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Mon, Jun 29th 2009, 12:24
Shore Leave  

A bit more art is now in place and some general tinkering this week. I spent a good four hours just tweaking the player's shield flicker. It relays the shields' state much more clearly now. Having a HUD free combat experience has presented some interesting challenges; there are still a few rough spots (most notably: shield regeneration), but the presentation is clean. With so much stuff going on at once, having a bunch of meters and values cluttering up the screen space would just make it that much harder to play.

I'm figuring on the next wave of testing being two weeks from now. This should be confirmed next week provided nothing blows up in my face between now and then.


Sun, Jun 21st 2009, 10:55
Art Grind  

As the final battle art is rolling it, I started putting in the time to more carefully place the ship "muzzles" and came to an unfortunate realization: the player can adjust his bullet size, but the size of his ship's cannon is static.

So I adopted an approach that moves the muzzle based on the the size of the bullet. This fixed the "giant bullet of doom overlapping the hull" problem, but, depending on the muzzle size, starts looking funny when the bullet gets too big or too small. So it got scrapped.

Instead, bullets now fire at a muzzle-appropriate size and then then quickly expand once they're in the playfield. This keeps the action looking smooth at the player's ship without compromising the variable size. In some cases, it can look a little unusual, but it's rare and a sane player would probably never build his ship that way. Short of making a whole bunch of different gun art (or software scaling it, which would be worse, really), I think this is as good as it can be with the way the game works.


Sun, Jun 14th 2009, 13:11
Vista's Siren Song  

It's no secret that Spacegame does not get along with Windows Vista right now. I have been told that the latest (repository) build of VERGE will make this all go away, so I'll just drop in the new.. Oh wait! It's not that simple.

I wish it was. The reality is that I've been running on a semi-unofficial, long-deprecated engine build. So, since I've started, the lua binding has been changed a bit and, worse yet, the class system has been replaced with one that is not fully compatible with some of my slapdash code. This is all actually quite good for the engine. It is, however, bad for me. To get my game up to snuff would require a fair amount of clean-up and rewriting. This of course puts me at the awkward spot of choosing either no Vista support, or pouring even more time into this game.

I can't really afford to not upgrade the engine, so it's not much of a choice at all. After this is done I'll have Vista support, cleaner code, and support for new engine features as they come. I do slightly regret diving headfirst into the lua side before it was cemented, but ultimately it was fun and this is only a minor setback.


Sat, Jun 6th 2009, 19:56
Nomenclature Madness  

Well, I finally sat down and worked through the only real remaining hurdle: reworking the defensive attributes. Each "ship" had three different adjustable attributes (the names of which where never really finalized, but were: "offense", "defense", "quantity").

Each of these attributes then influenced one or more specific qualities of the unit, with many even overlapping to create "compound" properties.

e.g. The Streamer's movement rate was affected by both its Offense and Defense. By moving faster:

* It is harder for the player to spot it and get out of the way in time.(Offense)
* It is more likely to make it off the screen without being shot and destroyed, yielding a "successful" deployment. (Defense) It's worth mentioning, for those that haven't already played (and quite probably most that have), that this ship doesn't maximize its damage potential until after it exits the screen.

So, in order to max out its speed, you'd actually have to max out both its offense and defense attributes. I think this is a pretty neat way to handle things, and, in a perfect world, it would make a great game, but it.. doesn't.

The reality is that not only is this pretty complicated (especially for a game that's largely just pick up and play shooting), but it's all happening in the background under vague labels too! Best case: dedicated players reverse engineer the numbers and learn how to work the system, while casual players are uninformed and fail miserably. Worst (and most probable) case: players are quickly frustrated and annoyed, prompting them to give up on the game.

Obviously that's bad, so that plan has been scrapped. Or at least severely amended.

It's not exhaustive, but here are some quick bullets about the "new" system:

* Each unit type still has three attributes, but each set of three has been tailored to the specific unit type, instead of trying to shoehorn the unit types into a generic attribute set.
* Each attribute is linked to a single property. Gone are the days of complex, intertwining relationships.
* When setting up your defenses, the UI clearly displays what an attribute adjusts for that specific unit when mousing over its slider. The numbers are all still tucked away in the background, but at least the relationships are clear; semi-transparency should be sufficient.

As big as I'm making it sound, in implementation these are tiny adjustments, but I spent a lot of thinky-juice deciding that this is the best course to take. Now that this is done, I'm feeling good about the project again and really can't wait to wrap up the rest of the non-balancing work so I can get this out to everyone.


