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Submitted by Bas Kuenen, posted on March 08, 2002

Image Description, by Bas Kuenen

I graduated in computer graphics, by building an editor, on top of my improved 3D engine, that enables us to create screensavers by a click of the mouse. Our first screensaver created with this new program is the Universe Screensaver you can find at

Some engine specifications:
  • Textures (with alpha layers) loaded from JPEG. Mipmapping, wrapping and all usual settings are supported.
  • Materials define colours, texture ptr, rendering layer, fog, blending, depth functions etc...
  • Mesh models imported from 3D Studio Max. Possible LoD settings.
  • Objects in tree make up the world
  • With camera objects and paths (animated by B-splines, Catmull-rom-splines), scenes and a timeline control we can virtually create movies.
  • Sphere-frustum culling and Level of Detail at the core of the engine, speeds up rendering of all the objects.
  • Some other objects: geosphere, quad, cylinder, quadtree, particle sphere (stars), particle cylinder (smoke), flame (shuttle exhaust), font, light, viewport...
  • With the solid OO structure it's easy to add new objects (like the landscape for our next saver). These new objects already take advantage of the basic object properties (frustum culling, material use, matrix orientation, ...). It speaks for itself that in the next project we can concentrate on these new objects, and already have the existing objects at our disposal. Lensflares, paths and camera animations are a few that are always useful!

    The result can be viewed and edited in real-time in the editor by using the mouse. Now it's fast and easy for the graphic designer and managers to tweak the world for the desired result. A world can be saved and loaded via the engine. Because the saver is also based on the same engine, I can save a 3D world to file, and load that same world in the screensaver. There's too much to name in this small description, so feel free to ask any questions.

    You can find and download the Universe Screensaver at Please try it and let us hear what you think if it,

    - Bas.

    Image of the Day Gallery


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    Archive Notice: This thread is old and no longer active. It is here for reference purposes. This thread was created on an older version of the flipcode forums, before the site closed in 2005. Please keep that in mind as you view this thread, as many of the topics and opinions may be outdated.
    Bas Kuenen

    March 08, 2002, 06:10 PM

    Yo guys thanks for the possitive comments :)

    Some answers to your questions:

    > took ages to install
    > How are you fitting all this geometry, textures and 10 minutes (!) of music into 1.4mb!
    The installation is a bit slower than normal because a lot of stuff is generated when you install it. The 10 minutes music is completely generated for example! We could have optimized the size down to 700k, but were out of time. Some guys at Shortcut are Sceners (64k demos) and did a very good job keeping the size down - Respect guys!

    > Is this a whole-planet engine kinda like over at
    Nope. It's a screensaver that runs by itself. There is no user-interface once it's running, and the animation is all automatic.

    > How are you doing that atmospheric effect around the edge of the earth when viewed from space?
    I coded a "Halo" object. You can compare it to a billboarded ring that reacts to the incoming light rendered in the particle layer.

    > Who would ever pay for a screen saver?
    Some people do pay for their software! These people pay for our food, and make it possible to keep on coding. Respect here!

    > are you still alive? (
    I have not enough time to maintain my site at this moment :(

    > Lensflares are not always usefull
    Lensflares for indoor scenes would not be very usefull I agree, but I'm trying to say I can re-use all my old stuff whenever I need it, without coding.

    Questions about tha landscape:

    > Does your engine maintain that level of detail during real time rendering?
    Yep. Screenshots taken at max LoD, but at this JPG resolution it would look the same at low LoD. I guess around 10.000 triangles are used per frame now.

    > How are you rendering your terrain? Bezier patches?
    No bezier patches.
    One of the most important things of this engine to keep everything running smoothly. Even on slower machines. Level of Detail is implemented in various ways all through the engine. It's possible to configure the LoD in the settings dialog (do try it!).
    If you own a brute GeForce you can maximize LoD, and get better results, while the saver still runs on slower machines.
    I know bezier-splines are supported by some hardware, but it clashes with current LoD implementation.
    I have not tryed a bezier-spline-landscape yet, but I think it will only run smooth with expensive hardware.

