BUILDING VIRTUAL ROADS FOR CYCLING
We’ve been un(!)intentionally secretive about the production of new roads and features in the past. This hasn’t been through choice, necessity, or even derived from a sense of our own self importance, it’s just how things panned out.
As a team we think sharing new features with our athletes is really important. It will help us to get early feedback, we want to get you excited about what’s coming down the pipe and we’re likely to get some new ideas in the process.
It was in a recent Zoom product meeting when Matt, (our Obsessive Technical Director) threw a virtual book in James’ (our distracted Marketing Manager) face that we actually made a commitment to find the time to do this.
This is our first instalments of Roadworks, it’s about new roads and we hope you enjoy hearing about how we operate as a team and how we create roads. We also hope the new road we’re planning gets you excited.
DECIDING ON A NEW ROAD
We’re 100% behind the expansion of our roads. We believe in realism and we always create roads that have some significance either within the sport of cycling or that are geographically or visually exciting. We will not create fictional worlds, to make the RGT short list it has to be somewhere you could ride in real life.
We also ask our user groups and social media groups, more recently we have been able to use the Magic Roads feature to inform the decision of where and what to build based on where people are creating their own roads.
As a final part of making this decision we will also have internal discussions about the future and look at the sports cultural trends.
PLANNING A NEW ROAD
Although selecting where and what to build isn’t straightforward, it is the easier part of planning. The second stage is to pull together mood boards, gpx files, art direction, artists etc. to bring the road to a point where the artists can start work.
Our art direction document is 25 pages, the mood boards are an extensive mix of colours, images, skylines and “things” that we would like to capture in the end product.
We also use Google maps and 360 video and photography to get a realistic overview.
Once we have pulled this together the process of producing the roads can begin
BUILDING NEW ROADS
This is the part where things get technical. The art team will start with a carefully smoothed GPX file. This is loaded into RGT’s Magic Road feature and this, in turn, procedurally creates the terrain (our artists like the word procedural)
The terrain map is then loaded into our 3d software and a basic track is added so we can test ride the road to check for lumps, bumps, tight turns and overlaps before proceeding.
Once this test ride is complete (by a group of giddy cyclists and a bot or two) the art team starts to add the larger geographical shapes using real world heightmaps and the sky (at least for holding).
After this is complete simple textures are added to the road and scenery and placeholder assets and buildings are dropped in. At this stage the whole world looks like a random and rather rubbish 1990’s MegaDrive game (think Zwift).
Another test ride or two is taken before adding more placeholder assets and some extra detail.
At a point when the art team are happy with the placeholders, buildings, road etc. the placeholder assets are replaced with more detailed assets along with varying Levels of Detail (LOD’s) for each asset. The same tree may have three LOD’s, low level, moves through medium and to high level depending on the distance from the rider.
Finally the landscape is painted with multiple textures blended together using custom shaders.
We’re now at a point where the road is becoming ready to ride but, this is the first time I have been part of this process, it is happening right now, and the next steps remain a mystery to me.
As we move closer to launching our new roads I will update this article (or write another one) so you can understand the process from start to finish.
It’s now a month since I provided you with the initial post for our road building process.
The visual appearance of the roads and the level and depth of detail have been improved massively. We’re expecting to have the final test version of the road available for our testers very soon.
All I can really add to the process above is that the final three or four weeks are where the road becomes the vision.
Check out the images below for a sneak peak of the final road…
WHAT DO YOU THINK
Have a new road in mind, want to add your thoughts? Add your comments in the thread below.