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ISSUE 1: The one hour 3D world

In Issue 1 we will guide you through the creation of a Virtual World, the basis of your new game upon which everything else relies.  Ready?  Onwards...
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5. Your first Python program!

Ok, we’re almost there!  We have a 3D world, now we need to pull it in to our game.  Open up a text editor – whichever text editor you like (e.g., Notepad on Windows, GEdit on Linux etc.) and type in the code below exactly as you see it (the colours are just a visual aid, you don’t need to worry about them!).  The indentation is important – in Python, ‘white space’ (spaces, tabs, any non-printing character) means something.  If you do not properly layout the code it will not work (the number of spaces is up to you – use tab if you prefer, but keep the levels of indentation/alignment as per below!).

from direct.showbase.ShowBase import ShowBase   # import the bits of panda
from panda3d.core import GeoMipTerrain          # that we need
 
class MyApp(ShowBase):                          # our 'class'
    def __init__(self):
        ShowBase.__init__(self)                        # initialise
        terrain = GeoMipTerrain("worldTerrain")        # create a terrain
        terrain.setHeightfield("heightmap.jpg")        # set the height map
        terrain.setColorMap("colourmap.jpg")           # set the colour map
        terrain.setBruteforce(True)                    # level of detail
        root = terrain.getRoot()                       # capture root
        root.reparentTo(render)                        # render from root
        root.setSz(60)                                 # maximum height
        terrain.generate()                             # generate
 
app = MyApp()                                   # our 'object'
app.run()                                       # away we go!

SUGGESTION: Indent your code using TABS or SPACES but be consistent, just use one or the other to avoid ‘indentation errors’.

Now, save the file somewhere as ‘mygame.py’.  The “.py” extension is what indicates the file to be a Python Script (program).  Do not worry too much about what all of this means for now.  We have added some comments to the code above to indicate what is happening but we won’t dissect in detail until the next issue.  While we’re here though, notice that anything following the hash ( ‘#’ ) symbol in Python is considered to be a ‘comment’.  That is – not code for Python to actually execute, just something in the file for any reader/programmer to see.  Adding comments to your code is incredibly good practise – we cannot stress that enough!  Good comments lead to code that is readable by yourself and your peers.

You also need to copy both of the images you created to the same directory as the Python file. If necessary, update the lines where you find ‘setHeightField’ and ‘setColorMap’ to point to your images, whatever you named them.

TOP TIP: For reasons only they know, Microsoft ship Windows with a default setting to ‘hide’ file extensions.  When you’re developing software, editing images/Python files (etc.) it really does not help (in fact, it can cause all manner of confusion).  We recommend Windows users enable file extensions, here’s the procedure straight from the horse’s mouth:  Show or Hide File Extensions

6. Running your program

Finally, we are ready to run the program!  For now, we will be running the program from a Command Prompt (terminal).  We’ll look into alternatives to the text editor/command prompt approach in future issues.  So, we need to open up a command prompt in the same directory as you just saved your new Python file:

On Windows, you can do this the ‘hard way’ if you know how to work the command prompt.  If the idea of a prompt is entirely new to you – here’s a neat trick that works on Vista/Windows 7:  using Windows Explorer (note – Windows Explorer, not Internet Explorer!) navigate to the directory one-higher than where you saved your file.  Single click the directory to select it.  Hold down the shift key and press the right mouse button.  On the menu that appears, select “Open command Window here”.  If you are using Windows XP you can either go the hard way or install the command window here power-toy:  Old Windows (XP) Command Window here.

Linux and Mac OS X users are likely already somewhat familiar with the idea of a command prompt (or ‘terminal’ as it is called there), it’s a bit more ‘generally important’ to the operating system than it is in Microsoft Windows.  That said, there is a similar ‘open terminal here’ for Mac users, see:  Open Command Window here on a Mac and also for Linux users (in this case, using Ubuntu):  Open a Command Window here on Linux.

If none of the above work but you know where you saved your Python file, you can just open up a command prompt and navigate manually (the so called ‘hard way’, though not that hard really!).

Windows:    cd "c:\some directory\some other directory\my python director"
Linux/Mac:  cd "/home/user/some-directory/my-python directory"

From your command prompt, to run the game:

Windows/Mac:  ppython mygame.py
Linux:        python mygame.py

Hit enter and, after a short while, you should see a screen appear.  Some time later, you should see a small piece of your terrain (don’t worry if not, we’ll move the camera next!) on a grey background.

7.  Your ‘in-game’ controls

Until we reach the stage of adding in our game controls (coming in a future issue, of course!) we strike it lucky because Panda3D includes some ‘default camera controls’ using the mouse if nothing else has been setup.  So, using your mouse:

  • Hold down the left mouse button and you should find you can move the camera left/right and up/down.
  • Hold down the right mouse button and you will be able to zoom in/out.
  • Hold down both mouse buttons and you will be able to rotate the camera.

APPLE MAC users may not have a second mouse button.  To achieve ‘right-click’ hold down the CTRL key and then mouse click.  If you have a multi-touch pad use two fingers to achieve the same.

8.  Wrap up and Summary

So far, you have learnt how to create a virtual world and how to display that using a Python program.  Not a bad start at all!  You may have noticed that the program you just wrote takes a while to load.  Don’t worry about that for now.  In short, we’re ‘generating’ the terrain every time we load the program and this takes a while.  We will, very soon, be showing you how to ‘save out’ that terrain as a Panda3D model to load whenever you need in much greater speed.  Meanwhile, if you ‘comment out’ (prefix with a ‘#’ symbol) the line where setBruteForce is set – you will notice it loads much faster but the level of detail (LOD) on your terrain is not as great.

Join us in the next issue where our aim will be to get your player (main character) on to the scene.  We have opted for an aircraft but you can choose whatever you like!  We will begin by reviewing the code above in greater detail so you understand a bit more about what is happening under the hood.

Oh, before we go, you also picked up a bit of knowledge about both UV Mapping and Mip Mapping! Google either and what you find you should be able to relate to what you just did!  We also snook in some terminology early – SDK, ‘libraries’, ‘routines’, and a few other bits.  We’ll teach you without you even knowing it!

Goto Issue 2 >>>

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