AIWar 2 – “AIW2ModdingAndGUI” Modding Tutorial

This video is directed at external modders, for whom we’ve now set up a unity project that comes with the game and which makes it easy for you to add your own ships, models, sounds, visual effects, and more.

This does NOT cover code additions or changes, and data changes like balance statistics, etc. Those are handled through the AIWarExternalCode visual studio project, and the GameData/Configuration xml files, respectively.

Actually creating content for any of the above is beyond the scope of this particular video, which is more about how to get set up and find what you need. There is an ongoing series of videos that I’ve created that does cover all sorts of topics related to this, however.

And in the future I’ll create more videos that are more concisely focused on specific modder-oriented topics.

This video requires you be on version 0.109 or later of the game.

Thanks for watching!
Chris

AI War 2 Alpha v0.107 released!

0.106 was just a minor bugfix version on Monday.  This one is more midsize.

There are a variety of visual and performance improvements in here, and some things to help us figure out why OpenGLCore may have been in use on some (all?) machines instead of DirectX9.  There are a lot of visual tweaks to the ships themselves.

The biggest new thing that Keith is working on isn’t in this build, but should be ready tomorrow from the sound of it — that’s special forces. 🙂

Blue and Cinth and I all have more goodies that we’ll be sending your way soon, too.

Enjoy!

Chris

Tutorial – Mesh Importing And Setup From Maya

March 7th, 2017 – Quick notes for Cinth (or modders!) on importing models and then getting them properly combined and atlased. Unfortunately if you want to use the same tools that we are for the atlasing and the combining, you’ll have to purchase licenses for those for yourself. But there are tools in Blender and other locations that do similar things for free.

The tools shown in use in this video were:
Mesh Simplify
Pro Draw Call Optimizer

This is a really good talk by Unity.

This is the sort of thing that is bread and butter for Keith and I.  Unfortunately, past a certain point Unity is a black box.  This guy pulls back the curtain some and reveals some important things that we’re going to be integrating into our existing optimizations that we already have worked into AI War 2.

And before anyone asks: no, this wouldn’t help any of our prior games (Release Raptor aside).  We rolled our own with pretty much everything previous to now, so we didn’t have to know the internals of their transforms or gui dirtying passes, etc.  We had our own.

Granted, that’s been a subject of intense study for me for over a year now, but there’s still not relevance to older projects.  Should be nice for AI War 2, though. 🙂

AI War 2 Alpha v0.105 released!

0.104 was just a minor bugfix version on Friday.  This one, however, is hefty.

Lots More “Core Work” By Keith

Keith’s been working on a ton of things, ranging from bug reports and minor feature requests from testers, on up to getting more of the game itself implemented.  It’s really nice to see that progressing on both fronts solidly.

My favorite change on that front has to be how the guardian behavior is different — it’s a lot more akin to how guard posts worked in the first game, which was always the point.  It actually allows for some degree of stealth, etc.

Graphics!

Blue is doing a lot of work with players seeing what she can figure out on the squad icon front.  Basically there are a few competing processes pulling the design for those in different directions:

  • Blue is doing her best to make something that is attractive and that she can be proud of.
  • I and various players are trying to cram as much information as possible in there.
  • Blue, myself, and various players are trying to strip this down to be as simple as possible given the desire to have this be both attractive and informative.

So that’s basically an iterative usability study, in essence.  It’s a lot easier to arrive at something attractive when you don’t try to hit it all in one go, so having you folks to work with on that has been golden.

On my end, I’ve been chasing upgraded ship shaders thanks to Cinth and some work he did.  I’ve also been working on the skyboxes and making those look better, which is something that had been on my list for a while, anyway.  I hadn’t intended to work on that so soon, but the time turned out to be right.

So overall the game has taken a few leaps forward visually already in the last week, this build in particular… but we’ll be seeing a lot more of that coming up as I get more shader work done and Blue gets more icon work done.

Enjoy!

Chris

Next release likely on Monday — but check this out!

Hey all, Chris here.  As I wrote earlier today, I’ve taken a tangent into some other work.  This was work that was on my todo list anyhow, but it’s stuff that is coming up much earlier than I had expected because Cinth thought of a few things and I then wanted to try those out sooner than later (to avoid later rework).

It’s been a lot of shader-writing today, as well as a lot of experimentation and post-image-processing work in general, and profiling the GPU pipeline, and so on.  The result, so far, is something that I think should be about equal load to the prior version of the game, but which looks far better.

