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

Deferred Rendering / lighting. Balls, maybe not

For a while I’ve been thinking about putting deferred lighting with normal maps into GTB. This was something I talked about briefly during the development of GSB but it never happened. it basically a way to ‘fake’ the 3D lighting effect with a 2D image, *if* you have the original 3D model theĀ  2D image came from, and thus can make a ‘normal map’.

Here is what I mean:

This stuff is definitely not my area of expertise, and to confound the problem, all of the tutorials and explanations of the effect seems to concentrate on XNA or doing it with actual 3D scenes, whereas mine is a 2D engine.

Plus, it seems that it doesn’t do what i wanted it to, which is to take a lightmap full of various light sources (image the whole scene, with just the ‘light’ rendered onto it), and convert that into realistic looking shadows on 2D sprites. it appears to be a single-light source only solution, involving pixel shaders. Bah.

As I type this, I wonder out loud if bump maps are the answer to my problem? It’s not a disaster if there isn’t a solution, as GSB looked fairly pretty, but I’d like to take things up a level with GTB. There is only so far you can go with 2D top-down view rendered stuff, but I’d like to be the prettiest, shiniest 2D game of it’s type, if at all possible. The other effect I tried once but wimped out of was those distortion-map effects where you get a sphere that distorts the pixels accross it, and thus get a ‘shockwave-air-blast’ style effect. I think Call of Duty 4 used it a lot. I ran into ‘tearing’ and other bugs and eventually abandoned it in a strop :D

Anyone got any tips for fairly awesome 2D top-down effects in games?

(The minute I have my logo finished I’ll talk about GTB)


Opened the fridge: Achievement unlocked!

I quite like achievements in games, but have you noticed how they, and general ‘gamification’ is now showing up everywhere, including really silly places?
I posted a question for the first time recently on stackoverflow, a site where coders ask and answer questions. I asked ONE question, and got 6 replies. For this, my account unlocked what seemed like a dozen ‘badges’ and ‘achievements’ I think I got some ‘reputation’ and probably other crap too. Meh…

I notice project wonderful is doing the same thing. As an advertiser, I can unlock ‘achievements’ there too.

Sorry but this is bullshit. I like earning super-duper-medals when I’m pretending to be space captain cliffski or slaying dragons, but when I pick advertising or debug my code I don’t need to be treated like I’m playing pokemon. It’s just silly. I’m sure it *works*, and makes busienss sense, but I still find it a bit weird.

What’s the strangest place you’ve encountered points, achievements and gamification lately? Does it bug you?

Tankfest 2011 Pictures

So today I spent half the day at TANKFEST, at the tank museum at Bovington, England. It was very TANKy, to put it mildly. I was amused to notice signs pointing to ‘tank museum and monkeyland’. lets just hope there is never a security breach at monkeyland, because they will be heavily armoured primates, that’s for sure.

TankFest is where you get to see old tanks (like the churchill) and new ones (challenger) charging about on a tank-race-track, as well as go fondle them up close. The best bit for me was probably the WW2 re-enactment guys who were there in force, very WW2-geeky of me, I know. Let the tank-porn commence:

This is the As90 artillery system(above). I climbed inside it and had a chat to the dude manning it. I was curious because it’s the thing that makes my windows rattle when they test it on salisbury plain. Grrrr. It can fire 3 rounds before the first hits the ground, and then scarper quickly before the enemy fires back.

This sums up the day really. people dressed as German soldiers, and kids climbing on a WW2 tank. Kids these days have no respect for history. Bah grumble, ‘get off my tank’ etc…


I don’t remember the exact number, but this is one of those US half tracks with the rear-mounted anti-aircraft guns that can massacre ground troops. Quite speedy too.

For reasons that escape me, I was drawn to the area with German soldiers in trenches. They had a little mock-trench standoff re-enactment between the Germans and the Russians.

Some of our plucky desert rats showing the lesser nations just how many guns we can stack in neat little formations. OH YES.

For undisclosed reasons I was drawn to trying to get some ‘top view’ photos of the tanks. Here are some of the ones parked outside. Inside, there are about a hundred trillion tanks. It’s a HUGE museum.

Is that a T-34? I think so. Anyway, it was the only Russian WW2 tank in the outside display. They had some other, MUCH BIGGER ones inside. I still vote for the Jagdpanther and the Tiger as my favorite tanks. I think I’ve convinced my better-half that having a ‘favorite tank’ is normal for a man of my age.

The unthinkable? GSB micro-transactions? or…?

I had plans to do another GSB expansion pack, with a new race, much like the Nomads.

And then….

GTB has basically taken over. Combine it with ShowMeTheGames (which isn’t getting enough attention as it is) plus lots of home-life related building-stuff, and I just am not getting enough sleep. But I do have

  • Lots of GSB players
  • An artist willing to make new GSB ships.

I like to maintain control of stuff, so farming out DLC production to someone else is probably a ‘no’ right now. The thing is, the time taken to make new damage textures, new weapons, balance them, and do the whole package would be a bit of a nightmare.

So I was thinking, especially on this day that Team Fortress 2 goes ‘Free To Play’, that maybe micro-transactions are the future, and I should just leap into the market for them with GSB. I could get new ship hulls made, and designed, and have them sold as mini-DLC. Of course, the problem there is that there are minimum credit-card fees that I get charged, so anything below $4 is basically a disaster in terms of profit, making the whole thing unviable.

So I am scratching my chin thinking how viable it is to just do a bunch of extra base-race ships for GSB and sell them as a $4 mini-DLC booster pack. New federation, alliance, rebel and empire ships, by the original artist. That would take fairly minimal work, compared to the design of a whole new race. But would it make any sense? would there be a market for it?

Would you pay $4 for a bunch of new ships? I know a lot of people would not be interested, but there don’t have to be thousands of people for it to break even.

Amazon, Google checkout, and the letter T.

Something great has happened in the world of online payment providers. OK, it’s not up there with the discovery of fire, but BMTMicro, who handle the majority of my direct sales, have added amazon payments and google checkout to the payment options at last. I’m not too excited by google checkout (who here actually has an account?) but amazon is a different story.

Here in the UK, at least, amazon is VERY popular (although their tax-dodging behavior irritates me no-end) so a LOT of people already have an amazon account. What this means is that:

a) People who are lazy, and can’t be bothered to find their credit/debit card can buy my games just by remembering their amazon password. yay for frictionless selling!

b) People who are terrified of buying online can buy my games without ever trusting any payment data at all to a third party (even an established, safe one like BMTMicro).

I see both of these developments as steps along the road to easier sales, and encouraging people to buy direct now and then. Hurrah. AFAIK only BMT Micro support this option right now.

In other news…. I am having name-change thoughts AGAIN. Originally game 4 was called LB, then I changed it to OTT, then GTB. Now I might change it from GTB to GTB, where the letter T means something else. It means registering yet another domain, and getting a logo re-done, but I suspect it might be worth it. Oh the nail-biting angst….

Not long until I actually show some footage / screens/ etc