A bunch more polish happened over the last week and I think iter 16 is mostly ready. Hoping to release it during the next week, then go from there.
Today I spent creating the trailer for it, yep took most of the day. I thought a few times that I need to add in a better “video camera” code/support, will come in handy in the future.
Earlyer in the week I added in “space dust” – to give the player a sense of movement in an otherwise empty “void of space”. I think it turned out pretty well, one experiment with space dust yielded a very cool “in nebula” effect, hoping to use that in the near future.
Having mostly finished with control mapping and the options screen – I did a bunch of little things – mostly glitches and oversights.
The biggest is that I re-added ribbon trails. Long ago the project had ships with ribbon trails, but I removed them when I realized that because ships in Void Destroyer can move backwards/in reverse – the ribbon trails could clip through the ship. I changed them a bit so that ribbon trails don’t emit when the ship is moving backwards, a small thing, but I couldn’t leave have them clip. Just a bit too sloppy.
The past 2 weeks have been spent on control mapping. This also included some re-factoring of the control code. For example before the refactoring – the code/engine logic for commands issued via keyboard and joystick were completely separate. Now all input devices share the same logic. So whatever the device you can issue the same commands, and they all work
I also decided to “quickly” (took about 3 days) refractor the options menus – there were two of them. So now there is a shared “options menu” in the “main menu” and “in game menu” states. This means that adding more options will be easier as I wouldn’t have to do it in two places or decide which place it should go.
Today – finally – I started polishing up for iter 16. Command ship abilities are re-enabled (didn’t want to post pone iter 15 any longer so I took them out right before releasing iter 15) and I’ve done a few other little tweaks – including a “LOADING…” splash screen, so that new players won’t think that the game crashed right after double clicking on the game’s shortcut.
Going to spend the next two or so week adding/polishing up additional “little things” – which tends to feel very satisfying
It has been a year since Drew died. I often think about him. Especially when I run the game and see his art and contributions. I think that he would enjoy the new additions to the project. I wish he was here to seen them.
Things are getting more and more complex and the small issues that crop up that need to be polished/fixed when prepping a release are getting bigger. One small fix leads to 3 unintended consequences needing their own fixe and sometimes it seems like it won’t ever end. My mind gets blurry thinking of all the different little things I’ve had to deal with. But here we are at iteration 15 – hopefully mostly bug free *fingers crossed*
Yesterday while polishing up iter 15 I felt like this is one of those really good days, got to work on something I love, fix it up, make it better and see the results. Today I was still on that high, but constant tests and fixes and tests – were starting to grinding me down. Still there’s no other way around this, but perseverance.
Iteration 15 is actually less polished than I’d like – I intentionally ignored some issues and improvements to the story – if I hadn’t then it would take another week to a month to polish. The goal is to get feedback on iter 15 – mostly in terms of story/difficulty/gameplay – polish it up while adding in key mapping – leading into relatively quick release of iteration 16. Which will hopefully lead to a Steam Greenlight campaign and beyond. So we are coming up on some very important events in the history of the project. Hopefully most of them will work out
I feel very proud of this release but also a bit anxious to hear that it doesn’t have some issue. Tomorrow I’ll work on the trailer for iter 15 then start working on iter 16.
Hopefully towards the end of this upcoming week.
Spent last week putting the finishing touches on the story mode – its fairly wrapped up now, but I have to have a full play through. Lots of bugs cropp up and testing is taking longer and longer due to the increase of variables – for example bugs due to a play through without saving/loading, bugs due to saving/loading – both scenarios have to be tested, and doing a full play through – though not extremely long at this point, does take some time. Still as usual whenever I fix bugs and play test I feel good about the project. Though I’m trying to avoid too much polish for iter 15 – iter 16 should follow shortly (hopefully within or around a month) and the plan is to polish that one more so than iter 15 – hopefully with the addition of player feedback.
There were some glaring engine sound and particle effect flaws that kept poking me in the face due to the testing play through, so I spent a bit of time on them and greatly improved, yay – they were very annoying. Ships often wouldn’t stay at their intended speed, or would never reach zero speed, but they’d fluctuate between 0.1 and -0.1 or some similar values. Most of this should go away now. However in fixing these for ships I seem to have dinged them for missiles, they are strangely drunk in their flights, totally missing their targets, have to fix before releasing.
Late yesterday and all of today I focused on re-doing the tutorials with the new dialog and trigger systems. Each take a very long time, but I’m mostly done. I’m having a bit of a struggle adding that bit of something special to make them more interesting. I have some ideas, but comedy and writing aren’t my strong points. However the tutorials are looking and feeling better. Changing the story and setting makes them a lot easier to work with and think about. Before the story changes the player would start in the “rock guys” faction as I call it, but the tutorials were played in the “green guys” faction. So it was a bit awkward, now that the player starts with the green guys the tutorials match up well. So I’m thankful for this change and turn of events as well.