But the tricky bit is that now this is bottlenecking everything else; I have to finish this before I can even check in my current batch of work, and it touches a great many things.  So no release today, but I think I’ll have it fully sorted out for one on Monday.

Here are some screenshots of how things look at the moment in my little testing scene for all the various ships:

The image above shows the forcefield generator transitioned over to using the Standard shader in unity (and thus the PBR — Physically Based Rendering — pipeline).  Previously this was all using custom shaders by me, and using lots of rim lighting and such.

But now it is keeping the painted look from Blue, mixed with the metallic look that is very modern, mixed with the existing emission maps.  The result is something hybrid, as you can see with the forcefield generator, above.  I’m really excited about it.

You can also see one of the new space skyboxes that I’m working on.  These look more modern and are more gradient-based, as well.  More stylized and less perlin-looking noise and gaussian effects in the nebulae.

Oh, also, you can see how the warp gate is looking now.  It’s vastly more metallic in most of its parts, except where it has emissions.  The purply look was rubbing me the wrong way the longer it stayed, and I wanted something simpler while still keeping the emission maps and the LINES that go into the normal maps (bumps on there).  This hits a good middle-ground.

This next one, above, shows a different space skybox scene.  And then it also shows a view of the converted bomber and fighter.  Those are using the PBR shading, as well as the existing paint style from Blue.

With the bomber I actually made a metallic map for it so that the really pretty painted areas of orange on it (barely visible in this one) would stay very matte-feeling.

The fighter will need one of those also, and/or some lighting adjustments in general; but that one already had some texture checkup work scheduled.

In the very far bottom area, you can catch a glimpse of some of Cinth’s derelict alien husk models that got all this started. 😉  They aren’t done, but they’re coming along well.

This last one, above, shows a bottom view of the space dock (why not).  This gives a good view of some of the metallic effects and how that changes it to not look matte, mixed with the existing emission maps and so on.  I think it works out as a really nice hybrid.

And then there’s the background sky, which is yet another of the new ones.

Meanwhile, Blue has been working on the icon rework process with a lot of forumites, and I’m pleased with how that is progressing as well.  Hopefully on Monday this feels like a pretty complete revamp in some ways, although her new icons stuff won’t be in until later next week even if she finishes it this instant, because there’s some coding on my end I need to do to handle the different style of icons.

Anyhow — happy weekend!

Sometimes you just gotta ignore the priority list.

One of the things that will become apparent for those in the alpha is that I don’t really work in a linear fashion. 😉

I have a todo list of things that is long, and there are things of relative priority in there even within priority categories.

One of the things that is funny about todo lists like that is that if you never take time off from the highest-priority category, often the lower-priority ones don’t get done at all.  The highest-priority one just fills up again and again, etc.

At any rate, the other comment I have is that typically you have to seize upon inspiration when it strikes.  Sometimes I look at a piece of code or other work and just think “oh man that’s going to be a slog,” but I’m excited about something else on the list.

In those circumstances, unless the house will burn down if I change items, I switch to the item that I’m excited about.  That gets that item off my list, and I’ll wind up doing it faster because I’m more excited about it.

Later I’ll revisit the thing that I had been dreading, and one or more of three things will now be true:

  • I’ll be excited about that now; or
  • I’ll have at least had an epiphany about it so it doesn’t feel so bad; or
  • I’ll feel so guilty for “slacking off” that the energy from that will propel me through.

Sometimes people comment on how darn fast Keith and I are at doing various things.  I don’t know what Keith’s methods are, but I tend to use various tricks to get myself to work harder than my natural inclinations.  “Slack off” by doing a lot of little things, then tackle the big thing out of guilt, etc.  It’s surprisingly effective at chewing through large todo lists.

The last couple of days I’ve felt particularly slack because there’s been so much OS-specific stuff that I haven’t been able to really focus much on my todo list at all.  I’ve gotten a few things done, maybe a dozen at most, but it’s not what I’d prefer.  A lot of the other things I got done never made it onto that todo list at all.

Today is another funky day for me, in that regard.  Cinth made some mockup derelict ships that look amazing, but are very metallic and thus PBR-lighting-model-based.  I told him I’d have to redo that of course, which he knew going in, but dang if we both didn’t really love the look.

Soooo… I thought about the performance gains that we’ve unexpectedly had with the game thus far, and started wondering about going with a PBR pipeline approach with the main game ships themselves.  It means throwing away my rim lighting shaders and a variety of other things, but it could be awesome, right?

