December 2006

Last posting of this year…

I guess this will be the last post on my blog in 2006, and I don’t want to let you switch into 2007 without a last update on the status of Projekt “W”.

Again I worked a lot on the code itself, made several changes to make my life as a coder easier (e.g. a global window update, so I don’t have to care about what windows to update on what action) and most important I decided to get rid of the pixelbuffers for offscreen-rendering. I used them to render 3D overlays on the windows, like the 3D preview of the region or the rotating preview of buildings, but pixelbuffers need a change of the rendering context during rendering the frame and I also used automatic mip-map generation to get rid of heavy aliasing. Those two together though sucked on the performance and even switching to the brand-new FBOs didn’t make it much better. So I came up with a simple way of rendering the 3D previews in the windows without off-screen rendering and it’s a lot faster and also works like a charm.

Other than that I started to work on the battlefield-feature, which is the 3D view you get when you attack an enemy region (it’s optional, you can also let the computer calculate the outcome of the battle). I mentioned something about this feature months ago, but after (almost) finishing the espionage feature I decided to finally put my hands on this as the next feature to implement into the game. And as this is a bigger thing I did (as with other bigger changes/features) write a separate prototype where I’ll try out some things and implement the most important things of this feature before I’ll put it into the final game. Basically this is a very simple round-based strategy mini-game (like Panzer General, but with a lot less features) where the attack tries to crush all defending armies to take over the region. The prototype isn’t too advanced, but it can load different regional presets (lush, desert, etc.) and you can move your units around. And to finish this, here are two screenshots of that “new” feature :

So much for my last post of 2006, and good wishes to all you reading my blog for 2007! Stay tuned for more Projekt “W” in 2007…

Next feature almost done

Short after finishing the research feature I decided to put my fingers on the espionage part of the game. In the very first drafts this was to be only a minor feature, but I promoted it to a main feature (inlcuding it’s own button in the control center) as it adds an interesting twist to the game. It not only allows you to find weak points of your enemies, it’ll also allow you to sabotage your enemies region and division to e.g. give yourself a small advantage before attacking his regions.

The feature works as follows : Like with scientists you can also hire spies, each one with it’s own stats (the better the stats, the more expensive he is). In the espioange and sabotage window newly added you can now try to infiltrate an enemy region with free spies from your staff, which either will end up with him being captured (and being lost for you, including the money you paid to hire him) or successfully infiltrating that region.
From now on then you have one action per spy in each round. As for espionage you can try to request information on either the buildings or a division stationed in that region, with (as above) the risk of the spy being captured. The outcome also depends on the skills of the spy, so a cheap but lousy spy will maybe uncover 2 or even less buildings per action, where a really good spy can retrieve almost all buildings in one try. The information then is stored and you can always take a look at it again, though it get’s outdated. The age of the information last retrieved is also shown, so you can quickly see when you have to update those infos.

You can see it in “action” on the screenshot above, though it’s not 100% finished. It’s mostly done and working, but sill misses the sabotage part. I already have some ideas on what the player will be able to sabotage, but I need to balance it out so that this feature won’t get too powerfull. So stay tuned for more info on this feature.

Research feature finished and much coding

Contrary to the last few weeks I spent most of my time last days with coding on the game, rather than making content or game design :

The research feature I showed off in the last posting is now finished and you can already research your way through the (right now very small) technology tree and stuff like new buildings and technologies are unlocked along the way of your research. There is now also a nice preview image for eacht technology, though I initially wanted to also include a 3D view (like with buildings and units) I decided for just an image that I’ll prerender. I mainly opted for this route because otherwise I would have to do additional 3D models for technologies with having low polycount and rendering speed in mind. And as another part of the research feature I also added a separate window for research history, so you have a place where you can browse through the technologies you already invented and see what they unlocked. Though this is no necessartiy nor very important to gameplay, I think some players will still find this feature interesting.