Fri, May 29th 2009, 00:01
We Get Signal  

Moving is mostly completed and was thankfully uneventful. Everything is, more or less, back to normal. Since I'm tired and in a hurry to get myself out of the red on the Gruedorf Scoreboard, this will be brief.

I did a lot of little improvements to the text for various tooltips. Unique, per-unit-type tooltips were added to the defensive setup screen; each unit's purpose is significantly more obvious to players yet to become experienced veterans.

The gravity ship's mechanics have been reworked to be a little more "correct". Its power is still based upon the distance between it and the player, bu the distances is now between the closest edges, not the centerpoints. It definitely "feels" better now. Additionally, a number of visual tweaks (mostly experimental) have been thrown in to try and easily convey the gravity ship's behavior without being obnoxious; this has been surprisingly difficult.


Wed, May 20th 2009, 15:14
Preemptive Strike  

I am in the process of moving and will be without internet for an indefinite amount of time, so I'm posting early as I won't be able to make my regularly scheduled slot.

Progress has been light this week. I knocked out a couple kinks in the initial battle behavior, everything works as intended now.


Fri, May 15th 2009, 16:31

I'm not going to lie. The reason I missed my post deadline this week (and, indeed, why my posts have been so shallow for a while now) is that I have been sucked in back into Guild Wars in a bad, bad way.

The good news is that today I buckled down and crashed through the biggest immediate hurdle: adding a "tutorial" battle. This was was kind of tricky because normally battles are spawned out of a whole bunch of user defined values, and here I needed a fixed setup, but it also needed to not break when I make some inevitable changes to the battle stuff further down the line.

I ended up making a compromise. It's definitely not 100% future-proof but it should be pretty simple to patch it up in the event that it does need it. Yep, that's my story.

There are a few more little things that need doing and then, depending on how the art situation is looking, we'll be ready to roll for phase II of testing. I'm starting to get excited again, which can only be a good thing.


Thu, May 7th 2009, 22:31
Explanation Optional  

Pretty minor update again. The "tutorial" system has been properly hooked up to the server and you may now choose to opt out of it if you already know how everything works (or of you're feeling reckless). One of these days I'll get a good solid grind in and push out the next phase of testing; it can't come soon enough.


Thu, Apr 30th 2009, 21:24
How to Play  

Very light progress this week; the inline instructions are mostly fleshed out. These should really help explain the game, but it's pretty wordy. Ultimately I think it's better than not understanding the game at all, though. So a bit more work on that and then it's back to combat tweaking. The goal is to have this ready enough for the next round of testing by next weekend. Wish me luck!


Thu, Apr 23rd 2009, 10:19
Situation Normal  

This week, my computer acquired a viral infection. Actually, several. Simultaneously. And they were quite unpleasant. So I spent virtually all of my time (including extensive sleep loss) fighting to wrest control of my machine and get everything back in working order.

I am happy to report that nothing really important was lost; it pays to have a contingency plan.

The bad news is that my net productivity on spacegame this week is about zero. It's going to be at least another week before the next round of testing can start.


Thu, Apr 16th 2009, 23:41
Pew Pew Pew  

A little overdue and I'm short on time, so here's a condensed bullet list culled from my SVN log:

* Periodic progress "update displays" have been added to combat.
* Enemies now spawn in "waves" instead of a constant barrage of baddies.
* Combat duration is no longer explicitly controlled by the player.
* Further experimenting with the player ship presentation and visual feedback.

Next wave of testing could be as early as a week from now.


Thu, Apr 9th 2009, 15:04
Paddling Along  

Very little to say this week. I'm just fudging with different aspects of the combat a bit to try and squeeze a bit more fun / intuitiveness into the experience. Nothing really remarkable to report, though.


Wed, Apr 1st 2009, 14:35
Do Not Falter  

The first round of testing has been a technical success. Everything is working smoothly and as intended. I want to thank everyone who participated. I got a lot of great feedback on how it felt to be a player coming in from the outside. I would also like to extend a special thanks to Kael for taking the time to offer some fantastic design insight.

All of this has shown me just how much more work there is to be done. It's a little discouraging to realize you're not as close as you thought, but it gives me the opportunity to create a better game. C'est la vie.

So, I've been diligently grinding away at the improvements and will continue to do so. A few weeks from now, I'd like to start a second, larger wave of playtesting and see where we stand. I won't be dismantling the live test server, so currently enrolled testers are welcome to continue playing in the interim.

A brief list of the biggest changes:

* Added an "Active Players" panel to the sector screen; this lists any other active player(s) and what they are currently doing.
* Added translucent overlays of the defensive ships to the planetary defense screen, making it more clear what each is / does.
* Added "blueprints" to the assault outfitting screen, allowing players to quickly save and load templates for their ship designs.