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Sun, Jun 29th 2008, 17:26
Creeping Deadline  

Let's start with the longview; This week flew by and my combat prototype is less developed than I had hoped it to be by now (there will be no public release as of yet), but I'm going to go ahead and use it. This leaves me with about a month to go before my original "open beta" deadline. I fully intend to keep this timeframe, so the next two weeks will be spent getting the combat up to snuff. From there, it'll be a grind until August to integrate it with the main game and get as much "in house" playtesting done as I can. After that, it'll be a matter of evaluating player feedback and adjusting accordingly. Assuming no catastrophic occurrences, this last phase should be smooth sailing.

And now, since I'm such a swell guy, here's a screen of the (very) rough combat prototype:

I know what you're thinking. "Oh no! Blocks. On a grid. And you probably have to match them!" Well, you'd be right, but this has some quirks that can't be seen in the screenshot. It's not the pinnacle of originality, I'll admit, but accessibility counts for a lot here. In total, it should still feel like its own game, which is enough for me.


Sun, Jun 22nd 2008, 18:19
A New Era  

Here we sit at what can only be described as a milestone. The server and client have full implementations of all the non-combat systems. This is great news, of course, but brings with it an interesting dilemma.

You see, the as-of-yet undisclosed combat system is in a limbo of sorts. I have my original plan for it clearly mapped out, and am very fond of it. It should be a lot of fun to play and its integration with the rest of the game would be an interesting mix, but that's where its value ends.

So, I've decided to take a stab at creating an alternate combat system. I've got the design for it mostly hammered out already, and I intend to spend the next week putting together a prototype to evaluate it's fun-ness. If this ends in catastrophic failure (which is entirely possible as this is, get ready for it, a puzzle game) I'll probably just scrap it and go back to the old model (which is not a puzzle game). If it succeeds, however, I'll have something more approachable and with a great deal more longevity, which is more fitting with the large scale goals for this game anyway.

So stay tuned for news of the coming tinkerings. I may even publicly release the prototype for feedback. Also, there are no screens this week. Life is hard.


Sun, Jun 15th 2008, 14:18
Two For You  

In a complete reversal of my normal posting habits, I give you: minimal text and tasty new screens!

New and Improved Sector:

Brand Spanking New Market:

I'm just going to leave it at that for this week. Next update, things will probably be back to their normal, long-winded, screenshotless state.


Sun, Jun 8th 2008, 09:45
Time Slip  

Somehow, I completely lost two weeks of time. Also, it seems my updates have moved to Sunday, putting me in the company of McGrue, Kildorf, and SDHawk.

A fair amount of work went into this week's update, though it really only comes down to two improvements. A large part is some handy changes to my object management / tracking stuff for debug purposes. Not particularly exciting, but helpful. The other portion is thanks to that swell guy Overkill, who went to the trouble of adding the keybuffer stuff to the lua binding, which instantly made the game feel more complete. Well, once I got past some weird kinks and quirks with both it and v3's printstring it did.

So this is pretty light and not especially exciting, but I am back on course. Look forward to a tasty update next week.


Fri, May 23rd 2008, 11:14
Revisionist Mystery  

Let's get this out of the way: there are no screens this week.

The industry/technology system has been redesigned. Again. This time around I'm feeling that this is going to be the one that makes it to release. It's a nice balance of simplicity and sophistication. What's even better is that it's no longer directly tied to the "active" component of the game. This means I can breathe easily while tinkering with getting it just right instead of constantly making large/hacky changes to the tech system to keep everything in sync. Sadly, all of this is just in notebooks and text files right now, so I haven't got anything to show.

Wait. Did I just say "active" component? What could that possibly mean? Am I just making up this stuff up to make my game sound more awesome? Or is there something to it? Don't touch that dial!


Fri, May 16th 2008, 13:25
Half and Half  

The way things went this week (and given the nature of the project), it seems most fitting to break this week's update into two parts: client and server. As this was an overly productive week, I'm only to present an overview of the major changes.

The Client:

I spent the first part of my week absolutely tearing up the client. I rewrote giant heaps of stuff for the purpose of saner organization. Of particular note (from the would-be players' perspective), the entire "galactic heirarchy" was rewritten. It's now more "realistic", which I originally had mixed feelings about, but now that it's in place, I'm actually quite satisfied with it.

So, some UI components have been shuffled around, and it's a lot more colorful now. There's still quite a distance to go, but it's starting to really take shape visually, which always feels rewarding.

The Server:

This was definitely the most frustrating task, in spite of it not being all that complicated or challenging. You see, I went to the trouble of writing out a very specific client design, so that I wasn't just fumbling around until I ended up at the finish line. I did the same with my network protocol. For some reason, though, I completely failed to think through the design for the server and, as a result, it was a treacherous, unwieldy force-to-be-reckoned-with. So, I went in and chopped it to pieces, saving a few useful fragments. Then I pieced it all back together (this time with a cohesive vision in mind). The result? It does exactly what it did before. The important difference is that it is significantly easier to maintain.

If this game were to become wildly popular, I'd probably have to rewrite the server for efficiency, but as it stands now, it's reasonably swift and super easy to manage.


Fri, May 9th 2008, 14:18
Mundane Success  

I spent this past week getting the server framework in place and getting the client and server to have meaningful interactions. I am happy to report that this all went quite smoothly and that things are really starting to fall into place. Most of the foundational stuff is in and working without a hitch, so now it's really just a matter of expanding it into an actual game. No small feat, sure, but the "hard" part is out of the way now.

