Developer Diary 19 – Details, Details

By now, a lot of the people following this diary must be thinking “so anyway, this game is practically done, right?”

I guess it depends on your definition of “practically”. It is certainly playable, there are very few features that are outright missing, and the scenario count is up to around 20-ish. On the other hand, we’re trying to make a game that’s better than merely playable, so expect more diaries from me until we’re judged release-ready.

As an example, the deformed Union Jack (on the left) is not an attempt at cheeky political commentary, it’s actually what we need to do to make the flag readable in its wavy shape. I was not even aware of this process until Goran, our lead artist, showed me how we do this for almost every flag in the game.

It’s a good illustration, I think, of the type of detailing work that we’re doing right now. We take the game to be mechanically solid, and we’re making rule changes only exceptionally. Our current focus is on the (many!) details that make up the flow and feeling of the game. Eventually, the plan is for the final round of scenario and balancing work to be done on a near-finalized, comfortably playable version of the game. Continue reading

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Developer Diary 18 – Trick or Treat

There’s a growing feeling within the team that the game is shaping up into something really special. The mood, as they say, is boisterous (yeah I’m channeling Lieutenant George).

On the other hand, let me quickly also tell you that these special things can be kinda painful, and they sure take a long time to make. It’s a mixed bag tbh.

For this post, I’ve lined up a bunch of updates, but without any sort of a big theme to tie them together. So let’s just, uh… call it a Halloween update, and I hope it’s a treat for you.

History Mode

The history mode (from UoC1) got a bit more involved now that we have Fog of War. As you’d know, FoW restricts your visibility of enemy units and actions while you’re playing. However, once a scenario is finished, you can replay it in history mode and see through the FoW to check out what precisely happened.

This is called the “God Mode” for the moment, though I’m actively looking for a better name (call me).

Another new history mode option is perspective, which can be own, enemy, or changing. Again, this is possible for finished games only. A changing perspective will switch FoW visibility between turns, so that the replay is always viewed from the standpoint of the active player. Combining this with “God Mode” is a blast for hotseat game replays. Continue reading

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Developer Diary 17 – The Double Header

Hi there! Here’s a new post, finally, with two screenshots to make up for the lack of updates over the summer. The game is starting to resemble the real thing more and more, so there is a lot to talk about, even if everything is not 100% done yet.

The first thing that jumps out of the screenshots should be the readability update. I picked a busy situation from the Normandy Breakout scenario (after the jump) to showcase this: note how it now reads better even though we’ve actually increased the clutter by adding city names to the map.

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Developer Diary 16 – Scenarios

We’ve now been able to play full length scenarios for some time. The first batch we’ve created includes Husky, Dragoon, and a tiny Colmar Pocket scenario. The amphibious landings are not yet modeled, but otherwise these battles play well enough. Today I also received an initial version of 1st Monte Cassino from Daniel. Interesting times 🙂

We’re still deep within a break it – fix it cycle, though. Editor tools are there, all the visual game elements are there, and the core loop of the game does work. But every time we add say, a new mechanic, one thing or the other breaks. The shakedown of gameplay code continues, so to speak.

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Developer Diary 15 – Game On!

You can tell from the big screenshot below that all the game elements are in. That means it’s game on… finally.

If you’ve been following this blog thinking “is this thing ever going to happen?” well, perhaps you were not alone. Moving the game to our own 3D engine (written in python!) was difficult and, at times, scary. We’ve completed it though, and I’m happy with the results.

I understand there will be people who take issue with 3D presentation as such. Feel free to unload in the comments 🙂 though obviously we’re way beyond the point of no return now.

 

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Developer Diary 14 – Fog of War

Playing a full game turn is now within our sights, save for the plus-sized hurdle that has to be dealt with first: enemy unit visibility. The game now features Fog of War, so all the game rules need to be re-checked for visibility. Moves and attacks will obviously change FoW, but there are also new mechanics like air reconnaissance, and HQ abilities play an important role as well.