Once again I also had to fiddle around with the army management feature (or better said : window) of the game. Although the feature itself was finished (well, except for some small bugs/inconsistencies I recently fixed) the window that you used to manage your divisions (I now call them that way instead of armies, cause it’s more logical) was an awfull mess. It wasn’t well organized, buttons had misleading names and it was a pain to use it. But it’s rather hard to get a lot of information and/or functionality in one window (same was the case with the research window) so I totally revamped the window and it’s now much easier to use and information is presented in a way that you’ll directly find what you’re looking for. Besides that I also added some features, so you can now e.g. rename your divisions (looks better and makes them easier to find) and directly open up the region where that division is positioned.

And in addition to the above features a lot of my time went into working on the tools for Projekt “W”. I added a lot of stuff to WeltEdit (the main utility for getting content into the game), like a new tab where you can change stuff for each of the nations, finishing the research tab and also adding a localisation tab for later on getting the game into different languages. The GUI editor also has been updated a lot, mainly for usability but also adding some new features.

So the list of main features now is smaller by one entry again, and I’m slowly approaching a state of the project where I can at least call it feature-complete (not content-complete, that’ll take some more months I guess). So on to the next main feature!

Edit – Here are three brand new screenshots that I made for a posting of this project over at the PGD forums –

Next feature plus some debugging and cheating

Now that the regional building feature so far has been finished (I also did two more buildings since the last posting, both for research) I went on to implement the next feature, this time it’s research.

I already told you that discovering new technologies would be a part of the game, though it won’t be as complex like e.g. the technology tree in the Civilization series of game, but a lot more simple. For now it’ll only have two different categories : civil and military technologies, which are influenced by your global research factors in those both fields. Each technology will lead to e.g. unlocking new buildings or unlocking other technologies. And for endgame content there’ll also be some technologies that you can research forever which then have some certain effects on global factors or you regions (I’m not totally decided on this), so that research won’t be something you’ll stop caring about half-way through the game. Though I’m still coding on this feature it’s basically working and mainly missing some visual stuff like a nice symbol for selected technologies and stuff. But you can already use research to unlock some of the buildings, so this feature shouldn’t take too much time to finish in terms of coding (though doing content for research is something totally different).

And I also added a window for debugging values and to do some “cheating“, which in the end is there to help me debug stuff. And no, this won’t be in the final version.

More content creation

This is kind of a continuation to my last posting. I still spent most of the time for the project on doing content. That’s the thing about creating games that I really like, as it doesn’t only mean to write code but also to do a lot of differen things like creating graphics, models, writing a stroy and stuff. So right now I’m more in a mood to create content and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

As I may have told earlier (don’t remember) the game will have 5 different nations you can choose from. and the stories as well as the flags for those nations were amongst the first things I created back in 2003 for the first prototype, so I sat down and rewrote the background stories for all nations, which are now far more detailed and also have something in common amongst all nations. In addition to that I also remade the flags for four of the nations (the first one already looked good enough), which now look a lot better. Though writing the new stories and especially creating the new flags took a lot of time, but I had a lot of fun doing it. See the shot on the left for a preview of those flags, with the new ones being on top and the old ones being at the bottom.

And I also created some new buildings, this time it’s three residental buildings. See the shot, they’re all in-game rendered (via the 3D preview in Weltedit) and are already implemented into the game. So together with the other eight buildings from the last post I’ve already done elven buildings. But there’ll be a lot more in the game, so there’s still some work ahead on this part of the game’s content.

Thanks for reading, more to come!

Full Sail

I would have updated my blog earlier, but work on PjW has been very fluent since the last updates, and I really got a lot of stuff done over the last weeks, though much of it was behind the scenes and can’t be really shown via screenshots. But let’s begin with the things I did that I can actually show with some nice pictures!

Number one : I pushed myself to finally start modelling some of the buildings (after finishing the list of buildings to be in the game, except for some special/military buildings). On your left you’ll see a shot of the first eight buildings I did over the last two days, and I’m quite content with them.
They’re detailed enough to look good and don’t have too many triangles for the rather small windows they’re displayed in. When creating such buildings you’ll always have to find a good compromise between the number of triangles (it’s no ego-shooter where you walk around in those buildings) and giving them a look that the player is easily able to recognize. But since this isn’t the first strategy game I’m modelling buildings for I don’t think that this matter will trouble me, the only problem on this part of content creation is the ideas you need for your buildings. For the ones that are from our present time it’s easy, as y
ou know how they look. But since there’ll also be some futuristic buildings in the game it’s not always easy to get a good idea on the lookings of a new building.

