Hi Dr. Nick!
These last couple of weeks I’ve mainly worked on fixing stuff, reworking things and iterating on objects. This isn’t very sexy work, it’s a lot of grind and technical stuff. But it is something that is vital to an agile and iterative workflow. What would be the point even considering evaluating the current state of anything if you do not have the freedom to change it (aside from learning from past mistakes).
Often its easy to go on and just remake stuff, because it feels like you are being more creative. While that might be true its also a waste of time (unless of course you started the thing in question a complete novice and have gained so much experience since that remaking is actually quicker) as just iterating it is boring but quick(er).
The last couple of days I set aim at adding an additional set of character meshes, specifically to have them wear something more casual than a uniform, which they currently wear 10/10 (like 24/7 but in decimal time ;P). I had hoped I’d get it all the way to finished before the weekly update and the start of the weekend but I didn’t quite finish it in time. Maybe I’ll have something to show next week, unless something else pops up and takes priority.
These last few weeks, I got to treat myself to a long overdue cleanup of some of our core systems, as well as some tools work to make some of the work in the editor easier for all of us. One of the benefits of Unity 5 is that it allows us all to work on the game in-editor without worrying about licenses.
Why is this fun? Because it’s nice to know there’s some small section of a large code base that is clean, elegant and complete. The rest can be the friggin’ Wild West, but I have that oasis of nice code to go back to when my sanity requires it.
Everyone getting proper editor access has also allowed them to complain about everything broken about the game in the form of a long list of bug reports. I’ve been diving into that occasionally when I have a spare hour of insomnia.
So, what did I work on, concretely? Well, I implemented a Protobuf-based serialization solution, which is a data management approach I’ll be able to use to store all of Dave’s system data as well as save files. I used this to store one of our audio management tools’ data so we can easily manage music and sound effects in Unity.
I also implemented a tool that manages merging multiple pieces of 3D mesh geometry into a single object, an optimization that yields us about a 20% performance gain in some of our tests. This will be particularly useful for module sections as they tend to contain a lot of small objects.
I also worked on a tool for placing volumes in a room that will automatically be filled with small props. This will allow us to fill shelves with books and knickknacks without having to place each one individually. We’ve thought of some clever ways to tie this into character’s histories, but more on that later.
Finally, I worked on some small-scale animations to show icons popping up above characters’ heads to indicate things like skill-ups, status and when they’re in conversation. I’ll be working on the actual conversation display later, in which you’ll be able to see what two characters are talking about and how the conversation affects their relationship with each other.
Hey there Astro-friends! We’ll be posting this week’s Dev Update on Monday to let Dave enjoy a long overdue weekend with his beloved. No matter how hard we try, the guy won’t take time off, so this is an important event for us!
Tune in early next week for our update!
The Unity 5 upgrade brought about a lot of opportunities, both visual and otherwise. I was able to integrate Daniel’s new character models, uniforms, body types, genders and all. I was also able to integrate some of the missing UI and wrap up the desk content. I also had an opportunity to fix some early usability bugs (turns out it’s tricky having 3D GUI!).
This week has been spent mostly on some new Datapad programs, including the Equipment Manager. Once complete, it will allow us to managed gear assigned to characters in our crew. Since away teams sent out on missions have almost no chance of survival (what with the obvious environmental hazards), it’s a vital step of mission planning.
Here’s a little taste of the updated desk, as well as some of the characters in the background. See you next week!
Hi Everybody! Last week I spent looking at how we can best utilize the new shiny toys Unity 5 brings graphically. Since we’re a procedural game small changes tend to have big impacts compared to something more linear where you’d just make sure that the level looks good as it is right then and there. Just as the week before where I spent a lot of time running the game to figure out how to polish it best.
This week I’ve been re-lighting all the different rooms to get things aligned with what we can now do. It’s looking sweet if I do say so myself.
However I do prefer to hold off on showing it off until we’re sure its something we have enough performance to do in the actual game, since everything is procedural I work on the different rooms separately. Fingers crossed.
I took a bit of a breather this week waiting for code to come online that allows me to implement missions in such a way I can test them every step.
Breather was spent refining the mission design spreadsheets, tweaking stuff, and generally making sure everything is well organized and ready to go. Essentially, we’re talking “design polish” time, which I was very glad to have.
While Adam was working on the upgrade to Unity 5, I decided to tackle the largest unsolved design problem with missions which is making the traits fundamental to the character decision making. It can’t be +1 here -1 there, it has to be integral to the system.
Because I need the game to be able to say “this is an ethical decision, and ethical people do A and unethical people do B” (just using ethics as an example of one of the MANY possible aspects of a character personality).
Because Astrobase isn’t content-driven, I can’t just write it into some contrived custom narrative. Basically I need a novel solution here, that is simultaneously transparent (since I need to put procedural narrative on top of it that that describes why person A made choice X), deep, and meaningful. This is our core gameplay for missions, and I’m getting close to something but it’s not quite there yet.
As we gradually approach our target functionality for Alpha 1, Dave and Daniel have had opportunities to play the game more and more. As such, they’ve rained down a torrent of bugs, usability issues and the like that I’ve done my best to tackle as they came in.
I also spent some time working on upgrading our project to Unity 5, which was recently officially launched. This was a welcome upgrade as it came with a whole slew of performance improvements, as well as providing Daniel with a bunch of new graphics toys to play with to pretty the ol’ game up!
Hi Everybody. This week I’ve been doing a polish pass and playtesting to figure out what i need to do to polish best. Before you get too excited, this is really only for me as art needs quite a bit more time when polishing than the other disciplines.
This week I’ve spent mainly making parts for projectile weapons. The main challenge with this is to make sure all the different pieces work together while at the same time giving enough variety to be worth it.
Currently there are well over 1000 different permutations of them. I made a little video to illustrate some options. These combinations are completely random so some might not look as good as others.
This week I worked on upgrading our procedurally generated planet weather system into something more detailed that I could tie into missions.
One thing that’s become clear is that most missions will probably take place on lifeless/barren planets, and this case needs to be just as interesting and tense as the planet filled with creatures and relics of a lost alien civilization.
This week, I worked on cleaning up and converting the remaining desk elements like the inbox, rolodex, game clock, program cartridges, as well as improving how you interact with everything you can move around on the desk.
With all that done, I’ll be able to focus on updating our characters with Daniel’s new assets, make some graphical tweaks to improve overall performance and up the prettiness factor to 11.