HM3: Alpha update

I've updated the HeroMachine 3 Alpha with the following changes:

  • Masking now works. More on that below.
  • Flipping items now works (though if you then scale it, it will flip back, a bug I hope to fix soon).
  • Paintbrush feature now works (applies the current color scheme to whatever you click on).
  • Color Hair now works (click it applies the current hair item's color scheme to all "hair" type items).

More on all of this after the jump.

First, a word on masking. To "mask" one item with another means that you only see the bits of the current item that overlap the item you pick as the mask. For instance, imagine you have a Lightning Bolt "insignia" item that you like but you don't want the entire bolt to show up on the character's chest, just one end of it to get a "Lightning Lad" like effect. To do this, you'd do the following in order:

  1. Choose a Body and add it to the stage.
  2. Chose the Insignia slot and add a Lightning Bolt insignia to the stage.
  3. Click the "mask" button, which means you want to select a Mask for the current item.
  4. Click on the Body you picked and voila. Move the Lightning Bolt around and you'll see that only the parts that overlap the Body will show.

Here's how that looks (from a Warrior update I did a while back):

The most common application of this will be with the HandLeft/Right and ItemLeft/Right slots, and the practical effect of that is to make it look like (for instance) a gun is actually being held in the hand. To do this, you'd do the following in order:

  1. Pick a HandLeft item.
  2. Pick an ItemLeft to put in it, like the big bladed Poleaxe.
  3. With the Poleax as your current item, click Mask.
  4. Click on the HandLeft item. Voila, the Poleax shaft now looks like it's in the character's hand. Move it around and the mask stays in place, so you can reposition or scale the Poleaxe and always have it look properly held.

Here's a sample of the difference between not masking (on the left) and masking (on the right):


The difference is subtle but can have a significant impact on how believable the image looks, especially with things like swords and guns. You can also create some nifty uniform effects by using the geometric shapes in "Insignia" (with more of those to come).

The design debate at this point is whether I should automatically Mask any ItemLeft/Righ item with the most recent HandLeft/Right item (if any). What do you think of that idea? In the Modern Warrior contest it didn't seem like very many people understood that, because most of the hand-held items weren't masked, which made them look like they were floating on top of the hands instead of being held in them.

25 Responses to HM3: Alpha update

  1. Ballin' Boy says:

    You should set up like a tutorial or something, that is like a screenshot of the app, but takes a person through all the buttons, with pop dialogue boxes and maybe showing each function in visual form. because you are definitely going to get more people on here who won’t see this post. And be lost.

  2. Jeff Hebert says:

    I think it’s too early for a full-blown tutorial, Ballin’ — this is still an alpha app, only targeted at the hard-core users like you and the people who follow this blog. A lot will change as it develops, quickly rendering anything like that out of date.

    I usually add the “Help” section, which is where such a thing would live, close to the end of development. Doing it at the beginning is sort of asking for wasted effort.

    What I’d like to try out is the whole “auto mask” feature for hand-held items, although that too has its share of pitfalls. That way people who don’t want to (or are unable to) understand what a Mask is, don’t have to be bothered with it. It’ll just work.

  3. Ballin' Boy says:

    Yeah I know I meant when the app was done. Just because I’m a very visual person and I learn better when I see something in action (ie spelled out for me). This just seemed like a good post to say that.

    The flip and mask buttons don’t work yet. Just FYI.

  4. Kaldath says:

    I think you should do the auto masking of hand held items, however I’d like an option to switch it off. If I am using a hand held item in some custom design for example say an Insigna on top of a shield I don’t want some part of it vanishing because it is masking on the hand.

  5. Alan says:

    Wow, awesome updates, Jeff.
    Can’t wait for the next update and the actual game. =D

  6. DJ says:

    The problem with that is like Jeff said it would mean those who don’t understand it or just don’t want to be bothered with it will have a tougher time if they wanted to use the items for something else.

  7. Ballin' Boy says:

    You know Jeff you might want to consider getting with one or two of your buddies, like the guys who guest judged your caption contests and have them put up the alpha and eventually beta on their websites and let people who have never used the application before tell you how it feels as a newbie and how hard it is for them to figure it out.

