Virtual Airships

Airship the First
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Airship the Second
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Airship the Third
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Labyrinth
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Have you seen that old photo of an airship docking with the Empire State Building? [Photo of Airship docking with the top of the Empire State Building] I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about. Well, it's a fake. No airship ever docked with Empire State Building.

Since this image was part of what sparked my imagination about airships in the first place, it was a bit of a blow when I learned it was a fake. So, what to do? Well, I don't know what you would do, but I decided to build my own to run around in.

I had dabbled with Sauerbraten (a.k.a. Cube2) recently, so that's what I fired up. Just a few hours later and I had my first virtual airship.

Airship the First

It's not much to look at, but it was the first time I'd ever built an airship. It was also the first time I'd built anything of consequence in Sauerbraten. So give me a break!

[Screenshot of an airship in Sauerbraten]

It's also missing tail fins, lighting, and when I tried to carve out a hollow interior it started to sort of fall apart. It does have a gondola, though. Aren't you impressed?

[Screenshot of an airship in Sauerbraten]

Airship the Second

Armed with new knowledge of Sauerbraten model-building, I started over from scratch. The new design allowed me to add tail fins. Hooray!

[Screenshot of an airship in Sauerbraten]

It also allowed me to create a hollow interior without breaking up the outer surface.

[Screenshot of an airship in Sauerbraten]

So here is a shot of the interior. That's the gondola at the bottom, and the front of the airship at the top. I know, my choice of textures is less than perfect. And at this point I still didn't know how to set up light sources.

Look, a little spire on the front!

[Screenshot of an airship in Sauerbraten]

But I still couldn't attach the tail fins fully, or get a nice rounded shape on the front like I wanted. Sauerbraten's level models are based on cubes of different sizes, and I needed to use smaller cubes to get the detail I wanted.

Airship the Third

But smaller cubes means more cubes, more work, more time. It was a week before I had just a basic shell complete.

[Screenshot of an airship in Sauerbraten]

Stop making fun of my texture choices! At least I figured out the lighting. And I found a bug that created those little dark triangles. But it's ok, you just recreate those cubes and paste them over the broken ones.

Next up: tail fins and the beginning of the Empire State Building. The squarish clover leaf shapes are a sort of scaffolding to make cutting and pasting pieces easier.

[Screenshot of an airship in Sauerbraten]

I wonder if real buildings can be built from the top down, like this. I guess it's harder to make building-tops float in the real world.

[Screenshot of an airship in Sauerbraten]

And there it is! An airship docked with the Empire State Building, real enough that I can run around inside shooting at monsters. But perhaps not surprisingly, this got boring rather quickly. I needed some kind of challenge.

Labyrinth

I thought a labyrinth or maze might be a nice challenge to add to my Sauerbraten level. This would give the player something to do while staring up at an airship and fantasizing about a world where airships still ruled the skies.

[Screenshot of a 3D maze]

Ooh, and what if the maze changed all the time, just like in the Doctor Who episode with the Minotaur? That would be so cool, and all I'd have to to do is learn CubeScript. Well, I'm certainly not going to let some wimpy scripting language stand between me and a pointless fantasy!


View fullscreen

I bet you want to run around in my Labyrinth too, don't you! Well, just go install Sauerbraten and download my zep2 level. You'll have to unzip zep2.04.zip in your sauerbraten/packages/base directory, start up Sauerbraten, press "~" to get the console, and type "sp zep2".

If you know about building levels in Sauerbraten and want a similar maze in your own level, the .cfg included in zep2 should be pretty easy to customize to fit your circumstance. Send me an email with Sauerbraten in the subject for help on naming your entities correctly.

Virtual < Real

As in so many things, the best possible virtual experience is not as rewarding as a fairly average real experience.

[Screenshot of entire level: 3D maze, Empire State Building, and airship]

Not that my little Sauerbraten level is the best possible experience, but I had grown tired of it. I did try playing Crimson Skies (Windows-only, costs money), and I fooled around with Quake3 level editors a bit, but the charm had gone out of it. I was ready for a real blimp.