Turns out: yes.

So I’ve been working on a hybrid style that gives those homeworld-2-looking flat shaded models a more modern metallic styling to go with them.  The approach actually works really well!

But it does make the ships a little bit darker, which fits with another issue I have in general, which is to do with the space backgrounds for the game.  It was way down on my list, but I had already noted I hate the backgrounds for the skyboxes, and wanted to change them.

So that’s also happening.  We’ll see where performance winds up, but this is all GPU-side stuff.  It’s possible that my Mac will have some sort of issue with this on the GPU side, but somehow I suspect not.  I have some more shader work to do with the lower LODs than 0, but I think that I can get some really interesting things going there.

Also of note, on windows in particular it was using DirectX9 in builds up until now, which means that the BC7 compression format was being uncompressed and then sent to your GPU in an uncompressed format, wasting a lot of bandwidth on the GPU bus as well as VRAM.  I’m switching over windows to primarily use OpenGLCore, since that can use BC7, near as I can tell.

I could just make it use DX11 on windows, but I have endless problems with the unity editor itself bugging out on me in DX11 for some reason.  On like 5 computers with fresh installs on 3 different windows versions (7, 8.1, 10), over multiple years, on many different unity versions (4.x to 5.x).  Curiously, almost nobody else has this problem, so I guess I just have some sort of strange DX11 Editor curse.  Actually running DX11 in the standalone player works fantastically.

Anyhow, that’s yet another aside.  But basically I’m now finding that I want to toy with a few more styles and options now that we have all these different machines with different performance coming back to us.  Almost all the machines are running at 60fps+, and I’m wondering if I can keep that happening while also sliding in a few more advanced bits.

I’m betting so, but we’ll see for sure when the next build comes out tonight.  That’s what I’m working on today, anyhow.

Cheers!

Fuel Generator Model (WIP) Becomes Reactor Model

Remarking on the last WIP for this, forumite MHB noted that it looked more battery/electrical-like than fuel-styled.  I kind of brushed that off with “yeah, you’re right, but wait until you see it with paint, since that tends to change things a lot.”

Well, paint is in progress (still WIP), and it looks even more electrical now. 😉

We often have “happy little accidents” (in the best Bob Ross sense), when it comes to art, design, coding, and so on.  This is actually a much cooler Reactor design than I’d initially envisioned, and when I brought this up with Blue she thought it would be a great thing to switch over, and she could work on more detailing to make it look even more electric.

Happy little accidents — one of my favorite things. 🙂

Thanks, MHB!  I’m not sure I would have called that appropriately had you not said something.

AI War 2 Alpha v0.103 released!

Here are the release notes, which are mostly bugfixes and more quality of life adjustments.

A Tale About Linux

Okay, so — Linux support, grr.  Mostly that has been going fantastically, and we have a lot of folks playing the game on linux machines with no issues.  That said, we’ve had a few problems with some of them, including the VM install of linux on my mac.  My new linux laptop arrived today, although I haven’t unpacked it quite yet.

Today and yesterday, I’ve spent hours and hours researching various things on linux, and here’s a lot of what I’ve found, just kind of in random bullet points:

1. On my OSX machine, the issue is just because of the VM version of linux, not the hardware itself.  This is almost 100% certain, because it’s well within the supported parameters.  Obviously the game runs great on that machine in OSX, so it was always a strange thing that it didn’t work on linux there.

It looks like it’s just a matter of anything higher than OpenGL2 not being supported in a pass-through fashion between ubuntu and OSX using Parallels between them.  I looked into doing a dual-boot situation with linux and OSX on that machine (I already have a dual-boot with Windows 8.1 on there, so I guess triple-boot), but that looked like it would eat up even more time and not yield information that is too useful at this point.

2. Anything older than a Sandy Bridge integrated GPU is no longer supported except for on windows, so that means pre-2011.  But on windows it would still work because of DirectX9.

Basically, OpenGL2.x support was completely removed in Unity 5.5, which is quite frustrating and was not well-advertised as something that would happen: https://www.gamingonlinux.com/articles/unity-55-released-removes-legacy-opengl-support.8627

A linux box with only integrated graphics and a CPU older than the sandy bridge architecture (sixth generation intel) will need to use WINE and DirectX9 in order to run the windows version of the game.  On OSX, it’s possible that the Metal support would work on a machine that old, but honestly I have no idea.  That also might be a case for WINE.

