Monday, July 25, 2011

Caves and Orbiting Debris

This week I did a couple of small experiments with the terrain generation. One was to make the base density function (before applying noise) have a couple of concentric rings with space between. The noise function breaks through between the layers to create entrances to the caves. (Actually the base density function has a couple of built-in holes between the layers too.)

I also threw in some orbiting debris to see what it feels like to fly through it. At the moment it is just discs.

The terrain generation needs to have more smarts about area accessibility. I think I'm going to evaluate the density function onto a grid roughly the size of the rocket (maybe slightly larger). Then I can do evaluation at that level to figure out which areas are accessible, and add in terrain features. One of the things I want to do is generate a couple of background layers: one that gives caves a back wall, and then another layer or two that represent far-away mountains (and maybe move with some parallax).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gatling Gears

Rose accidentally bought Gatling Gears on the PS3, so I played it. It's a twin-stick shooter in the Robotron vein, set in a steampunk world.

Copious, slow-moving patterns of bullets (“bullet hell” I think I've heard it called) are a game mechanic that came out of games like Raiden. This mechanic seems to be getting mixed in to more things these days; Outland combined it with side-scrolling platforming (and Ikaruga's phase-changing) recently, for instance.

Unfortunately Gatling Gears looks unfinished in some respects. The gameplay apart from the bosses is very monotonous. I actually found myself looking forward to the bosses which is a reversal from the usual.

The story is nearly nonexistent. There are story cards inserted between the half-dozen chapters, and printed dialog exchanges at points during the gameplay, which you're apt to miss if you are busy. What story there is seems trite and predictable. You're best off reading Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series (my review) and imagining that story overlaid on this game. It works pretty well.

The graphics are lovely, though. I am going to go back through the game and try to figure out how the environments were assembled.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stealing the computer away from my daughter's Minecraft session to make a quick post.

I did some work on learning Blender and straight-away ran into something it can't do: individual edge/vertex beveling. It has an overall bevel modifier which can accept per-edge weights but it is not something you'd use as a poly modeling tool. Searching on the forums reveals that this has been a long-standing lack. Sigh. Well, Maya has a similarly baffling omission; you can't do proper insetting in a face in stock Maya. So they're all lacking something.

Salvage and rescue is the theme I'm working with at the moment. I'm trying to imagine how a spaceship would decompose into constituent parts in a 2D world. Here is some amateurish concept art:

I'm thinking there would be a couple of layers of spaceship: some skin pieces that could be removed, and then various modules underneath that could be salvaged for money. There might be an inaccessible background layer to the spaceship that has its skeleton, too. With 2D art it's not clear to me yet how this all goes together. Maybe the skin parts should just blast off and disappear; otherwise people will expect them to tumble like metal sheets, which they can't do.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blender 2.5, Planning

I've spent this week doing some planning. One of the things I'm thinking about is how to streamline the process of putting new things into my game. Being able to author the physical parts of them in a modeling program is one way the process could be improved. Yes: the dreaded art pipeline approaches. (Some of my friends who have been involved in startups say that the art pipeline took a lot more engineering resources than they anticipated.)

I have worked extensively with 3D Studio Max in the distant past (I used it for versions 1-3 or so), but the last eight years I've worked with Maya. Of course they're both owned by the same company now. A legitimate copy of Maya runs about $3500, so I'm going to pass on that for now. Blender, the open-source equivalent, looks like it ought to fill my needs. I've been spending time learning how to get around in it.

Blender 2.5 switches to Python 3, with considerable API rework at the same time. This makes a lot of the example code on the net obsolete. Documentation is still a work in progress, so get comfortable with the dir, list, and help commands in Python.

There are a couple of possible ways to export geometry. I'm going to experiment with having the makefile detect when a source Blender file has changed and run Blender at the command line to export it to an intermediate file. The command looks something like this:

blender -b input_file.blend --python

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Restarting Lander Development

The past six months have been very busy at work. We also experimented with having my computer out in the family room, where the TV is.

Now it's back in the bedroom, and work's less hectic. I'm restarting work on my Thrust-alike with an eye toward getting something done and released, even if it is dirt simple.

There are so many things that need to be done it's been hard to decide where to start. At the moment I'm sorting out issues with having planets of different radii. Gravity ramps up linearly as you move from the center of the planet toward the surface, then falls off quadratically as you rise above the surface. The planet's radius was 1.0 which made that pretty simple.

After that, I will probably put a bit of effort into coming up with slightly more interesting planets to fly around. The camera continues to be a problem spot, so I'll keep trying things there.