But even before that, there’s the basic question of who actually sees what.

For example, in the screenshot below, I’m playing as the Allies, and any Axis units in FoW are hidden from me. Once the game ends though, I can watch the replay (history mode) and, in the replay, I do want to see what the opponent was doing behind FoW. So, the FoW overlay is still turned ON in replay, but the enemy units are not hidden any more. Continue reading

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Dev Diary 13 – Front Lines

We’re in that happy place where you put together a bunch of existing, but previously disconnected pieces and they all start working together seamlessly.

We have a front line now. Graphically, this is nothing new, as the front line renders in much the same way as the movement boundary. However, previously, we did not know where the front line was, as we were still working on the game state. So it took us maybe two hours between realization that hey, we can now add this, and seeing it live in the game. I could get used to days like that…

We’ve improved on hills, which were the least readable type of terrain in UoC, and not much better in the new game either. The new version is a big improvement but I’d still bet this is not the last we hear of hills. We’ve also added rail, as the new game makes a distinction between rail, and paved and unpaved roads. Rail is always touchy graphically, as sleepers create an aliasing effect when zoomed out. I think we’re doing a good job but feel free to weigh in. Continue reading

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Developer Diary 12 – So over with Under-The-Hood

The rendering finally does most of what we want it to. It was about time frankly.

We’ve added billboards to display unit status: step count and the rest. I was unhappy with the amount of zoom normally provided by other games using this Civ-like perspective. I think this is partly because scaling the billboards is hard, which we learned (duh) the hard way. Now that we can scale them though, we’ve been having a great time zooming in and out. It’s really awesome.

The Allied faction gets its own color, which is green, unsurprisingly. Our original idea was to keep it blue vs. red, but that puts us in problems for future Axis campaigns. Axis would be blue when playing against Soviets, but red against the Allies. There are no good solutions here (don’t even get me started on making the Allies red) so we simply gave the Allies a jacked up green.

A bonus is that we can now use yet another color for when we want to be historically precise. For example, Finland in a 1939 scenario would be classified as Neutral (faction), rather than Axis. Feel free to propose a color for the neutrals… finding enough distinct colors for all the things we want color-coded is our daily nightmare, and we gladly welcome you to it.

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Developer Diary 11 – Summer of Systems

In other news, we’ve started working on vehicle models, and they’re already looking sweet…

If we are victorious in one more battle, we shall be utterly ruined — Pyrrhus of Epirus

I’m writing this on the back of three weeks spent entirely on scaling our mod-friendly map system to work with the huge map sizes required. Frustration abounds! While I’m sure the community will appreciate the new modding possibilities (see more below), I’m starting to worry that we’re over-engineering the whole thing.

To this end, we’re doing a Summer of Systems — in short, any low-level system that isn’t in by the end of August, we’ll just have to do without. A lot of what’s left is various 3D magic and similar nice-to-haves, so if we prioritize properly this is perfectly doable and the core of the game won’t be affected at all.
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Developer Diary 10 – Performance

Nice, eh? Since this is now in proper 3D, you can zoom and rotate the map as you like.

I assure you we’re open! — Dante Hicks

It’s been a few months since the last diary entry, so frankly you’d be excused to think we’ve all gone AWOL or something. BUT! – we were in fact cheerfully working on various low level systems, and actually managed to get a lot of work done. The screenshots below show you approximately where we are with the rendering engine, that is, almost everything works now.

I was happy enough to load the game onto a laptop and start showing it, somewhat gingerly, to other developers at the Reboot Develop conference last week in Dubrovnik. We got a lot of positive feedback, which may or may not be down to devs being a supportive bunch and all. It did feel good to have a working game again.

Since we were showing the game on a proper gaming laptop (cheers to Admir from Croteam for providing it), this was a chance to compare laptop performance to our desktops (both the laptop and the desktops are running the game at about HD resolution).

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