    > Are the clouds just in a sky box or are they 3D objects?
    Skybox from terragen. I could add an extra cloud layer, but I think the skybox already looks good ^^, and a slower cloud layer, doesnt add much.

    Some more details about the scape:
    - Reflections in water.
    - 256x256 tiled landscape. This block is repeated 8x8 times.
    - I've not used a big 2048x2048 texture, because this doesn't run fast on most computers. I've split the scape up in 256x256 textures and tiled those 8x8 over the 256x256 vertices. (still there?;)) This is much faster.
    - Quadtree with a sort of geomipmaps.
    - Runtime texture generation. By using the height and slope of the terrain I interpolate between a set of textures (rock/grass/beach/water). So no multi-texturing (slow), but everything in one.
    - I could give the size in meters, but I think the deep horizon tells you more about the size of the total landscape.
    - User LoD settings. This means 'perfect' result on a super-card, and smooth animation on a slow compu.
    - This landscape is one of the things what we're working right now. If you're interrested stay tuned to


    March 08, 2002, 08:07 PM

    Now THAT...

    is frickin amazing!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sniper BoB

    March 08, 2002, 10:54 PM

    yea, its freaking cool.. great work..........but how do i uninstall it if i dont wish to register??


    March 08, 2002, 11:19 PM

    I don't like lenseflares because they decrease immersion/realism--a camera or window separates you from the world. They only make sense when you're inside a vehicle, looking through the window.

    Timothy Barnes

    March 08, 2002, 11:37 PM

    Hey bask, always keeping up with those kick ass engines I see huh? Those shots are pretty sweet!



    March 09, 2002, 01:12 AM

    could someone explain to me the concept of geomipmaps?

    Andreas Magnusson

    March 09, 2002, 02:27 AM

    Uhm, I think your in the wrong forum...


    March 09, 2002, 04:42 AM

    >but how do i uninstall it if i dont wish to register??

    You can't! Unless you register this screensaver or reinstall windows, you'll be seeing our banners forever! :) muhahaha

    Just go to Control Panel, choose Add/Remove programs, and you can uninstall any software there. "Univere Screensaver" is in the list.



    March 09, 2002, 04:43 AM

    Google is your friend.

    Doing a search for "geomipmap" returned this which is strangely enough on flipcode.

    Matt P

    March 09, 2002, 06:02 AM

    I am using a Vaio PCG-FX103 it has an intel video chipset 82815.
    I must support accelerated 3D in openGL as I am running Return to Castle Wolfenstien at 800x600 and that runs fine.

    Also DirectX apps work OK.

    Frans Bouma

    March 09, 2002, 06:20 AM

    hehe, I thought Shortcut had moved to D3D for their screensavers :) (Or is plek programming OpenGL now? :D)

    Btw, I watched the thing for 10 minutes or so and the landscapes didn't show, do they only show up when you register?

    Btw2: don't upload your textures in one bunch, but spread uploading textures over a couple of frames. You can do that since you're fading scenes anyway. People with 32MB videocards will then be out of stuttering on higher resolutions :) (1024x768+)



    March 09, 2002, 06:44 AM

    Looks pretty good, I must say!

    One thing I would suggest is to fade out the lens-flares when they get occluded, instead of just disabling them. The intensity of the flares should be proportional to the amount of sun that's visible, currently there's just a check if the centre of the sun is visible or something. :)

    With some quasi-intelligent render-to-texture tricks you can quickly check how many pixels are occluded, but then that would require render-to-texture obviously. Maybe something for the higher detail settings or whatever.

    Kudos for the music too, sounds nice!


