Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Avatar Editor - Transitional Beta

For those of you who haven't already noticed, a transitional beta of My Avatar Editor is now online. This is not what My Avatar Editor will ultimately look like, but its different enough from the Wii's™ Mii™ Channel to get it back on the streets (methinks).

Some of the GUI changes include:
  • A change in the color scheme
  • A change in the button (and other control) styles
  • Characteristic buttons (tabs) have been moved to the bottom of the screen
  • All characteristic tabs are represented at the bottom rather than having some in sub-tabs (for example face shapes and facial features now are each given their own tab)
  • Arrows for paging through characteristic variations have been moved to the bottom
  • There is no longer an avatar URL
In addition, there were a number of general fixes to the editor. These include changes that would have made it into the original version of the editor but hadn't yet been pushed live before it went offline. These include:
  • The character shadow is now correctly behind/below the character's feet
  • The eyes on Page 4 Col 1 Row 2 were given the missing eyelashes (the icon preview had them but they were not seen when on the avatar)
  • Character names should now end when a null character is reached; this prevents new short names possibly revealing characters from long names used before the short name was set
  • Fixed mole size range. It was incorrectly going to 15 (steps) when it should have stopped at 8
This version should also be the last version that will work on Flash Player 9. The next release will target Flash Player 10, currently in beta from Adobe. This will allow a lot of the hacks in the current release to be removed and allow for the updated save and load feature mentioned in a previous post (which supports offline saving and loading). Additionally, the next release should have a new look and feel that is more unique to My Avatar Editor.

There's no telling when this new version will be released, but it will be a while. I'm currently going through a code review now cleaning things up and taking out the aforementioned hacks where necessary. There will be some other architectural changes that could delay this process not to mention the fact that I still have to figure out how to implement Mii™ compatibility within the new feature sets that are to be added. I might provide more detail on that situation at a later time.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lost Tutorial Mode

The upcoming update of the old editor included a tutorial mode. This mode was intended to help indicate how a character could be created from the default boy character. The big benefit being that you could load up characters found online to your computer and learn how to recreate them by hand on the Wii™ by watching an automated cursor create the character in front of you without having to worry about transferring the raw character data through bluetooth to the controller and from the controller to the console.

Unfortunately, before the update could be released, the editor hit that snag with the big N and had to be taken down. I thought it would be interesting to show off what it did nevertheless. After all, I put in a decent amount of work to make it happen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Default Girl and Default Boy

The default girl and default boy avatar characters can be loaded using the following XML.

Default Boy:

<avatar value="000000640065006600610075006c00740042006f0079404080807f5fc242899800044240318028a2088c08401448b88d008a008a25040000000000000000000000000000000000000000" />

Default Girl:

<avatar value="400000640065006600610075006c007400470072006c404080807f73c242899800041840018028a2106c08401448b88d008a008a25040000000000000000000000000000000000000000" />

Note: Be careful; the post cuts off the full XML string. Be sure that you copy the entire XML node (ends with />).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Note on Progress

I'm sorry to say that progress on My Avatar Editor is not going as quickly as I had hoped. I've been incredibly busy with 'real life' and haven't had time to pursue much out of that (i.e. the editor).

Chances are if anything is going up any time soon, it will just be a re-skin of the old editor. This means none of the new features will be available; it will just be the old editor with a different look and feel. But even that can take some time.

If anyone is super anxious just to get their hands back on the editor (in whatever form they can get it), drop a comment. Given enough interest, I can try to get something basic out sooner than later.

XML Revision 1

Here is a sample format for a proposal of the new XML format. As a reminder, old XML files will still be valid. The new editor will not be able to produce those files, but it would be able to still read them. The purpose of this new format is to make the XML more structured and readable, and to help provide the flexibility needed for escaping the limitations of the Mii™ character format.


Each object is separated into its own node with its own set of characteristics that relate to that object. This (mostly) follows the actual programmed representation within the character model of the editor itself. Though, the original format actually fit better because of the abstraction I provided to easily modify any of these properties directly off a single object (this could take some additional effort on the backend to have these sync up).

This proposal is not final and suggestions are welcome.

Monday, June 9, 2008

New Logo Ideas

Here are some thoughts I had for a new logo. I'm not sure what the color scheme will be, but I think it's likely I may at least stick with the orange (the red may be replaced with something else). That aside, I think I like #2 the best of this bunch, despite its similarity to (I think) the Apple Macintosh Finder icon.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mii™ XML File Format Deprecated

Given that the XML format used to describe one, or many Mii™ characters makes a call out to the trademarked Mii™, a new XML format will need to be established for My Avatar Editor. As with the logo, I'll have to figure something out for this one. The problem here becomes a little more complicated as extensions to the Mii™ character format are added.

This probably won't be an immediate change. Much of what will be done at first is just restyling the interface so that it doesn't look so much like the Wii™ Mii™ channel.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

There will be a new My Avatar Editor logo

Apparently there are problems with the current logo. Though I didn't notice it before, once someone brought it up, it was pretty clear to see. It's not as bad as some... but it's worth a change. And really, its not obvious until you look for it. But anyone who is looking will find it, so why bother trying to pass it off.

