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The One Man MMO Project
The story of a lone developer's quest to build an online world :: MMO programming, design, and industry commentary
By Robert Basler on 2016-02-17 02:07:09
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
Another fun night! I took a big stack of business cards with me tonight and after 3-1/2 hours of continuous talk, I came home with just one. I talked to a whole lot of really interesting people: a woman from East Side Games who shares my love of Age of Empires, I talked game design with a developer working on MechWarrior Online, and I spent several minutes talking with Justin Smith, the guy behind Desert Golfing who put on a great talk at the Full Indie Summit in October.

I was quite surprised when someone suggested people may perceive Miranda to be a hard-core game like EVE Online. While traditionally RTS games are considered more hard-core than other genres, and technologically Miranda and EVE have similarities (big map, single world simulation, PvP gameplay, both ladies' names) the play experience of the two games is intended to be quite dissimilar. I think the key difference between Miranda and a game like EVE Online is the level of jeopardy. In EVE Online if you make an error you can lose a ship worth thousands of dollars, that you've been working to afford for years, along with weeks or months of character skill advancement. In Miranda if you make an error you may lose a base you spent a few minutes and some in-game resources to build, maybe a few cool unit components you won in combat, and some pride. That's it. The long-term progress you've made in the game is never lost and the setback is intended to be manageable rather than crushing. Even among RTS games, some are more hard-core than others. Miranda takes a lot of its design cues from Command and Conquer which is a more moderate game than for example, Starcraft with its professional league play and APM focus.

Overall the feedback from people was very positive, which for a lone developer is like pure oxygen. Lots of people were taken aback at the scope of the game. Yes, I should have picked something easier. So many people had stories of playing classic RTS games like Age of Empires and Command and Conquer. There is a lot of nostalgia for classic RTS gameplay. Nearly everyone was enthused to try Miranda out themselves. A surprising number of people commented that there aren't any other games like Miranda - I may have found a niche.

When I got home, my little girl who was supposed to be sleeping, talked my ear off for 20 minutes straight about her day. One of the reasons I left AAA was so I would be able to know my daughter - so far that at least has worked out really well.
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By Robert Basler on 2016-02-02 00:08:38
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
I know some of my friends working in AAA would be pretty amped about a 1 frame per second frame rate increase, but after four days work I was hoping for a bit better results.

Models in Miranda are edited in Blender, exported to Collada format, then a tool converts the Collada file to the LSG (Lair Scene Graph) file format. The old tool would convert each model component (body, turret, wheels, treads, etc.) into a vertex array and an index array (mesh.) The thing you might notice is that many models have several identical components (like wheels) and duplicating the renderables for each of those wheels is an inefficiency.
By Robert Basler on 2016-01-27 12:52:06
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
I posted these earlier this week on Twitter, but Twitter kind of mangles them so here are the latest hi-res screenshots of The Imperial Realm::Miranda.

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[Point of Interest - Crashed Spaceship]


Two APC's have just discovered a Crashed Spaceship point of interest. Points of interest will be discoverables for explorers of Miranda. This shot also shows some of Miranda's more dramatic terrain which will severely constrain how forces move.

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[Independents Megabase]


Adjacent to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, this independent base shows the current unit cap of 150 units. A hoverster can be seen in the bottom right.

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[Devastated Capital City (2.0)]


For twenty-thousand seasons, Miranda was the seat of supreme power in The Imperial Realm. Until the Emperor burned her. Now, these buried wrecks are all that remain of the once great Capital.
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By Robert Basler on 2016-01-26 01:23:32
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
This weekend I answered a question on Jonathan Blow's Twitter with a blog link to onemanmmo.com which resulted in over 200 new visitors to The One Man MMO Project. Statistically, a few of those should have been interested in The Imperial Realm::Miranda and visited its website, but not a single one did.

So the blog got a little facelift today, it matches the game colors, has a little info about the game, a screenshot and a more prominent link.

Let me know if you notice anything broken.
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By Robert Basler on 2016-01-24 23:53:53
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
The most commonly asked question about PA4 was "when can I play it?" I want to get more players into the game soon so I did some work this week to get the game ready for them: I disabled a few UI elements for features that aren't finished, and fixed a couple of bugs in the installer. I've also been working on automation so that I can push new builds to the test server with a single command which will be a huge timesaver for me, and get updated builds to players more quickly. To the question at hand though, above all, I want the game to make a good first impression so I'm trying to get the big bugs we've found in PA4 fixed before I invite more people to spend their time on it. I haven't decided exactly when yet, but I have decided that I'll be giving out pairs of Secret Lair Codes so that anyone who gets one can invite a friend to play with.
By Robert Basler on 2016-01-15 16:36:34
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
Pre-Alpha 4 is the first release of The Imperial Realm::Miranda with two of the four planned factions: Empire and Independent, so pick a side and get hunting. If you were following along on Twitter last week, you would have seen renders of a lot of the new units for the Empire faction, but here's a screenshot of all the new models.