Speaking of the story changes – some thoughts are being tossed around internally that I think are very promising on that front. There were some vague ideas on the story, but I think we’ve caught onto something simple, yet interesting. That will allow us to combine elements into a very nicely fitting package. Sorry for being so vague, but otherwise I’d be posting story spoilers.
Spent most of the week working on the story. Lots of little things, mostly progress, and mostly smooth. Hoped to wrap up the story portion over the weekend, but I didn’t make it. Goal is to wrap the story portion of iter 15 early this week, then re-factor most of the tutorials. Then release early week after that.
I almost got snagged into re-doing a bit of command mode – but reminded myself that the current goal is the story. I had a thought that it would be good to outsource the scripting/story work, however I’m constantly coding support for new scripts, so that isn’t likely (even if I found someone).
Long story short – I’ve decided to change the story – to change the setting and most of all simplify it.
Long story long – early in the week I was scripting a cutscene. The cutscene would trigger right after the player exited a gate, in front of the player was a planet and a space station was in orbit. So far so good. Now comes the cutscene – we see two different sets of ships near the gate. Then the dialog portion starts – two factions were discussing the player’s fate – the factions would take turns attacking ships that would come through the gate. So after this riveting dialog, a cutscene would play, where one of the faction’s ships would fly off and the other faction attacks the player.
Sounds ok eh? Well from seeing it and playing it was incredibly bad, but worse it was incredibly horrible setting it up. I hated it – for various reasons – mostly since it was very tedious scripting and not coding (which I enjoy). Now there are things that I don’t enjoy in terms of this project and I can slog through since I have the end point in mind, but when I dislike something and the end result is bad – well that’s a recipie for disaster.
So I left the computer for the night and sometime between that time and morning I decided to simplify the story.
The setting will change, requiring less explanation and allowing for more action, and a quicker entry into the full range of features of the game – space sim and RTS.
And so far I’m very happy – there’s a lot more action, a lot less need to explain what is going on. Meaning less writing – which should result in overall better writing because – lets face it I’m no Shakespere.
Almost didn’t post this, but then I remembered that I tend to read these posts and they help me keep track of past obstacles. Early this week I spent polishing gate travel, there was a bug with sound not being enabled correctly post gate exit in a new “map.” It turned out to occur because I didn’t attach the sound listener to the player ship on gate exit correctly.
The rest of the week was spent obsessing about ships. I asked a great modeler to make me a command ship, sent over concepts and info and shortly afterwards received a 3d model. I then began texturing the model start to finish to understand the process and have an idea of how long it truly takes. The answer is about 8 hours. The model looked great, but when finished the ship didn’t fit the command ship mold. The model I received was spot on what I asked for, but I asked for certain wrong things and I didn’t include certain right things. I had to bump my head against the wrong concept to know this however.
I chopped the ship up and combined parts of other ships and that resulted in a very cool frigate. Looking forward to having it part of the player’s arsenal in the mid game. Knowing what mistakes I made in asking the artist, I asked for another model, and again I received a very awesome ship. Again I started texturing, but this time about half way through I realized that again it wasn’t going to work as a command ship.
There’s a two main issues here that I’ve come to realize. One is the difference in modeling style and the bigger issue is the difficulty in getting a compatible scale. The ships ended up either too small or too big. Huge in some cases. I spent Saturday trying to make it work (very obsessively), but it wouldn’t budge.
I then did the same thing as with the previous ship, chopped it for parts and combined it with another ship. And the result is serviceable, not as good as the cool frigate, but decent enough that I can let it go for now and continue working on other aspects.
This experience makes me think about the future of 3d models in the project, I’m about ready to give up on new ships for the player faction. In broad terms there isn’t a great need, so it is not the end of the world.
So overall the weekend has a bright side.
This week was spent on polishing and bug fixing, lots of little things along the way.
I’ve worked on the radar system a bit, and decided to have it mostly focus on combat and ships. So before I considered showing objects other than ships in the radar, but that would mean a lot of clutter, and thus make the radar less useful. I’ve also tweaked the hud marker to show enemy ships that are targeting the player in a different hue, I already had the radar do this and thought – why not the hud markers?
I finished up some code for planets and suns, before the slight tweaks you could fly into them – though their model/geometry – I added support for their collision objects to be the proper scale – based on their visual size. A unhappy side effect resulted in a very annoying bug (exctreme slow performance due to rogue collision events) that took me a bit of time track down, and then a one line fix got it handled.
Things are looking fairly polished so I’m feeling good about that as I always do when I fix bugs – but one thing that is slightly bugging me is that I’m not done with the “intro mission” and it is in a bit of a stall because it is fairly predictable and I think too wordy. The stall is because I want something more unique, but because this is also the tutorial it should be fairly predictable as well heh… I think the tutorial side might win, but I should toss in some cool things along the way to keep interest.