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Author Topic:   Hint Brushes: how and why to use them
SmallPileofGibs
UnRegistered
posted 06-20-2000 03:26 PM          
Hint brushes are difficult to explain without giving some examples. The problem with examples is that they don't always make the basic rules clear enough =). I'll try to explain though.

To understand the use of hints you need to know what you're aiming to do with them .
The aim is: to make existing vis-blockers work to their full effect. "vis-blocker" (visibility blocker) is a name given to a wall that blocks sight of one part of the level from the part the player is standing in.
Areas totally blocked from sight by walls will be recorded as NOT visible, by VIS (q3map -vis compile stage). Put simply, if a room is totally hidden from the player's view, it won't be drawn.
There is a problem with this system. If any part of the area the player is standing in can see any part of a room, that whole room will be drawn. This means, you could stand halfway down a corridor and only see a corner of the room at the end, but the whole room will still be drawn.
Hint brushes are the solution to this problem. They allow you to split up the rooms. A simple hint brush completely covering half of a room will split the room into two parts. Only the visible parts of the room will be drawn. If only one part is visible, only that part will be drawn.

The above is a simplified analogy of the technology, but it's pretty accurate for very simple maps (box rooms, corridors, no other brushes). If you start putting other brushes sticking out into corridors or rooms, they'll split the corridors and rooms up, exactly the same way as hint brushes.
All brushes split areas up by default, because all brushes block visibility by default. If you don't need a brush to block visibility, you should make it a "detail brush" (ctrl+M for Make Detail). Detail brushes do not split areas up.

A common misconception is that hints work by cutting up the walls, and that you can see where a hint is placed by the way the wall is split. This was almost true in Q2: because walls couldn't be shared between two areas, they were split along the boundary between those two areas. Walls can be shared between areas in Q3 however, so they're never split. Just because the wall isn't being split doesn't mean the hint brush isn't working.

----

I posted this simplified explanation of the way VIS works in another thread - here it is again:

(If you want the complex terms, read http://www.planetquake.com/spog/stuff/technical.html )

A compiled map is an area of 3d space carved out of a big solid block. This 3d space consists of a number of smaller 3d spaces, each of them convex with flat faces, like a brush. All of these smaller brush-like spaces fit together seamlessly and completely fill the carved-out 3d space.
Note: Each of the smaller brush-like spaces are often called "nodes" or "leaves", the proper name is "leaf-node". A "node" and a "leaf" are the same thing.

Each of the leaves (the brush-like spaces) touches a few other leaves. Where a leaf touches another leaf, it's like a window from the first leaf to the second. This window is called a "portal". Players must pass through a portal to get from one leaf to another.

The leaf where the player is standing can "see" a set of other leaves. This set of leaves is "potentially visible" to the player. This is called the Potentially Visible Set (PVS) for that leaf. The only purpose of Q3map -vis is to calculate the PVS for each leaf. Q3map uses the portals for each leaf to calculate the PVS.

All the visible stuff in a quake3 map is made out of surfaces. Each surface is a mesh made out of one or more triangles meeting each other at the corners. Each surface touches one or more leaves.

***IMPORTANT BIT***
Quake3 draws ALL the surfaces touching ALL the leaves in the PVS for the leaf where the player is standing. Read that again and then read the above paragraphs again if you didn't understand it.

Now you should have some understanding of the way Quake3's visibility works. The inside area of the map is chopped up into lots of smaller areas, and when you stand in one of the smaller areas, Q3 draws everything visible to that area.


Hopefully now you have some idea of how a Quake3 map works. To explain hint brushes I need to go into greater detail about the way a map is split up into leaves.

You may have wondered how q3map decides where to put each leaf. If you think of a compiled map as a hollow space carved out of a large block (ignoring all the entities, curves and detail brushes) you can imagine ways of splitting up the space into leaves. The fewer leaves created, the less time the q3map -vis process takes, so you may think Q3map will try to create the fewest leaves possible. It doesn't.