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[The Imperial Faction.]

New in this Release

  • New Empire Faction: 70 Components and 34 Standard Unit Designs.
  • Enhanced combat visuals, new weapon and explosion effects.
  • Map rendering improved and UI reworked to support mouse drag.
  • Shader support for Intel GPUs.
  • The Capital City can now be found in the north-east.
  • New Sky and clouds.
  • New Sell and Repair cursors, plus map scrolling arrows and clicking animations.
  • New Field of View setting on the off chance Miranda makes people motion-sick.
  • Can now zoom UI with Ctrl-+ and Ctrl--
  • 184 Changes & Bugfixes

All of the units' weapons damage and effectiveness statistics, as well as speed and unit health are in and ready for testing. Particle effects for moving units are looking a lot better, no more giant clouds of smoke when units start up. Pathing is generally looking a lot better with the elimination of the crazy steering bugs. Vendors have had several nice usability improvements. I'm hoping you'll feel the game is overall less glitchy.

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[Pre-Alpha 4 Imperial Attack.]

Known Issues

  • If you log out without a construction yard, there is no way to lay your base out the next time you log in. All you can do is sell everything.
  • Once created, it is impossible to tell what type of infantry an infantry unit is - even for the owner.
  • Most units' special abilities are not implemented.
  • Some faster units still need their turning rates tweaked which results in units missing their target then looping back around to park.
  • Fence layout is broken. They function as barriers, but it is impossible to make them pretty.
  • Occasional GPU hangs on AMD GPUs.
  • Some of the new unit models are causing lower framerates and long rubber-band-select times.

I wiped the database again (should be the last time) so testers will have to recreate their account using the Secret Lair Code received previously.
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By Robert Basler on 2016-01-09 02:15:05
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
Occasionally Miranda has long frames, one of the big culprits for that is glLinkProgram which takes 50ms per call, sometimes even longer. That's three frames worth just for a single OpenGL call and because of the way Miranda manages materials, it can happen any time. The solution for this in OpenGL 4.1 and above (or if your OpenGL supports ARB_get_program_binary) is glProgramBinary and glGetProgramBinary. These two functions allow you to save and load the compiled version of shaders completely bypassing calls to glLinkProgram. Binary shaders are hardware specific, so they can't be distributed with the game and they have to be discarded if the OpenGL driver is updated, but once they are compiled, Miranda uses the compiled shaders every single time - no more slow calls to glLinkProgram.
By Robert Basler on 2015-12-31 16:52:19
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
The goal this year was to finish the game. While I didn't quite achieve that, Miranda is now very close to the game I have always imagined. A lot of Miranda's art and design content has been finalized and it is a much, much more polished experience than it was a year ago. There is a surprising perceptual change when you finally eliminate all the little glitches you've let slide for so long - the game miraculously transforms from broken to ahhhhhhh.

I opened the year with a major rendering overhaul, dragging framerates on my aging laptop from a low of 50FPS back up to an acceptable 120FPS. After that I realized I was tired of seeing just the salt flats in my screenshots so I added the Scorched Desert biome.

The%20Imperial%20Realm%20-%20Miranda%20-%20Happy%20Days_Lo.jpg
[Some days I'm quite pleased by the way my little RTS is looking.]


I started work on the preparations for the Friends and Family Pre-Alpha in June, fixing a ton of pathfinding and collision issues, getting Miranda set up on Amazon AWS, adding an automated crash reporter and bug reporting form as well as many more last minute additions. In-game Vendors were also new around this time. In July I added unit caps and work started on the New Combat Model which continued through August and September and culminated in the addition of the set of 65 components and 43 standard unit designs that make up The Independents Faction.

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[The Complete Independents Forces Initial Loadout.]


One of my breaks from this huge stretch of unit and game design was the addition of the oh-so-attractive deformable terrain. Also this summer there was a great article on the Miranda at MMOS.com. In October, work started in earnest on the first trailer for the game. The trailer is almost entirely in-game shots so I added a new Capital City, a new sky, many new weapon and explosion effects, a crashed spaceship, Mansion sur Mont, and an in-game film-maker and video recording facility.

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[I painted that muzzle flash.]


My final feature of the year was based on feedback from my third Full Indie Demo night so now when the player scrolls the terrain with the mouse, the mouse cursor changes to red arrows and when he clicks on the terrain, it plays an animation to let them know that the units will start moving soon. While I was at it I added mouse cursors for repair mode and sell mode. I had hoped to complete the Empire's forces before New Years, but there is still a bit of work to do on the art for those units before they will be ready for players to test. Overall this year about a quarter of my time was spent on additions, a quarter on bug fixes and about half on general improvements.