No word yet on what the new logo will look like. I'll have to figure something out.

Beyond the Mii™

There are some obvious limitations to the Nintendo Mii™ characters. These limitations are all the result of the constraints on how much any one character can be changed. And much of those limitations are a result of (I imagine) the fact that Mii™ characters have to be able to be represented through a very small file.

Mii™ characters themselves are saved as a series of flags and simple numeric values that represent a particular characteristic. Contrary to some popular belief, they are not saved in their entirety as a 3D mesh and collection of textures. To visualize a Mii™ you have to read in a value that corresponds to a trait and build your own version of that trait to display the character.

For example, given a Mii™ binary file, you may find that the hair trait has a value of 12. From that, you would go through your own custom graphics (3D or otherwise), find the 12th variation of that trait, and display it on the screen. The Wii™ has all of these graphics stored locally as 3D. My Avatar Editor (and Mii Editor before it) stores all of its custom graphics in 2D.

Now, a common question is, can I do more with my Mii™ than the Wii™ allows me to? The simple answer is no, you can't. This is because you do not have access to the graphics that the Wii™ has stored on its system. Those are the graphics that define the Mii™ characters and as far as I know, you have complete access to those graphics via the Mii™ channel.

Of course here, on the world wide web, from the comfort of your home and with the capabilities of your desktop (or laptop) computer, those limitations shouldn't be a factor. Instead, the limitations fall on me to create whatever graphics you might want to use with your avatar. Because My Avatar Editor will no longer be confined to the limitations of Mii™ characters, there is more flexibility in what can be done.

What this means is that you should expect more from My Avatar Editor - more editing capabilities and more variations of characteristics, etc. However, these features will come later down the road. And I will want to, of course, maintain Mii™ compatibility when necessary. Making sure that can happen among a slew of new features might be a little difficult. So the first release will probably remain Mii™ only until a suitable solution for new features can be devised.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Flash Player 10 File Saving

The technology behind My Avatar Editor is Adobe's Flash Player. This is used to render the vector-based character graphics and provide the interactivity to the interface that allows you to dynamically change and adjust those graphics.

One of the features used by the Mii Editor was the ability to save files created within the editor itself to the users hard drive. This feature required a certain version of the Flash Player (version 9) that was not supported on the Wii™. This prevented anyone from being able to use the editor on the Wii™ but the Wii™ already had the Mii™ Channel so it wasn't a big deal (I thought), and the advantages of being able to save an image from the editor to your own computer couldn't be passed up.

One of the limitations of this feature in Flash Player 9 was that it had a server dependency. In other words, to be able to save a file from a Flash Player application, you had to send data from the Flash Player to the server so the server could send it to the browser to invoke a download prompt for the user.

This was not only messy to deal with but also required server bandwidth to maintain. The same also applied to loading or opening files which was even worse since the server had to save the files before bringing them into the player.

The newest version of the Flash Player, currently in beta as of this writing, now supports an enhanced method of saving (and loading) files that bypasses the server altogether.

This greatly simplifies the file process on my end making it a much cleaner process. Additionally, the time to load and save files should be a lot faster. Best of all, you won't even need an active connection to the internet to make use of the load/save features since it's all handled client-side.

I'll be targeting Flash Player 10 for My Avatar Editor. Assuming it gets released before the final version of Flash Player 10, it will require using a beta version of the player to use.

Editor Wireframes

So far, there has been no real development done with My Avatar Editor. It's still early and most of the changes being made from Mii Editor are conceptual. I have yet to decide on a layout for the interface. Mii Editor's interface mimicked that of the Nintendo Wii™s Mii™ Channel interface. Afterall, that's the interface people were most familiar with (and the latest update included a step by step control the mouse tutorial on how to create your characters on the Wii, but unfortunately it never made it live).

The My Avatar Editor layout will be different. In fact, I had always planned on making an "enhanced" version of the interface with better control, especially given the precision of the mouse on desktop computers (compared to the Wii™ remote). My Avatar Editor will not be this enhanced version, but rather, a "reimagination" of the classic interface into something less indicative of that used by the Wii™. The goal is to maintain the functionality (as well as eventually add more) but still maintain the compatibility for those who want to create or edit Mii™ characters.

One of my ideas is to have a centralized character with controls to the bottom or side. In fact, unless I think of anything better, this might be what My Avatar Editor will end up looking like.

Monday, June 2, 2008

My Avatar Editor

Welcome to the My Avatar Editor blog. My Avatar Editor will be the successor to the recently removed Mii Editor. It will support all of the same features but include an entirely new interface and possibly some additions that go beyond the limitations of the Mii Editor which was confined to the parameters of the Mii™ characters on the Nintendo Wii™.

The new site will be located at At this time, there is only a placeholder. Stay tuned to this blog for more information about its development.