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

AI War 2 Alpha v0.113 “The One Thanks To Cinth” released!

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. ūüôā

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!

Chris

IBL in AI War 2!

Pics lower down. ūüôā

The Problem I Wanted To Solve

One of the frustrations I’ve had with the ship graphics in AI War 2 is that it’s hard to make sure that they’re both vibrant AND nicely reactive to the environmental colors and similar while being so hugely restricted in terms of how many truly-PBR techniques we can use because of limitations caused by having SO many realtime objects to light in that sort of scenario.

I’ve gotten around that with a variety of tricks that have evolved over the last months, and it’s been working well with Blue’s cel-shaded clean ship albedo/diffuse coloring. ¬†It wasn’t perfect, but I knew I’d have time to improve it later — the main issue I had was that specular highlights tended to trend to white on all models.

Part of the recent evolution in the look of ships was to give them more of a metallic-on-cel-shaded look, which allows for a lot more flexibility in the sort of visual effects we can then do. ¬†My first approach to that was to think of PBR, and so that’s what we recently converted to — the Unity Standard shader, which is heavily PBR.

There were a variety of challenges with that, though — I couldn’t control the amount of specular whiteout as much as I wanted while still having a ton of metallic feel to it. ¬†Cinth kind of set me on the path of chasing the metallic look to marry that to the cel-shaded look that Blue sent me chasing, and I really wanted to get those working together.

The New Approach!

Experimenting a bunch last night and then today, I’ve settled on an IBL approach that is using Blinn-Phong again, back to what my custom rim-lighting shader was doing before we went to the standard shader (sorry, no link on that one — it’s somewhere on the forums or kickstarter, though).

Anyhow, the big benefit of this approach is that I’m able to handle reflections via a cubemap that has nothing to do with the larger scene, and then tint the reflections as needed, along with using a fresnel effect on them. ¬†Then beyond that I’m faking a metalness map in some cases (such as for the fighter and bomber) by additively using the inverse of that data in the diffuse channel.

It’s All About The Motion

Bear in mind that the result is a lot more dramatic in motion, because as ships move around you get a lot more of them shimmering and glinting in the light as a school of fish might.

Even so — in still screenshots I think that it looks a bit better now. ¬†But in motion it’s night and day.

Also: Lighting

Also! ¬†Bear in mind that based on the lighting of the planet in question, you’ll get pretty drastically different results from what I am about to show. ¬†In one case I was frustrated because the serial number on the fighter wasn’t showing up properly… only to realize that in fact it was acting appropriately in the lower-direct-lighting environment it was in at the time.

The basic rule of thumb is that the ships wind up varying in appearance more from planet to planet in terms of the characteristics of light on them, which is a big part of the goal.

Bomber

The above is what I had before, using the Standard shader and a metalness map.  I was particularly unhappy with that one.

Now a few shots of what the new one looks like from various angles:

You’ll notice that in the two different angles give a really different feel to the color, even within one lighting profile. ¬†That has a lot to do with the fresnel effect and cubemap for the reflections, but also just the specular highlights based on the view angle toward the light, too.

In a couple of angles that makes it looked a little more washed out in the cool orange parts, but very metallic — and then in other angles it looks rich and deep like the original cel-shading work that Blue did. ¬†I’m really pleased with how these feel like they’re a living and interesting part of the scene, rather than just a flat piece of junk that always looks the same no matter where you see it or from what angle. ¬†Perish the thought. ūüėČ

Fighter

So the above is again the “before shot,” prior to today’s IBL work. ¬†I was actually really¬†happy with this one already. ¬†Then here are a few angles of what it looks like now:

In some lighting angles, you can see that this one is really dark on some of the surfaces. ¬†But there’s also a very metallic sheen to it. ¬†From other angles the main color comes right back out, and from yet others there’s this kind of bluish shimmer that passes over it as the camera or the ship turns, either way.

I might need to make the cockpit a little brighter, I dunno.  Minor tweaks.

More To Come!

At any rate, the space dock and Ark and warp gate and planet controllers also really got a huge upgrade out of all this.  All the rest of the ships are still using the PBR approach, which looks similar-enough but not quite the same by any stretch.

This wasn’t really on my list of things to work on this week originally, but with Cinth having some major health issues and there also being some major health issues with a couple of my extended family members, it’s been a week where I wanted to focus on some things that were productive, but not quite as mentally taxing. ¬†This was a tricky problem to solve, but not as tricky as some.

Anyway — enjoy! ¬†Thanks for reading.

Chris

Blue’s work on the new Lightning Corvette.

This is something I’m really jazzed to show you — it’s basically the replacement for the Electric Shuttle from the first game, except a bit revamped in a good way.

You may recall that Blue has been working on icons lately? ¬†She actually finished those up yesterday, and the ball has been in my court since then. ¬†She’s moved on to working on other things, including the Eyebots (not yet painted, but modeled) and then what you see above.

There are a variety of higher-priority ships than these that Keith put on his list, but I’ve been sampling from a few areas simply to get us a few more small ships earlier than later in the art process. ¬†Those are a nice break for Blue compared to doing all the really giant ships first. ¬†Variety being the spice of life, and all that.

No release today, but there should be one tomorrow, I expect. ¬†Lots of things have been inwork, it’s just one of those times where it doesn’t fit to do a release on a given day.

Cheers!