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


I’ve been working on fixing a ton of lightmap-related bugs for the night time battles in Gratuitous Tank Battles. At one point, it suddenly occured to me that something that wasn’t glowing in the dark, and should be was the internal cockpits of some of the larger mechs.

Tada! (decided to test it in green)

This effect took way more effort than you would have thought, and possibly slows things a tad, I will do some more optimising nearer release. I think it looks quite cool though. And yes, the player can customise the brightness / color of the cockpit just like any other layer in the mechs. Support for lightmap attachments to a layer should also mean that modders will be in paradise, as you could have all sorts of Tron style glowy effects on units if you really wanted it :D


The Gratuitous Editor and UI flow

I’m working on the GTB map editor.  Editing the maps won’t be just for modders, but for everyone, so this is a very important part of the game and I need to get it right. I’m going to really encourage custom maps as a big part of the game, with the singleplayer campaign maps acting purely as examples and tasters of what can be made.

Here is a Work-In-Progress screenshot with some old GSB UI still in place:

Given my plans for it’s use, it’ s important that the editor looks easy to use. I’m wary of making mistakes in terms of UI flow. Essentially, the editor works in 3 modes, which I’m currently calling ‘normal’ ‘prop’ and ‘ground’ which is a bit rubbish, but I need to split things up somehow.

Normal mode, lets you edit individual tiles, by setting up routes, toggling them as attacker or defender-deployable, and placing ‘whole-tile’ items like trench sections, emplacements, or sections of path.

Prop mode is basically where you add, move, rotate and scale decorative items like barbed wire, trees, tank traps, and other fluff that exists to make the world look interesting

Ground mode lets you edit the background tiles, which is again, purely visual.

The window on the right changes with each mode to display the relevant items (tiles / props / textures).

A right click menu, mainly for normal mode, lets you carry out actions on all the selected tiles. The editor supports zooming in and out with the mouse, WSAD movement, drag-selection and ctrl-selection.  It adjusts ( a bit) to different resolutions.

The thing that concerns me is the UI ‘flow’ of those three modes. I wonder if I can somehow squash all 3 modes together. Hmmmm.

Tileable textures

These days all the talk in fashionable FPS 3D land is of megatextures. Huge sprawling one-off textures where you effectively spray paint a level with gay abandon,l with no fear of overdraw or re-use because the art budget is huge and only pro-artists will ever make a level.

I can’t do that.

Partly because I do not have the art budget, but more interestingly because I really want it to be EASY for people to make their own GTB levels and share them. I’m not expecting people to own photoshop, or have art skills, so they need to be able to just click some tile-able textures into place and press upload.

This is a pain, because graphical expectations have risen since age of empires II, and it’s ilk. These days, much is expected from terrain, and foliage, and so on. I can never expect GTB to look like company of heroes in this respect (100x the art budget), but I’m working hard on making it look acceptable, at least.

Much of today was spent fiddling with path textures. Nobody likes my glowy paths, so having them more apparent ‘in-world’ rather than UI is the aim. Also, I’ve been adding surrounding ‘blend’ textures to smooth the stuff like trenches into the world, so they look less like a display at the Hampton court flower show. I’ve only done it for trenches so far, turrets need a ton of work to do it.

This is how it looks so far:


Gratuitous Level Editor

The GSB ship editor sucked, and the custom scenario interface wasn’t a Picasso either, mainly because in both cases, I insanely bodged them at the last minute, actually using mere text files to make the assets during the games production.

Now I am less insane, I’m using a built-in level editor for GTB from the near-start, which means there is plenty of time to polish it, and indeed it will be a major component of the game. I’m hoping to encourage almost everyone who plays GTB to make their own maps, and share them, LittleBigPlanet style, rather than fencing it off as something only the hardcore modders do.

That’s the current (placeholder UI art) level editor. It has a ton of features in it. Today I was working on code that lets you take an existing level from the game, and save it out as a new custom map, whilst editing loads of parameters for that battle, hopefully in a quite straightforward manner.

Actual level editing, such as setting paths, territory for unit placement, and all the scenery, is already done, although it needs a real usability makeover before it’s considered shippable.

In other news, I got a new ipad build of GSB today. Definitely making progress, but getting a huge complex PC sim like GSB onto the ipad is no quick and easy port. It still needs some work. As does everything.
I have a day off tomorrow, hence my manic working today :D

Planning out Gratuitous Tank Battles Development

This is one of those brain-dump blog posts where I just use the blog as a public todo list…

Major Things I need to do for GTB (still remaining)

  • Support for creating new custom maps from scratch and saving them to your local disk as new singleplayer maps. (includes final work on the map editor, and support for browsing custom maps, rather than the campaign maps)
  • Support for uploading new maps as scenarios for other players to download. (system for describing a map, verifying it is valid, ensuring no content is modded, listing it in the online database, and for clients to refresh that database quickly and smoothly).
  • Code for online profiles and stats checking, player friends lists, messaging and leaderboard stuff. (Possibly including regimental banners and descriptions, and integration of that into loading screens).
  • Code to support auto-updating for direct-bought copies, with registry-enabled paths so we don’t need to tell installers wheer the game is any more.
  • Tutorial, and method to reset it in the options screen.
  • Manual
  • Re-checking the unlocking system and choosing unlocks.
  • Support for modding. Allowing new unit variations, new hulls, new ground and prop textures, new sounds.
  • Integration with steam achievements (assuming steam approves the game) and maybe other steam features.
  • Integration of final art assets for battles, and construction of the singleplayer campaign maps, enemy units.
  • Integration of final, improved menu GUI to remove all that GSB placeholder stuff from the unit design screen
  • Optimisation
  • Bug testing
  • Play Testing and Balancing

The list doesn’t see quite so terrifying when I list it like that. Maybe things aren’t as huge as they seem. I should probably start thinking about releasing some screenshots at some point.