It first divides the map up into 1024*1024 chunks. It picks the first chunk and checks if the space in that chunk is convex, if not it then picks a brush face in that space and splits the space in two along the plane of the brush face. If the space was not convex and was split in two, then it has to check the two new spaces created to see if they're convex, and split them again if they aren't. When all the spaces in that chunk are convex, the process moves on to the next chunk and starts again. Eventually the whole map is split into convex spaces - called Leaf Nodes (leaves).

Think of the leaves as a set of interlocking convex blocks, like a 3d puzzle all fitting together to make up the shape of the space inside the map. The size and shape of the blocks affects the way the visibility of the map works. Disproportionately large leaves can cause Quake3 to draw more stuff than is actually visible to the player, while too many unnecessary small leaves have no effect on visibility but make the compile take a longer time.

There is nothing controlling the size or shape of the leaves in the process described above. This is what hint brushes are for. Hint brushes are simply brushes (of any shape) with the "common/hint" shader on all faces. Q3map treats common/hint brushes exactly the same way as normal brushes when creating the leaves, because common/hint shader contains "surfaceparm structural". Space containing a structural brush is always split around the structural brush - the faces of a structural brush are guaranteed to make splits in the space they are in. All brushes are structural unless they have another content property specified, such as "surfaceparm detail" or "surfaceparm trans".

----

Please use this thread to ask questions if you didn't understand any part of this stuff. Feel free to ask about the complex technical.html explanation too.

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/


keditok
UnRegistered
posted 06-20-2000 05:06 PM          
Thanks That was informative. This post, SPoG, brings me one step closer to fully understanding hint brushes. Next thing you know, I'll fully understand art. SPoG, you do art, or just hints? j/k

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keditok
Oh, it's a messy day!

The Messy Gamer

tupacaveli
UnRegistered
posted 06-20-2000 05:49 PM          
the first section is EXACTLY what i needed to know. thanks mang.


XedSypher
UnRegistered
posted 06-20-2000 06:13 PM          
oooooooo, an even longer post

Thanks a lot spog, that really helps!

updated to say that I think most people (me, anyway)appreciate all of the time that you spent typing that. Have a good one!

------------------
Smoke a fag, drink a genius, and I'll toast to you with a Budwieser.
Send your comments to: xed@micron.net

[This message has been edited by XedSypher (edited 06-20-2000).]

MogWaEE
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posted 06-20-2000 07:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MogWaEE    Click Here to Email MogWaEE 
Thanks for the insight on the intricate world of hint brushes!


PfhorSlayer
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posted 06-20-2000 07:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for PfhorSlayer Visit PfhorSlayer's Homepage!   Click Here to Email PfhorSlayer UIN: 2666UIN: 2666 
Thankie kindly.

------------------
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SmallPileofGibs
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posted 06-21-2000 03:52 AM          
What... no questions??

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/


bushboy
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 04:38 AM          
Not yet SPOG !

It might be a great idea to incorporate your post into the technical section because these questions will pop up time and time again.

Very succinct, layman orientated explanation - thanks a lot, that post slotted the final few pieces of my VIS process jigsaw puzzle together (albeit a very small non-technical 12 piece puzzle

It now makes sence (in a purely visual manner - my math sucks

Priestess
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 04:39 AM          
I have a few questions

1) Could you please clarify how hint brushes should be made & placed.

Atm I make them 8 units thick, all faces with hint texture, have them overlap surrounding structural brushes by 8 units & have their 'main' face co-planar with one of the edges of the structral brush they are overlapping.

2)Now that the skip texture is no longer available what happens to the other faces of a hint brush..do they create unnecessary additional cuts?

3) Your technical article ultimately leads to the idea that maps could be made almost entirely out of detail brushes (except the hull) with a lattice of hint brushes to provide the bsp cuts. That would give the best control over visibility. Is that what you are aiming towards & is your current map(s) made this way?

