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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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).
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. 🙂
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.
Oy, I’m tired. So I’ll mostly let the release notes speak for themselves. 😉 Also, here’s a screenshot:
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! 😉
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.)
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.
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. 😉
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! 🙂
March 22nd, 2017 – Notes for Cinth (or modders!) on how to use the new functionality in our custom LOD system that allows for you to do simple culling on child renderers that already dynamically batch from LOD0 onwards.
March 22nd, 2017 – Notes for Cinth (or modders!) on how to use the new functionality in our custom LOD system that allows for you to compensate for bad anchor points in models (meshes). You can always update the mesh itself, or now you can do this too.
March 21st, 2017 – Detailed notes for Cinth (or modders!) on using the custom IBL shaders that we’re now transitioning the ships in the game to using. The visual look evolves!
I have basically no time left today, so I’ll just point you to this blog post from today about IBL in the game, and then these release notes. Just in case this blows up for whatever reason, there’s a new alpha0112 beta branch in Steam that lets you roll back if you need to.
Also: fantastic news, Cinth is out of the hospital! He’s not back at work yet obviously, but this is a great step forward. 🙂
Now — screenshots!
The above wormholes are based on his torus concept, and they look WAY better in motion. Though I like how they look when still, too.
The above two screenshots are of the new science generators that you can find on planets. They were to be called “husks,” which isn’t really what this evokes to my mind, but it’s really cool-looking and so we might keep this styling. We’ll see.
And now I really have to run!