Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Better Shields

I spent part of yesterday and today working on the shield effects for Gratuitous Space Battles. The old effect was shit, but it was only placeholder. It was just a simple alpha blended sprite that draws over the ship, fading in and out as the ships hit like this:

There was a lot wrong with it. firstly lasers seemed to shine through it, secondly there was no feeling that the ship got hit from a certain angle, and there was generally not much pizzaz. The newer version is better but still needs work:

Now I have the incoming laser fire stopped at the right place, plus the shield itself has 2 layers, a feint all over effect, and an angled blast front image which faces the point of impact. I think it looks lots better. What I don’t have yet is any sparks or particles rippling out from the impact point. A simple particle shower is easy, but ideally the particles would ripple around the shield in a realistic spherical sense. I’m not sure how easily doable that si without doing it all in 3D, which is overkill.

Right now I’m working on spaceship breakups on explosions so I’m taking a break from the shields stuff.

Excellent iphone game

I don’t even HAVE an iphone, but I’m lucky enough to have played this:

On someone else’s. It’s excellent. If you are one of those hip trendy kids with an iphone, you owe it to yourself to get it immediately. It’s probably the best new puzzle / thinking game mechanic I’ve seen in ages, and the polish and presentation is just superb.

It’s a puzzle game where you have to get a frog from point A to point B by moving his legs from one water droplet to the next. If you think it sounds straightforward it isn’t.

The guy who made it taught me how to code properly, and he really knows his stuff. Given the quality of this game and the amount of drivel currently on iphone, it’s CRIMINAL that this isn’t yet the #1 selling game on there.
Seriously, give it a go.

Re-jigging the ship modules

Tomorrow I’ll be stroking my chin a lot and rethinking how the modules that make up each ship are put together. I’ve got quite a long way into the game with the current system, but I have a few thoughts I need to elaborate on.

Firstly, I think I’ll add a crew requirement, and maybe a heat one too. Ship modules currently have a financial cost, a weight, a hitpoint value (strength) and a power requirement. I think it needs a little more complexity so there are some interesting choices in module loadout for each ship. I don’t want it too complex, but it can’t be too simple and a no-brainer either.

Secondly, I need to think about the number of modules per ship again. Currently they come in three sizes, for the three ship sizes. The downside of this is that I can’t currently have big cruisers with one huge fuck-off mega-gun and ten small anti-fighter lasers. I’m considering a hybrid system where you can stick a few fighter or frigate sized modules in extra slots on each cruiser. I’m not sure about that.

I’m also talking to some artists about doing spaceship sprites. I don’t think my coder art is good enough. I also finally got the GUI and code for escort orders done, so fighters can be set to stick close to bigger ships and defend them from enemy bombers.

Optimising the mayhem

The last few days have been spent on optimising the space battle code. Basically I mad a dcision that the battles were not vaguely big enough, and needed to support a bunch more ships, especially now given that you can zoom in and out. That meant there would probably be some bottlenecks as I scaled up the number of ships, and it’s been a few days of identifying them and sorting them out.

Everything now runs way faster than it used to. I had a lot of really inefficient texture-setting code that was setting textures for objects and trying to render them offscreen. Now I’ve bunched lots of the particle stuff into a single texture atlas and optimised away all the offscreen stuff, it works much better.

What I haven’t got done yet is any LOD stuff, which is ironic seeing as though my first AAA industry job was on the ‘infinite polygon engine’ of lore. I really need to get some higher detail particle effects for close-ups, and I think I might massively ramp up the number of damage textures and similar stuff for when you zoom in. As always, the problem will be fading it all in nicely so you don’t get ‘popup’ whilst retaining the performance benefit when you are zoomed out.

Plus I’ve started the very early work on the screen where you deploy your ships pre-battle.