Papervision3D – an introduction to the 3D world.

27 01 2009

Ok, lets take a small break from the game creating. I assume you already know about Flash and AS3 but if you haven’t worked with 3D programming before it would be good with some foundational theory.  Let’s start with the dimensions (no, kidding! a third??)


As you can see by the figures the 3D coordinate system differs in many aspects. First of all, there is a third axis showing the depth of the image. Imagine the screen as the 2D image a normal FlashMovie can project. Now think of the Z-axis as if you could put in your hand in the screen and push that movie further away or drag it closer to you. The movie would then move on the Z-axis. (I know this is not the whole truth but will you please pretend for a while, ok?)

Now, something is new with the other “normal” ones as well. It seems like the origo (0,0) has moved away from being in the topleft corner to the absolute middle of the screen. Ok, fair enough, so as soon as you want things to move to the left of the screen you will set the X-value negative. The last thing that might be easy to forget for you “Flashers” is that Y-axis is now pointing upwards meaning that negative values are below the 0,0,0 (origo). So whenever you want something to move upwards you increase the Y-axis.

There are many ways to use this 3D space but in my game I will look at the 3Dworld as if Y is the altitude of everything meaning that the flat arena we will create and all the units moving around will mostly be stretching out and move through the X and the Z-axis.

Today I will not dive deeper into 3D and how the models are built up rather then just present the core objects that are needed to even display something in 3D. Lets begin:


There is no real 3D. You know that, right? I mean, we’re only simulating a 3D environment but in the end it will be projected on a 2D surface (the screen). The viewport is exactly that. It’s the 2D area where all this simulating will take place. For now, just think of it as a small rectangular MovieClip that you will just add to the displaylist just as normal. It’s what will be within this rectangle that is the cool stuff.


A camera is nothing else but your eyes in the 3D world. Think of it as an object in this 3D environment I just explained above that could move around in all axis and also rotate around. Wherever it is located, from that angle all objects in the scene will be projected.  The projected image will be visible in the Viewport explained above. (aaaah so the camera is the camera, and the viewport is like the TV showing whats catched be the camera?? … yes)


Now this is the objects that will be visible in the 3D-world. Damn, you know this already. It’s just like using DisplayObjects in flash. Actually, the PV3D team has worked hard for you to be as comfortable with this new technique giving you almost the same methods to work with 3D as with 2D. Want to add a DisplayObject3D in the scene?  use addChild(). Want to move it to the right?   Increase the X parameter. It’s that simple :)

Also, while we at it. DO3D is very much a container just like it’s cousins DisplayObjectContainers. This means that you can put other DO3D’s into other DO3D’s just like you would add a Sprite into a MovieClip etc. Works like a charm (because charms work, right?)


Now this one is somehow new to some of you 2Dguys. Creating 3D projections is a lot about fooling the eye and mind with small tricks just to come closer to the “real thing” and what we expect to see in a 3D environment. One crucial thing that adds to the illusion of depth is light. If all sides of a green shape were litten equally, the viewer have a really hard time both getting the feeling of 3D-depth and to make out the correct form of that shape. See the image below:


We will work with PointLights (Pointlight3d) that as the word hints is a light placed in a point in the world. This means that you will be able to move that light just as you move objects and cameras around. With a good light you can enhance a 3D-environment to extreme standards!

Now that you are introduced to the basic components of a 3D-world, lets start the engines up and create our first bad ass scene!

First, lets create a FLA. Just create a new AS3 FLA in Flash and set the document class to ‘Main’

Now let’s create our   class and make it as simple as possible. I’ve always liked to keep the document class as clean as possible and as soon as it gets cluttery I move most of the code into a new class, cleaning Main up again.

package {

	public class Main extends Sprite
		private var view:View3D

		public function Main()
			view = new View3D()

View3D will be our class with all fancy 3Dstuff. To make it very (VERY) simple I will now extend a class called ‘BasicView’ and turn it into my . Basicview’s only purpose is to take one viewport and one camera and put it all in one scene so that you are ready to go immediatly. Let’s have a look at it:


	import org.papervision3d.lights.PointLight3D;
	import org.papervision3d.view.BasicView;

	public class View3D extends BasicView
		private var light:PointLight3D

		public function View3D()

		public function createSomeObjectsOnTheScene()
			light = new PointLight3D()
			light.x = 1000
			light.y = 5000
			light.z = -6000
			var tSphere:Sphere = new Sphere()

Now let me take you through what just happened. First when View3D is created, I call super() meaning I call the BasicView constructor. BasicView class creates a ‘scene’ and puts a ‘camera’ on that scene. It also places the camera on z:-1000 so that it can view all objects from a fair distance (camera is by default “looking” towards 0,0,0). I then call my own function ‘createSomeObjectsOnTheScene’ where I first create a light and locates it somewhere fairly random. In the end I create the first really visible object and puts it in the displaylist using addChild. As i don’t locate it somewhere it will be placed on 0,0,0 (where camera is looking). taddaaa… but when running you will find the sphere looking kind of .. wireframed. Yes, and thats actually the correct term for that look as well.
It is as simple as if you havent specified HOW the surface will look on the sphere it will draw it in wireframe mode (as a sign of not having any material wrapped around itself. Tomorrow I’ll show you how to set some materials and then we will also head back to the game. Otherwise I will never be able to finish it!