Saturday, June 30, 2007


This week was just more infrastructure. There is now a message window in the HUD to tell you stuff about your mission (like when you complete it, and when you pick up cargo, etc.) and a new dialog that shows you all of your current missions. So if you just sign up for all available missions and forget what they were, you can look them up. The bounty hunting missions isn't quite so hacked together, and both cargo and bounty missions are randomized a little now (instead of entirely scripted).

One of my friends also gave me a good idea for the "first chapter" of the storyline. Instead of telling you what it is, I might do a little demo release of the first chapter when it's done. The first chapter is basically my first milestone. The game won't be feature-complete at that point, but a good chunk will be done.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

So many little things

Wow, there are a lot of little things that go into making a game. You would think that I would remember that, since I have shipped one game (a long time ago). And I do remember it, but it always amazes me how many little things go into making a fully polished game. Today I spent some time on a few of the little things, like showing the name of a city on the navigation screen when you mouse over it. They're little, but very important. I'm not even talking about the microscopic stuff yet...

Anyway, the player's ship now loads properly between levels... before it would leave some stuff behind, like what weapons they had, and their entire cargo... it was like some sort of greedy border customs. But now it's all good. I still don't have game saving/loading, as I re-ordered priorities since I had trouble motivating myself to do the load/save framework.

Instead I worked a little more on missions. Now missions can lead you to other levels, and there's a hacked-together bounty hunting mission. It's not too exciting yet, since the AI just stupidly hunts you all the time, and it's easy to outsmart it. But the enemy ship is spawned correctly, in the correct region. I did a little work on the "little things" for mission creation too, like showing the mission description.

Anyway, here's a concept sketch for the ones who just like to look at pictures.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Howl's Moving Castle

This week I managed quite a few small additions/changes. The first thing was the radar/compass widget. Take a look (the arrows around the border):

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The green arrows are landing pads, and the red are enemy ships. It works quite well.

The next thing was changing the movement method from direct velocity to inertial control. This change made the game a LOT more interesting. Now there's actually a point to combat. This change also opens the door to a lot of physics weapons.

The last changes were more under the hood, but they are paving the road to allow game saving/loading, which I feel is important even this early in the game. (heh)

Now that we've got the game dev report out of the way, I saw a great movie last night. All of you have probably already seen it... Howl's Moving Castle. I had not even heard of it until yesterday, and I absolutely loved the movie. In a lot of ways, it's the art style that I would like to have for Watcher. Howl's was a little too old-fashioned for what I have in mind, but the point is that there are airships and airplanes and such that are steam powered. The art style I hope for is some kind of mix between the old fashioned and futuristic. So, not everything will be coal steam powered, but also nuclear/fusion steam powered. There will be laser weapons and computers alongside the mechanical steam stuff. Anyway, if you haven't seen Howl's moving castle, you should. The art is amazing, and the story is amazing, if not a little strange. The plot isn't necessarily amazing, it's the storytelling that is fantastic.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Navigation screen

Not much happened this week, although I did make a functional navigation screen. Check it out.

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That screen shows where your ship is and where all jump gates and cities are. I tried several dumb things first to get it working, and then I remembered TGB's ability to draw the same thing in a different window. I still kept some of the dumb stuff, like creating a new object for each thing to be displayed, since actual size on that map is really really small. So I scaled each object up about 10x.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Warp 0.5

So my jump gates work! The solution was simple... at first I was trying to end the current level or empty out all the scenegraphs, but the end result is that you just have to load the next level, and all the rest is taken care of. The result is...

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... another world!

There are still some funny bugs (or lacks of features) with jumping, like loading all the defaults for your ship (weapons, upgrades, cargo, etc.) I'll get around to fixing that kinda stuff eventually. Like probably a week before release date (ha!)

Another accomplishment for this last week was jumping from Idaho Falls, ID, back to Provo, UT. I worked in an internship at Idaho National Laboratory for 5 months, and now it's back to PhD fishing in school. Although only a 4 hour drive, the move is still happening, as I type amidst towers of unpacked boxes.

Back to the game, another accomplishment is getting the first draft of a design doc done. It's not so much a design doc as a "core vision" document, but that's my method of game design. I like to work out the details when they are ready to be implemented. This game is already going to be hard to balance, so I don't want to try to balance it on paper and do a poor job of it on paper.

So the next step is making a map/navigation gui to show you where all the cities and jump gates are in your current region. The same gui will be used to see how jump gates connect different regions on a planet. These features will make it possible to give some life to missions... I can describe what city to go to, and then the player can look up where it is on the nav gui.

Don't get lost!