Friday, March 30, 2012

Building blocks, building blocks, building blocks oh my! (And a cathedral!)

Those of you who've been following my Facebook have seen all of these pictures already. However, you haven't heard what I have to say to go along with it! So here it is.

Approximately one year ago, a character by the name of Dolthaic contacted me. He wanted a temple to Innoruuk constructed. I was reluctant. I am notoriously terrible at commissions. I usually have several going at once, and they always take me longer than expected. Additionally, I had some out of game things going on that made decorating take second, third, or fifth place.

But then Dolthaic mentioned the magic word. He said, "Gothic." And then he said another magic word. "Pipe organ."

You don't know this about me, but I adore the Gothic style. I love the intricacy, the arches, the stained glass, the high ceilings. I also adore organs, and pipe organs are a beautiful specimen of the organ family. I started itching for a chance to build a cathedral utilizing these objects, and I'd just been presented with the opportunity!

It might have seemed more logical for me to turn down the commission and decorate a cathedral for myself, in my own spare time. Fortunately for everyone concerned, multiple housing had just barely come out, and I wasn't used to the idea yet. Plus, what use would I have for a cathedral? So I said yes. I warned him it would take me a while, and that I would probably need to wait a few months before starting it. I needed to get my other commissions out of the way.

Instead, I started it pretty much that night. I broke out of Neriak, and used floor tiles to figure out the best place to build the cathedral. I checked for load times--I wanted the loading of the cathedral to be instant when you zoned from one teleport pad to the other, which meant that the cathedral had to be in Neriak, close to the original house structure. I also took direction into consideration. When you use a teleport pad, you appear on the new pad facing the same exact direction as you were when you stepped onto the old pad. So the cathedral had to be built with the altar directly across from the teleport pad, for maximum "wow" effect.

After I'd figured out location and direction, I built a mockup of the first window. It took me a couple of hours to get it right, but eventually I was satisfied. Dolthaic saw it, and was satisfied, too.

That first window took nine crude stone blocks to build, and looked very rough. But at the time, crude stone blocks were pretty much the only thing we had to work with that would look decent as a stone cathedral. So I churned out a bunch of blocks. Unfortunately, we didn't have crafting AAs at that point. We had a few crafting options for character development, and some crafting gear, but not the AA tree. And crafting the crude stone blocks (which use fletching) as a carpenter (who uses sculpting) was agonizingly slow. Especially since I needed probably a couple hundred of them.

So I built the west wall of the cathedral. Then I took a break to slowly begin stockpiling the stones I needed while working on other projects. Very slowly. Very very slowly. In fact, it was so slow, that even though I was playing with test ideas in another house, that one wall was all that had been done in Dolthaic's house.

Then building blocks were announced. Suddenly, it seemed like a good idea to put off entirely. Building blocks would make the cathedral so much easier. Fast forward to March 15th, 2012, when building blocks were unveiled. This was awesome, because we'd originally heard we'd be getting them in June.

It wasn't until March 26th that I managed to get in-game to craft some blocks and give rebuilding the cathedral windows a go. For the first mockup, the decision that the crude stone blocks looked better was unanimous from people I dragged in to see. Unfortunately, my heart sank at the thought of using the crude blocks, especially since I'd put crafting them on hold at the announcement of building blocks. I was determined to make the building blocks work. So I ripped down the crude stone blocks, and put up the building blocks anyway. Then, just to make sure it looked good, I tossed up a second tier of windows, and created half of the arched ceiling.

March 26th, some time in the evening--the first wall and ceiling were completed.
For those interested, I created this by creating a single panel of the window. Then I used the duplicate feature on Jesdyr's layout editor to copy the arrangement of items. Duplicate pulls items from the moving crate when used properly, so I just had to make sure I had the correct number and type of items in the moving crate.

Once I'd duplicated the location, I could move the "copied" section to its new spot beside the original section. I duplicated the first window twice, shifting each window the appropriate units North (In this case, each section is 8 units long, so I had to shift each new section 8 units North) so that they lined up in a straight line. Once I'd created the lower wall, I duplicated it and tweaked it a little to make the upper wall. Then I raised the upper wall and shifted it East, so that it hung over the lower wall a bit. Then I added some of the details, like the curved trim between the two tiers.

