Where Did the Weekend Go?

There will be no new release this week as I have to be in at work on Sunday. (oh, wait, is that today?)

I can report that many of the smaller things I wanted to get gone for the next release are done but fixing clicking on UI elements through each-other is going to take more effort than expected. In fact, I'm going to re-write the entire system so it is more maintainable and easier to use. As usual, you can see my plans on the To-Do page. 

New Ship, New Release!

Get over to the Fragmented Galaxy page and download the latest release! 

This is built from Unity 5 which includes many improvements including physics performance increases and physically based rendering. Also, a new movement system has been added to make ships move more smartly. Visit the Version History for a full list of changes. See the To-Do page for what is coming in the future. 

Screenshots and a video are below if you can't download right now. 

This Weekend

I got the movement and UI to a working state today. All I need to do is make the new ship a little prettier and a new build will be on the site. All I am promising is a new set of standalone executables. The web version is a different beast. I want to try to get the new HTML web player (yay Unity 5!) working since no plugin will be needed to play it. Unfortunately I don't know how long that will take. 

Stat tuned.  

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Today I decided to upgrade to the newest Unity 5 beta and a few things happened. 

The standard (physically-based) shaders were changed so I had to re-engineer my custom decal version. Unfortunately, the sky-sphere also broke so now none of the stars shine through the clouds and I'm still working to fix that. Also, my old specularity maps for the ships no longer function so I need to re-create them for the new metallic workflow. 

While disappointing, these are only cosmetic things. My brother and I worked on getting the new movement model implemented for another 4 hours today but still no dice there. He is going to play with the algorithm later today to analyze the output curves and try to make sense of them. 

Sorry for the downer post but I didn't want to leave you without an update. I'm still here, making some progress. 

 

Population Growth in Games: Part 2

Some games do population growth right. Take Civilization, for example. A single play-through can take over 24 hours. That might be a short time for some games or a long time for others, real-time games for instance. 

Civilization can do population growth well because it's scope is so large. It is an entire planet over thousands of years. And, because it is a turn-based game. The turns in Civilization vary in length. In the beginning of the game, the turns are hundreds of years long but layer they can be less than a year long. This is because, as time goes on, it takes less time to accomplish the same amount of work or, in this case, population growth. 

That works fine for tun-based games because everything is just an aggregation of things from the real world and time scales can vary. 

That doesn't work for real-time games, however, since the game must be played in the lifetime of the player, not over thousands of actual years. One solution to this problem is to keep the population constrained as a part of the story. In Homeworld, the population was put onto the Mothership by the Bishop ships and it was plausible that your entire population for the entire game consists of that initial population. 

Other games, like Fragmented Galaxy, can't use that option. I'm trying to make a fun game and a plausible simulation. This means trade-offs, unfortunately. In real life, the world population grows by about 10,000 per hour (0.000000014% growth). If a player invests an hour of time into my game I want them to have accomplished more than that. 

In the interest of fun, I am considering a few options. Read about them in part 3. 

I'm Back!

I haven't posted in a while. 

Yes it it is true but I am not without my excuses (read: totally legitimate reasons). Three factors contributed to this. 

First, Destiny came out. If anybody is wondering, it is a great game, though, somewhat lacking in the single-player department. I played a ton of it with my brother the week it came out but now my interest is starting to wane. The endless grinding for better equipment is starting to get to me. 

Second, work has been kicking my ass. My boss was out and, as one of the more senior folks in my department, I have been saddled with additional responsibility. 

Lastly was my own motivation was waning. I don't like to complain but having a real job and doing this on the side is a bit draining. My coding inspiration comes in cycles so I'll always come back. 

Now that I finally have a substantial update to show off, I have updated all the downloads and the web player. The main difference you will see is that there are multiple ships now! The full details will be in the version history shortly. 

I'll try to post updates more often in the future, not just for Fragmented Galaxy updates. 

Fragmented Galaxy Updates

I just pushed a new update for Fragmented Galaxy to the site. Read more about it on the Version History

Next week's update might not have much to see. My existing code-base is getting a bit ugly and needs some refactoring to keep me sane. Right now most of the scripts are hard-coded for the single ship interacting with passive objects. I am going to abstract the commands and various ship states so I can start to implement multiple ships. This goes hand-in hand with the modularization I want to do so I can swap in new algorithms more easily for faster iteration. 

While that all might sound like a bunch of buzz-words put together, I promise it will help the game. 

Thanks for the comments on the Greenlight Concept page and keep sharing! 

Population Growth in Games: Part 1

It has always bothered me at how unrealistically populations grow in real-time games. Let me explain... 

Remember the orcs in Warcraft III? The orcs broke out of the internment camps and sailed to Kalimdor in a finite number of ships so we know they didn't bring a ton of warriors with them. To dominate the region Thrall had to raise an army. "From where?" I hear you asking. 

That's my point! 

Where did all those extra people come from? We certainly didn't see any female orcs come with Thrall so how does reproduction work in this world? Do orcs just spring forth from the ground? While this particular discrepancy does not apply to Humans, (we see human women and children all over the place) another one does: rate of reproduction. 

From what I can tell, it takes 30 seconds from request to delivery of a trained-killer, blood-thirsty, adult orc. The same goes for the humans too! So the orcs and humans developed either time distortion or cloning and probably both. This isn't completely out of reach, they do have magic after all. 

But this just makes the story of the orc race even more tragic. How did the orcs lose their female gender? From the lack of female orcs in WC3, it had to have been before this cloning thing was invented. It means that within ONE generation the orcs lost all their females THEN found a method to preserve their species. This is both depressing and super lucky. 

However, the humans must also have the same methods. Human swordsmen pop out of barracks even faster than grunts. And they need to! When the orcs could reproduce so quickly the humans needed to bolster their population to keep up. 

In fact, I think I can pinpoint when this cloning procedure became widespread. 

Once the orc populations grew to overcome the resources of their world they needed to find another one, hence the portal to Azeroth and the First War. So, just before Warcraft I, the humans found out how to use this cloning magic and win at Stormwind Keep and eventually gain domination over the orcs in Lordaeron. Plus the humans get to keep their gender diversity intact. 

Also, somehow the orcs restored their missing female genetic code after WC3 because there are female orcs in World of Warcraft. 

 

Unfortunately this sort of thing happens in a ton of games that deal with populations. People seem to just pop into existence from nowhere which has always annoyed me. I know these are just games and they are meant to be fun. After all, how can you have huge battles without large armies? How can you collect enough taxes to build empires in just a few hours? Did I nerd out too much? 

Visit again in a few weeks for the thrilling conclusion, and to see what I am thinking about for Fragmented Galaxy. 

Welcome Back!

A new year, a new website, it seems. 

 

I am currently hard at work at Kiva Systems but in my spare time I program for fun and sometimes (read: rarely) create something decent. 

I am working on a few projects using Unity 3D. I call my project development process 'project-ception' because I will start something then make a smaller game to investigate a problem in my main objective, then deeper and deeper. It never ends. 

However, the Unity 3D Asset Store has helped me out a ton. For a few dollars I can get a re-usable module that I don't need to re-invent. That helps me stay interested and make progress more quickly. 

And, it helps me actually get something released. Speaking of which, check out the prototype for a space-based RTS control scheme I created. 

 

I haven't blogged in a few years (since during college) and wanted to start again now that I am making prototypes that I feel comfortable showing the Internet. My old schedule was once per month, I think? I might want to do something at least weekly now but the schedule is likely going to depend on interest. 

 

Welcome to my corner of the Internet, 

-Tristan

 

P.S. Bear with me as I adjust to Squarespace. Pages may move and change color in the interim.