  8. neon_n64 says:

    Mhh…. maybe you should add an auto-mask button which would be turned on by default. That way new users would have auto-masking without doing anything, and more experienced user could turn it off at any time.

  9. DJ says:


    What about those that don’t want it masked but don’t know how to use the masking feature?

  10. Ballin' Boy says:

    best bet is a customize box with a preset for beginners and preset for more advanced users.

    Then maybe a questions box somewhere where the more advanced users can help the newer users with features and such. This might be helpful cause everyone might not use the forums

  11. The Icedaemon says:

    Great fun.

    A word of warning though – with the zombie and military sets the only ones available now, one can easily make a Liefieldian character. The only thing one did not detect was a ‘phlegming’ mouth.

  12. Danny Beaty says:

    I like Kaldath’s idea of an auto masking that could be turned off when desired.

  13. Danny Beaty says:

    @Mr. Hebert: Hey Jeff, I like that all your responses are in yellow. Good Idea.

  14. Jeff Hebert says:

    Thanks Danny, I just added that last night.

  15. tristan says:

    the patterns dont work and you should add all the hand itens from hm2.

  16. tristan says:

    and the save as jpg dosnt work properly it still misses bits like the wings

  17. Fabien says:

    The grouping don’t works for masking. It would practicle if for example you want mask insignias in your first example. I think it’s a wishable feature.

  18. Jeff Hebert says:

    @Tristan: I’m afraid that’s just how it’s going to work, some bits are going to get cut off. It has to be set at a certain size; if you want everything in, use the “All items” group and Scale it down till everything shows on-screen. Patterns are probably next up on the feature implementation agenda. Item additions, as I’ve said several times already, are ongoing; this is an ALPHA, a whole shit-ton of stuff isn’t done yet.

    @Fabien: Masking will not work for groups. In Flash an item can only work for one thing at a time. The trick to do two insignia at once is to create two Body items, and mask one insignia on each.

  19. Worf says:

    Somehow now I can’t move any item at all beyond a certain point to the right. That means that if I try to move a ShoulderLeft item it now gets stuck in the middle of the torso.

    Also for functionality if I select an item, say a Top, and then delete it, the interface jumps back to the previous item I included (say HandLeft), making me select Top again to get to another selection.

  20. Jeff Hebert says:

    @Worf: The movement constraint on certain items is a bug I need to get fixed.

    The latter is working as designed, at least for now. If you have a slot set to allow multiple items and you delete all the items in it, then the interface takes you to a slot that is active. If you have the slot set to NOT allow multiples, you stay on that slot as you cycle through items.

  21. Worf says:

    Few Items that don’t seem to work quite right:

    -HandRight last item – defaults to the one above it
    -Tops last item – doesn’t appear at all. The separate parts (torso and arms) work though.

  22. GreenBat says:

    Is it possible to add a delete button to the transform command. It would sure make it easier when I’m trying to figure out if something looks good.

  23. Worf says:

    Hey, it’s me again… since I just did a bobo with the figure I was playing, it just came to me…. an undo button. Again, my experience with flash being, uhhhh ZERO, I don’t know how complicated that would be, but….. there’s another suggestion

  24. Worf says:

    aaaand me… once more… The aura when you move the mouse over an object… I wish to be able to add that (and change it’s color obviously) to any object.

  25. Worf says:

    Ok Jeff, I know this will seem a little like griping but I have to return to the interface issue for my own peace of mind. Before I begin let me say that if you feel I’m being too picky or you don’t agree, please tell me to shut up and I’ll never bring THIS subject up again ;).

    So I was trying to finish a figure and had selected a head. Now since I want the head and the face at the same time I need to have multiple items enabled. So I go to faces and select the first one. don’t like it. delete it. WAM, I’m back at the heads. Select faces again. click face number two. don’t like it. if I delete it I’m AGAIN back to the heads and have to select the faces again. just a tad tiresome.

    The other way is I have to select face 2 before deleting face 1. So once I have multiple items on, there’s no simple way to cycle through the items. And maybe that’s just the way my though process works but…

    Either way great effort and I’ll still support you all the way since you’ve given a guy that really can’t draw a straight line, the ability to show my RPG characters OUT OF MY HEAD! Thanks