If such a lattice was made with large horizontal & vertical hint brushes spaced say every 128 units would it be effective & reasonably efficient? It would certainly greatly simplify the process as you wouldn't need to think about where to place the hint brushes.

Hrewty
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posted 06-21-2000 04:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hrewty Visit Hrewty's Homepage!   Click Here to Email Hrewty UIN: 666UIN: 666 
Thanks SPoG,but did it explain why compile times take longer times if you use hint-brushes?
Please forgive me,if it stands somewhere in the text,be kind to point it out,ok?
Thanks anyway,you have put a lot of work in it(you want to hear that,eh?),and your work will soon be compared to the guys over at id Software(well,we could only hope,id won`t live forever).


snickelfritz
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posted 06-21-2000 08:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for snickelfritz Visit snickelfritz's Homepage!   Click Here to Email snickelfritz UIN: 52198149UIN: 52198149 
Do hint brushes only split the BSP on the front face of the brush?
ie: the side of the brush that "right-reading"


SmallPileofGibs
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 08:17 AM          
quote:
Originally posted by Priestess:
1) Could you please clarify how hint brushes should be made & placed.

Atm I make them 8 units thick, all faces with hint texture, have them overlap surrounding structural brushes by 8 units & have their 'main' face co-planar with one of the edges of the structral brush they are overlapping.

2)Now that the skip texture is no longer available what happens to the other faces of a hint brush..do they create unnecessary additional cuts?

3) Your technical article ultimately leads to the idea that maps could be made almost entirely out of detail brushes (except the hull) with a lattice of hint brushes to provide the bsp cuts. That would give the best control over visibility. Is that what you are aiming towards & is your current map(s) made this way?

If such a lattice was made with large horizontal & vertical hint brushes spaced say every 128 units would it be effective & reasonably efficient? It would certainly greatly simplify the process as you wouldn't need to think about where to place the hint brushes.


1) There is no "main" face of a hint brush (This is a common misconception, probably because q2's areaportals only have one "main" face). Q3map treats all structural faces the same for splitting, so while thin brushes will work fine, they'll make unnecessary double-splits where only one is needed. Unnecessary splits = longer vis time.

2) Yes, good thinking =). 8 unit-thick hint brushes DO create extra unnecessary cuts. If you want to create an area 128 units wide without making unnecessary extra cuts, just make the hint brush 128 units thick.

3) Yes, I make all my maps this way. You can't ONLY use detail and hints tho, you need structural walls to block visibility and stop leaks. I design the layout and positioning of structural walls with this technique in mind, and everything else is made from detail brushes or curves over the top of the structural stuff. I then put a lattice of hint brushes to divide the map into 128*128*128 cube nodes. (NOTE: DO NOT DO THIS unless you place each hint one at a time with a clear reason for each one. I never place hints arbitrarily, that would just kill compile time and make it worse) In many situations the nodes don't have to be this small - larger one's in certain areas won't change r_speeds - so i'll divide those areas up every 256 units instead. You're right about it being much easier and simpler to do.. it's the most efficient way I've figured out so far . It also depends heavily on map design - the map must be made from the start with this in mind, or completely rebuilt from the ground up.


Hrewty: Hint brushes split the map into more areas (called "leaf-nodes", or "leaves", or "nodes"). The more areas there are in the map, the longer vis takes.

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/

[This message has been edited by SmallPileofGibs (edited 06-21-2000).]

Hrewty
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posted 06-21-2000 08:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hrewty Visit Hrewty's Homepage!   Click Here to Email Hrewty UIN: 666UIN: 666 
Ok,thanks!
But I saw that Priestess mentioned something about detail-brushes and using hint-brushes to split up the visibility,and I have this single,big room,with two big towers.

The towers are all detail,to reduce compiling time,but would you sacrifice the low compile times I get to add detail-brushes and made those towers structural?

[This message has been edited by Hrewty (edited 06-21-2000).]

Myndbendr11
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 09:46 AM          
One more ? along with my miniature story above: I suppose hint brushes cannot be made into detail brushes, cause that would defeat their purpose...Correct? Just though I would ask.