    March 09, 2002, 08:08 AM

    BTW, for those who doubt people will buy screensavers, just look at all the people buying WinXP Plus! The coolest thing about it is the Leonardo Devinci screensaver ;)

    Cheers Bas. Miss your great site though ;)


    March 09, 2002, 09:52 AM

    i doubt swearing at people in afrikaans would be the way to compliment them about their impressive work...

    Ewan Higgs

    March 09, 2002, 11:48 AM

    Really? I wear glasses so I didn't really notice if they were from my eyes or glasses.

    Maybe all the people who add tasteless lens flares wear glasses so it looks right to them/us.


    March 09, 2002, 12:27 PM

    lerzflares are not for making it look like through your EYES but like if it would be some cineastic movie! cause movies always do have lensflares (and with the correct lenses in front of the cam, beautiful lenzflares;))

    Řystein Handegard

    March 09, 2002, 12:42 PM

    "Every time I'm walking down the street..."

    zed zeek

    March 09, 2002, 03:08 PM

    good to watch u developing bas
    some comments
    fade in/out the flares (+ dont just do a line segment center of sun check which looks bad)
    i was waiting ages for the planet to appear but it never came after 10 minutes i gave up, a fast forward feature ?
    bumpmap the moon
    i believe ( though have no idea ) random screensavers work better (are more popular ) eg like this is a linear demo (i take it) eg have a 'window to the world' eg a country meadow scene with bunnys birds flying/hopping by fractal clouds etc ie have it so it doesnt repeat, for ppl in offices a country scene might go down well, a forest or even an offworld planet

    Sniper BoB

    March 09, 2002, 04:01 PM

    That proves how stupid I am because I looked in there first and didn't see it..... Maybe it doesn't show up their until you reboot your computer because it's gone now, thanks.


    Bas Kuenen

    March 09, 2002, 06:12 PM

    No problem if you dislike lensflares. In the configuration dialog you can customize LoD and set lensflares to 0% :)

    The animation should be in a random order. This screensaver is good for a few hours of new animation scenes :)

    - Bas.


    March 09, 2002, 06:17 PM

    Oh, no biggie, but your clouds/weather system move the wrong way. Weather systems move generally from West to East.

    Also, you didn't answer the question about a seamless transition from planet to landscape. Is there a smooth transition? Or are they essentially two seperate engines?


    March 10, 2002, 01:01 AM

    Very impressive app in general.. kudos guys. Can really tell that it has demoscene roots. I wasn't suprised at all to see that Jace from TBL was behind this; you and the rest of the team has got my outmost respect.

    However, there are some issues about the realism of the space shuttle orbiter and the ISS.. I might just be picky to point them out, but for someone who's into NASA stuff (like me.. I recently worked on simulating ISS-orbiter docking visualizations as a NASA contractor)they are glaring inaccuracies. If you fix the following problems, any NASA employee would be glad and proud to use your screensaver:
    * The orbiter's wings are mapped incorrectly. The bottom of the wings of the real space shuttle orbiters don't have any white or markings on them at all. It's all black ceramic atmosphere re-entry shielding.
    * The bay doors of the orbiter are always open when in orbit, so that the radiators on the inside of the bay doors can function.
    * That brings me to how the orbiter moves around the ISS in the screensaver; it doesn't dock to the station like that IRL. Take a look at this screenshot of one of the docking sims that I worked on to get an idea of what the orientation of the objects are during a real docking.
    The orbiter moves in on the station like that in a straight line, very slowly and carefully, using the dozens of tiny maneuvering thrusters that are located in its nose and tail. If it tried to do something like what your screensaver shows, the thrusters would easily blow away he solar panels of the ISS. Also note how the docking interface on the shuttle is located in the bay, under the bay doors.

    I hope this helps you to improve your product! I'll recommend it to my NASA friends when you do. =)

    Jeff Daly

    March 13, 2002, 02:40 PM

    Wow - that's a lot of money to be making off low-maintenance software! Which screensavers did your friend write (can you give a link to where to find them)? Thanks.


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