July 2008

Promised (Media)update

A week too late, but better now than never. So here is the promised update on the progress of “Phase 2”. A lot of stuff has happened (not everything will be visible to the player) so this post will be a bit longer than usual.

Let’s start off with the global projects. As already mentioned several times, these are one (if not the) biggest addition to “Phase 2” and will change gameplay a lot. Those projects will need a lot of effort until they can be used and they’ll vary a lot. There will be offensive projects (e.g. nukes) that can destroy several regions, bu there’ll also be things like intelligence satellites that’ll make espionage and sabotage a lot more powerful. For now I have most of the implementation finished, the player can already choose a project and it’ll also advance throughout the different phases. Basically work on a global project resembles research, but with some twists : there are four different phases that you’ll have to go through before you can use your project, and depending on the type of project, after using it you’ll have to redo some of the phases before it can used again. Each phase needs a certain amount of progress, certain staff numbers and will also drop your global workforce. If you don’t meet any of those criteria no progress will be made. And since those global projects are something rather important I also updated the control center so that it’ll show you the current progress of your project (if one is active) and also inform you when you don’t meet the criteria for progressing. See the shots below for some impressions, but also note that the projects you’ll see here are just temporary placeholders and not final ones. The window itself for selecting the global projects is similar to the one for doing research. At first I wanted to have a completely different layout, but then I decided to go that route to make it easier for the player.

Next up are the hexagonal battles (once again). Although the last shots looked nice I decided to change the battlefields again, cause the old ones somehow looked detached with just the hex fields, a water plane and nothing around them. Yes, it didn’t look bad but somehow didn’t fit into the game either. For now I changed them to be circular (instead of rectangular) and placed them into a modified version of the national background (only containing the spring and some surroundings). So if you now start a manual battle, it much more feels like it’s a part of the game in terms of visuals. I also added some minor new things like nice animated explosions to make the battles more dynamic.

There are also some changes for the military aspect of the game (additional to the visual changes for the hexagonal battles). Generals now have different attributes that fit the manual battles better than the old ones. These are offense (more damage), tactics (better dodge factors) and morale (less damage taken). Units now also gain experience when an attack was successful and if they have gathered enough experience, they’ll rank up. Each new rank increases damage, dodge factors and health generation. This makes military units more valuable to the player, and experienced units can shift the battle to your favor.

And now on to something old, but something that needed a visual change. The transfer market. In terms of functionality it was fine except for some smaller bits, so as far as functionality goes I only changed the attributes of a general. But I totally disliked the visuals which were plain boring. Then one day I had the idea of replacing the boring list boxes with a nice drawer like design where each staff member has a drawer, and clicking on it brings up his stats on a nice ID card. You can see it now on the screenshots below, but note that some small things are going to change for release, as each staff category will get it’s own unique ID card.

Last but not least some stuff that has happened behind the scenes. I did a fundamental change to the user interface’s handling of different languages. My solution for this in “Phase 1” wasn’t very nice, for every window I had a separate file for each language. So if I needed to change something about e.g. the military management window, I had to change two files. The one for the german version of the window and one for the english version of the window. And since there are a lot of changes concerning this in “Phase 2” I decided to change this. So the GUI now has native support for different languages directly within the elements of the UI (e.g. listboxes, labels, memos). This means that I now only have one XML file for each window and within my GUI editor I can directly set e.g. the german and english caption for a label or memo. Although this was a lot of work in terms of coding, it should save me a lot of time when changing stuff of the GUI. This is something I should have done for “Phase 1”, but well, since it’s now in I’ll just pretend it never was that way.

Big performance jump for “Phase 2”

While working on different parts of the source for “Phase 2” I also took a look at the rendering method for the 3D models and decided to totally rewrite those functions. They now (together with other changes) render models sorted by materials, which gives a huge performance improvements (texture changes are very expensive, and rendering sorted by materials removes a lot of them) that will be included with “Phase 2”.  Though the improvement will depend on your hardware it should boost performance across the board, starting at lower-end hardware to high-end systems.

On my Radeon HD3850 it gave me a boost of 100 fps at 1280×800 (windowed) in the main view, and for the new hex battles (you’ll get new screenshots soon) performance doubled. Just check the screenshot to see the improvement, left is old renderin method, the right part shows the new one.

Quick check-in

Just a quick note to let you know that there will be bigger media update sometime next week. Sadly I’m not having as much time for coding as I’d like to have, but I’m still trying to work on “Phase 2” every minute I can spare, so there have been a lot of smaller and some bigger changes/additions towards the road to “Phase 2”.

Right now I started implementing the “global Projects”, mighty projects that need a lot of effort and ressources to finish, but that can, if used right, change the whole game. They’ll be a major addition to the game so it took me a lot of brainstorming to finish a usefull draft for my game’s design document before I could start to implement them.

So stay tuned…