for my own sake.

I’ve been rocking dual monitors for quite a while, and on my second monitor, I’ve always got Winamp docked at the top as a toolbar (a feature of the default Bento skins):

There’s a little something that’s always bugged me, though: in the playlist viewer (where I basically drag-and-drop the entirety of my music folder), the title display doesn’t show anything besides the title and the artist.

It turns out, though, that you can configure how titles are displayed, exactly how you wish!

You can tell the system to only display a certain tag if it exists, stuff like that. It got a little tricky to figure out where I needed to insert spaces in those conditional statements so I didn’t have tags without spaces between them; but I came up with this:

[[%album% ]['('%year%')' ]'•' ][%artist% - ]$if2([%disc%-][%track%. ]%title%,$filepart(%filename%))

And this is how it looks like now.

It doesn’t display brackets without anything in them if the year is not present in the ID tags, for example. Same thing for the track number.

The added benefit, besides being able to use the width of your monitor much more in this case, is that in the “jump to file” window (with Winamp in focus, press the J key), files are now neatly ordered by album + track number!

Migration

The internet is not what it was ten years ago. Nowadays your presence is scattered across a dozen social networks and other miscellaneous websites.

My actual website is just a portal that links to my profiles. For the most part.

And I don’t see the point in maintaining a WordPress install for my “more serious” posts when I can use my existing Tumblr account instead!

I’ll be reposting some of my old articles here first.