The Value of a Good Door

0.6 is nearly finished. There’s very little left to do – I need to finish off the changes I want to make to market districts (shouldn’t take more than a day, or two at the outside) and then it’s onto bug fixes, glitches, edge cases, etc. Every city district except docks will be open for visiting this release – I’m leaving docks until we have NPCs and ships going around the world so that I can implement it all in one go. Equally, things like generating memorial statues and so on are going to be left for a little bit. For 0.6 there’s quite a lot of small bugs that do need fixing, however, so given the volume of remaining work required – and the fact that for a lot of this month I still need to finish off my doctorate and present at two conferences, one of which is the ProcJam in London – I think a release around the middle/end of November is realistic, with the 0.7 release after that aimed at a much smaller timescale (two months instead of seven, say?). A lot of these bugs are minor fixes, but a few – a particularly stubborn issue with road generation, some strangeness involving territorial expansion, towns not generating properly 100% of the time when they’re at the “end” of a road, etc – may take a little longer to divine the causes of.

Anyway, this week I’ve finished off the remaining procedural graphics for 0.6, which basically means doors. This took me about two days of graphical design. There’s now over two dozen different designs for doors when you look them up – the rest of this brief entry is four different screenshots. Two are from feudal cities, one from a polar hunter-gatherer settlement, and one from a graveyard. Some buildings share the same door patterns, though most are distinct and varied. I’ve also put some finishing touches to city centers, fixed a couple of the easier bugs and some typos, written up a new guidebook entry on “Buildings” for this release, and also done a lot of lore writing/planning which will begin to slowly seep into the game in the coming few releases. Additionally this week I’ve been submitting a vast number of abstracts to game studies conferences in the coming year, so that’s taken up a fair helping of my time too. Without further ado, here’s the four screenshots – hope you like ’em, and see you next week.

Door2

Door1

Door1

Door3

Coats of Arms Part II

I’m afraid this week’s update is only a short one, though in keeping with my 2014 goal of weekly blog updates I decided to post this one anyway. I’ve been mostly busy this week with finishing the first draft of my thesis (now a mere 30k words and editing remaining before the end of February) but have been working on some of the coats of arms which aren’t made of a single large icon, but might put together a number of smaller ones. Here are two examples of the four-icon variation, which are either separated by a cross down the middle, or into four corners of different colours. There is currently a database of thirty different small icons (eight of which you see below), and once I started assigning coats of arms to families it will be impossible for the same icon to be used multiple times in the same playthrough. I’d like to finish up with a database of maybe fifty or so small icons.

Two Corners

Also, as you can see I’ve now added a banner for house mottos! For houses with a shield that has a single large icon (like the ones we saw last week) there will be a number of preset ones that are occasionally used, but generally all coats of arms will generate mottos anew. I’m not sure if I’ll be working on mottos next or on coats of arms that have icons that take up half the shield – like the top half, or the left half, or similar – but either way next week’s blog update will probably be more on coats of arms. I anticipate either a week or two until all the graphics and mottos for these are generated, so one or two more blog entries, then I’ll be moving onto generating family trees and traits for families, and then assigning the player one at the start of the game based on what civ they decide to start in. Stay tuned…

June Progress II

The last week  has seen more coding than much of the last month – having lacked the internet for the past week, very little else has been done aside from it. As ever, the release is a mix of things I’m making public before-hand and a few secrets I want people to find, but here the updates I can share. I’m aiming for release probably around late July at the moment, but it might get pushed into early August. The first half of July is almost entirely full with academic work, so we’ll just have to see how it goes. I’ll be doing a lot of playtesting towards the end of June once I have a pretty stable build, but ziggurats are looking all but finished.

Puzzles are 100% finished. There are five “levels”, finishing off with “boss” level puzzles. Even when I know how to solve the puzzles, they still take me some thought. Playtesting it with people who don’t know how they are generated under the hood have found them so far genuinely challenging and really interesting to solve, so I have high hopes. They include a vast quantity of procedural art (something like 200+ images?) and over 300 possible puzzle permutations, and that’s not even counting the clues. You’ll have to play A Lot if you want to see even a small percentage of these things.

Ziggurats are 99% finished. They generate the entire buildings, all puzzles generate (as above), the structures inside and outside match up, dungeons are three-dimensional, which is to say staircases lead directly up and down, not to random points on the floor above, and some areas can only be accessed from floors above or below. It makes for a really interesting structure to explore, and it’ll be all the better in the future once a greater variety of rooms exist. Special ziggurats also have secrets atop them, whilst by the end of tomorrow other ziggurats will have clues pointing you towards the special ziggurats if you’ve taken the wrong one. In the future these will be treasure rooms etc. Lastly, as well as “Look-up” graphics for blocks, I’m adding ones for doors, iron gates, and a few other things. They look pretty cool.

A basic inventory system is now in place. This is not what it will look like in the future, but suffices for the time being to deal with the few items now in the game. It won’t be redone for the release after this (probably), but certainly will once a decent number of items actually enter the game.

Next update will be next Monday, and since I now have internet at my new place, they should be regular until release (I know I keep saying this, and failing to keep to it, but I’ll try). By this time next week, ziggurats should be totally finished and I should be onto bug fixing and optimizations. I’ve had a very crazy idea for hugely reducing save/load times I need to try out, amongst other things.

As a final note, I’ve taken to streaming games on Twitch. At the moment I’m doing a Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup extended endgame run, but I might stream coding and playtesting or similar in the future if people are interested, and it could be a cool way to just chat with you guys! Let me know what you think, and see you next week (or on a stream). My account is http://www.twitch.tv/maasbiolabs, and I’ll probably be streaming some DCSS half an hour after this blog entry goes up…

Map Colouring

I had another blog entry planned and all but written today about the ‘Rule’ tree, but that’s going to be posted next week in light of last night’s work. I’ve been doing some upgrading of the visual appearance of the world map – it was looking rather monotonous, so I decided to add a coastline effect, some shading for height levels, and variation in the icon and coloring used to display land. I’m very happy with the coastline effect, though the height shading is VERY unsubtle at this point, with broad-brush gradients and no real mixing between terrain shades (which I intend to add today or tomorrow), but in principle, that’s a big change I’m moving for. So do please note this is in its very early stages, but here’s what things look like now (map size = small):

However, I then (entirely accidentally) switched the land coloring to be inverted, and got:

I rather like it. It certainly shows up the height shading much more clearly, even in the very basic form that shading currently takes. Rivers look a bit odd, and should probably have their colour changed, but I thought this was interesting enough to be worth posting about. Which does everyone prefer? Note that both are going to gain a lot more detail and subtlety in terms of shading of terrain – different types will blur into each other – and in terms of shading of height, as you can currently very clearly make out the height changes. However, with all that said – which looks better? I’m still undecided myself, so I’d like to open this up to some discussion.