Taking a look at some AI War 2 ships during late alpha.

Chris here! This is just a video looking at a variety of the ships in AI War 2, or at least the graphics for them. These are in the version 0.124, which will come out early next week. It’s presently late alpha for the game (in the pre-Early-Access sense), and so these are coming up to a much more polished status now.

As part of our testing thus far, one thing that we’ve discovered is the need to use GPU Instancing. That was something that I hadn’t been sure if we’d need or not, and I’ve mentioned it since our first kickstarter for the game. I wanted to try to get away with dynamic batching, which is compatible with OpenGL 3.x and DirectX 9 and DirectX 10. However, the performance just wasn’t good enough, even in battles with only something like 5000 ships versus maybe 2000.

A few passing bugs aside, the performance was still better than AI War Classic with that scale of battle on the simulation side in particular, but GPU instancing became a clear need. So now the game is going to use that, which requires DirectX 11 or OpenGL 4.1, and basically hardware from 2010 or 2011, depending on your exact hardware and OS.

Realistically you needed hardware from that era at the oldest anyway in order to handle the CPU processing, so this really should be a moot point, but it was a bridge I hadn’t wanted to cross unless it really became clear it was needed. Well — now it’s clear. ūüôā

A bug in the GUI sidebar aside, I was getting about 30fps in the aforementioned battle using dynamic batching. This is on a latest-gen i7 with a GTX 1070. Now with most of the stuff working with GPU Instancing, I get around 80 fps. There are still thousands of wasted draw calls because of some of how I’m handling my custom sprite system at the moment, and I expect to get my machine running that same scene at 120 or 140 fps by sometime next week. Knock on wood. ūüôā But it definitely seems like that will be what happens on my rig, based on all my tests thus far.

Anyway, so we get to the question of how big battles will be able to be, and to that I still have the answer: I really don’t know. For a variety of reasons, we can do larger battles than AI War Classic if you’re running them on modern machines. On a machine past a certain age (maybe from 2012 or before?), then the battles of Classic might be larger in terms of what your machine can handle. I’m not sure. The newer your machine gets, though, and that’s looking to the future as well, AI War 2 starts pulling further and further ahead. This switching to GPU Instancing is a huge amount of future-proofing in and of itself.

Overall we just have a ton of performance optimizations and multithreading in the game already, and it’s built around a variety of design concepts that lend themselves to larger battles than the original. We still do hit the occasional hiccup, like the sidebar thing, though, which makes performance absolutely grind to a halt for a bit. That’s one reason why we do the alpha, though; so we can fix things like that, and they never last long. ūüôā

All in all, we’re looking good! I’m excited about the recent changes, even if I am apprehensive about any potential backlash by someone angry about the system requirements change.

Thanks for watching!

Chris

AI War 2 Alpha v0.123 “Ship Batch 4 of 7, And A Metric Ton of Improvements” released!

The release notes are here, and huge.

I’ve been neglecting to update the blogs, instead just posting to the forums and the kickstarter comments section when the last few releases went up. ¬†Honestly? ¬†Finding a picture for each release was taking too much time, so I’m skipping that here.

Anyway, Keith has been in process adding all of the for-start-of-early-access ships, and this is batch 4 out of his 7 for that.  There are more ships for 1.0, but those will be in batches coming after May.

This build also has a huge number of things that I’ve wanted to do for a while, ranging from a cheats console to bugfixes with errant ships and ship selection statuses, to better zoom. ¬†Some of these were thanks to Keith helping me out whittle down my list.

Meanwhile Keith has also added a bunch of new AI capabilities, and so things continue to develop on that front. ¬†Things like the black hole generator you’ll also notice are very similar to how they were in Classic, but improved to be a bit more graceful in how they work with the game.

Things are going well! ¬†Cinth and Blue and myself are also busy on art things, and a wide variety of pieces are coming together all at once for the Early Access launch later this month. ¬†Still quite a ways to go in terms of the feel of polish (which is presently utterly absent), but we’re getting there. ūüėÄ

Tutorial – Using Mesh Baker Pro In AI War 2

April 25th, 2017 – Notes for Cinth on how to use Mesh Baker Pro to do our atlasing instead of Pro Draw Call Optimizer. Pros and cons and troubleshooting galore, although it all works out in the end. Good tool, bad interface, great results. Translation: long tutorial.

AI War 2 Alpha v0.119 “Ship Batch 1 of 7: 24 Ships!” released!