Either way, we’re talking here about machines that are 7+ years old and which only have integrated graphics, so the CPU load is likely to start becoming problematic once you pass that point, anyway.

3. If you ARE running a Sandy Bridge processor — or newer — and are using that for integrated graphics, then you need to have Mesa drivers that are at least from very-very late 2014 or newer.

Thanks to Unity 5.5 only supporting OpenGLCore, that means anything OpenGL 3.2 or newer is needed.  Those integrated cards can do OpenGL 3.3, but they’ll report that they cannot do 3.2 if you don’t have recent-enough drivers.  And there are new Mesa drivers that are awesome!

4. We have someone else with a Radeon card who is having a crash on linux, and I have no idea what is going on with that just yet.  He’s on the latest Catalyst drivers, which could mean there’s a bug in them, or… who knows, really.  I’ve heard from various reports of the driver support for Radeon on linux being pretty dodgy, so it could simply be a bug in the latest version of the drivers.  I honestly am not sure on that just yet.

As you can see in the link I posted there, there were a few other things I changed in the last build prior to this one that should make it more likely to run on that machine.  In that particular instance, some of the OpenGL Core command line parameters might actually work to solve the issue.

-force-opengl has been established to no longer work on Unity, particularly on Linux, since the removal of OpenGL2 support.

However, this one might work quite well: -force-glcoreXY: XY can be 32, 33, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 or 45; each number representing a specific version of OpenGL. If the platform doesn’t support a specific version of OpenGL, Unity will fallback to a supported version

This one might also be of some use: -force-clamped: Request that Unity doesn’t use OpenGL extensions which guarantees that multiple platforms will execute the same code path. This is an approach to test if an issue is platform specific (a driver bug for example).

All of that said, it may simply be an issue that can’t be resolved outside of driver fixes.

5. We also have someone for whom the game crashes to blue screen on linux every other run, which is something I saw limited mention of elsewhere on the internet yesterday… and now can’t find for the life of me.  If anyone finds threads or topics about that in unity 5.5, can you please send me the link?  Anyhow, I’m not positive if there’s much we can do on that or not, aside from possibly updating to a later version of unity 5.5.  They are currently on 5.5.1p4, whereas we’re using 5.5.0p3.  There just haven’t been enough changes to the newer 5.5 builds to warrant our update quite yet, in my opinion.

6. Overall this works really well for most people!  Which I am very glad for.  But we’ve had some folks fishing for the lower end of the system specs range, which I super appreciate, and these are the things we’ve been running into.

Vulkan!

There’s a new “Bleeding Edge Graphics Test” that I’ve included in the latest build and that I’d really appreciate if you ran and let us know how it went.  Basically that new build uses unity 5.6 for a simple scene completely unrelated to AI War 2, and it also uses the Vulkan Renderer for linux and windows (and Metal on OSX).

That may very well solve the Radeon crash, I don’t know.  However, driver support for Vulkan is much more limited than something like OpenGL or DirectX — so far.  Vulkan is the successor to OpenGL, meant to replace it and modernize it, and it looks set to beat the pants off DirectX as well.  Metal is kinda Apple’s answer to DirectX11, and for some reason they don’t really do Vulkan yet.  Bummer.

Anyway, I’m reluctant to make people use Vulkan, because that immediately excludes a lot of pre-2014 hardware.  As it currently stands, that would be moving the minimum spec up to be more recent by 3-4 years, depending on platform.  Not my preference.  But if Vulkan gives people who can use it a speed boost, as well as maybe getting around some driver issues on linux, then that’s super exciting.

If you run the bleeding edge graphics test programs and it just utterly fails, you might try doing so with the following command line arguments mentioned from above:

-force-glcoreXY: XY can be 32, 33, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 or 45; each number representing a specific version of OpenGL. If the platform doesn’t support a specific version of OpenGL, Unity will fallback to a supported version.

Those would let you use Unity 5.6, but going back to an earlier version of OpenGL Core.  I’d suggest force-glcore32 or force-glcore33 (3.2 or 3.3).  March 31st is the official date that Unity 5.6 comes out of beta, and “Bleeding Edge Graphics Test” will help tell us whether to upgrade to that ASAP or give it a wait-and-see-for-now attitude.

Anyhow…

Those substantial snafus with the initial rollout of alpha keys to some alpha-tier backers are all fixed up, by the way — thanks again for your patience on that!

Best,

Chris