Myndbendr11
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 09:55 AM          
OK Spog I think I have a better grasp on things here. I should place hint brushes (from sky to floor wall to wall about every 128 units) into each of my very large areaportalled rooms to reduce r_speeds? To see if they are working can I use \r_speed 1...Is that the command? I suppose \r_showtris does not show the product of hint brushes? I have 6 very large rooms (5 areaportalled off), and each one should have hints sky to floor every 128 units. Won't this cause visual anomalies within the room, or is that and old quaker's tale Thanks, Ford (Raven) Dye.


Myndbendr11
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 09:58 AM          
I guess placing hints every 128 units also gets rid of my misconception that hint brushes cannot see one another if they are to work?


SmallPileofGibs
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 10:22 AM          
quote:
The towers are all detail,to reduce compiling time,but would you sacrifice the low compile times I get to add detail-brushes and made those towers structural?

Make them detail unless you need them to block visibility.

quote:

I suppose hint brushes cannot be made into detail brushes, cause that would defeat their purpose...Correct?

Correct.

quote:

I should place hint brushes (from sky to floor wall to wall about every 128 units) into each of my very large areaportalled rooms to reduce r_speeds? To see if they are working can I use \r_speed 1...Is that the command? I suppose \r_showtris does not show the product of hint brushes?

Don't do this unless you fully understand WHY. There is no easy way to use hints without understanding what they do. My technique of placing hint brushes has been developed over a long period, and depends HEAVILY on the design of the map. I still place hint brushes one at a time, and each one has a specific effect. The cumulative effect of all my structural brushes (including hints) does end up splitting the map into n*n*n cuboid nodes, where n=64, 128 or 256. This is a side-effect of the way I use hints, NOT the aim. Placing a lattice of hint brushes over your map arbitrarily is a very bad idea.
R_showtris is essential for seeing the effect of hints - by the way the map has been split into leaf-nodes. With r_showtris 1, as you move around your map you can see surfaces appear and dissappear as the leaf-nodes they're in become potentially visible.

quote:

I guess placing hints every 128 units also gets rid of my misconception that hint brushes cannot see one another if they are to work?

You're looking for simple rules to follow without having to understand the reasons behind them. Try to understand the reasons behind the rules and you'll see where you're going wrong. The rule you're thinking of is: Visibility between two areas is only blocked effectively if no part of either area can see the other.

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/

[This message has been edited by SmallPileofGibs (edited 06-21-2000).]

Myndbendr11
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 10:41 AM          
My bust Sorry I am being really thick about this. I will take them one at a time, and read the technical tutorial quite a few more times so I can get a better handle on the vis process and what hints will do for me. I appreciate it. I think I will start by trying one or two in the huge room I mentioned earlier (with the mirror rooms that sandwich it). I will just test that room to see what happens by "hinting-off" the 2 mirror rooms (Place two hints..One in each mirrored room..One totally covering the width/height/volume of each mirrored room) from the large room in the center, or just one large hint placed in the sandwiched room. I really just need to read more and then play with them one at a time to see how they affect the different situations.

[This message has been edited by Myndbendr11 (edited 06-21-2000).]

SmallPileofGibs
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 10:48 AM          
Yeah, if you have two or more hints that share the same planes, you should consolidate them to be a single hint brush.
I didn't mention anything about intersecting hints with other brushes, because there's no rule about that. The good thing about learning the basic rules behind the tech is that there's nothing "unknown" to worry about. Just follow the basic rules and you can't go wrong =).

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/


Myndbendr11
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 10:58 AM          
Man thx for puttin' up with me here I am going to put in two hint brushes. I will put one in each structural wall that separates the three rooms, and make the hint the size of the two walls. That way both mirrored rooms should be hinted off from the center room. Hopefully this will only allow the engine to see the visible areas shown by the archways, and not all of the structure above the archways. Likewise having the same affect when I stand inside one of the mirrored rooms. Just this would help greatly in a couple of my rooms. I will start basic and work up I am getting more on track right?

