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

Gratuitous Space Battles 2 with Graphics Debugging!

So here is something you might enjoy, especially if you like gratuitous charts and stats porn, or are interested in graphics programming, or maybe you just want to tell me I’m doing it wrong. This is a video of me demonstrating nvidia nsight, and how I use it to spot things that are inefficient in my engine for Gratuitous Space Battles 2. I’ve already fixed the two inefficiencies I point out in the video, while I was waiting for it to upload :D Enjoy! (And please share!)

7 thoughts on Gratuitous Space Battles 2 with Graphics Debugging!

  1. Thank you for sharing. I found it very interesting. I was a programmer many years ago, and I fell behind the times and to catch up these days would take tremendous effort and courses. However, it appears that with my logical background it may not be as difficult as I may think with the software assists of today. I used to program in Basic (drawing sprites and interactions on my Vic 20 and C64 lol) and then Fortran and a tiny bit of C+ (before ++, the original Kernigan & Ritchie stuff) I taught myself HTML at one point but that is all. I appreciate the efforts you guys go through to bring about games and such. :)

  2. That video actually made me wonder, is there an aircraft carrier simulator game … A particular casual game suitable element was shown 21m in – it’s similar to the C64 Donald McDuck game where you have to control the conveyer belt to avoid splashing the fruits to the ground. Here the player instead tries to perform various deck duties and lots of explosions happen when they screw up. Not terribly innovative but I don’t think there’s one yet and it’s suitable for mobile play. As you progress through the game doing well in various positions eventually you end up being able to manage the flight deck, positioning the planes around and such.

    Quick search found that just such thing is but it’s not targeted for consumers from what I can see.

  3. Some visual notes:

    1. The main menu button texts “battle, ship design,online,options….” font is a bit ordinary. Same with the “Sample cruiser, 85%, Cost/Honor” texts.

    To see a widely used font is immersion breaking. Enough of stats and Windows GUI elements could give the UI an “Excel”-feel (like Stars! did). Only 1 of the 3 problems is present here.

    Part of the issue with the menu buttons is they look like white links on gray background. Some ideas to try: Make the color of these text I mention visibly dimmer (eg. 85-90% of current RGB value). Try making them bit larger or bold or upper case. Ideally try some more futuristic font – it doesn’t need to be unreadable, just different enough to notice it’s not something the player might’ve seen before in MS Word. I’d also try make the text slightly larger and have the font look smoother like the “SPACE BATTLES” is somehow more rounded than the other text – causing the menu items to “pop” in contrast vs the logo, while normally you’d have the menu items feel like they were behind the logo (making them bit dimmer and smoother should do the trick). Can’t say whether it would look better to use the “gratuitous” font in the buttons as well – the spacing seems too large and using same font as in the logo could look bit cheap.

    2. In the part where you said “when you’re compositing”.. @ 12:25, the asteroids flicker a bit. I notice that some of the “flicker states” have the asteroids look more sharper and in the final composite they’re quite blurry mush. This mush still bothers me (3rd time I say it now here). When this mush effect kicks in they just look nothing like the real thing and the blurry outline makes for a very cheap looking effect (once I see it my mind goes “what is this running at 320×200”). You could take the final asteroid into some paintshop and resize it to half then zoom 2x (~downsample?) and it would look virtually identical – “low res looking asset” in high rest combined with few higher res objects (like text) tends to look worse than running everything in the low res because the difference of details in the objects in same scene is also immersion breaking, atleast IMHO.

  4. Also I notice that when the bloom kicks in, it’s looks over the top.

    I’d try to see what this looks like if the one intermediary step that blurs the asteroids before the bloom step was taken out for the asteroids only (leaving them quite sharp) and then perhaps after the bloom step, do final touch up of the asteroids by adjusting contrast,brightness, gamma etc for the asteroids only.

  5. Some time ago I did a test which suggests students possible careers. One of the funny suggestions was ‘executive consultant’. I was immediately thinking, wait, how does a student fresh out of school become that? And if customer is always right, why would these execs listen to someone they’d potentially be paying for advice instead of their customers who know the product. Confusing…

    Also the whole deal with responsibility is exremely exhausting and creatively limiting. But now I probably throw 80% of what I write away given that probably by pure coincidence, some of my suggestions have materialized but I didn’t list all the things “not to do” (Who reads an email long as a book?) in the suggestions and then the company did some of the “not to do” things and the result ended up being worse or pointless. So whether or not my suggestion was even read, there’s couple cases where I feel like maybe my suggestion counted for something. (Lets just say that I suggested some technically complex thing that I later learned to have been absolutely massive undertaking and since the product was not that good in the first place (but I didn’t say it because well they already threw $$M into it and it was the big new thing to replace everything etc so I hoped it would work out in the end despite subtle but obvious issues…) it probably went to waste – I did see one or two other people suggest same thing around the same time so atleast this waste of $$M wasn’t solely from my suggestion LOL).

    Just wanted to say this incase you DO change the fonts or contrast or whatever and this product flops, well you had been warned. Customer is not always right :-)

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