We’ve had several releases since I last did a blog post announcing one, and that was mostly due to me simply not having time at the end of a long day each time.

What We’ve Been Up To

That said, the prior versions were not really fully reflective of how much work is going on lately, even so. ¬†The new planetary sidebar is an awesome thing (even in a somewhat early state), and the new shot lerping and smooth rotation of ships helps to improve the visual polish a great deal. ¬†There’s still a lot more visual polish things for me to do (and some visual performance ones) prior to the Early Access launch about a month from now, but it’s proceeding on a good pace.

Less visibly, behind the scenes Blue has been cranking out new ship designs with great gusto, and Cinth has been wiring them up so that they can be used. ¬†Keith has been doing massive amounts of underlying code work to support the various systems that all sorts of ships need in order to function. ¬†These things were frustratingly invisible, but now they’re starting to bear visible fruit.

This Release!

Version 0.119, which is now out, is the first of seven ship batches that Keith has planned for during alpha. ¬†Overall there are 24 new ships in this one, so I believe that about triples the number of ships the game previously had. ¬†There are about 70 overall types of ships planned for during the pre-Early-Access alpha. ¬†After that, there’s another 60ish ships planned prior to 1.0.

Art For Ships vs Logic For Ships

Progress is happening well on all of that, although when it comes to actually having ships in game (playable) versus art-is-done (looking like the actual ship) is a mishmash.  Some of the ships are in the game without having graphics completed (or wired-up) yet, and those just show with their name and little rock-shapes.

Some actually do have their art done, but they’ve been left as rock-shapes because Keith was in a hurry I think. ¬†Others have their art done, but the actual logic for those ships won’t be ready until another few ship batches from now.

Art Schedule

From the look of things, we should have all of the alpha ships done in the next month (visually speaking), so that should coincide well with the Early Access date. ¬†For the post-alpha stuff, I don’t have an estimate on how long that will precisely take, but I’m guessing 3+ months after EA starts.

Backer Art Commisions

And then lastly, there’s 21 specific art variants that high-level backers commissioned; 10 custom arks, 1 ark or flagship (up to the backer), 2 derelict fortresses, 4 flagships, and and 4 gold-merc-backer-level merc ship paint jobs. ¬†These are things that we’ll start discussing with those backers once all of the other ship art is in, so that they can see what is there already when they’re trying to decide what they want to ask Blue to cook up. ūüôā

TLDR

All in all? Things seem to be on schedule. ¬†We’re behind in some areas (I had planned on doing sound effects before now), but ahead in others (some of the modding and balance capabilities are more advanced than I’d expected at this point).

AI War 2 Video – Debugging Shot Lerping With Chris

Just thought that this was a fun video to do, since a bug in the shot lerping made this an ideal case to show what the shot lerping IS and how it makes a difference in the final visuals of the game.

The video came out longer than I had intended, but it’s a neat look into some of the math challenges behind having a “liar liar” 3D battlefield representation above an underlying coarser 2D simulation.

None of these are intractable problems, by the way, but if I waited to take a video after I fixed the problems, it would be a lot harder to see the innards of how this works. ūüôā

As a reminder, we have a video playlist for our AI War 2 dev diary, which includes a variety of videos that are marked as unlisted on our main channel video listing.

AI War 2 Alpha v0.115 “Icon Refinement, And Shapes” released!

The release notes¬†are fairly lengthy, but mainly because they go into a lot of detail. ¬†There’s a lot of cool stuff in here, but nothing like the last release in terms of scale.

Keith added a couple of buttosn and menu commands to make things easier on players, and extended part of the modding interface to make things easier on visually-oriented modders.

On my end I cleaned up some various things related to the icon graphics, along with Blue doing the same.  I also made some adjustments to the overall bloom effects; it should be better-looking and more performant now.  Wormholes should also be better-looking.

Most of my time on this one was spent on the icons themselves, though.  Both in terms of making the new system look better than it did before, but also allowing for a two-version system for players to choose between (in the settings file only right now, sorry about that).  Basically the ability to see everything represented with shapes, along the lines of this:

Instead of ship-oriented (with flair for sub-types) icons like this:

Even in the latter image, you can see a lot of the various improvements, though. ¬†The icons have more definition to them, the borders and bars are better, and so on. ¬†Frankly I’m not sure which system I completely prefer, but fortunately we don’t really have to choose between them. ¬†Hooray options menus! ūüėČ

Cheers,

Chris

 

AI War 2 Alpha v0.114 “Major GUI And Icons Overhaul” FINALLY released!

