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.
This weekend was spent changing the way that the combat AI pursues targets. The issue was that often the AI would pursue targets forever, I’ve added some logic to prevent this – based on the new AI “postures” – they are very similar to the previous postures, except now there is a “Pursue” posture that means that the ship will pursue forever, this isn’t the default option, so most of the time ships will allow the player to flee, or won’t leave their bases to pursue enemies. I also added some triggers, and a “enemy to player” only faction – that will ignore anyone but the player’s ships, meaning that I can control the battle well. It can be awckward if you want the player to be attacked by 4 fighters, only to have a nearby base launch its fighters and intercept the attackers, sure sometimes I may want to help the player out, but when I don’t… I don’t.
Today I spent fixing the gate travel code – it was originally implemented a few months back – but never used. During the following months I’ve added features which broke the old gate travel system, but now its back in working order.
While looking at the game – I thought that I may re-factor the fundamental way that the “play areas” are setup. Right now everything is on a map (eg: multiple bases), and maps are connected via gates. But I may re-factor where only one or at most two bases are on a map, there are still gates, but adjoining sectors can be traveled to via the gravity drive. If you are confused as to what the difference between the two systems is – it is that the new method would have more potential for more “filled” play space. So for example in the old system I could have 100 asteroids, but because there are multiple bases (lets say 3) around each base would get 30 asteroids. With the new system of one base per “sector” – that base would get 100 asteroids. But let’s forget about asteroids for a moment, and consider assault platforms, or ships. Attacks would come from asteroid bases in other sectors, but the AI would only briefly live in the sector that the player is in, and nothing of other sectors would be rendered – thus letting the sector that the player is in – take more ships – in a more compact way. This would be a huge switch, but still the old system would remain, so for a more RTS battle you could have a play area like the current one, with multiple bases on one map, but for story purpouses the “less is more” sectors would come into effect.
Not sure that I’m making myself clear so I’ll stop now with this – today was fairly rough getting started coding, the weather is kind of grinding me down, still progress was made.