Number two : More work on the region’s detail window. You already saw my new design of that window in the last posting and I’ve put some more work into it. As you can see on the shot it shows a region where I already constructed some buildings, and one of the new features is that small info hover that tells you informations about the building currently under your cursor (sadly the screencapture doesn’t include a mouse cursor, so just image it above that box). This way the player can always see what the building actually does. And this leads to the next thing I implemented : Building effects. I already wrote some time ago that you can set a script for each building that get’s executed each round (and additionally one that is exectued when the building is finished) and the effects you can see in both windows are taken directly out of that script. So each building affects different values of your region (some also affect global values), which after ending your turn are taken into account when calculating the regions final values. So as of now the whole building thing is in terms of coding almost finished and ready to use.

Number three : The rest of my time on this project went into a lot of different things, mostly under the hood, so you can’t see them on the screenshots. I made some additions to WeltEdit, so you now have an instant 3D preview of buildings, and I changed a lot of things concerning the usability of this main tool for PjW. And I also spent a lot of time changing (minor) things of the GUI, mainly in terms of usability too (scrolling of listboxes, showing selected items, etc.) and also fixing some smaller bugs (e.g. buttons where highlighted, even if another window covered them). I then also spent some time on the game design document and started gathering some ideas for the first multiplayer mode I’ll implement, namely the hot-seat mode, where up to five players can play on one PC, round after round. This mode will also allow you to have the AI control some of the nations.

Big posting this time, but work is really coming along, and I even didn’t told you everything I added to the game. So stay tuned for more…

Regional 3D view updated

The detail window for a player’s region has had a 3D preview of the building you’ve built from the very start of the game’s developement, but it was utterly boring and didn’t fit the rest of the game. So I gave it a spin yesterday and wrote a prototype to try out some new ideas on how to change that 3D preview. After some hours of fiddling with different perspectives and rendering styles I came up with an isometric view that I’m rather content with, though it’s still a wip and everything (especially the 3D models of the buildings) will change, tough the view will stay like this. See thre screenshots below that show the old version (left) and the wip of the new one (right) :

That’s quite a difference and looks much better. And as I already said it’s still work in progress and the final version will look more compelling. You’ll have different environments, depending on where the region is located (desert, snowy, lush, etc.), and the variety of the buildings in the background will also change as well as their density (depending on the regions population). I also plan to add additional display stuff like showind high polution and so on.


After the design change, I started to fix/change some smaller things that were still open (although not really annoying) mainly with the UI itself.
First I made it a bit transparent, so that the newly designed 3D view now shines through the windows which makes up for a nice effect. For that I also had to change rendering of the windows in such a way that they’re rendered from back-to-front (due to the nature of OpenGL’s alpha blending), but since you usually have no more than five windows open at the same time a cheesy bubble-sort does the job.
The other changes are about usability of some of the UI components. You can now have listbox entries change their color and add an icon, so that e.g. in the news message list all items the player clicked on are marked, so he can clearly see what messages he already checked. Besides that, if he e.g. clicks on a message concerning a certain region that region’s windows will now pop up, which makes his life much easier. I also added automatic line wrapping to memos when loading text into them, which sounds very trivial but isn’t that easy to implement. So now I don’t have to manually insert line breaks when writing descriptions for buildings and units inside WeltEdit.

So now that those small things are crossed off the todo list, I concentrate on the content again. I almost finished the final list of buildings to be in the game (including the ones you’ll first have to research before being able to build them, and if you take a look at the screenshot you can get a glimpse of that list) with their descriptions. I think in the end it’ll be about 50 different buildings you can build, which is quite a number that should have you get started on thinking which ones to actually build in each region (remember that you can only build a certain amount of buildings in each region).