Chris here. ¬†This is the largest single release we’ve done since starting the alpha with folks, and by a fair margin. ¬†The release notes are nuts, but worth a read.

That said, right off the bat: “seriously Chris?? ¬†TWO WEEKS since the last build for the game?” ¬†Don’t worry, that’s not something we’re going to turn into a habit. ¬†In addition to simply packing this one with stuff, we also had that recent hacking attempt against us which slowed us down a tad, and some personal life things outside of our control. ¬†But the biggest slowdown, by far, was the new icon system kicking my butt again and again.

Movie poster: “And then his butt… kicked back.”

(Wait, that’s not right.)

Icons!

At any rate, the icon system that is now in place is an in-progress version that has resulted from a lot of experimentation on my own part, along with experimentation by Blue, as well as lots and lots of discussion from players.

Note that I’m locking the original topic about icons, and I’d like to have a new discussion that starts from the common baseline of what is in 0.114. ¬†I’m reasonably pleased with what is here, although the flair in particularly could look a little more visually polished.

Overall there are some polish things that need to happen with several areas of the icons, but in a generalized sense I think the core goals of showing clarity and yet not being cluttered is working well? ¬†Before we get into polishing things like the flair too much, we want to make sure that we’re on the right path here.

The good news is that if we want to shift around what pieces of icon are where, it’s now something that I can do with some trivial code (or in some cases just xml).

The short explanation of these:

  • You can now see what a ship is via a combination of a central player-color icon and (sometimes) a non-player-color “flair” under it.
  • You can see the health for squads under them.
  • The mark level is still shown below them, but is done in a sprite fashion now. ¬†And the color of the mark level on the squad shows its action status (Free Roaming Defender, etc).
  • If it’s under a forcefield or cloaked, then the mark level gets an additional glow around it to show that. ¬†It’s subtle, but helpful.
  • If the squad is selected or mouseovered, then the main player-colored-icon part gets a border.

GUI!

Keith has been doing a ton of work on the GUI, adding in new menus and generally making things more-sane. ¬†It’s still all temp graphics and so on, but the idea is to get the usability higher, which I think is very much happening there.

Another big thing that he has been working on with this is an Objectives window, which is inwork still (naturally), but is something I believe he wants to have a pretty major role in the game later on.  A lack of direction was something that was the biggest stumper for new players in Classic, even those that got through the tutorials.

The idea is to help solve that via the Objectives window, as well as making that useful for veteran players to check some intel (via what objectives are available for them). ¬†At least, that’s my understanding — don’t hold us to that. ¬†Keith can explain it better, as it’s his brainchild and I’m probably misrepresenting that bit by accident. ūüėČ

Other Stuff

Oh man, it’s been so long I can’t believe some of the stuff that is in this build. ¬†These were forever ago, but they’re just coming out now. ¬†In no particular order:

  • Keith fixed a bunch of bugs, and I fixed a few.
  • We did a lot of internal work on our release process, to make releases easier and more reliable. ¬†AND to make it so that hopefully we can remove files from the steam builds, which is useful for the external modding project that comes with the game. ¬†(Keith, don’t forget to check that worked for you).
  • Some more work has been done to improve functionality in the custom LODs that I created for the game. ¬†Although there’s a central problem with it right now that is causing them to not calculate their distances properly. ¬†So it’s putting a lot of extra load on the GPU now compared to what it will next build.
  • The wormhole graphics have gone through like four more iterations, heh. ¬†They’re a lot less neon now, and more attractive and more efficient.
  • If you’re playing on a non-US-English OS (linux or otherwise), the game should now work properly for you.
  • You can hold Z to see the range of ships, or shift to show the orders your ships have. ¬†I’m already aware of an error in the display of your ships’ orders when they’re headed for a wormhole.
  • The cursor on the gamefield plane is now a lot more attractive and clear.

It’s been a really stressful couple of weeks for me, but I’m really happy with the end result. ¬†Expect much more rapid releases coming up next week — although for now I’m off for the weekend, heh. ¬†Looking forward to relaxing a bit.

Just in case there’s some major issue in this build that prevents you from playing, there’s a new beta branch in Steam for the older 0.113 build of the game. ¬†You can revert to that if you want to play it for whatever reason, anyhow — hopefully the new build is far preferable on all fronts, though. ¬†Knock on wood! ūüôā

Cheers,

Chris