[This message has been edited by Myndbendr11 (edited 06-21-2000).]

SmallPileofGibs
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 12:11 PM          
I can't really tell if it'll work without seeing it... but it sounds like you're thinking about it properly, which is the important thing =).

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/


Equim
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Posts: 366
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 06-21-2000 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Equim Visit Equim's Homepage!   Click Here to Email Equim 
I never mapped for Q2 but from what I've read I'm guessing that you could place a hint brush in which only had one face textured with 'hint' and the others 'skip'. Can't we still do this with common/nodraw or a similar texture?


SmallPileofGibs
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 12:22 PM          
Hint surfaces in q2 were treated specially by the compiler. Hint surfaces in q3 are not, they're just structural brushes treated the same as any other brush by the compiler. Structural brushes must have all faces structural or none at all. This means, either all hint brush faces will have the hint effect or none at all.

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/


Myndbendr11
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 12:30 PM          
Thanks man My thought pattern is basically find the areas in my map that have open archways leading into huge areas, then I will place a hint brush inside the pathway, at 16 units width. Hopefully this will cut most of drawing away and only allow line of sight drawing (through the pathway, and not all of the achitecture in the room beyond the pathway above and under the line of sight. I am thinking this may help in a couple of places. You rock !!!


claudec
The Afflicted

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posted 06-21-2000 12:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for claudec Visit claudec's Homepage!   Click Here to Email claudec 
I read somewhere that detail brushes will tax the game engine more at runtime. Is this true? I would rather have longer compile and smoother gameplay (I do the long compiles when I am sleeping or at work anyways) I have never made much use of detail brushes out of fear that I would be trading compile time for performance.

However after reading all this stuff on hint brushes and detail brushes lately, I am wondering if maybe I should be using detail brushes.


Another interesting question comes to mind. If you make columns that just out into hallway out of detail brushes then is it necassary to put clip brushes over them to reduce the complexity of the area for the aas file. Player with higher levels of skill don't like the ID way of completely clipping of such areas.

------------------
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A categorical index of tutorials available online. Making it easier for level designers to find the tutorials that contain the information they seek.

Equim
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posted 06-21-2000 12:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Equim Visit Equim's Homepage!   Click Here to Email Equim 
ahh thanks man =)
I'll stop giving out false information in future


SmallPileofGibs
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 12:49 PM          
quote:
Originally posted by claudec:
I read somewhere that detail brushes will tax the game engine more at runtime. Is this true? I would rather have longer compile and smoother gameplay (I do the long compiles when I am sleeping or at work anyways) I have never made much use of detail brushes out of fear that I would be trading compile time for performance.

Any detail brush triangle is treated exactly the same as any structural brush triangle. Brushes don't affect rendering speed at all, but extra unnecessary solid collision surfaces can cost a bit of cpu time for collision detection, which usually isn't noticeable. Detail brushes have zero compile time overhead (unlike structural), and using them usually reduces BSP size and memory usage. The simpler BSP when using detail brushes probably offsets the extra cost for collision detection when using detail brushes. I think that answers your question .

quote:

Another interesting question comes to mind. If you make columns that just out into hallway out of detail brushes then is it necassary to put clip brushes over them to reduce the complexity of the area for the aas file. Player with higher levels of skill don't like the ID way of completely clipping of such areas.


Detail brushes are treated the same as structural brushes by the bot compiler. You should keep the bot compiler in mind when you're going crazy with complex detail brushes...

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/


unitool
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posted 06-21-2000 01:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for unitool Visit unitool's Homepage!   Click Here to Email unitool UIN: 717983UIN: 717983 
Just as a test, I converted a load of non-vis blocking brushes on my current map to detail, and recompiled.
Full vis for this "space" type map went from about 4 hours to 36 hours, and in-game r_speeds went up by about a 3rd.