I was much more diligent about blogging this year, I was trying for one post a week and I almost made it. My favourite blog post of the year was The Imperial Realm::Miranda Pre-Alpha - how could it be any other? (Although Full Indie Demo Night was a close second.)

Resolutions for 2016

  • Miranda will launch.
  • I'll have a month where I don't work evenings.
As for my 2015 resolutions: I bought a D&D starter set and figured out my next project, I did some PR (yesterday!) but didn't end up doing anything with robots.

2015 By The Numbers

254,102 Lines of C++ Code
5,473 Lines in largest file scene.cpp
1,124 C++ files
1,316 Tweets
855 Followers
634 Items in the "what did I do this week" log.
466 UI Files
273 Textures
192 Models
189 Materials
83 Checkins to Mercurial
68 Shaders
44 Blog Posts
31 Facebook Likes
17 Custom Tool programs
8 Server programs

Favourite Devlog Comments

  • Demoed the game at Full Indie to about 20 people. I let someone else drive!
  • Backup doesn't fit on 32GB stick anymore.
  • Started work on Trailer.

Favourite Behind-The-Scenes Screenshot

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[This is what debugging pathfinding looks like.]

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By Robert Basler on 2015-12-16 23:55:03
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
I demoed Miranda at Full Indie at The Pint Public House tonight. I nearly missed the start of the meet because the parkade I usually park in was undergoing renovations and had only TWO non-reserved parking spots (which were full.) I then tried the mall parking ($16!) then the T&T grocery store parking (1 hour max - no signs to that effect anywhere) then finally I parked on the street for $6. If you were at the meet you got to see the raw video I've put together so far for the trailer - quite a few people loved the idea of Mansion sur Mont. I also had a number of people come up who have seen Miranda before and were impressed with the game's progress. I am quite encouraged that nearly everyone asked about public playtesting.

As is always the case, the first guy who tried the game hit the one big UI bug I've been putting off fixing. Luckily only one other player tonight hit it.

I was pleasantly surprised to have someone come up and correctly guess the provenance of the game's name. I shared a couple of the easter eggs in the game with him.

As always, I learned some valuable things from watching people play. The first is that I'm going to need to add the Starcraft style (left mouse selects, right mouse attacks) controls in addition to the classic Command & Conquer style (left mouse selects, left mouse attacks) that I prefer. For about half the people who took the helm, their expectation was Starcraft controls.

The other big lesson is that people click a lot more than me when moving units. Several people would click on a unit, then start clicking all over the terrain. What I realized after watching a couple of people do this is that visual and audible feedback for actions is needed when the action doesn't happen right away. With Miranda's pathfinding, units wait half a second after the player selects the destination before the unit starts to move. This gives the pathfinder time to calculate the path and send it to other players so that units start moving at the same time for all players. Other RTS games have a similar delay, but when the player clicks on the destination the game says "moving out" and plays a little click animation. The plan has always been to have that feedback, but with that not in yet, players would repeatedly tell the unit to move to different locations before it had a chance to start moving, resulting in no movement at all. I'll be adding that audible and visual feedback sooner rather than later.

Thanks to everyone who came out to tell me what they think of the game so far. Your help is invaluable.
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By Robert Basler on 2015-12-11 23:31:52
Homepage: onemanmmo.com email:one at onemanmmo dot com
missiles.gif


One of the 5 new weapon effects: Cannons, missiles, lasers, lightning and flamethrower. Moving on to explosions.
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A Quarter! Million!! Lines of Code!!! - 2015-10-09 15:38:10 (0 comments)
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Recent Comments

Unit Design Screen Revision Four - 2016-05-29 17:15:56 (2 comments)
Thanks! The final map is planned to be 225x larger than what is shown there - that's my 20KMx20KM test map.
Unit Design Screen Revision Four - 2016-05-29 17:01:39 (2 comments)
Hey Robert, its great to see your first video of the game!. I love how big the map is and I also love the unit designing system that allows you to have different strats to counter other people. Just watching this makes me want to play:D. Good work ...
Project Line Counter in Visual Studio 2010 - 2016-05-24 02:06:11 (5 comments)
No, I'm still using VS2010 but I'd take a look at the registry to find out what the version number is then modify the reg file. It probably still works.
Project Line Counter in Visual Studio 2010 - 2016-05-23 20:15:09 (5 comments)
Did u try for 2013?
Explosion Test - 2016-04-09 22:14:57 (3 comments)
There are a few more explosions now. And a variety of sound effects. I'll be putting some more effort into sound soon.
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