So, while there isn't much of a game, and the action set is pretty limited, it's fair to say that things are going swimmingly! However, all is not sunshine and rainbows. There is a dark, sinister truth yet to be told. There are two gigantic, glaring, and completely-unforgivable flaws with VERGE that are crippling my development efforts. First is that that jerk Kildorf managed to break line drawing by causing it to disinclude an entire pixel occasionally. Second is that, somehow, the keybuffer stuff has yet to be properly bound to Lua, leaving all of my text inputting capabilities in the lurch. Okay, so these aren't really stopping me from getting anything done, but I will be very happy when they're remedied.

There are no screens this week on account of there's nothing new to show. Since all the changes are to the background behavior, nothing actually looks any different. I could just post an old screen and call it a new one if I really wanted; it'd be accurate, but silly. Over the coming week, I'll be putting in more mechanics, so there should actually be some screens next time.


Fri, May 2nd 2008, 10:32
Socket To Me  

I admittedly didn't get as much done this week as I was expecting to. I did, however, finally take the plunge and merge my networking stuff in with the main game. This went surprisingly well, with only a few unexpected quirks that were easy to fix. While it doesn't really do anything useful just yet, it is in place, and the client and server play nicely with each other, which is quite satisfying.

With that out of the way, I took to the burdensome task of writing out the network protocol specification. This is quite boring and requires lots of me sketching and scribbling on paper. I think it's safe to say that the core principles are quite solid. Documenting all the different exchanges is going to take a bit more work, but the end result will be a super-handy reference manual that will make the actual implementation significantly easier.

So, where are the pictures? Well, I wasn't originally planning on doing so much network (read: not screenshot worthy) stuff, so.. here:

Just so that there is something to look at. The important thing to notice is that clump of blue in the upper left corner. That's the network activity indicator. Its purpose is shrouded in mystery, or perhaps it just indicates network activity.

And that wraps up this week's report. Tune in next time for Adventures in Getting the Client and Server to Actually do What I Want.


Fri, Apr 25th 2008, 15:30

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Free Time

First, I'd like to state, out in the open, that I have now set a deadline for this project. I will have it to "open beta" status as of August 1, 2008. Can it be done? Absolutely. Can I do it? "Yes". Anyhow, this gives me a little over three months from today to get more or less everything done. After that point, the only changes should be small tweaks based on playtesting. With any luck, this aggressive timetable will get me moving and producing like never before.

Coming hot of the heels of that bold declaration, it's time to discuss this week's progress. There are no screenshots. Again. Get over it. However, after extensive tinkering, begging, pleading, and other unspeakable acts, I've gotten the socket functionality I want dropped into VERGE so that I can proceed with my diabolical plans. Yes, that's right; I said sockets. That means this does network stuff. Cool network stuff.

I promise tasty, visual-type updates next week, so stay tuned.


Fri, Apr 18th 2008, 15:28
More Design Revisions  

Despite having fought tooth and nail to get somewhere with my network code, I have basically nothing to show (or even report) in that regard.

This, however, does not mean I accomplished nothing. Even more (and more dramatic) design changes have been made. The economy system is starting to shape up and feel complete-ish. Now it's simply a matter of getting enough other things done that I can drop it in and do some field tests.

I've also decided to use a more literal representation for star systems, notably, that each actually has a star and orbital bodies now, instead of the old "representative" system. I still feel like it's a bit cluttered feeling, but it's also more intuitive to navigate, and gives me the opportunity to add more personality to each system.

The technology and defense systems have also been revised and are kind of fused together now. This is one is fairly satisfying, since it feels like a more balanced and complete set of mechanics.

All of the changes, while described vaguely here, are pretty significant in determining just what the end result will be. I'm pretty confident that these revisions are leading to a much better and more interesting game, and so I'm actually kind of glad that I put it off for as long as I have and am revisiting it now.


Fri, Apr 11th 2008, 15:13
Screens of Screens  

Some stuff on display this week, but most of the real progress is, naturally, in the background. I made some sweeping design changes to the economic model. For the better, I think. Details? You'll just have to wait.

Apart from that, I "finished" a couple menu screens. Sadly, as awesome as I was convinced my UI system is, I've discovered that it still takes a while to put the elements together. However, it's lightning quick to make changes afterwards, so it's not a total loss. Also, the mini-map was an awful monster to wrangle with; I just want to throw that out there.

I encountered a bit of an issue with Lua when mixing "integer" and non-integer math. Fortunately, once the cause was discovered, it only took a few small fixes to get everything working again. Thanks go to Kildorf for helping me get to the root of it.

The done-for-now options screen:

The still-very-much-a-work-in-progress galaxy screen:

I'm quite satisfied with this week's work, even if I don't have a whole lot to show for it here. Here's hoping for another solid update next week!


Sat, Apr 5th 2008, 01:48
Mired in UI  

Well, I ended up reworking more of the existing UI stuff. I can't seem to leave well enough alone. Sliders (pictured below) are also included now, which I somehow forgot about before. I changed the way they look this time around; they've got a "fatter" quality, but the end result is more colorful and easier to use, so I'm satisfied.

Not quite the progress I was hoping for, but progress none the less!