The One Man MMO Project
I'm looking for my next game after Skyrim so I thought I'd try out some new games.
I had 20 minutes to play Thursday, so first up was Magicka on Steam. I'd heard nothing but good things about it and I'd installed and started it before, so I figured it should be good to go. But no. Steam told me that before I could play it needed to convert my files to a more efficient format for 15-20 minutes. Like it's so important to do that right away. So that was the end of that. I ended up browsing news sites.
Friday I got Magicka going, only to discover that it only lets you save about once an hour. This isn't rocket science people, you already have checkpoints in the game. The game idled most of the night while I put together bits of time to get to the end of the second chapter when I could quit without losing progress. It was fun, but I'll probably never play Magicka again.
Saturday morning game time: I pick Starcraft 2 to start on the single player campaign. I'd installed and started it before so I should be good to go. (I tried to start playing Starcraft 2 last year but there was a problem with my battle.net account and I couldn't log in to play it at all for about a week.) It isn't on Steam so color me shocked when it insisted it needed to optimize my files for 15-60 minutes and download 6GB before I could play. Fail. Fail! Fail!
How about an oldie but a goodie. I played Crysis a couple years ago and it was sort of pretty. I know it's installed and working! Maybe it's time to get into a little shooting. Started it up, black screen, no sound. It worked fine the last time I played it! I started downloading newer video drivers and the latest Crysis patch when I realized I was again not having fun!.
Last up, Borderlands. I'd installed it previously using Steam but never tried it. Pressed Play and what happens? Steam starts installing 4 more things! Shouldn't Install have done that?
Play time is precious. When I want to play, I want to play. I don't want to fix bugs. I don't want to download drivers. I don't want to optimize my files (whatever the hell that means.) I don't want to patch my single-player game. All of these issues could have been avoided if the companies behind these games had a lick of common sense and any respect for the player.
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Back from vacation for three weeks now, productivity hasn't quite returned to normal levels. I'm used to having several uninterrupted hours every day, but with the family home that hasn't been happening. I think I've figured it out now though. Anything big or complicated that I've tackled has gone poorly, but a couple little features have come out just perfect.
The main feature I've been working on this summer is vehicle movement and pathfinding. I decided my original plan to replace the navmesh with a grid based on the terrain mesh wasn't going to work. Instead I have done some work on my original navmesh implementation and am working towards adding a steering system for units based on the collision data.
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So there's been a lot going on, but nothing interesting has been complete and ready to talk about.
An RTS staple feature which is new is building placement. Buildings render as transparent until they are placed, and they use the collision data, terrain incline, and distance from other buildings to determine if building placement is legal (with a red/green indicator.) Using red/green is a risk because some people can't tell the difference, and maybe I'll add an additional rendering indicator later, but for now I cheated a bit and made the green a little blue (the same trick used on traffic lights.)
[If you're color-blind, do me a favour and tell me in the comments if you can tell which of the squares under the building are red and which are green.]
I've also been thinking a lot about business models and how to monetize Miranda. I read this super-interesting piece in Wired on A/B testing a couple days ago (my stack of unread magazines has gotten a little unruly the last while.) If you have a website that gets any volume of traffic at all, and given how seemingly minor and arbitrary changes to a page can hugely affect the outcome, I can't understand why anyone wouldn't implement A/B testing. I'm going to be getting out my statistics books pretty soon.
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I think Microsoft's mistake with the XBOX One is that they didn't go far enough. They should have gone full-Steam and gotten rid of game disks entirely. And if they really wanted people to love them (and leverage their massive PC market dominance,) they'd make it so that you could play your games both on XBOX and on Windows if the game has a PC version. Or they could make the PC version (or the XBOX version depending on your gaming system of choice) a cheap extra like the blu-ray sets that come with a DVD version for an extra $3.
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I was off my game on Friday - completely wiped out, so rather than struggle on with collision detection, I decided to watch "Despicable Me" (which is awesome) and add achievements to Miranda. Looking for a feature set, I checked out achievements on Steam, Xbox and PS3 which are all pretty similar.
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Whenever I tell someone in the games industry what I'm doing, they give me a look. A whole lot of information is packed in that expression: you're crazy, it's never going to work, try something easier, you're wasting your time. Non compos mentis.
This experience doesn't seem to be unique. A couple days ago Dave Toulouse said, "When you have no experience making games and you work on an MMO you avoid telling too many people what you are doing because nobody believe you can pull it off and many will make sure to discourage you from doing it."
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After spending so long on the patcher, I decided I wanted to cherry-pick a few small items off of the todo list this week, knock a bunch of 'em out and have a good sense of accomplishment. That was Monday.
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I needed a way to deliver my game to players, but I have a fundamental problem: the game is really, really big. That means that it is completely impractical for players to download the whole thing in one go, it needs to have a streaming installer.
I did a lot of research on patching and installers over quite a few months. There are so, so many approaches you can take. Windows installer is a great tool, use it if you can. I tried really hard to find an existing solution, but I'm sad to say, I didn't find a solution that would suit my game.
The biggest roadblock to using an existing solution was that I have a lot of files. My test world has around 18,000 files and the full dataset will have many, many more. With that many files, a regular single-file self-installer would be gigantic.
You wouldn't believe how much work adding this one progress bar was!
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I was listening to Chris Hecker's talk No One Knows About Your Game this week and he makes a good point. It is a big risk to not talk about what you're working on and then hope that your press strategy all comes together for the game's release. I haven't talked about my game because I don't like to talk about things that aren't done yet, but that changes today.
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Three Normal Mapping Techniques Explained For the Mathematically Uninclined - 2015-03-01 11:28:33 (8 comments)
Just figured out that the normal maps I generated with GIMP's normalmap plugin were wrong. I needed to check Wrap and Invert Y.
I noticed this by looking at this:
Stick-outy stuff should look like its sticking out. Thanks Ben!
Grab Bag - 2014-12-11 00:21:13 (2 comments)
I knew that quadtree template would work better than Facebook ads! I never played Warzone, but I am taking a lot of inspiration from Red Alert 2 and the other games in the C&C oeuvre. You're right, The Imperial Realm::Miranda is awesome and I will ...
Grab Bag - 2014-12-10 17:38:02 (2 comments)
I randomly found your site while searching for implementing quad trees :D
Anyway I cant believe the awesomeness of your game, it seems like command and conquer, tiberian sun, yuri's revenge,red alert2 etc online???
Also reminds me of warzone ...
Enabling NVidia GPUs on Optimus Laptops - 2014-12-03 12:18:32 (2 comments)
This seems somewhat heavy-handed given the documentation, but it does work. I had to modify the popup to tell the user to restart The Imperial Realm::Miranda since this doesn't take effect until the next run. Might make this an installer step at ...
Enabling NVidia GPUs on Optimus Laptops - 2014-12-03 02:45:15 (2 comments)
Wow, did some more testing and even successfully loading NVAPI isn't enough to enable the NVidia card with the 334.75 drivers.
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