Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beta 2 Posted [Update 2]

The current transitional beta page has been updated with beta 2 of My Avatar Editor. Changes include (but may not necessarily be limited to):
  • Fixed lower hair for 8th style (row 3, column 2) on page 6
  • Some interface reshuffling (tab reordering)
  • Titles over avatar characteristics/options
  • Shadow is a semi-transparent solid; this should cause less problems exporting
  • Option to remove shadow from export
  • Transparent backgrounds for exports show as a checkerboard
  • Client-based (as opposed to server-based) save/load
  • Binary files saved with the extension .mae
  • New XML format (NOT finalized, see this note)
  • New randomizer algorithm
  • Flash Player 10 required
  • and a whole, heck of a lot of code re-writing
Known issues include:
  • The avatar link will not work
  • Users may experience problems saving using Internet Explorer on Windows Vista
Report additional issues as comments to this post. With any luck, I'll be able to clean it up enough this weekend to make it available for download... actually, the "big game" is this weekend, isn't it... make that next weekend :)

As noted by Tommy, the eyebrow rotations in the latest editor beta were off. This was the result of a copy-and-paste typo where I accidentally had the maximum number of possible rotation values set to the number of possible colors ;). This should now be fixed. The new build version is which you can check for in the top right of the File menu. If your number is lower, clear your cache and reload the page.

Update 2:
As reported by Mapi, I've included a known issue that users using IE and Vista might have troubles saving files.

Random just got less... Random

I just finished up a new random generator that takes into consideration visual appearance over pure randomness. So, for example, it's less likely that eyes will be sticking out the edge of a head, or that a mouth will be above the nose. It also takes into consideration some other factors such as not having beards for girls. You can always add them later ;) but the random option won't be doing it for you. Below are examples of 6 random characters created, in sequence (i.e. I didn't do a bunch and pick out the best - I only did 6), by the new random generator.

You may note that boys can still have makeup. I'm going to go ahead and let that pass...

I'll probably update the beta with a new drop soon (once I clean up a few more things).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Changes in Avatar XML [Updated]

Its likely the pre-proposed will more or less stick. However, in the code redesign, I'm also re-evaluating how the data in that format is presented. I brought up the xml format values before, and how they should be "readable" in the sense of their data (not the hierarchy format) and decided to go back on that. The idea before was that the values themselves should make sense when editing them by hand. However, in working with those values directly, I've found that the trickery there was more confusing - and maybe that's just my perspective as a developer. But, additionally (also as a developer), it will be much easier to manage that data if how its presented in XML mirrors how its presented in the binary.

Particular cases include:
  • eyeY: inverted
  • glassesY: inverted
  • moleY: inverted
  • mouthY: inverted
  • mustacheY: inverted
  • noseY: inverted
  • eyebrowY: inverted, offset by 3 (it's minimum value is 3, unlike the others which are 0)
  • mingles: inverted
  • eyeType: value converted to order presented in interface
  • eyebrowType: value converted to order presented in interface
  • hairType: value converted to order presented in interface
  • noseType: value converted to order presented in interface
  • mouthType: value converted to order presented in interface
The new format will not present the data with this kind of filtering and will use the raw data. This means that you cannot just copy values from the old format to the new and expect the same results. However, the editor should be able to consume the old XML format as well as the new, so loading an old XML character will allow you to get an updated XML file with the correct values.

I think I've decided to go back on what I've said here. While most of the values will remain unchanged (relating to the format), I think there will continue to be one exception. This exception, however, is a new exception - not one listed above. It's for colors. Instead of an integer ID specifying which number of a pre-defined set of colors is to be used, I figured it would be better, moving forward, that a standard hex color be specified instead. This goes back to extensions and adding more functionality/possibilities than that which is possible for current-day Mii characters. If you're going to eventually allow specifying any color, some random number isn't going to cut it given how colors themselves are represented as numbers (in hex). So, for example, instead of having a favorite color of "10", it would be 0xFFFFFF (or #FFFFFF), meaning white.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Status Update; Plan Changes

Originally, I had intended on completely overhauling the editor interface for a new and unique look that not only changed what you saw, but how you interacted with the various features of an avatar to change them. Those plans have been dropped. Due to time constraints and the already delayed release, I instead decided to leave the editor much as it is now, as seen in the Transitional Beta.

But interface isn't everything. There is still a lot of work to be done under the hood.

So far, all Big N references have been removed. Additionally, the new Flash Player 10 save and load features have been implemented allowing for the editor to save and load avatar files without requiring an interaction with the server (making it easier to use on your own site or when offline). I have taken some time to do some code refactoring, but it's still very messy.

In fact a lot of what's left is cleaning up the mess. When I first started the editor, focus was put entirely on parsing the Mii character binary files as saved on a Wii remote. Providing a preview was an afterthought (and by far, the hardest and most time consuming portion). Since the preview was built around the Mii file parsing, there really isn't much wiggle-room in terms of extending the editor to do more than what's supported by the Wii. And I can't tell you how many times people have requested to add a hat, or a new hair style, or something else that is not Wii Mii-compatible. In order for the editor to be useful outside of editing Miis, that will need to change. And it is on that which I'm currently working.

Oh, and I haven't done anything new with the XML format I proposed earlier. I guess I'll have to work on that too ;)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Down but not out

In case you've been worried, My Avatar Editor has not been forgotten. I have been slowly fixing things, reorganizing code, (removing any references to Mii or Nintendo) and getting it ready for release.

Originally there were a couple of version blockers that stalled me, i.e. waiting for Flash Player 10 to release, then waiting for AIR to support Flash Player 10. Then I just got caught up with work and other things that just kept me from coming back to MAE, but I've finally been able to work on the editor some more bringing it closer to release.

And what does release mean? It means hopefully 1) will have the editor up and running, and 2) the SWF and all its source files will be available for download by anyone who wants them. This will allow you to edit, modify, enhance, or customize the editor any way you see fit (legally, unlike my original mistake) for personal or professional use. Currently, I see the licence being MIT.