I don't get it - none of the brushes that I switched from structural to detail could have had any sort of vis-blocking function.
Needless to say, I reverted to the previous version, and the only things marked detail right now are light fixtures and small things like that.

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www.quake3hut.com/unitool


Priestess
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 01:48 PM          
quote:
Originally posted by claudec:
I read somewhere that detail brushes will tax the game engine more at runtime. Is this true?

That could have been said because the compiler will not cull the unseen faces of detailed brushes. Therefore you will have extra tris being drawn even tho they're not visible. The solution is to apply the caulk texture to those unseen brushes.

------------------
aka GlassMan
www.glassman.mistral.co.uk


Priestess
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 02:01 PM          
quote:
Originally posted by SmallPileofGibs:
... I then put a lattice of hint brushes to divide the map into 128*128*128 cube nodes. (NOTE: DO NOT DO THIS unless you place each hint one at a time with a clear reason for each one. I never place hints arbitrarily, that would just kill compile time and make it worse) In many situations the nodes don't have to be this small - larger one's in certain areas won't change r_speeds - so i'll divide those areas up every 256 units instead. You're right about it being much easier and simpler to do.. it's the most efficient way I've figured out so far . It also depends heavily on map design - the map must be made from the start with this in mind, or completely rebuilt from the ground up.
..


Thx Spog. One important thing I'll take from this is that the hint brush should be a genuine '3-D' brush describing the leaf you want to create as a whole rather than a single plane marking one side of it. Most tutorials you find on the subject (admittedly written for q2) suggest you use the brush as single plane.

------------------
aka GlassMan
www.glassman.mistral.co.uk


Hrewty
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posted 06-21-2000 02:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hrewty Visit Hrewty's Homepage!   Click Here to Email Hrewty UIN: 666UIN: 666 
That was very informative SPoG,I`ve read through it twice now,and the other things you`ve written,it cleared some spaces in my brain alright.
Well,we do have summer holidays coming soon,so letting the game compile while I`m outside would be great,and maybe my maps will begin to play better too,not look great,but play good.
Yeah,and one other thing,I`ve managed to stop myself from using curves in any of my newest maps,I see that you don`t need curves to enchant gameplay,or architecture,for that matter,even if you`re making gothic themed maps.
So no I can do a -nocurves vis,yay!
But seriously,curves can`t really affect gameplay unless it was intended to do so!


Mr B Ginner
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 04:39 PM          
Thanks for helping so much SPoG, but now I've got a question.
You said that Q3Map starts by dividing the map into 1024 x 1024 chunks. Using the Prtview plugin, I noticed that the cutting starts at zero on each axis (makes sense). It just happens that I have hallways that end up split right down the middle because of this.

I've tried to force splits elsewhere but I can't.

Is there any way to influence where the original chunks of 1024 x 1024 start?

------------------
Mr.B.Ginner
Please test The Pool Hall


SmallPileofGibs
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 04:45 PM          
Nope, you're stuck with the 1024 splits. Now that you know tho, you can design your maps around the 1024 grid. Use View -> Show -> Blocks in radiant to see where the first cuts are made.

------------------
http://www.planetquake.com/spog/


Mr B Ginner
UnRegistered
posted 06-21-2000 05:04 PM          
Thanks for the quick reply SPoG. You've put me out of my misery.
I'll just go and select everything and drag it North. And I thought symmetry was a good thing


------------------
Mr.B.Ginner
Please test The Pool Hall

[This message has been edited by Mr B Ginner (edited 06-21-2000).]

Pheroz
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posted 06-21-2000 06:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pheroz    Click Here to Email Pheroz UIN: 97915021UIN: 97915021 
quote:
Originally posted by SmallPileofGibs:
You're looking for simple rules to follow without having to understand the reasons behind them.


A common problem for many people (including myself) in many aspects of life. Something to think about.

------------------
"Morgan made me walk the Professor. There we were in the park when suddenly some old lady says I stole her purse. I chucked the professor at her but she kept coming. So I had to hit her with this purse I found. Eh, the point is it's Morgan's fault."


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