Friday, October 18, 2013

Target Misplaced

There's a pretty funny opening scene in an episode of "Malcolm In The Middle" that involves Hal and the simple task of changing a light bulb. While getting the bulb off of a shelf, he discovers the shelf is loose. When he gets a screwdriver to fix the shelf, the drawer the tool is in squeaks. When he gets the WD-40 to silence the squeak - well, you get the idea!

My plan two months ago was to have an alpha version of Mana available online in very basic form. I figured it wouldn't be difficult to get a version up that allowed importing content for viewing purposes and over time, I'd trickle out the rest of the features. It turned out that even that simple goal uncovered a number of other things needing to be done.

For one thing, I needed a proper web site. As much as I'd love to hire out that work, I am at present a company of one with a budget of zero. I'm familiar with html and css, but I've never set up anything more complicated that requires php. So, I did what many have done before and turned to the internet for a solution. I wanted a blog site that I could grow into the face of my business. After some research, several false starts, and yet more hair-pulling, I have the framework set up for - that's my brand, please wear it out! The site is not very pretty, but at least I have a place to start uploading Mana documentation.

Another thing I needed was a proper exporter. I use 3d Studio Max and have some scripts that export to the xml format Mana loads. However, the scripts were lacking an interface and I have since written one (maybe 90% complete). Even so, I didn't want to limit even my initial offering to people with 3dsMax, so I decided to spend some time hooking up the AssImp library. Its purpose is to import some thirty-odd common model formats. In the process of doing that, I realized Mana would need to load more image formats (e.g. DXTC) and that led to hooking up the FreeImage library. Yes, I do sometimes wonder if I'm participating in a (nerdy) sitcom.

But then, don't we all?