After the easy part was done, the hard part happened. I needed to make the vaulted ceiling. That meant either painstaking trial and error to get the angles right as I shifted things into place, or it meant engaging in a little bit of trigonometry. I chose the trigonometry, especially since there's a lovely little website that allows you to input two of whichever combination of numbers you have (and in decorating, you always have at least two of the numbers--the length of one of the sides, and the angle it's at), and it will pop out the rest of the numbers you need. Even better, since it's on the computer, I can just copy-paste the resulting numbers instead of having to type them out. It's a huge time saver over trying to do the trig by hand or Texas Instrument.

So I guess the hard part wasn't too hard after all. I used the same practice I did with the windows. I built one section, then duplicated it and shifted it North until it was in the correct spot. In less than 10 minutes, I went from having just a wall of two tiers of windows to having a wall of two tiers of windows and half a vaulted roof.

But if you look at pictures of the Reims Cathedral (which is what I've been using for inspiration), the ceiling doesn't just have simple beams going across. It has what are called "ribs." It's more ornate. If this were a real building, it would also be sturdier. Luckily, this is just a game building.

That meant I had to figure out the calculations to make the columns slant in two directions while lining up at different angles, so that they followed the slant of the roof. I calculated everything perfectly, except that I forgot to take EQ2's mechanics into consideration. I had to use both the "pitch" and the "roll" options to get the columns to do what I wanted, and pitch and roll don't play nice when used together in certain combinations. Just my luck, I was using those combinations! So I scrapped my calculations and did it the good old fashioned "shift this one a tiny bit east. No, shift it back west. Shift it north. There! It's lined up. Waaaaait, no it's not. Shift it just a little to the south. I think I need to shift it down. PHEW finally!"

In the end, it was worth it. It added a lot of detail to the ceiling for a minimal amount of item count, and made it look a bit more realistic.

The ceiling after adding ribs and chandeliers.
If you look at the screenshot to the left, you'll see that it appears I also managed to build the second half of the roof. That's true! It was very simple. I just put all of the items that created the wall and ceiling together into a layout then duplicated the items. Then I selected the duplicate items, and rotated them 180 degrees around the center point. I had to do a little bit of tweaking, but it took me at most five minutes to go from having a quarter of a cathedral to having half a cathedral (not counting the time it took me to craft the necessary items).

First test top and bottom of column.
You can see the plain columns in the background.
Slowly, ideas and execution come together. I had to tweak the first tier, shifting it out a bit in order to put in the second row of columns. Then I had to figure out what to do for the capitals of the columns, and by extension, the bases.

Luckily, my first attempt worked out, and I was able to easily duplicate it for the rest of the columns along that side. Then I simply duplicated all of the columns along the east side and rotated the duplicates around the center of the cathedral again, to get the columns into place along the west wall. Duplicate and the group mod option "rotate" are real time savers!

The original dome.
Once I'd finished the side walls, I decided it was time to work on the front dome. Aside from the (not yet built) pipe organ, it's probably the piece that takes the most items. Better to get it out of the way so I could see how many items I had left to work with.

The modified dome with alternating glass colors.
But I wasn't satisfied with the dome. While the blue was fantastic, it felt a little monochromatic. The temple was drowning in blue. So I swapped out some of the blue glass for purple glass.

That was better, but there was still something off about the dome. I wanted to draw the eye to the altar, and with the huge expanse of grey wall culminating in colorful windows, the eye would be drawn up instead of down.

So I figured I could extend the windows down towards the floor, so that the altar would be the first thing to catch your eye. Then the windows could draw it up, much as a real cathedral's window does. I believe I've heard somewhere that the architecture does that on purpose, so that you're looking towards the heavens.

And that's what a double sized window looks like.
Before I did that, I decided that the bottom tier of windows was too short. Looking back at the reference shot of the Reims Cathedral, the first tier is very tall. So I used the layout editor to raise practically all of the cathedral 8 units higher. Of course, that involved blowing it up...

Once that was done, I could extend the walls and windows down until the met the floor again.

It's now been three days (this is the start of the fourth!), and all that's left to do is to add in the pews, finish the niche in the east wall, put in the organ loft, and build the organ.

It's almost done! Thank you Jesdyr, for your lovely layout editor. This couldn't have been done so quickly (minus a year) without you.

It's a cathedral!
For anyone interested in visiting, this is at 3 Walk of the Dead in Neriak, under Dolthaic on the Antonia Bayle server. At the moment, the homeowner has it open to the public. Stop on by, but if you do, do a /who. If you see me in the house, send a /tell so you don't scare the daylights out of me when you pop up!